Along with the Top Gun/ Gamepoint San Diego Fall Showcase, the Mt. Miguel Fall Invitational has provided basketball fans with a good lens into the futures of a number of the region's top teams - while not playing officially as "teams."
CIF rules don't allow for high school teams to play as teams until November, when the winter sport season officially begins. A loophole, however, allows for players from the same high school to form club teams during the fall, spring and summer months, provided they don't play under their high school name. So, rather than Morse vs Mission Bay, we watched the "Tigers" and "Bucs" play at Grossmont College.
Full-Time Hoops took in 8 such games on Saturday at Grossmont, and here are some of our key takeaways.
1. La Jolla could very well be a Top-10 team.
The "Vikings" were the most impressive team on hand, dismantling the Titans (Eastlake) and Eagles (Granite Hills) in double-digit blowouts. The main reason, of course, is senior Reed Farley, who was impressive in both games, scoring off of quick-release threes and finishing with authority in transition. But the Vikings are much more than a one-man show. Junior 6-5 F Charlie Gal is coming into his own, providing a nice scoring and defensive presence in the paint, and senior guard Quinn Rawdin is a solid floor general. Perhaps the biggest surprise of the day for the Vikings was the play of 6-1 combo guard Jacob O'Hara, who scored it efficiently off the dribble with a nice first step, and knocked down shots from the perimeter with equal efficiency. Earlier in the fall, the Vikings introduced us to 6-6 sophomore forward Nathaniel Gates, who was not with the team on Saturday. Add him to the mix, and you have the makings of a team that could be a potential Top-10 squad in San Diego.
2. The "Bucs" are young, but formidable
To say that Mission Bay has a young team is an understatement. So far in the fall, four freshmen and five sophomores have seen time for the team, which will likely make them the youngest team in the section when season opens in late November. But teams would be unwise to take their lack of experience to mean a lack of ability. Mission Bay is led by sophomore scoring guard Boogie Ellis, who has great touch from the perimeter and can make solid plays in transition. His fellow sophomores, guards Andre Scott and Jay Norton, and 6-6 sophomore post Ronnie Latting, are also very talented. Scott, in particular, at 6-0 has the upside to be one of the top point guards in the 2019 class. As for the freshmen, 6-1 guard Savaughn Davis gets the call as a starter, and is already showing the ability to be a potent scorer and playmaker, Eli Lopez has been a pleasant surprise with his motor and his ability to score in transition through contact. The Bucs are likely a year away from doing serious damage, but by 2019, you could be looking at a Top 3 team in San Diego.
3. Robert Young is a problem ... but he needs help.
The "Tigers" from Skyline, aka Morse, went 1-1 on the day, a convincing win over Valhalla and a double-digit loss to Mission Bay. But what was impressive was the growth of junior point guard Robert Young. Young dazzled in both games with his elite quickness, deft handle and improved shooting and decision making. He carved up Valhalla's zone with pull-up jump shots and strong drives into the key, and in the Mission Bay game, he scored almost all of his team's points in the second half to keep his team within striking distance. Young has a solid back court make in 6-0 senior guard Josh Davis, brother of Cal State Bakersfield wing Justin Davis. Josh Davis has a solid motor and makes a living creating havoc on the defensive end and scoring in transition, but his decision making and shooting still need improvement. Outside of Davis and Young, however, the Tigers were limited in consistent scoring options without steady senior guard Mikey Hawkins unavailable on Saturday. The best third option looks like sophomore forward Elijah Seales, a 6-3 Mater Dei Catholic transfer who possesses a chiseled frame and excels at rebounding on both ends and running the floor and finishing in transition. If Seales and junior forward Akil Parrish can turn the corner, Morse should be able to keep it competitive in the new Western League.
4. Ryan Kelly is underrated
When we released our senior rankings, one of the players that we struggled to slot was Ryan Kelly, a 6-foot-7 senior forward from Granite Hills. He was impressive during the Eagles run in the Grossmont Hills League last season, but had an up-and-down summer playing with Gamepoint 17u Select.. As a result, Kelly was slotted at No. 29 overall in the class. Saturday, Kelly showed why he could rise up the ranks with a dominant senior campaign. Facing frequent double teams, Kelly was able to score in the post or off of drives from the baseline and short corner, as well as knock down three point shots off the catch and the step-back variety. He is very methodical in his approach and his release is somewhat slow, but he can fill it up once he gets going. He is a good rebounder once he gets engaged, but we want to see him continue to improve his consistency of effort in that respect. A high-academic student who has expressed his intent to attend a UC school as a student, Kelly could prove to be a solid walk-on candidate or even a player at one of the Division 2 or Division 3 UC schools: San Diego, Santa Cruz and Merced.
5. Two traditional powers could have down years
In 2014, Top-seeded Eastlake hosted ninth-seeded Escondido in the quarterfinals of the CIF Division 1 playoffs, and suffered a stunning defeat. In 2015, the teams met again in the second round of the playoffs, with Escondido again getting the upper hand en route to a Division 1 championship. Last season, both teams had slid down a notch, with Escondido losing in the second round to eventual champs Kearny, and Eastlake bowing out in the first round as a 14 seed. This year, both teams will be hard pressed to make much noise at the CIF level. Escondido took a tough loss to Granite Hills in its first game, and squeaked out a comeback victory over the Titans, leaving Eastlake as one of two teams to leave the first frame of Mt. Miguel play at Grossmont College winless (Olympian was the other). Escondido does have an underrated and improving senior forward in 6-foot-5 Jacob Moskowitz, and a promising sophomore point guard in 5-foot-10 Jacob Hutchinson. Eastlake has several decent young pieces, including undersized 2019 forward Diego Perez and junior point guard Jarrett Isaacson. Both teams will get better as the season progresses, but have a long way to go to be competitive in Division 1 this year.