NO. 1 PRESEASON BOYS BASKETBALL TEAMS ARE........

Mater Dei for overall, SoCal and Division II....Westchester for Division I.....Oakland Tech for NorCal......Bishop Montgomery for Division III.....Garces of Bakersfield for Division IV.....Price of Los Angeles for Division V....Stop here for complete preseason state rankings. And coming next week: the same package for girls basketball.

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MONARCHS GET THE NOD

TO START 2002-03 SEASON

It's not so much what the Mater Dei of Santa Ana boys basketball team did against teams last year in California that makes it preseason No. 1 in the state to start the 2002-03 season. It's what the Monarchs did against one team from Virginia and what they might do against top teams from throughout the nation in one early-season tournament.

Four starters are back for head coach Gary McKnight, including 6-3 senior forward Wesley Washington, 6-9 senior forward Harrison Schaen and guards Trevante Nelson (6-0 senior) and Mike Gerrity (6-0 sophomore). Toss in others like 6-9 junior Chris Henry, 6-5 senior D.J. Strawberry and 6-6 junior Marcel Jones and the Monarchs might be able to duplicate their state championship run of two years ago, although this one would be for Division II and not Division I.

Last year's team lost five games and got stunned in the Southern Regional Div. II finals by eventual state champ King of Riverside. But what makes the difference is that the Monarchs were able to knock off the nation's No. 1 team, Oak Hill of Virginia, with such a young lineup. The 72-63 win at the Nike Extravaganza turned out to be Oak Hill's only loss of the season and wound up preventing the Warriors from being No. 1 in the nation.

This year's team was No. 5 in the preseason Student Sports FAB 50 national rankings, but it really doesn't matter where the Monarchs are ranked nationally for the preseason because if they win the title in December at the City of Palms tournament in Florida then they will be No. 1 anyway. That tourney includes St. Patrick of New Jersey, Rice of New York and several other high-ranked national squads.

A more difficult decision than Mater Dei being No. 1 was what to do with defending Div. I state champion Westchester after the recent ruling by an L.A. City Section committee that made two incoming players ineligible for one year. That situation will make it that much tougher for the Comets to repeat. But there is still plenty of talent on hand for head coach Ed Azzam, including State Player of the Year candidate Trevor Ariza.

Westchester may now be closer to the pack than before, but it was decided that the Comets should have to actually lose a game or two before they got knocked down in the rankings behind fellow L.A. City power Fairfax or anyone else.

This year's preseason state top 20 was compiled from all of the data we collected at the end of last season as well as by monitoring reports on numerous web sites, including SoCalHoops.com and PrepWestHoops.com. It is possible that there were a few transfers of key players that we never saw.

Our rankings have been compiled for boys and girls basketball in California for more than 20 years. We don't claim them to be perfect, but there is a system at work and we have proven to be authentic, authoritative, and comprehensive. Comments and corrections are always welcome by e-mailing mark@studentsports.com.

OVERALL STATE TOP 20 BOYS HOOP RANKS

(Compiled by CalHiSports.com; listed with 2001-02 season record)

1. Mater Dei (Santa Ana) 29-5

Another plus for the Monarchs is that they're playing perhaps their most ambitious schedule yet. In addition to the City of Palms event, Mater Dei will play prep phenom LeBron James and his team at St. Vincent-St. Mary of Akron, Ohio at the Dream Classic on Jan. 4 at Pauley Pavilion. There's also their own Nike Extravaganza later in January in which they will play Miami Christian, which might have the best team in Florida in many years.

2. Westchester (Los Angeles) 32-2

The two players who were transferring in who are now ineligible are Gabriel Pruitt (from Centennial of Compton) and Ray Reese (from Carson). In addition to Ariza, the Comets' inside game will be strong with 6-6 Scott Cutley. Jonathan Smith showed flashes of promise in a backup role behind Ashanti Cook at point guard last year and is another player expected to step up.

3. Fairfax (Los Angeles) 30-5

When last year's top player, Evan Burns, went out with a cut hand during the SoCal playoffs, the Lions hardly missed a beat. Their corps of young players, including 6-6 forward Alex Bausley and 5-10 guard Kevin Bell, still beat Carlsbad on the road and lost by just 10 to Long Beach Poly. Also back is 6-4 soph Jamal Boykin, who was almost State Freshman of the Year, plus 6-6 senior Jason Gilzene and 6-4 junior Josh Shipp.

4. Technical (Oakland) 28-4

The Bulldogs' 1-2 punch last year of Leon Powe and Armando Surratt might be just as strong this year with 6-7 Leon Powe and 6-2 junior guard Quentin Thomas. Powe, the State Junior Player of the Year, is expected to come back healthy and as good as ever following a knee injury that kept him out of all the major summer camps. Thomas is on his way to becoming a four-year starter and really turned a lot of heads last summer as a possible point guard for college.

5. Loyola (Los Angeles) 26-5

Smooth-shooting senior Omar Wilkes and top-notch junior Vince Oliver at the point make the Cubs one of this year's teams to beat. It was a breakthrough season a year ago for coach Jimmy Williamson's program. It will be interesting to see how it goes this time now that Loyola has been singled out as potentially being one of the state's top teams.

6. Vallejo 27-7

We admit this one could be high, but we just love DeMarcus Nelson as a talent. As a sophomore last year, the 6-2 Nelson soared for nearly 28 ppg and he looked so good that Duke offered him a scholarship. DeMarcus couldn't say no so he's already committed to the Blue Devils even though he hasn't played a minute of his junior season. Most of the rest of last year's Apache team that got nipped in the Sac-Joaquin Section Div. I title game by Modesto Christian also is back.

7. Eisenhower (Rialto) 27-4

Sean Marshall and a cast of other solid returning players makes the Eagles a team to beat in the Inland Empire as well as for Southern California. Marshall averaged nearly 20 ppg as a junior. Ike got a lot of mileage last year after an early win over Long Beach Poly when it was more the hunter than the hunted. This year, somebody might be able to do the same with a win over the Eagles.

8. Garces (Bakersfield) 29-5

When these guys come onto the floor this year, people will be doing double-takes to make sure it's a high school team. The Rams return four starters and they're a physically mature bunch. Junior center Robert Swift is a 7-footer who will be the object of a major college recruiting war starting in the spring. Senior guard Kyle Shiloh is a 6-4 rock of granite and fellow returning starters Anthony Esparza (6-5) and Zach Ryan (6-6) are terrific as well. Some are saying this year's Garces team has a chance to be the best ever from Kern County.

9. Oakland 21-8

When the 2001-02 season started, not many outside the city of Oakland knew much about 6-2 Ayinde Ubaka. But after Ubaka thrilled many with a series of scintillating outings and then did so well in the summer that some now ank him as the top point guard in the West, everybody knows who he is now. Another top player coming back for the Wildcats is guard Darrius Parker. Oakland and Oakland Tech also aren't going to be the only strong teams in the Oakland Athletic League this season. Skyline should be one of the best teams in the S.F. Bay Area and Fremont, with 6-7 junior Tim Pearce leading the way, should be very strong, too. It could be a return to the glory days of the OAL in the late 1970s and early 1980s when there was little doubt it was the strongest league, top to bottom, in the state.

10. Villa Park 24-4

Nine players, including four starters, return for the Spartans, who could be No. 2 in Orange County behind Mater Dei for the entire season. Sean Phaler, a 6-9 forward headed to UCLA who can play on the outside due to his passing, ball-handling and shooting skills, will be Villa Park's first option on most offensive trips down the floor. Kyle Hogan, a 6-5 forward and Corey Miller, a 6-2 guard, also are among the returnees.

11. Bishop Montgomery (Torrance) 28-7

Stanford-bound Fred Washington sparked the Knights deep into the SoCal Div. III playoffs last year and another key returnee is 5-11 guard Brandon Peace. Bishop Montgomery was a two-time state champ for 2000 and 2001 with the Craven twins, Errick and Derrick, so there's a good chance the Knights can make it three titles in four years.

12. Fremont (Los Angeles) 22-6

The Pathfinders should remain in the mix of top contenders to Westchester in the L.A. City with eight returning players off last year's squad. Mark Bradford averaged 20.7 ppg as a junior and will be playing his fourth varsity season. The former State Freshman Player of the Year will be joined by the likes of 6-7 junior center Thomas Herring (12.8 ppg), 6-4 forward Josh Arnold (14.6 ppg) and 5-10 sophomore point guard Mark Hill.

13. Poly (Long Beach) 30-4

Coach Ron Palmer's roster from last year was pretty depleted by graduation, but the Jackrabbits are all about depth so there should still be enough talent on hand to keep the team formidable. Among those who should make the move from bench player to the primetime are 5-10 senior guard Isiah Freeman, 6-6 junior forward Marcus Lewis and 6-5 junior forward Chris Fields.

14. Sacred Heart Cathedral (San Francisco) 29-5

Ten of 13 players are back for the Irish, which makes them a favorite to dethrone Riordan in the rugged West Catholic Athletic League as well as perhaps play in the Div. III state title game. Athletic swingman Jason Hill and 6-8 center Cory Lowe are the team's two leading players.

15. Clovis West (Fresno) 28-4

The most significant coaching change of the summer took place here as Vance Walberg stepped down for a post at Fresno City College and was replaced by Tom Orlich, an extremely successful coach from South Tahoe of South Lake Tahoe, which isn't in the CIF and instead plays in Nevada leagues. Orlich should have the Golden Eagles contending for the Div. I title in the Central Section and one standout player he'll build around figures to be 6-4 forward Tyrese McDaniel.

16. Redondo (Redondo Beach) 24-7

Coach Tom Maier's second season for the Sea Hawks should be much like his first with a team capable of beating anybody if the right players are all on their "A" game at the same time. Redondo also has a marquee player to rely on in 6-6 Wendell White, an all-state underclass pick from a year ago.

17. De La Salle (Concord) 27-5

The Spartans have some rebuilding to do with their inside game due to the graduation loss of Rekalin Sims, Joe Robinson and others. But they should be strong in the backcourt with junior Justin Argenal and senior Matt Schroeder. They also have coach Frank Allocco, who has one of the best winning percentages in the nation among those with at least 200 career wins. Another DLS-BOD final in the North Coast Section Div. I playoffs would appear to be a strong possibility.

18. Bishop O'Dowd (Oakland) 23-5

Head coach Mike Phelps only needs 16 wins to become the all-time state leader for coaching victories. And since the Dragons winning 20 games in a season is about as automatic as Jerry Rice catching a pass during an NFL game, Phelps should surpass current record holder Lou Cvijanovich's total of 829 varsity wins sometime in February. Cvijanovich retired at Santa Clara of Oxnard after the 1995-96 season. Of course, O'Dowd could be even better than usual. Guard Johnny Bryant and 6-6 forward Lance Holloway are among the returnees.

19. Millikan (Long Beach) 20-9

Long Beach Poly won't be running away with the Moore League title this season. Many think, in fact, it will be Rams who will find themselves hoisting a banner instead. Last year's team put together a nice playoff run to the Southern Section Div. I-AA semifinals and among the returnees is 6-7 honors candidate Marcus Dove.

20. Canyon Springs (Moreno Valley) 20-9

The Cougars will be one of three top 20 teams playing from Dec. 18-21 at the California Prep Invitational in Bakersfield. They'll challenge Garces and Clovis West with a talent-blessed lineup led by point guard Tron Smith (16 ppg), forward Richard Cobbs (an all-state soph from two years ago who is coming off an injury-marred junior season), Randy Adams (a 6-7 senior) and Andre McGee (an electrifying sophomore point guard).

Others Right There, Too

Lincoln (San Diego) 21-8: It was too tough for us to pick a preseason No. 1 for the San Diego Section, so we wimped out and didn't pick anybody in the top 20. The Hornets are who we were leaning toward. Guard Shaun Davis knocked down 20.7 ppg and is back for his fourth varsity season. Also returning is 6-7 Dominic McGuire, who hit for nearly 17 ppg as a junior but during the summer rocketed up the charts of all the recruiting lists with a number of sensational outings. El Camino of Oceanside, with top guard Mikel Watson back, as well as defending Div. IV state champ Horizon, with forward Alan Wiggins Jr. transferring in, would be two other teams from the section that figure to rank high.

Harvard-Westlake (North Hollywood) 27-6: Despite their Div. IV status, the Wolverines have a chance to be the best team in the San Fernando Valley this season. Junior guard Bryce Taylor is coming off a breakout season in which he averaged nearly 23 ppg. Also back is sophomore forward Ed White and 6-6 forward Evan Harris.

Inglewood 24-6: DeAngelo Collins may be gone, as well as nifty point guard Jason McKinney, but the Sentinels should continue to be one of the top teams in SoCal with the likes of 6-2 senior guard Ray Reed, 6-4 forward Ron Ligon and 6-7 center Andre Foy.

Montgomery (Santa Rosa) 26-4: The Vikings are going to be a dominant force in the Redwood Empire and going to be heard about in other regions of the state, too. Tyler Tiedeman returns as the area's player of the year. He averaged 19.5 ppg as a junior and showed he was a legit player during the summer. Also back is 6-8 center Kyle Jeffers, who averaged 13.8 ppg last season. Northern California usually isn't too strong for Div. II, but with Montgomery along with fellow North Coast Section school Amador Valley this year should be a lot better.

PRESEASON STATE RANKINGS

BY DIVISION & REGION

(All according to CIF state enrollment-based divisions; going by same divisions in which teams played last season unless a change has been reported; some teams in some sections can still declare to play in a higher division and may do so before the first regular season state rankings are compiled)

DIVISION I

1. Westchester (Los Angeles) 32-2

2. Fairfax (Los Angeles) 30-5

3. Technical (Oakland) 28-4

4. Loyola (Los Angeles) 26-5

5. Vallejo 27-7

6. Eisenhower (Rialto) 27-4

7. Oakland 21-9

8. Fremont (Los Angeles) 22-6

9. Poly (Long Beach) 30-4

10. Clovis West (Fresno) 28-4

DIVISION II

1. Mater Dei (Santa Ana) 29-5

2. Villa Park 24-4

3. Redondo (Redondo Beach) 24-7

4. Inglewood 24-6

5. Montgomery (Santa Rosa) 26-4

6. Amador Valley (Pleasanton) 20-11

7. Claremont 22-6

8. Woodbridge (Irvine) 23-7

9. California (San Ramon) 23-3

10. Santa Barbara 17-11

Notes: We admittedly could have gone in several different directions for the No. 9 and No. 10 slots. Brea-Olinda of Brea, Paso Robles, Stockdale of Bakersfield and Chaparral of Temecula were all considered. Chaparral is the new school of last year's State Freshman Player of the Year, Dwain Williams, who previously attended San Joaquin Memorial of Fresno. California is from the same league as Amador Valley and should be right there with the Dons, especially with 6-8 center Brian Elbogen coming back. David Burgess, the 6-10 junior and younger brother of former Woodbridge standout Chris Burgess, is part of a 6-10, 6-7, 6-7 front line for the Warriors. They were ousted from the playoff last year by Mater Dei.

DIVISION III

1. Bishop Montgomery (Torrance) 28-7

2. Sacred Heart Cathedral (S.F.) 29-5

3. Washington (Easton) 22-6

4. Mayfair (Lakewood) 22-8

5. Foothill (Sacramento) 30-5

6. Ocean View (Huntington Beach) 20-9

7. Enterprise (Redding) 23-6

8. Centennial (Compton) 31-2

9. Northwood (Irvine) 23-4

10. Kennedy (Richmond) 17-12

Notes: Washington Union should be one of the top three overall teams in the Central Section this season. Javance Coleman may be gone, but the Panthers will still have junior guard Dwiehgt O'Neil plus 6-6 forward Gabe Treadwell and 6-7 forward Keenan Gooch. Another Childress, this one Chris, will be on hand to possibly help Mayfair to the promised land. The top player for the Monsoons, though, will be 6-6 Utah-bound Justin Hawkins. Northgate of Walnut Creek, which was 27-3 in Div. II last year, is now listed as being Div. III according to the North Coast Section. That school goes back and forth between Div. II and Div. III so much we're surprised they don't change their nickname from Broncos to YoYos.

DIVISION IV

1. Garces (Bakersfield) 29-5

2. Lincoln (San Diego) 21-8

3. Harvard-Westlake (N. Hollywood) 27-6

4. Horizon (San Diego) 29-4

5. Chaminade (West Hills) 22-7

6. Montclair Prep (Van Nuys) 16-12

7. Verbum Dei (Los Angeles) 28-4

8. Salesian (Richmond) 22-11

9. Monte Vista Chr. (Watsonville) 29-4

10. Twentynine Palms 20-7

Notes: This division is nails once again, just like a year ago when five of the state's top 35 overall ranked teams were Div. IV. This year, it could wind up being four of the top 20. Montclair Prep's record from last year is deceiving as the Mounties didn't get 6-8 Nick Stiggers until late January. Stiggers may average 30 ppg this season. Salesian of Richmond would have been No. 5 had guard John Winston not transferred out to nearby Hercules. This division ranking also doesn't include St. Mary's of Berkeley, which moved up to Div. I last year and could decide to move back down to Div. IV this year. The Panthers are currently listed as being in Div. I according to the North Coast Section web site.

DIVISION V

1. Price (Los Angeles) 31-4*

2. Modesto Christian 23-10

3. Rolling Hills Prep (R.H. Estates) 19-7*

4. Immanuel (Reedley) 27-5

5. Eastside Prep (Palo Alto) 30-2

6. Ribet Academy (La Canada) 20-10

7. Pacific Hills (Los Angeles) 16-14

8. Mission Prep (San Luis Obispo) 22-8

9. Calvary Temple (Modesto) 22-7

10. University (San Francisco) 30-5

*Forfeit losses not included

Notes:Price will attempt to become the first school in state history to win four straight state titles. And even though such players as Oscar Edwards, Derrick Williams and Paul Simon are all back, Price is not even close to being a lock to win the state title. That's due to the fact that Modesto Christian -- which was definitely better than Price two years ago and probably was better last year, too -- is being forced by the Sac-Joaquin Section to play back in Division V instead of being allowed to move up to Division I. One of the key players for the Crusaders this year is 7-2 center Liam Hughes, an English import who didn't play two years ago and started to come around as a starter last season. The best player in this division, though, may be Immanuel's Jacob Wild, who is currently starring on the school's football team.

NORTHERN CALIFORNIA

OVERALL TOP 10*

1. Technical (Oakland) 28-4

2. Vallejo 27-7

3. Garces (Bakersfield) 29-5

4. Oakland 21-9

5. Sacred Heart Cathedral (S.F.) 29-5

6. Clovis West (Fresno) 28-4

7. Bishop O'Dowd (Oakland) 23-5

8. De La Salle (Concord) 27-5

9. Washington (Easton) 22-6

10. Montgomery (Santa Rosa) 26-4

*Based on geography

NORTHERN CALIFORNIA

OVERALL TOP 10*

1. Technical (Oakland) 28-4

2. Vallejo 27-7

3. Oakland 21-9

4. Sacred Heart Cathedral (S.F.) 29-5

5. Bishop O'Dowd (Oakland) 23-5

6. De La Salle (Concord) 27-5

7. Montgomery (Santa Rosa) 26-4

8. Amador Valley (Pleasanton) 20-11

9. San Leandro 18-8

10. Foothill (Sacramento) 30-5

*Based on CIF state playoff alignment

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

OVERALL TOP 10

1. Mater Dei (Santa Ana) 29-5

2. Westchester (Los Angeles) 32-2

3. Fairfax (Los Angeles) 30-5

4. Loyola (Los Angeles) 26-5

5. Eisenhower (Rialto) 27-4

6. Villa Park 24-4

7. Bishop Montgomery (Torrance) 28-7

8. Fremont (Los Angeles) 22-6

9. Poly (Long Beach) 30-4

10. Redondo (Redondo Beach) 24-7

Thanks for reading and good luck to all for the coming season.


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