Beating the Portal: A Full-Time Hoops AAU Primer

There's no denying that the spring NCAA evaluation period - the first since 2019 - has a much different feel to it than in year's past.


The recruiting logjam that started with every player in every level of college basketball receiving an extra year of eligibility due to the COVID-19 pandemic has transformed the 17u landscape. Now, more than ever, unsigned seniors, and even unsigned prep players are dotting rosters that used to be home to rising senior prospects. These players see the spring as their last and best opportunity to attract Division 1 interest or offers.


At the same time, another phenomena is occurring: A significant number of Division 1 coaches are sitting out the spring live sessions, opting to recruit the transfer portal and host official visits.


Nonetheless, the spring "live" period can be transformative for an underclassmen's recruitment, and a handful of unsigned prospects will earn scholarships.


Which San Diego prospects have the most to gain - or to lose - from their performances this spring? We explore that in our Spring AAU Primer.





1. Can Jurian Dixon achieve high major status?


San Diego's top 2023 prospect, Jurian Dixon, has a huge spring and summer ahead. The St. Augustine product is coming off of a season where he led his team to a wire-to-wire finish as the No. 1 team, culminating with an Open Division championship and being named Section Player of the Year. During the season, however, Dixon netted one scholarship offer - Mississippi State, which just parted ways with their head coach, Ben Howland.


Still, Dixon remains on the verge of several scholarship offers, including from hometown San Diego State. His play with his AAU team, Team WhyNot on the Nike EYBL Circuit, will go a long way to determining the level of his recruitment. Some strong performances could certainly vault him firmly into high major discussions.


Worst case scenario: Dixon solidifies himself as a priority for mid-major programs and will have a host of suitors at that level. Best case scenario: Dixon builds off of his dominant junior year and parlays it into mention in the Top 100 ranking of many recruiting services.







2. Which other rising seniors have the most riding on the spring live period?


San Diego has a number of players that have, or are on the verge of having, D1 offers. A strong spring could move the needle for them heading into July. Among those, are guards Jaden Matingou (St. Augustine/ Gamepoint), Kristian Gonzalez (Mater Dei Catholic/ Oakland Soldiers), Angelo Gil (Mission Bay/ San Diego All-Stars) and big man Cyprian Hyde (Vista/ Gamepoint).


Of those, Hyde, a 6-10 four/five, has the most offers entering the live period: Eastern Washington and Portland both reaffirmed their offers during the season. An intriguing big man with inside/out skills, Hyde had a very productive season in which he averaged a double double, but his Vista team struggled. If he can replicate his HS season production on the travel circuit, he will be well positioned to gain more traction from other D1 programs.


Gonzalez picked up his first offer last spring from San Francisco, but since then Dons Head Coach Todd Golden has moved on to Florida and Gonzalez is coming off a season where he was hampered by injuries and his Mater Dei Crusaders didn't meet early season expectations.


Matingou had a breakout season for Saints, evolving into a valuable two-way playmaker and a highlight waiting to happen with his borderline elite athleticism and length. He earned his first offer from Point Loma Nazarene along the way, and has several D1 programs following him closely during the live period.


Gil, an All-San Diego Section selection for the first time, had a really strong junior campaign and had D1 coaches in and out of Mission Bay's gym during the recruiting period, most notably UC Irvine and San Diego. A strong spring could see those schools finally pull the trigger on him, or at the very least see some of the Division 2 schools that have shown interest finally offer him.





3 . Which other 2023 players could boost their stock with a strong April showing?


Christian Brown (La Costa Canyon/ Gamepoint), Shea Fitzgerald (Cathedral Catholic/ Players Play), JJ Bartelloni (Torrey Pines/ California Select), Derrius Carter-Hollinger (St. Augustine/ West Coast Elite San Diego) and Elijah Newsome (Otay Ranch/ San Diego All-Stars) are some names to keep an eye on this period.


Brown is coming off of an uber-productive junior season which saw him make the All San Diego Section first team. He's a very efficient scorer who does most of his work in two dribbles or less (a knockdown shooter from deep) and is a gritty competitor.


Fitzgerald had a breakout campaign for the Dons and has the size, scoring ability and point-guard intangibles to break into D1 conversations. Additionally, his academic pedigree (4.6 GPA), makes him a high-academic priority.


Bartelloni came on strong towards the end of the season after an inconsistent start for the Falcons, and has always been coveted as a "big shooter." At 6-5, he fits the mold of previous high-level shooters in San Diego like Poway's Dalton Soffer.


Carter-Hollinger's insertion into the starting lineup for Saints after the sit-out period helped propel them to an Open Division title, but he played a small-ball five most of the way. He'll use the live periods to show colleges he is a legitimate wing prospect, which he showed much of last season on the travel circuit.


And Newsome had an up-and-down junior year, but when he was at his best (MVP of the Creme of the County 2023 Creme Game), he was an electric scoring combo guard who fueled the Mustangs run to the Division 2 title game. But he struggled with inconsistency and decision making, as well as foul trouble. His upside, though, is extremely high.





4. Which unsigned seniors could move the needle?


As we mentioned before, it's not a great time to be an unsigned senior or prep player in this environment, as most coaches are filling roster spots through the transfer portal. But there are a couple of players who I believe could help college rosters out that will play this weekend.


Alexis Marmolejos is my No. 1 unsigned recruit in San Diego. He'll be playing with San Diego All-Stars this weekend, which boasts another pair of really good 2022 prospects, Benjie Nudo (5-11 G, Del Norte) and Rami Anglo (6-3 SG, Mission Bay).


Brayden Hendricks (6-5 W, La Costa Canyon), who had a stellar senior season en route to All Coastal NC Second Team honors, will be playing with California Select.


Baron Bracey (6-1 G, Balboa) who had a strong year on the Grind Session with Balboa School, will play with Dream Vision this weekend.


Program capsules:


California Select

Top prospects: Jake Hall (6-3, 2025 G, Carlsbad), JJ Bartelloni (6-5 2023 W, Torrey Pines), Ty Hendler (6-3 2023 G, La Costa Canyon), Brayden Hendricks (6-4 2022 W, LCC), Tony Duckett (6-1 2024 G, Carlsbad), Kai Brown (5-11 2024 G, St. Augustine), Dion Harvey (6-6 2024 C, Olympian), Jaden Bailes (5-10 2026 G, MS), Jayden Gray (5-11 2026 G), Lincoln Grogan (6-2 2026 G), Mason Magee (5-10 2026 G)

Events: Adidas Gold April 8-10 (Anaheim/ Corona CA), The Stage Session 2, April 22-24 (Anaheim/ Corona CA)

Breakdown: The Cali Select program expanded yet again with the merger with Mason Biddle's Multilevel Select and Will Gray's San Diego Prospects. A guard-heavy group this year, the program has a number of under the radar prospects, and 2025 Jake Hall, who enters the live period with two college offers and interest from a host of programs. 2026s Jaden Bailes and Jayden Gray are promising prospects in the 8th grade class.


Coastal Elite

Top prospects: Isaiah Pomaire (6-4 2024 W, El Camino), Dalton Norvell (6-1 2023 G, Ramona), Mazen El Bissat (6-3 2024 W, San Marcos), Derek Tuason (5-9 2024 G, San Marcos), Deuce Sims (6-0 2024 G, San Marcos), CJ Coleman (6-3 2025 G, San Marcos), Justice Ahiafor (6-8 2025 W/F, Saint Joseph Academy), Thaddeus Yuhas (6-2 2025 G, Saint Joseph Academy)

Events: Adidas Gold April 8-10 (Anaheim/ Corona CA), The Stage Session 2, April 22-24 (Anaheim/ Corona CA)

Breakdown: Headlined by a deep and feisty 2024 group, Coastal will execute and play harder than most. Dalton Norvell is rounding into a nice guard prospect, and CJ Hofmeister (5-8 2023 G Mission Hills) is a fun player to watch. Watch out for 6-4 2024s Isaiah Pomaire and W De'Angelo Macalino, who had eye opening performances last weekend at the Prep Hoops Hustle Region Kickoff.


Gamepoint

Top prospects: Jaden Matingou (6-3 2023 G. St. Augustine), Cyprian Hyde (6-10 2023 F, Vista), Martin Gumwel (6-11 2023 C, Rancho Christian), BJ Taylor (5-10 2023 G, Corona Centennial), Christian Brown (6-5 2023 W, La Costa Canyon), Charlie Hutchison (6-6 2024 W, Mission Bay) Brycen Mackenzie (6-1 2024 PG, Santa Fe Christian), Jack Jillson (5-10 2024 G, Mission Hills), Josh Thompson (6-2 2025 G, Rancho Bernardo), Patrick O'Brien (6-2 2025 G, Cathedral Catholic)

Events: Adidas Gold, April 8-10 (Anaheim/Corona CA); The Stage Session 2 (select teams) April 22-24 (Anaheim/ Corona CA); Great American Shootout (GASO), April 22-24 (Duncanville, TX)

Breakdown: One of the region's standard bearers, the 17u team boasts no fewer than guys who will have a chance to play D1 hoops, headlined by Matingou (who in my estimation is a potential mid major plus guard), Hyde and Gumwel. Hutchison is one of California's biggest 2024 sleepers and Thompson is the breakout name to know on the 15u level.


Players Play

Top Prospects: Shea Fitzgerald (6-2 2023 G, Cathedral Catholic); Parker Jelsing (6-1 2023 G, La Costa Canyon), Pearson Carmichael (6-6 2024 W, Summit OR), Ryan Enos (6-8 2024 PF, Cathedral Catholic), Matin Madadkar (6-3 2024 G, Torrey Pines), Trevor Ladd (6-3 2024 G, LCC), Blake Davidson (6-6 2025 W, Mater Dei), Jeremiah "Bear" Cherry (6-11 2022 C, St. Mary's (AZ)

Events: Pangos Sweet 16 (Las Vegas, NV), Pangos Spring Live (Long Beach, CA)

Breakdown: Sterling Jones' program boasts kids from three states, including the very talented Carmichael, the next up from a talented Summit pipeline. Enos has a chance to be a D1 sleeper, and watch for Madadkar at Torrey Pines, who could be a varsity breakout player next year.


San Diego All Stars

Top prospects: Angelo Gil (6-1 2023 PG, Mission Bay), Alexis Marmolejos (6-2 2022 G, Army Navy), Benjie Nudo (6-0 2022 G, Del Norte), Elijah Newsome (6-0 2023 G, Otay Ranch), Marcos Korch (6-1 2024 G, Mission Bay), Isaah Whitehurst (6-1 2024 G, Mission Bay), Gavin Girouard (6-1 2024 G, Mission Bay); Charles Grebing (6-4 2024 F, Mission Bay), Atreju De La Cruz (5-11 2025 PG, Mission Bay), JoeAngel Cruz (5-7 2025 PG, Madison), Pablo Balderas (6-5 2025 W/F, Mater Dei Catholic)

Events: Adidas Gold April 8-10 (Anaheim/ Corona CA), The Stage Session 2, April 22-24 (Anaheim/ Corona CA)

Breakdown: Marshawn Cherry's program has produced some of the biggest name prospects over the past 15 years in San Diego, and the program's top player this year, Angelo Gil, has a chance to be next in line with a strong live period. The 2024 group is talented, as is his younger group with guards Cruz and De La Cruz leading the way. SDA's unsigned seniors - Marmolejos, Anglo and Nudo - deserve college offers


Southbay Show

Top prospects: Davaughn Hueitt (6-7 2025 F, San Diego), Xair Mendez (6-1 2025 G, Montgomery), JJ Sanchez (6-4 2025 F, Montgomery), Alek Sanchez (6-2 2025 G, Montgomery), Devin Hamilton (6-1 2025 G, Montgomery), Miles Anderson (5-9 2025 G, Olympian)

Events: Adidas Gold April 8-10 (Anaheim/ Corona CA), The Stage Session 2, April 22-24 (Anaheim/ Corona CA)

Breakdown: While the program only has one team, it's a good one, arguably the best 15u team in San Diego. Javier Sanchez's twin sons JJ and Alek are coming off of big freshman campaigns along with fellow Aztec Xair Mendez. Paired with the Hueitt twins from San Diego, this team has size, guard play and a unique mismatch in JJ Sanchez.


Team Keenan Allen

Top prospects: Precious Idiaru (6-9 W/F, Premier Prep), Promise Idiaru (6-9 W/F, Premier Prep), Bailey Chambers (6-1 2023 G, Rancho Christian), Mikey Davis (6-2 2022 G, Murrieta Valley), Titus Davis (6-1 2023 G, Murrieta Valley), Austin Nasaar (6-3 2023 W, Rancho Christian), Brian Amuneke (6-3 2024 G, Rancho Christian), Ben Lee (5-10 2024 G, Coronado)

Events: Adidas Gold April 8-10 (Anaheim/ Corona CA),

Breakdown: The LA Chargers standout's program has a decidedly IE feel to it this year, boasting most of its top players from the Temecula/Murrieta area. But the two players to watch hail from Germany: Precious and Promise Idiaru have size and versatility that D1 progams salivate over.


West Coast Elite San Diego

Top prospects: Derrius Carter-Hollinger (6-5 2023 W, St. Augustine), Vincent Ricchiuti (6-6 2023 W, St. Augustine), Luke Ball (6-1 2023 G, Bishop's), Derek Edmond (6-4 2024 G, Victory Christian Academy), Jack Jennings, (6-6 2024 WF, El Camino), Jimmy Lavine (5-11 2025 G, St. Augustine); Jett Kenady (5-11 2025 G, Carlsbad), Elijah Bragg (6-5 2025 F/C, Mater Dei Catholic)

Events: Events: 17U National - The Challenge, April 8-10 (Indianapolis, IN), Bigfoot Houston, April 22-24 (Houston, TX). 17U Ruiz, 15U National, 15U Vanover - SoCal Hoop Review, April 8-10 (Irvine, CA), Spring Live (Seal Beach, CA)

Breakdown: West Coast Elite's San Diego arm has a number of solid prospects, none better than Carter-Hollinger, the third in a line of college basketball players with the same surname. Look for Luke Ball, who battled injuries during his junior year, to be a breakout name. Derek Edmond, who is headed to Victory Christian after starting his career at Granite Hills, is a sleeper.


West Coast Flight

Top prospects:

Events: Adidas Gold April 8-10 (Anaheim/ Corona CA), The Stage Session 2, April 22-24 (Anaheim/ Corona CA)

Breakdown: Brian Flanagan's program had a breakout year last July, taking down some of big name 17u programs and, more importantly, helping his players move on to the next level. Flight looks to continue that tradition this year with a group of unheralded prospects.


San Diego Hornets

Top prospects: Manny Barnett (5-10 2023 G, Lincoln), Kyelin King (6-3 2024 G, Lincoln), Derrion Manson (6-2 2024, Lincoln); Sebastian Flores (5-9 2024 G, Lincoln);

Events: Pangos Sweet 16, April 8-10 (Las Vegas, NV); Pangos Spring Live, April 22-24 (Long Beach, CA)

Outlook: The Lincoln High Hornets are taking the show on the road during the AAU season, in hopes to prepare for next year where they will likely be a Top 10-15 team in the preseason. They won't have the services of Kyelin King - on the verge of becoming the top guard prospect in SD's 2024 class - in Vegas this weekend. When he returns, look for the 2024 back court duo of King and Manson to open some eyes. Manny Barnett is a sleeper worthy of college attention.


4S Elite

Top Prospects: Nico Domingo (6-1 2023 G, Westview); Jack Keough (2023 G, Del Norte), Christian Gentilucci (6-2 2023 G, Poway), Luke Tadros (6-3 2023 G, Cathedral Catholic), Mikey Knapp (6-0 2023 G, Poway)

Events: Adidas Gold April 8-10 (Anaheim/ Corona CA), The Stage Session 2, April 22-24 (Anaheim/ Corona CA)

Outlook: One of the newer programs in the region, the 4S Ranch-based program boasts a number of players from the 56 Corridor area of San Diego.


Fadeaways and Jumpers

Top prospects: Camron Bellamy (5-9 2023 G, Patrick Henry), Quaylon Bryant (5-11 2023 G, Mission Bay)

Events: SoCal Hoop Review, April 8-10 (Irvine CA)

Outlook: Luther Bellamy's start-up program has a number of underrated guard prospects, including his son Camron and Mission Bay reserve guard Bryant.


Work Ethic

Top prospects: Miles Harris (6-0 2023 G, San Diego), Baron Noble (5-10 2023 G, San Diego), Treyshawn Degrate (5-10 2025 G, San Diego), Tekur Velasquez (5-10 2024 G, Coronado)

Events: SoCal Hoop Review, April 8-10 (Irvine, CA)

Outlook: The San Diego Cavers and Coronado Islanders mash-up, headed by Cavers coach Bazz Fontenot, has some of the region's most underrated guard talents. Baron Noble, no understatement, has a D1 offensive package. If he can put it together defensively, he's a statewide sleeper.


Team Empower

Top prospects: Spencer Hall (5-11 2022 G, Mira Mesa), Jaden Matusalem (5-9 2022 G, Mt Carmel), David Angulo (6-1 2022 G, Poway), Nico Domingo (6-1 2023 G, Westview), Jimmy Milder (6-3 2024 SG, Mt Carmel), Raymond Hourani (6-5 2024 F, Mt Carmel), Mason Walsh (2025 G, Westview), Riley ValeCruz (2025 G, Mt Carmel)

Events: WCE Spring Live, April 22-24 (Seal Beach, CA)

Outlook: Another program that hails from the 56 corridor, Empower has a number of good guards, including the criminally underrated senior back court duo of Hall and Matusalem.


Larks Elite

Top prospects:

Events:


D1 Southern California

Top prospects:

Events:


Get Better Hoops

Top Prospects:

Events:


Team Faith and Basketabll

Top prospects:

Events:


On the Move Basketball:


San Diego players to watch on Non-SD rosters

Jurian Dixon - 6-5 2023 G, St. Augustine - Team Whynot 17u

Gavin Guinn - 6-2 2025 G, San Diego - Team Veritas 16u

Kristian Gonzalez - 6-4 2023 G, Mater Dei Catholic - Oakland Soldiers 17u

Lolo Rudolph - 6-1 2024 PG, St. Augustine - Oakland Soldiers 16u

Baron Bracey - 6-1 2022 G, Balboa - Dream Vision

Kye Dickson - 6-7 2022 F, Balboa - Dream Vision

Ryan Mpouli - 6-4 2024 W, Balboa - Dream Vision

Euan Davis - 6-0 2024 PG, El Camino - Dream Vision











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