It has finally arrived: the return of high school basketball to San Diego.
Tonight marks the first official games of the new season, one that should be marked with parity and big-time star power that has rarely been seen in the region.
In a brief preview, we answer five burning questions that hoops fans are dying to know the answers to at the beginning of the season.
1. Who is the favorite to win the Open Division?
This might be the first year where there is not a clear-cut favorite in the division due to the parity at the top of the rankings. Foothills Christian, St. Augustine and Cathedral Catholic are widely held to be the top 3 teams, but one can't discount Torrey Pines, which has an experienced and talented group back, and La Jolla Country Day, which brings back all but one contributor from the Division 2 championship team last year. Foothills has Jaylen Hands and a team that complements his abilities perfectly, Cathedral has one of the most unstoppable players in the country in Brandon McCoy and a group of very athletic, albeit unproven role players, and Saints return almost all of its entire team from a group that upset Corona Centennial in the CIF Div 1 state playoffs. My current guess is Foothills will prevail, but to be honest, my confidence level in that pick is pretty low. It's essentially a pick 'em.
2. Will San Diego have back-to-back McDonald's All Americans?
The real question is, will San Diego have two McDonald's All American players for the first time? The answer: yes. Brandon McCoy currently is considered a Top 10-15 prospect, which is usually 'shoo-in' status for the prestigious event. Jaylen Hands is a Top 25-30 prospect in the class, but his affiliation with an Adidas club program (Compton Magic), combined with a series of stellar performances on the travel circuit the past few years, should garner him an invitation. Having two "Burger Boys" would be tremendous for San Diego's hoops profile.
3 What is the most competitive division outside of the Open?
It's a coin flip between Division 1 and 2, but expect both to be very tough in the third year of competitive alignment. La Jolla and Helix are currently Division 2 teams, and both are among the top 11 teams in the section. Division 1, depending on which teams advance to the Open Division, could be a murderer's row of sorts: Vista, Mater Dei Catholic, La Costa Canyon, Kearny, Poway, Lincoln, Santa Fe Christian, El Camino and San Marcos will all be in the mix of the lower bound of the Open Division or the top half of Division 1.
4. What league is the toughest in San Diego?
Three leagues stand out this season as tougher than the others. The Coastal League was the toughest last year, but now has been split in two. The tougher of the two divisions is the Coastal North, with Foothills Christian, Santa Fe Christian, Army Navy and new addition Orange Glen. All Four teams are ranked in the FTH Top 25, which should make for excellent games. The previous alignment of the Western League might have been the toughest, but La Jolla has dropped out and in its place are Morse and Mira Mesa, the two toughest teams in the Eastern League the previous five seasons. Both are down from previous years, but still should be competitive on the lower end of a league that also includes Saints, Cathedral, Mission Bay and Kearny. The final league in this list has the potential to be quite a gauntlet: The Avo East. Mission Hills, Vista, El Camino and San Marcos are at the top of the heap, but look out for Oceanside, which has a lot of returners and should give the aforementioned teams some good games.
5. Which are the most improved teams in San Diego?
Several teams come to mind. Canyon Crest is a team in North County that could sneak up on a lot of teams due to its potent perimeter attack, led by senior shooter Ryan Michaels. In the South Bay, Sweetwater has a ton of returners from a team that narrowly missed the playoffs last year, and play a style that gives teams problems. Coronado has almost its entire team back from a .500 team and should have little resistance in the realigned City League. But the teams atop the list of most improved are Mission Hills and Patrick Henry. Mission Hills, which sustained its worst season under coach Curtis Hofmeister, was bolstered by four transfers, including junior post Warren Washington and former Army Navy guard Ed Fenzi. Patrick Henry's fortunes have brightened with incoming transfer Christian Choice and senior guard Jahloni Mitchell, who missed last year due to academics.
Preseason All-Section Team
Jaylen Hands, PG, Foothills Christian
Brandon McCoy, C, Cathedral Catholic
Jake Gilliam, C, Torrey Pines
Taeshon Cherry, PF, St. Augustine
Miles Norris, PF, Helix
Taurus Samuels, PG, Vista
Reed Farley, G, La Jolla
Richard Polanco, PF, Army Navy
JJ Overton, G, Rancho Bernardo
Robby Robinson, F, Kearny
Zach Reiter, G, Poway
Blake Seits, G, Ramona
Warren Washington, F, Mission Hills
Malik Parsons, G, Lincoln
Ryan Langborg, SG, La Jolla Country Day
Otto Taylor, G, St. Augustine
Boogie Ellis, G, Mission Bay
Michael Diaz, G, Orange Glen
Trey Anderson, F, Mater Dei Catholic
DJ Wilson, Horizon