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Posted On: 06/25/18 2:54 PM
San Diego State’s second session of its team camp proved to be a very telling weekend of basketball, both regionally and beyond.
We’ll start with the San Diego storylines, which were plentiful.
Vista proved to be the surprise of the weekend, rolling through big-time opponents after looking lackluster a week earlier in Orange County. The Panthers took a powerful Balboa School to the wire in the championship game before falling 51-49.
Foothills Christian avenged its CIF Open Division championship loss by defeating Mission Bay in a showcase game, and DJ Carter-Hollinger looked very impressive all weekend.
And Boogie Ellis suited up for Mission Bay, a story in itself (more about that later).
Here were some of our big takeaways from the weekend.
A number of hoops followers expected the Panthers to slip from the ranks of San Diego’s elite teams with the graduation of Taurus Samuels and Isaiah Morris. But if this weekend was any indication, Vista might not fall too far – if at all.
Spearheaded by the play of senior guards Jordan Hilstock and Makiah Morris, the Panthers strung together impressive victories over Tolleson (AZ), Atrisco Heritage (NM), Pacifica Christian, Fresno Edison, Gilbert (AZ) and Lewis Palmer (CO) before losing to Balboa School by 2 in the championship. The Panthers play stout defense both in zone and man, and their back court play gives them a fighting chance against any team. But when their role players – juniors Isaiah Jones and Cade Windham, freshman Nikko Taylor, his brother, senior Maqui Taylor, and senior forward Fletcher Pope – play like they did this weekend, the Panthers are capable of beating anyone in San Diego.
While not a CIF-sanctioned program, the Balboa School was very impressive in its title run. Balboa did it on the defensive end, where they play a fierce pack-line man defense that stifles opponents. The back court of Malcolm Little and Mojus Mojus is tough, with both capable of scoring and locking down on defense. The return of 6-5 senior forward Christian Wilson gives them a versatile and forceful presence in the frontcourt. But it’s 2021 F Fallou Cisse that steals that show with his electric athleticism, elite motor and defensive capabilities.
Another thing that stands out about the team is its camaraderie. The bench cheers for every stop or good defensive effort, the sign of an excellent basketball culture.
Rumors have been swirling for weeks that Ellis, the reigning CIF Player of the Year and Top 100 prospect, would not return to Mission Bay. Ellis might have put the rumors to rest – or at least quieted them – with his return to the Bucs lineup in four showcase games this weekend. Ellis looks noticeably stronger and more athletic (finishing above the rim off of one foot now), and still is the same potent three-level scorer. Another area where he’s shown growth is in his passing in the halfcourt, where he’s more willing to trust his teammates and finds open shooters on the strong and weak side.
If the Bucs can get more consistent contributions from the supporting cast – rising junior Savaughn Davis needs to take the next step in his development – the Bucs will be a contender at the state level as well.
The Patriots looked dynamic in wins over LCC and Montana Park High. The new-look front court, anchored by 6-6 Mount Miguel transfer CJ Jackson, was impressive. Jackson Larsen, who has all the physical gifts at 6-7, looked comfortable attacking off the wing and finishing through contact. A big surprise was the play of 2021 WF Shawn Jackson, a lefty scorer with some solid physical gifts.
Once the team breaks in backcourt transfers Miles Williams (Parker) and Kobe Sanders (Steele Canyon), this could be a team that could make noise in the Open Division.
The Eagles, Crusaders and Patriots had solid weekends, and what stood out was the heavy reliance on players in the 2021 class. Santa Fe Christian’s back court trio of Hayden Gray, Trevan Martin and Keatten Smith each bring different skills to the table for the young Eagles – Gray is a savvy playmaker, Martin is a physical slasher and scorer and Smith is a knockdown shooter. The Crusaders’ got positive returns from 2021s Jessie Campbell (wiry, athletic lead guard/defender), Melo Sanchez (“point forward” playmaker), Nico Meza (scoring wing) and 2020s Adrian Calderon (knockdown shooter), Jake Tawhiao (athletic slasher) and a vastly improved Vincent Warren (6-5 scoring forward).
Patrick Henry is younger than both teams, relying on seven 2021 players, none better at this point than 6-0 PG Kailon King, who has made big strides since his freshman year and looks to be one of the breakout players in the city. 6-2 guards Clarence Martin and Michael Burton (knockdown shooters) and 6-5 forward Dexter Stratton (skilled face-up four man).