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Posted On: 03/30/18 4:24 PM
LAGUNA NIGUEL, Ca. – The ultimate choice for the BurlisonOnBasketball Southern California Player of the Year got easier to make with each week in the final month or so of the 2017-18 season.
In its 10-game run to CIF Southern Section Division 1 and State Division I championships, Chino Hills High got strong performances from two of the state’s most underrated (well, not any more, or course) seniors in 6-foot-2 Ofure Ujadughele and 6-6 Andre Ball.
But the lynchpin for Coach Dennis Latimore’s team’s success, during the 16-11 regular season and the playoffs, was 6-9 junior Onyeka Okongwu.
Onyeka was BurlisonOnBasketball’s No. 1 freshman and sophomore for the past two seasons, so he didn’t exactly sneak up on folks as a junior.
There were strong – and, often, overpowering – December efforts during the Battle Zone and Tarkanian Classic tournaments (at Corona Centennial and Las Vegas Bishop Gorman high schools, respectively), as well as against eventual Arizona state-champion Phoenix Shadow Mountain.
Those set the stage for January and the first half of February efforts against Spartanburg (SC) and its 2018 McDonald’s All-American and Duke-bound Zion Williamson (on national television from the HoopHall Classic in Springfield, MA), as well as against tough Baseline League goes Etiwanda and Damien.
And, then of course, there were his performances in the Huskies’ Southern Section championship win against Pasadena (38 points, 18 rebounds, six blocked shots and two assists), as well as in the team’s Southern Regional come-from-behind win over St. John Bosco (12 points, 15 rebounds, seven blocks and three assists) and, finally, during last Friday night’s State championship win against Las Lomas (27 points, 14 rebounds, five blocked shots and three assists) in Sacramento.
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls: Okongwu was the oh-too-obvios choice as the SoCal Player of the Year – regardless of class standing.
Fifteen players (covering all classes) join him on the BurlisonOnBasketball All-Southern California team, two of those coming from State Open Division Champion Chatsworth Sierra Canyon.
FYI: Players who didn’t become eligible until January (30-day “sit-outs” following transfers that didn’t include valid change of residence) or players who missed more than half of their teams’ games because of injuries weren’t considered.
Some of the players who fall into these categories include standout juniors Cassius Stanley (Sierra Canyon), Jonathan Salazar (St. John Bosco), Jaden Shackelford (Hesperia) and Gianni Hunt (Bishop Montgomery).
And, unlike my team ratings, San Diego-based players weren’t considered since Aaron Burgin has made his well-informed San Diego selections as for PrepHoops.com.
Player of the Year
Onyeka Okongwu (Chino Hills) 6-9 Jr.
Kalen Allen (L.A. Westchester) 6-6 Sr./Unsigned
Riley Battin (Oak Park) 6-8 Sr./Utah
Jules Bernard (L.A. Windward) 6-5 Sr./UCLA
Kihei Clark (Woodland Hills Taft) 5-8 Sr./Virginia
Devonaire Doutrive (Lake Balboa Birmingham) 6-5 Sr./Unsigned
Kessler Edwards (Etiwanda) 6-7 Sr./Pepperdine
Spencer Freedman (Santa Ana Mater Dei) 6-1 Sr./Harvard
Bryce Hamilton (Pasadena) 6-4 Sr./UNLV
Jaime Jaquez Jr. (Camarillo) 6-6 Jr.
Kenyon Martin Jr. (Chatsworth Sierra Canyon) 6-6 Jr.
Isaiah Mobley (Temecula Rancho Christian) 6-9 Jr.
Shareef O’Neal (Santa Monica Crossroads) 6-10 Sr./UCLA
David Singleton (Torrance Bishop Montgomery) 6-3 Sr./UCLA
Duane Washington Jr. (Chatsworth Sierra Canyon) 6-3 Sr./Ohio State
Brandon Williams (Encino Crespi) 6-1 Sr./Unsigned