Wake Me Up - Full-Time Hoops Sleeper teams
The release of our very early Preseason Top 15 rankings has yielded some very predictable responses:
"What about us, Full-Time?" "You're sleeping on us!" Various emojis that depict slumber.
It comes with the territory.
But some programs do have a valid point. While perhaps not in the very early Top 15 rankings, there are some teams equipped to do damage in their respective leagues and CIF Divisions.
Who are some of Full-Time Hoops' biggest sleeper teams? We have your answers.
Why they're sleepers: Whenever you lose a Division 1 player, expectations are simmered. When the team relies on that player as much as La Jolla did with Reed Farley, expectations are significantly lowered. The Vikings were a fringe top 10 team last year before Farley's devastating ACL injury, and fell apart down the stretch.
Why they'll make noise: The team returns 4 of its top 7 scorers, including double-double magnet Charlie Gal and underrated floor general Quinn Rawdin. The JV team was one of the top squads in the city last year, and that group - spearheaded by 6-4 junior Nick Hulquist - is sneaky good. While most of the attention will be on Mission Bay and Saint Augustine in league, La Jolla is firmly in the mix for a Top-3 finish and could be a favorite in Division 1.
Why they're sleepers: The 2017 Patriots class took the program to heights not seen since the late 1990s. As freshman, they won a D4 title. By their senior year, they were a couple of plays from winning a D2 title, and upset several teams en route to a state regional semifinals appearance. The core group of seniors - Mike and Devin Diaz, Trevor Owens and Gabe Macias - have moved on, leaving huge shoes to fill.
Why they'll make noise: Two words: favorable matchups. Chris Featherly has an undersized team, led by the ever-impressive floor general Damien Miller. But Featherly has a knack for exploiting mismatches with his team's speed and perimeter shooting. Caedon Palmer is a knockdown shooter who at 6-5 is a mismatch for other team's centers. Andres Tovar and Ryan Filoteo are lightning quick guards who will put pressure on defenses with their penetration ability and slick handle. And the team plays relentless defense.
Why they're sleepers: Ben Okhotin, the team's leading scorer, is off to Westmont. Okhotin made clutch plays all season long as the Wolverines exceeded expectations en route to a 7-3 finish in league and a CIF semifinals appearance.
Why they'll make noise: Almost everyone else who matters returns. Kobe Gatti is a seasoned, three-year varsity player, and the Wolverines have perhaps the most underrated collection of juniors in the section. Adam Chang, a national-level volleyball player, is a very good basketball player in his own right, Ricardo Hopping is the heir apparent on the wing and Jackson Krogman and Mike Grehdahl are big bodies who are more skilled than you think. One coach in the league, who shall remain nameless, said this about Westview: "Outside of Poway, they're the best team. They're really talented." Pencil them in as potential Palomar League dark horses.
League: Avocado East
Why they're sleepers: It's easy to sleep on a team that hasn't had a great recent basketball history and plays in a loaded conference. Oceanside had a minor breakthrough last year, defeating perennial league champs El Camino on the Wildcats home floor, but then slid down the stretch as the Wildcats returned the favor before Orange Glen emphatically closed the door on their season.
Why they'll make noise: Senior leadership. Much like in college basketball, it matters. The Pirates have it in spades, with Dru Morgan, Jacob Camargo, Manny Grandison and Donovan Laie all coming back for another stab at the Avo East title. If they get anything that resembles solid point guard play, they could ambush a few teams in league and will be an upset-special in Division 2.
Why they're sleepers; Last year was just a tough one for the Knights. Playing in the lesser half of the divided Coastal League - Coastal South - the team only managed two wins against lowly Francis Parker. Guard play was a major concern, as injuries took a toll on the team.
Why they'll make noise: Turning the page to this year, the Knights have one of the most promising front-court duos in San Diego in 6-6 junior Christian Rose and 6-7 sophomore Nakial Cross. The guard play should improve with a healthy Marek Thomson and up and coming sophomore Zach White in the mix. Collin Douglas and Conrad Tempel will provide senior leadership. With the top of the league not as strong as in year's past, a lot of teams will have a chance to beat up on each other. Count the Knights as one of those teams.
League: Avocado West
Why they're sleepers: Much like Oceanside, it's tough to be viewed as a serious threat when you play in tough league. Three of the teams in the Avo West League are in our very early preseason Top 15: Torrey Pines (5), Canyon Crest (9) and LCC (12).
Why they'll make noise: Sam Eshelman has a plethora of weapons at his disposal, led by underrated dual-sport senior Isaiah Ramos and a very talented junior class. 6-5 wing Carter Plousha blossomed into a lockdown defender during the summer, and Brogan Pietrocini and Gavin Schmidt are two 6-5 physical forwards that complement Plousha's perimeter prowess. The Lancers are still searching for answers at point, but if they get it, they will put more than a scare in the teams ahead of them in league: they will beat someone.
Why they're sleepers: Hoover on paper only won 2 games last year. Of course, that was the result of the forfeiture of nearly all of it's games due to an ineligible player. The resulting fallout dropped Hoover into the Central League, the lowliest of the three city leagues.
Why they'll make noise: This team is legit. Hoover has solid guard play (senior point guard Chris Modica is a legit college prospect and Malachi Pinkston is a tough defender), size on the wing (sleeper Jalnn Harrington has been a revelation during the fall and Andrew Peters is versatile and big-bodied) and size in the middle with the massive 6-6 James Malveaux. Jeremiah Bosley returned after a semester at Christian High, too, to add another athlete to a stable of them. This is the best Cardinals team since Ollie Ghoulston's final year. Expect them to have the biggest turnaround in San Diego and one of the favorites in Division 3.
League: Grossmont Valley
Why they're sleepers: Mt Miguel is another team that loses a player that was essentially the heart and soul of their program, Darian Norwood. The athletic, hard working forward was their leading scorer, rebounder and propelled them to a surprise appearance in the Division 3 finals. Streaky scoring guard Ricky Harvey is also gone.
Why they'll make noise: Quiet as it's kept, Jay Rowlett's returning core is rather good. 6-5 James Allen is the most underrated point guard in the city, Marquise Edwards is the best junior in San Diego you've never heard of, undersized shooter Mikeece Dunbar is a sleeper in his own rights. That trio will definitely do damage in the Grossmont Valley League.
Why they're sleepers: People forget that University City used to be a competitive program with multiple Division 3 title game appearances, including a championship in 2011. But it's been a while since the Centurions have been relevant - their last solid team upset a Tommy Rutherford-led Grossmont Team in CIF playoffs in 2014. Last year's team was 8-4 in league, but it was the Central League, and they lost its opening round playoff game to Mt Miguel.
Why they'll make noise: This team has a lot of returning size in 6-4 Casey Granfors, 6-4 Clay Ali Brooks, 6-4 Clay Adams and 6-4 Lamont Chatman, not to mention second leading scorer Justin Anderson, a crafty perimeter player. Where the team will need attention is the guard slots, but Ben Bruce might be an upgrade to the player who held down the point the last two seasons - his older brother Alex. Ben is bigger at 5-10, 160 pounds and is a lights out shooter. Hoover and the Centurions will be the favorites in a top-heavy Central League that loses its previous standard bearers, Christian, Coronado and Point Loma.
San Dieguito Academy
League: Avocado West
Why they're sleepers: If Carlsbad has trouble breaking through in the rugged Avo West, San Dieguito has just been buried. The Mustangs were 0-10 in league play, but very nearly knocked off the 2nd seed Granite Hills in the Division 3 playoffs.
Why they'll make noise: Jason Stewart has his best team of his tenure, a mix of experienced seniors and a very talented junior class. The Mustangs return leading scorer James Bert, Connor Miller has blossomed into a sharpshooting point guard, twins Ron and Yarin Arbib are unbridled scoring guards while Baylor Brimmer and Travis Snider give them a nice one-two punch at the forward positions. Stewart's challenge will be balancing the senior and junior classes, which have some redundancy, especially in the front court. If he is able to do this, this is a sneaky team with a lot of depth.
Other sleepers; Patrick Henry (D1), Serra (D2), Sage Creek (D2) Mt. Carmel (D3), Escondido Adventist (D4),