Trevor Ariza (Westchester, Los Angeles): Poured in 30 points as the Comets won their second straight Div. I state title with a 73-63 triumph over Oakland Tech. Ariza, headed to UCLA, also started for last year's team and this year became a much more complete player with a 21.3 ppg scoring average.
Jared Dudley (Horizon, San Diego): Without question, the most improved player in the state this season. The 6-6 Dudley scored 25 points when the Panthers edged Garces in the SoCal Div. IV final and had 16 points and 14 rebounds in the state title game vs. Hercules. He averaged 23.2 points and 14.1 rebounds per game.
Leon Powe (Technical, Oakland): California's only McDonald's All-American this season, the 6-8 Powe averaged more than 28 points per game this season. He had 36 points in a NorCal Div. I playoff win over Berkeley and hit for 42 in the Oakland Athletic League playoff final vs. McClymonds. Powe was in foul trouble in the state final vs. Westchester and ended with just 16 points. He is on his way to Cal.
Wesley Washington (Mater Dei, Santa Ana): This year's Mater Dei team was balanced in scoring, but Washington was able to break out for some 20-point games against strong opposition. The probable Orange County Player of the Year for a second straight season, Washington is headed to the University of Minnesota. Who can ever forget the night he had against Carmelo Anthony last year when Anthony was leading national power Oak Hill Academy of Virginia?
Dominique Banks (St. Mary's, Stockton): After averaging 21.6 points during the regular season, Banks' candidacy for the top award skyrocketed in just the last three weeks. She had 39 points in the NorCal Div. IV semis vs. Ursuline of Santa Rosa, then had 33 in the final vs. Piedmont and finally 31 in the state title game vs. La Jolla Country Day. Banks, a 5-8 senior, is headed for the University of Washington. She's been a standout on three CIF state title teams in the last four years.
Noelle Quinn (Bishop Montgomery, Torrance): Noelle made it 4-for-4 in CIF Div. III state title games last Saturday and was clearly the dominant player on the court in Bishop Montgomery's 49-43 victory over Sacred Heart Cathedral. Quinn finished with 27 points, 15 rebounds and six assists, meaning she accounted for all but eight of her team's points. She averaged 25 points per game for the regular season and is going to UCLA.
Candice Wiggins (La Jolla Country Day): One of the nation's top five juniors, Wiggins netted 30.2 points per game during the regular season and also brought down nearly 15 rebounds. She fouled out of the Div. IV state final vs. St. Mary's in the third quarter, but still scored 17 points. Wiggins' team also was 2-0 in games against Div. III state champ Bishop Montgomery.
Sa'de Wiley-Gatewood (Lynwood): Also one of the nation's top five juniors, Wiley-Gatewood was the Ms. Basketball State Player of the Year as a sophomore. It was a close call, though, between her, Wiggins and Quinn. She led Lynwood to the mythical national title last year, but this year a loss to Canyon High of Canyon, Texas, turned out to prevent the Knights from winning another one. Wiley-Gatewood averaged 24 points per game during the regular season.
Why do we say these might not necessarily be the four best players in the state for boys and girls? Because of players like Ikene Ebekwe of Carson and Charde Houston of San Diego.
Ebekwe, the 6-9 center headed to Maryland, enjoyed a terrific season for Carson, but it's obvious he shouldn't be L.A. City Player of the Year or South Bay Player of the Year over Trevor Ariza. That accounts for him not being a finalist, not an evaluation that we think Leon Powe, Jared Dudley or Wesley Washington are better players.
On the girls side, for sheer scoring dominance alone, a case could be made for Houston, who had a high game of 71 points and averaged nearly 35 per game to lead the state in scoring for the second straight season. But in the San Diego area, it's also obvious that Wiggins would and should be the player of the year.
E-Mail Us What You Think
We encourage all prep sportswriters, coaches, parents and players to e-mail us their thoughts about these finalists. Game-by-game performances can be particularly important, especially from December tournaments since there's so many games at that time of the year and many of those games may not have been reported. We stress that anything you say is completely off-the-record. Send information to: email@example.com. You may FAX us at (209) 463-1219.
All-State Nominations Accepted
In addition to the Mr. Basketball State Player of the Year and Ms. Basketball State Player of the Year, our postseason honors package also will include our exclusive All-State teams.
We're going to be choosing 30 boys and 30 girls overall, broken down into a first team of 10, a second team of 10 and a third team of 10. We also will honor 10 each for schools from Div. I, Div. II, Div. III, Div. IV and Div. V enrollments. All-State Underclass picks will be completed as well for both boys and girls. The plan as of now is to list 20 juniors, 10 sophomores and five freshmen.
Don't wait until all the teams are released and then complain about who we choose. Make sure we have the name of a player you think should be among those chosen on one of these honor squads. We need class, height and position plus any significant stats and honors already received. Send All-State info to: firstname.lastname@example.org or FAX All-State info to: (209) 463-1219.