On Nov. 15, SportStars Magazine will release its Basketball Preview at SportStarsMag.com. Here’s a sneak preview of the top six teams from their Preseason NorCal Rankings for both boys and girls.
1. Sheldon-Sacramento (29-6): The rich absolutely get richer when it comes to the Huskies. In addition to returning four starters and a great majority of the 2017-18 squad that won the CIF Open Division NorCal title, Sheldon landed 6-foot-8 junior Marcus Bagley (the younger brother of Sacramento Kings’ rookie, Marvin Bagley III). While the four-star Bagley handles the wing, the paint will be home to another incoming talent, 6-foot-10 Josh Morgan (Long Beach State) from Pleasant Grove-Elk Grove. Size, speed, depth. The Huskies have it all.
2. Modesto Christian (29-4): And here’s the team that actually beat Sheldon in the Sac-Joaquin Div. I championship last March. It graduated Junior Ballard, who sank the dagger 3-pointer in that contest, but still returns four of its top six scorers from last season’s 29-win team. Dathan Satchell and Aaron Murphy will lead the Crusaders this season.
3. Salesian-Richmond (30-2): There were just two seniors on the Pride team which won 30 games and was NorCal’s No. 1-ranked team for most of last season. The Pride were ranked No. 1 in the state and the No. 1 seed in the NorCal Open Div. before being upset by Folsom in the opening round. James Akinjo (Georgetown) was one of those two seniors to depart, but Salesian’s depth will absorb the loss.
4. Dublin (26-6): Robby Beasley averaged 21 points, three rebounds and three assists as a sophomore for a Gaels team which went undefeated in the EBAL and came within a triple-OT buzzer-beater of reaching the NCS Div. I final. The loss of three key seniors may be felt early, but the Gaels should reach top gear pretty quickly.
5. Clayton Valley-Concord (26-4): There may not be a more fun team to watch in the East Bay this year. The Ugly Eagles return two starters, and several key members from last year’s NCS Div. I runner-up squad. They will press. They will run. And they will shoot — from anywhere.
6. Riordan-S.F. (17-12): The Crusaders have a chance to usher in a changing of the guard in the West Coast Athletic League. That’s thanks to Sacred Heart Cathedral-S.F. transfer Bryce Monroe. He’ll join forces with his cousin, Jelani Clark, to form potentially the best duo in the league.
1. Archbishop Mitty-San Jose (29-1): Yes, we know Pinewood beat Mitty in the NorCal Open finals last year, and that the San Jose power lost a ton to graduation. However, Haley Jones is still wearing the Monarch uniform and she’s the best player in California. Of course there’s still more talent, led by four-year senior Anna McNicholas, and sophomore Hunter Hernandez. Mitty was also bolstered by a couple of high-level transfers, plus returners who learned from a trial by fire down the stretch last season.
2. Pinewood-Los Altos Hills (27-3): Stanford-bound Hannah Jump and super-versatile Klara Astrom are back, but Doc Scheppler’s free-flowing offense — he likes to make it clear Pinewood was playing this way long before the Warriors adopted the style — will miss graduated point guard Brianna Claros. Still, it would be no surprise if Pinewood once again finished atop these rankings at season’s end.
3. Salesian-Richmond (27-6): All eyes will be on USC-signee Angel Jackson, and not just because she’s 6-5, but opponents who forget about seniors Nia Chinn, Makayla Edwards and Anjel Galbraith will be in for a rude awakening. Salesian has always flown a bit under the radar, but don’t be surprised if the Pride wind up playing for the Open championship.
4. St Mary’s-Stockton (27-3): St. Mary’s supporters may grumble at the “low” ranking, but though there’s still lots of talent, the overwhelming array of Division I-bound athletes will slow a little this year. Still, Jada Moss, Anna Blount and Amaya Oliver — back after losing last season to injury — are a very potent trio.
5. Bishop O’Dowd-Oakland (19-11): Though losing Zakiya Mahoney will hurt, coach Malik McCord has everyone else back, and the Dragons will be a very tough out despite a lack of size. And since Lexi Love and Jada Holland are the only seniors, O’Dowd may only get better down the road.
6. Carondelet-Concord (22-8): New coach Mike Morris comes from Vacaville Christian, a Division V school, but his transition to the big time will be eased by the presence of Washington-bound post Ali Bamberger and five other talented seniors.