A Catholic crusade. A heroic return. A wild transfer season. A freshman phenom.
These are several of the story lines that will dominate the high school basketball season in San Diego.
With games kicking off this week, Full-Time Hoops gives you our best effort at breaking down the outlook of San Diego Hoops, starting with five themes to watch unfold this year.
1. Catholic schools flex muscle
The county's three Catholic schools - Cathedral Catholic, Mater Dei Catholic and Saint Augustine - are ranked No. 1, No. 2 and No. 6 in the inaugural rankings.
Cathedral and Saints will renew their Western League rivalry on Jan. 14 in what will be one of the most anticipated games of the season, but could see each other earlier than that in the National Division of the Torrey Pines Holiday Classic.
Cathedral boasts one of the top juniors in the country in 6-7 F Obinna Anyanwu, while St. Augustine has a deep senior lineup headlined by Texas Tech commit Chibuzo Agbo, a 6-7 forward who is a Top 100 2020 prospect.
Mater Dei, meanwhile, will attempt to regain control of the Metro Mesa League after losing its first league games in over five years. Headlined by a deep junior class and the biggest frontcourt in San Diego, the Crusaders have their sights set on much more than league a league title.
2. Who makes it to the Open Division?
San Diego's Open Division lineup could very well be compared to a 90s crime thriller film: the usual suspects.
Torrey Pines and St. Augustine have participated in the Open Division playoffs since its inception in 2014. Foothills Christian has been in each of the past four Open Division playoffs since qualifying in 2016. And Cathedral Catholic, Vista and Mater Dei Catholic have each participated in at least three.
This year, the Falcons, Saints, Knights, Dons and Crusaders are all projected to be Open Division teams.
Our Top 10 also includes Santa Fe Christian and Poway, which made the Open playoffs in 2019.
Which other teams could make a legitimate run for CIFs highest division? Watch out for Carlsbad - who is eligible for the Open for the first time - San Marcos - participated the past two years - Helix, Christian and El Camino, which all have tough schedules and the prerequisite star power to make a run.
3. Transfers alter landscape
A number of high-profile address changes changed the fortunes of a number of programs, for better or for worse.
Torrey Pines and Mater Dei Catholic probably were the biggest winners of the offseason.
The Falcons' program features four significant transfers, none bigger than 6-foot-6 junior Chris Howell, who joins Torrey Pines after two standout seasons at San Marcos. He pairs with Brandon Angel to give the Falcons one of the most potent duos in Southern California. The Falcons also received a boost by way of Colorado, with 6-9 sophomore center Otto Landrum figuring to be a key cog in the rotation.
Mater Dei Catholic, which already boasted one of the bigger front courts in San Diego, got two massive additions in 6-10 Christian Ubochi and 6-8 Dexter Stratton, both juniors. Ubochi spent his first two years at Victory Christian averaging a double double per contest, and while raw offensively, is one of the elite rim protectors in San Diego. Stratton, previously at Henry, averaged nearly 20 points per game on a losing team.
The Crusaders, however, weren't immune to the transfer bug. All-League guard Jake Tawhiao and reserve forward Vincent Warren transferred to Christian, while sophomore guard Cam Marshall checked into Patrick Henry.
Conversely, Mission Bay and San Marcos bore the brunt of the transfer portal. The Knights lost two of their three leading scorers - including Howell - and Mission Bay saw seven players leave the program. But both programs have the depth to absorb the losses to a certain degree and begin the year ranked in the top 25.
4. 'Mikey Mania' descends upon SD
Armed with a social media following that rivals professional athletes and flashy highlights packages that show off his aerobatics, San Ysidro freshman guard Mikey Williams enters high school hoops as the most highly touted freshman in a generation in San Diego.
His arrival has sparked a revival for the South Bay school, which has reached the quarterfinals of CIF playoffs only once in the past seven years. The Cougars are heavy favorites in CIF Division 3, with a lineup that boasts CSUN signee Kailen Rains and talented 2023 guard Jurian Dixon.
5. Herrmann returns
Last year, the Torrey Pines Falcons program suffered a huge punch in the gut when then-junior guard Nick Herrmann was diagnosed with bone cancer during the fall preseason. Herrmann became a source of inspiration and a rallying point for Torrey Pines, which upset top-seeded Foothills Christian in the Open Division Championship.
But in May, Herrmann rang the bell at Rady Children's Hospital, signaling he was cancer free, and has worked feverishly to return to the floor. He will make his debut Wednesday against Westview.
But Herrmann wants to be more than just a feel-good story. Recruited by several D1 schools before his diagnosis, Herrmann, now a 2021 prospect, looks to regain his previous form and become a key piece to another Falcons title ru.
2020 Class signs on the dotted line
Six players in the Class of 2020 have committed and signed to Division 1 universities.
Chibuzo Agbo, Texas Tech
Brandon Angel, Stanford
Yassine Gharram, Yale
Kailen Rains, Cal State Northridge
Beon Riley, Hawaii
Kobe Sanders, Cal Poly
Maurice Holmes also signed with Division 2 Fresno Pacific University, and Bishop's G Zach White committed to Denison University
Preseason San Diego Player of the Year: Chibuzo Agbo, St. Augustine
Texas Tech commit was front runner for POY before team's late-season nadir. The 6-7 forward has blossomed into a versatile four man capable of scoring from all three levels.
The Saints are our No. 2 preseason team, but expect him to go out with a monster season and have his team in contention for its third Open Division title, and first since 2017.
Preseason All San Diego Team:
Brandon Angel, Torrey Pines - In his star turn, expect the Stanford commit to put up huge numbers for the Falcons.
Obinna Anyanwu, Cathedral Catholic - A walking double double his first two years, expect more of the same from the Dons best prospect.
Devon Arlington, San Marcos - The Knights are his team, and he's been spectacular during the preseason.
Alex Bell, Serra - Quietly one of the section's most prolific scorers the past two seasons.
AJ Burgin, San Diego - League player of the year is looking to go 3/3 in CIF titles in his career.
Kimo Ferrari, Parker - When healthy, one of the fiercest competitors in the section.
Yassine Gharram, Foothills Christian - Yale-bound floor general has solidified his title as best point guard in San Diego.
Luke Haupt, St. Augustine - Reliable utility forward put up excellent numbers as a junior.
Maurice Holmes, Helix - Fresno Pacific-bound wing is due for a huge senior year.
Chris Howell, Torrey Pines - 6-6 guard has a plethora of Division 1 offers.
Keavie Love, El Camino - Wildcats second-leading scorer last year is a fierce on-ball defender.
AJ Marmolejos, Army Navy - Speedy combo guard put up huge numbers as a freshman.
Wayne McKinney, Coronado - Oregon transplant gives Islanders its best prospect in recent memory.
Jailen Nelson, Carlsbad - The catalyst of the Lancers Division 2 run is back for more.
Thomas Notarainni, Cathedral Catholic - 1,000-point scorer returns from injury
Kailen Rains, San Ysidro - CSUN signee has taken a major leap in athleticism
Jalai O'Keith, Foothills Christian - Arguably the most under-recruited senior looks to go out with a huge year.
Beon Riley, Cathedral Catholic - Fresh off a year hiatus, the Hawaii commit is a physical force in the Dons' back court.
Tyson Robinson, El Camino - Cat-quick scoring point guard who led the Wildcats in scoring is primed for breakout turn.
Melo Sanchez, Mater Dei Catholic - Positionless leader of the Crusaders will pick up where he left off before last year's ankle injury.
Kobe Sanders, Christian - Cal Poly commit playing best basketball of his career.
Adam Sevier, Poway - Steely scoring guard capable of huge outings for the Titans.
Keatten Smith, Santa Fe Christian - Sharpshooter was an all Coastal League performer as a sophomore.
Zach White, Bishop's - Denison commit capable of 20 ppg, 7 apg type season
Mikey Williams, San Ysidro - If preseason is a gauge, Cougars guard is poised for a huge freshman campaign.
Chris Howell (San Marcos) to Torrey - Top junior guard prospect
Wayne McKinney (Lake Oswego OR) to Coronado - explosive athlete looks to make big splash
Otto Landrum (Manitou Springs, CO) to Torrey Pines - Soft hands and high motor highlight this sophomore big
Dexter Stratton (Henry) to Mater Dei Catholic - high-scoring four man looks to gel at Open contender
Christian Ubochi (Victory Christian) to Mater Dei Catholic - rim protecting, rebounding big boosts Crusaders frontcourt
Savaughn Davis (Mission Bay) to Olympian - joins longtime friend Gio Martinez in strong Eagles backcourt
John Hapgood (La Jolla Country Day) to La Costa Canyon - Combo guard and key cog of state champion Torreys gives Mavericks dynamic playmaker.
Kasparas Kasradze (Sage Creek) to Carlsbad - Physical rebounding presence plays much bigger than 6-5 height.
Kai Jessie (Helix) to Patrick Henry - Athletic four man has touch out to the college three.
Dontae Ralston Jr. (Mission Bay) to San Diego - Cat-quick point guard complements Cavers standouts seamlessly.
Nico Meza (Mater Dei Catholic) to Foothills Christian - High-scoring wing type is just what the Knights needed.
Jacob Slaughter (Eastlake) to Bonita Vista - Gives diminutive, yet talented Barons the size they need.
Jake Tawhiao (Mater Dei Catholic) to Christian - Hard-nosed slasher provides Patriots with reliable scorer.
Miles Williams (Christian) to Parker - Underrated floor general returns to school where he started his career.
Isaiah Robinson (Christian) to Helix - Prolific shooter returns from gruesome leg injury 4 inches taller.
Justin Razooky (Christian) to Valhalla - Crafty lefty scorer likely to put up huge numbers for Norseman
Cameron Marshall (Mater Dei Catholic) to Patrick Henry - Could be a double figure scorer for the Patriots in first significant varsity action.
Brandon Robles (Zacatecas, MX) to Sweetwater - Undersized big can really score in the paint.
Ray Square (Bonita Vista) to La Costa Canyon - Heady combo guard is reliable on both sides of the ball.
Francky Naguidebe (France) to University City - Explosive slashing four man makes Centurions a D2 dark horse.
Under the radar transfers that will have an impact
Myles Bennett (Mission Bay) to San Diego
Brady Canfield (Sage Creek) to Carlsbad
Miles Winfree (Tri-City Christian) to Vista
Shaan Burke (La Costa Canyon) to Vista
Dechaun Key (Grossmont) to Torrey Pines
Justin Mitchell (Tri-City Christian) to Rancho Buena Vista
Isaiah Rich-Everett (El Camino) to Rancho Buena Vista
Henry Hartwell (Carlsbad) to El Camino
Carson Cook (La Costa Canyon) to San Marcos
Max Marks (Henry) to Grossmont
Jayden Barnett (El Camino) to El Cajon Valley
Isaiah Woodward (Hoover) to El Cajon Valley
Vincent Warren (Mater Dei Catholic) to Christian
Josh Dupree and Courtland Camper (Chula Vista) to Mar Vista
Dane Hansen (Mission Vista) to Coronado
Kieran Ramsey (Parker) to Coronado
Bryan Orozco (Mater Dei Catholic) to Eastlake
Isaiah Givens (Steele Canyon) to Christian
Anthony Scott (Mission Bay) to Torrey Pines
Alfredo Torres (Foothills Christian) to San Ysidro
Gio McCray (Morse) To San Diego
Kishaun Matthews (St. Rita, IL) to Hoover
Departures that will impact the SD landscape
Elijah Randall (San Marcos) to JSerra Catholic
DJ Dudley (San Ysidro) to Fairfax
CJ McMIllan (Sweetwater) to Capital Christian (Sac.)
Nikko Taylor (Vista) to Blue Valley North (KS)
Scott Reed, Mar Vista
Travis Howell, SoCal Yeshiva
Raynell Mills, El Cajon Valley
Elias Totah, El Capitan
Ed Baskin, Crawford
Joey Espinoza, Chula Vista
Ray Johnson, El Camino
Tim Brown, Christian
Key showcases and tournaments:
Del Lago Firebirds Tip-Off Classic, 11/19-11/23, games at Del Lago Academy
San Diego Tip-Off Challenge - 11/21-11/23, games at Montgomery High
Jeff Armstrong/Horsman Automotive Boys Basketball Tournament - 11/23-12/7, games at various locations, championship @ West Hills High School.
Regional Rumble - 11/23-11/29, games at Madison High
Grossmont Tournament: First session: 11/25-11/30, Second session: 12/19-12/22, games at Grossmont High and surrounding sites
Titan Challenge - 12/4- 12/21, games at home sites
BSN Showcase - 12/14, Games at Carlsbad High
North County Classic - 12/14- 12/21, games at San Marcos and Orange Glen
Torrey Pines Holiday Classic Tip-Off: 12/23, games at Torrey Pines High
Torrey Pines Holiday Classic: 12/26-12/30, games at Torrey Pines and surrounding schools
Holiday Hoops at the Mount: 12/26-12/30, games at Mt. Carmel High
Surf and Slam: 12/27-12/30, games at Mission Bay, University City and Scripps Ranch
Montgomery tournament at Mount Miguel: 12/27-12/30, games at Mt. Miguel
New Year's Tip-Off Classic: 1/2-1/6, games at Orange Glen and Del Norte
Battle at the Border: 1/10 - Games at San Ysidro High
Battle at the Bay: 2/8 - Games at Mission Bay High