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You got BETTER - San Diego's Most Improved Players

May 5, 2020

 

Some players just needed a different role. Others, a change of scenery. Some grew into their bodies. And other players, well, they simply just worked on their game -- and it showed. 

 

There are plenty of reasons why guys take big steps forward from one season to the next, as the players on this list can attest to. Here are the Full-Time Hoops "Most Improved" players during the 2019-20 season.

 

San Diego's Most Improved Players 

 

Brandon Angel, 6-8 2020 W, Torrey Pines

What changed: Role. Torrey Pines is well known for players emerging during their final season after playing supporting roles as underclassmen. Angel became the latest in a long line of Falcons to have dominant senior seasons, but even within that framework, the changes in his game were dramatic. Angel looked much more comfortable handling the ball on the perimeter, which allowed him to become a threat to score from three levels. Defensively and on the boards,  he took his effort and game to a different level. Stanford is getting a player whose game is on the way up.

 

Henry Hartwell, 6-4 2021 SG, El Camino

What changed: The scenery. After two seasons at Carlsbad, Hartwell moved to El Camino, where he was immediately thrust into a starting role on a team that was decidedly rebuilding. The result was impressive. Pairing with fellow juniors Tyson Robinson and Keavie Love, Hartwell became a valuable floor spacing guard who looks the part of a college prospect. 

 

Tommy Griffitts, 6-7 2020 F, La Costa Canyon

What changed: Development and role. Griffitts was an afterthought on LCC's varsity roster last season, but came into his own as a young senior. The athletic forward, who was MVP of the Creme of the County select game last summer, developed touch from the perimeter to pair with his improved low-post repertoire. The result? Griffitts is headed to Cal Lutheran to play college basketball. 

 

Jalai O'Keith, 6-6 2020 W, Foothills Christian

What changed: Offensive role. O'Keith gave San Diego a glimpse of his improvement at the Creme of the County, where he was MVP of the best of the best game. He continued to confidently score the ball and rebound at an improved rate, en route to 15 points and 7 rebound-per-game averages, a spot on the All Coastal League 1st Team. He is headed to Central Washington University. 

 

Cobey Harraway, 6-5 2020 W, Army Navy

What changed: Health and role. After a junior campaign that was shortened by transfer rules and injury, Harraway became the player we expected during his senior year, and then some. A bigger guard with a solid shooting stroke, Harraway scored at will from the perimeter and with his solid mid-range pull-up jumpshot. He led the much-improved Warriors in scoring and became the team's unquestioned leader, en route to an All-Coastal League second-team selection. 

 

Zach Moore, Del Norte, 6-5 2020 W, Del Norte

What changed: Role and game. Last season, Moore was an unbridled offensive talent, but at times had questionable shot selection and defense. This year, Moore returned after a summer playing competitive travel ball with new focus and a bigger frame (he grew 2 inches). He become a walking triple-double (and almost quadruple double) threat for the Nighthawks, which made the CIF D2 quarterfinals a year after moving up from Division 3. And Moore became the Nighthawks first All-Palomar League first-team selection since Austin Clyde. 

 

Tyler Stanley-Castillo, 6-6 2020 F, San Diego

What changed: Role and offensive game. Stanley-Castillo was named the Cavers' defensive player of the year in 2019, but really grew on the other side of the basketball during his final season. His magnetic hands and soft touch around the basket made him a major threat in the pick-and-roll, and he delivered perhaps the performance of his career in the CIF Championship victory over University City, notching a 24-point, 16-rebound double double in the win. 

 

Kobe Sanders, 6-6 2020 G, Christian

What changed: Puberty. Sanders had the type of growth spurt you read about with players like Anthony Davis. He started HS as a 5-10 spot-up shooter, and has grown to 6-6, but retained his shooting and ball-handling abilities. As a result, Sanders became a matchup nightmare for the Patriots, which surprised many and made the CIF Open Division with him leading the way. 

 

Garrett Pyle, 6-2 2021 SG, Poway

What changed: Role. I don't think most realize that Pyle actually has played at least one varsity basketball game in each of his three seasons with the Titans. But this year, Pyle made certain you knew, becoming the sharpshooting complement to Adam Sevier in the Titans back court. Poway's dominant run through the Coastal League netted them four all-league first-team selections, and Pyle received his first honor. 

 

Daryl Sledge, 6-2 2021 G, Parker

What changed: Role, confidence. After a strong freshman campaign, Sledge became an afterthought as a sophomore. But after graduation and transfers left the Lancers bench threadbare, Sledge emerged as the player he was trending towards as a freshman. One of the county's deadliest shooters, Sledge improved his ability to score from midrange and his defensive intensity. He earned an All Coastal League second-team berth, a testament to how far he has come in a short period of time. 

 

Hayden Gray, 6-3 2021 PG, Santa Fe Christian

What changed: Consistency. Gray was a starter on an Open Division Eagles team as a sophomore, but his production vacillated. As a junior, Gray took on the challenge to become the team's leader, and did so emphatically, leading SFC to its third Division 1 title in four years. Gray was named to the Coastal League First Team and looks to emerge as one of the bona fide stars of the 2020-21 campaign. 

 

Cole Stephens, 6-9 2021 PF, Poway

What changed: Confidence. You could see the glint in his eyes during the preseason. Stephens just looked like a player who knew he couldn't be guarded. This was a full 180-degree switch from the player who looked hesitant at times during his sophomore campaign. Stephens became an offensive force for the Titans, who stayed in the Open Division hunt all season and was named to the All Palomar League First Team.

 

Trae Taylor, 6-7 2020 PF, Mission Bay

What changed: Role, athleticism. For those who have tracked Taylor since his freshman year at Clairemont, seeing him during his senior year was like seeing an apparition. Gone was the doughy, 6-3 frame and replaced with a sleek, bouncy 6-7 body that allowed him to throw down some impressive dunks and block shots at a prolific rate. Though the team took a dip after a tremendous run over the past half decade, Taylor played himself into college interest that could skyrocket at the next level when he attends junior college. 

 

Momo Stokes, 5-10 2021 PG, Bonita Vista

What changed: Growth, role. Stokes entered high school as an absolute blur with the rock, but at a shade under 5-5 wasn't ready for the rigors of varsity basketball. He's closing in on 6-0 and still growing, and is as explosive off the dribble as ever. This year, he assumed a more robust role in the offense, and responded by averaging 17 points per game, second only to DJ Sanders for the Barons.

 

Gabe Harrison, 6-1 2021 G, Point Loma

What changed: Focus. Harrison has always had the physical tools to be a great player, but lacked attention to detail his first two seasons of HS hoops. This year, he put it together for the surprise Pointers, who upset the No. 1 seed in the Division 2 playoffs and was named to the All Eastern League 2nd team. 

 

Reggie Everett, 5-11 2020 G, Lincoln

What changed: The green light. Coach Jeff Harper Harris likened his group of senior guards to the ones that carried the Hornets to the 2017 Division 1 title game. Everett, a solid player as a junior, took a huge step forward as a senior, scoring over 40 points twice, including an impressive 43-point effort against league champions San Diego. There might not be a more underrated guard in the class. 

 

Gabriel Schiazza, 6-1 2020 G, Mar Vista

What changed: Leadership. When I saw Schiazza play as a junior, he was gunner of sorts, and his shot selection took his team out of a lot of games. This year, as the team's elder statesman, Schiazza played with far more composure, attention to detail on both ends and rebounded the ball at a much better rate. But what really impressed me was how he took the team full of talented underclassmen under his wing, helping to mold them into a D5 title contender for most of the season. 

 

Tyson Robinson, 6-0 2021 G, El Camino

What changed: Assertiveness. Always a confident player, Robinson assumed a leadership role on the Wildcats team that many assumed would be rebuilding. Not only did they not rebuild, they made it to the CIF Division 1 semifinals with Robinson leading the team in scoring and earning Avocado East League Player of the Year, a season after making all-league second team as a sophomore. 

 

Alex Crawford, 6-6 2021 W, Eastlake

What changed: Confidence. Crawford has always been a player who looked the part of a high-level wing, with his length and bouncy athleticism. This year, he added pieces (improved perimeter shooting, slashing) that made you see the promise begin to be realized. Scoring 17 points and 6.1 rebounds, Crawford more than doubled his offensive output and led the Titans to the D3 semifinals. 

 

Other improved players:

Deon Spear, Granite Hills

John Yakou, Granite Hills

Ethan Wolchko, Santana

Josue Robles, Valhalla

Kyle Dobyns, West Hills

Adrian Thiery, San Dieguito Academy

Tedrous Teshome, Montgomery

Alex Magdalena, Montgomery

Christian Littlejohn, San Marcos

Nick Payne, Escondido

Max Lonneker, Westview

Alex Yphantides, Santa Fe Christian

Ronnie Green, Morse

Payton Hillie, Hoover

Brendan Perry, La Costa Canyon

Matias Clotfelter, Torrey Pines

Jaden LeBel, Foothills Christian

Matt Rivera, Vista

Justin Mitchell, Rancho Buena Vista

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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