League Me: San Diego league previews, Part 2

OCEAN




Outlook:

Welcome to one of the most intriguing league races in San Diego this season. A confluence of developments have made it so: A Guajome team that might've competed in the Pacific drops down, Del Lago got one of SD's most underrated transfers, Laith Titouah. Add in a competitive Rock squad and a prodigal player returning to Classical, and the Citrus League has potential to be a fun one.


Who's on Top: Guajome Park Academy

The Frogs drop down to the bottom league in the Pacific Conference, but bring back a team capable of winning it. Last year's team was 9-14, but lost a lot of close games. Tevon Sesay is one of San Diego's most improved - and underrated - point guards.


Who's the Best Player: Laith Titouah, Del Lago Academy

The Orange Glen transfer was a reliable role player for two years for the Patriots, but has a chance to have a huge final year and potentially become the best player in the Firebirds' history.


Who's the Best Prospect: Micah Whitley, Sr. G, Rock Academy and Tevon Sesay, Sr. G, Guajome Park Academy

Both guards have the ability to change the game with their speed, scoring and passing. Sesay is a little more athletic, but Whitley has the length and a little more long-term upside.


Who's the Dark Horse: Classical Academy

It's a big if at this point, considering the current roster doesn't list senior standout Presley Bruskotter - who made an abbreviated transfer to Victory Christian during the offseason. But if he's there, he's a shooter who has put up prolific numbers throughout his career, and can change the game at this level.


Prediction

  1. Guajome Park Academy

  2. Del Lago Academy

  3. The Rock Academy

  4. San Diego Jewish Academy

  5. Classical Academy

  6. Escondido Adventist

  7. Coastal Academy


PACIFIC



Outlook:

The league returns to relative parity this year with the graduation of Marley Gonzalez from Escondido Charter and Brady Burman from Pacific Ridge, but there is a clear favorite. The Maranatha Christian Eagles return a lot of pieces from last year's team and has one of the top freshmen groups in the county. But Escondido Charter, an improved Calvin Christian, Pacific Ridge and the newest addition to the league - St. Joseph Academy - will not just give them the title.


Who's on Top: Maranatha Christian

The Eagles return the league's best returner, senior forward Joel Schwantner. But he's flanked by some talented guards, especially in freshmen Ezekiel Walker and Dash Ekeroth. Add in 6-3 energy freshman Adrian Ownbey to some underrated returners, and the Eagles should run the table in league.

Who's the best Player: Joel Schwantner, Sr. F, Maranatha Christian

He's been a standout on the varsity level for two years and has dramatically improved his skill set over that time. He's a mismatch in the paint that makes things easier for his teammates because of the attention he commands.


Who's the best prospect: Adrian Ownbey, 6-3 Fr. W, Maranatha Christian;

Ownbey has a great frame and improving skills for an incoming freshman. He can score it off the bounce and hit the catch-and-shoot three, but his best attribute is his motor. He rebounds and plays hard, and finds ways to impact the game.


Hey, who's the new guy?


St. Joseph Academy joins the Pacific League after defecting from the Citrus League, which saw its other top team, Victory Christian, head to the South Bay League. The Pacific is a perfect fit for the Crusaders, a small Catholic school in North County that has one of the fastest growing athletic bases. They enter the league prepared to make a run at the title with 6-8 sophomore Justice Ahiafor being joined by 2025 G Angel Ochoa, a guard from Mexico who has had a strong summer and fall with the team.


Who's the Dark Horse: Calvin Christian

After an injury plagued and shorthanded season, the Crusaders could be in the mix for the top half of league, largely because they have the most dominant big in the league in 6-7 Sr. C Vincent Patterson. During the lead up to the season in fall leagues, Patterson was imposing his will on teams and showed improved touch with either hand. Couple that with the dynamic, albeit undersized, junior guard Josiah Panis, and the team will give teams trouble.



Prediction


  1. Maranatha Christian

  2. St. Joseph Academy

  3. Escondido Charter

  4. Tri-City Christian

  5. Calvin Christian

  6. Pacific Ridge


All League


Joel Schwantner, Sr. W, Maranatha Christian (POY)

Vincent Patterson, Sr. C, Calvin Christian

Danny Lopez, Sr. G, Escondido Charter

David Turner, So. G, Tri-City Christian

Angel Ochoa, St. Joseph Academy

Second Team

Justice Ahiafor, So. F, St. Joseph Academy

Ezekiel Walker, Fr. G, Marantha Christian

Josiah Panis, Jr. G, Calvin Christian

Dre Cleaves, Fr. W, Tri-City Christian

John Scates, Sr. W, Escondido Charter

PALOMAR


Outlook:


After several years of competitive balance, the North County Conference finally has (nearly) all of its top teams in the same league, this year named the Palomar League. From top to bottom, it might be the deepest league in the County, as all six teams are in my preseason Top 20. At the top, however, there is no clear cut favorite. La Costa Canyon, which returns several key players from last year's Open Semifinalist squad, has been uneven all summer and fall. North County standard bearer Torrey Pines is very young and doesn't have the signature talent it has in recent years, and Carlsbad is potent, but undersized. Who takes this league is anyone's guess.


Who's on Top: La Costa Canyon (tepidly)


The Mavericks graduated three starters on last year's surprise squad that was two points away from stunning St. Augustine in the Open semis. But the two starters they return are arguably the most important: Seniors Christian Brown and Ty Hendler. Brown is a mismatch for most team's forwards due to his shooting and slashing ability and the Colorado College commit Hendler is a big, crafty combo guard who can score it from three levels. We haven't seen Trevor Ladd with the team since the summer, but he's looking like the x-factor.


Who's the Best Player; Christian Brown, Sr. W, La Costa Canyon and Jake Hall, So. G, Carlsbad

The two returning All CIF talents are clearly league's top players this year, though El Camino's Euan Davis might have a claim by season's end. Brown had some huge games against San Diego's best teams, including 37 against San Ysidro in a critical showcase win, while Hall averaged 22 points per game as a freshman to lead the Lancers to the D1 title.


Who is the Best Prospect: Hall and Euan Davis, Jr. G, El Camino

Hall is the only prospect in the league with a Division 1 offer (he has two from Cal Poly and UC San Diego). If Davis can turn the corner with his jump shot, he would have all the tools to be a Division 1 point guard. He's an athletic and speedy lead guard who is a menace as an on-ball defender and slasher.


Who's the Dark Horse: El Camino

The Wildcats are dangerous because of their ability to defend. Between Davis and senior guard Luke Sanford, the Wildcats have two of the best ball hawks in San Diego, and junior wing Isaiah Pomare gives them a versatile piece who can guard in the paint and perimeter. Add in the versatile Pe'a Misaalefua, and the Wildcats can't be ignored as a contender.


Prediction


  1. La Costa Canyon - Which version of the Mavs will we see? If the role players and stars coalesce, they could be back in the Open Semifinals. If they don't, the league is wide open.

  2. Torrey Pines - The Falcons have size and a big shooter in JJ Bartelloni. Will the guard play arrive?

  3. Carlsbad - The Lancers are fast and guard heavy, but that's a mismatch they play to their advantage.

  4. El Camino - The Wildcats defense should keep them in every game. Can they score enough to close it out?

  5. Mission Hills - Shooting won't be the problem with the Grizzlies; defending will determine how far they go.

  6. San Marcos - The Knights are young, but have talent to play the role of spoiler.

All League

Christian Brown, Sr. W, La Costa Canyon (POY)

Jake Hall, So. G, Carlsbad

Euan Davis, Jr. G, El Camino

JJ Bartelloni, Sr. W, Torrey Pines

Ty Hendler, Sr. G, La Costa Canyon


2nd Team

Alex Cabulio, Sr. G, Torrey Pines

Tony Duckett, Jr. G, Carlsbad

Cole Murray, Sr. G, Carlsbad

Trevor Ladd, Jr. F, La Costa Canyon

Isaiah Pomare, Jr. F, El Camino


SOUTH BAY




Outlook:

There's a new sheriff in town, and they're looking for a Victory. The Knights of Victory Christian Academy gained entry into the Metro Conference this summer, and are immediately the favorites to win the conference's lower league, the South Bay. But Southwest SD - despite losing it's best player to transfer - will compete, as well



Who's On Top: Mar Vista

The Knights should be heavy favorites to win the league with their deep roster. 6-4 junior guard Derek Edmond, who transferred from Granite Hills, is one of the best long-term prospects in San Diego's 2024 class. He joins a team that returns four key players from last year's Division 4 runner up squad and a talented freshman trio headlined by 6-0 guard Jayden Gray, one of San Diego's top 2026 prospects.



Who's the Best Player: Derek Edmond, Jr. G, Granite Hills

The 6-4 guard averaged nearly 16 points per game in the Grossmont Hills League last year, and should dominate from when he becomes eligible.


Who's the Dark Horse: Southwest SD

Yes, league player of the year Aaron Rosillo transferred to Bonita Vista (and is out for the year with a torn ACL), but the Raiders return a couple of key players from last year's league championship team, plus the league's best coach, Steve Selland.



Prediction

  1. Victory Christian

  2. Southwest SD

  3. Mar Vista

  4. Hilltop

  5. Castle Park

  6. Sweetwater

  7. Chula Vista

All League


Derek Edmond, Jr G, Victory Christian (POY)

Jayden Gray, Fr. G, Victory Christian

Quinton Richardson, Sr. G, Victory Christian

Josiah Scott, Sr. G, Mar Vista

Eric Ruesga, Sr. W, Hilltop


2nd team

Josiah Fellows, Sr. F, Victory Christian

Mason Zennedjian, Fr. G, Victory Christian

Xavier Gonzalez, Jr. G, Hilltop

Elijah Wells, Jr. W, Mar Vista



VALLEY


Outlook:

With league standard bearers Mt. Carmel and Ramona moving on, there's room at the top of the league, and a pretty good two-team battle is brewing between Mission Vista and San Pasqual. But new Valley Center head coach Jeff Bickford is excited about his team, as is second-year Fallbrook coach Jonathan Terry. Escondido is entering a second rebuilding season amid the departure of first-year head coach Lorenzo Booker.


Who's on Top: Mission Vista

The Timberwolves sport a deep roster full of intrugiing players, none more so than senior point guard Jake Henderson. Henderson has good size, underrated athleticism and is a true playmaker. He's surrounded by good shooters, and defensively, the team gives opponents fits in their 1-3-1 defense.


Who's the Best Player: AJ Fournier, San Pasqual

Is this the year when Fournier, a physically gifted wing, finally lives up to his immense potential? San Pasqual's best player the past two seasons has been the ever-steady Cris Zamora, but if the Eagles are ever to climb the rung in league, they need Fournier to turn the corner. I think this is the year he does.


Who's the Best Prospect: Sammy Carmona, Jr. G, Fallbrook

The 6-3 Carmona looks the part of a college basketball player: He's got length, broad shoulders and athleticism to spare. As his skill catches up, he has a chance to become a big sleeper regionally.


Who's the Dark Horse: Valley Center

The Jaguars made a run last year to the Division 5 championship game, and returns its entire starting five for first-year head coach Jeff Bickford. Carson Yoder is a scrappy talent and Lincoln Zetmeier is a dead-eye shooter who is improving as a ball handler.


Prediction


  1. Mission Vista

  2. San Pasqual

  3. Fallbrook

  4. Valley Center

  5. Escondido

All League


Jake Henderson, Sr. G, Mission Vista (POY)

Chaise Fowler, Sr. W, Mission Vista

Cris Zamora, Sr. G, San Pasqual

AJ Fournier, Sr. W, San Pasqual

Sammy Carmona, Jr. G, Fallbrook

Carson Yoder, Jr. W, Valley Center


2nd Team

Jeremiah Ratnadurai, Sr. W, Mission Vista

James Massaquoi, Sr. W, San Pasqual

Lual Tut, Sr. W, San Pasqual

Lincoln Zetmeier, So. G, Valley Center

Malaki Brotherton, Jr. G, Fallbrook



WESTERN



Outlook:

The strongest of the City Conference's leagues - and arguably the strongest league in the city a year ago - the Western League grew to six teams after last year's conference reshuffle. It added a very good Hoover team and a Patrick Henry team that graduated most of its top players. At the top of the league, the Saints are gearing up for another undefeated run and a shot at a second straight Open Division crown. But don't discount Cathedral and Mission Bay, which are also returning a lot of talent, or a San Diego team hit hard by the "transfer portal" but still have a solid core.


Who's on Top: Saint Augustine

Two years ago, a Saints squad that started four underclassmen made an Open Division appearance that surprised a lot of pundits. A year ago, as expected, that group of underclassmen went nearly wire-to-wire in San Diego and won the Open Division title. This year, the Saints groups finds them in the unfamiliar territory as underdogs to a reloaded San Ysidro, but you can't tell from talking to Head Coach Mike Haupt and the team's core, which sees the challenge as one game at a time. 6-5 Jurian Dixon, 6-4 Ian De La Rosa, 6-3 Jaden Matingou, 6-2 Lolo Rudolph and 6-6 senior wing Derrius Carter Hollinger all return, and fellow seniors Vincent Ricchuiti and MJ Jackman round out the rotation. This team is not to be taken lightly.


Who's the Best Player: Jurian Dixon, St. Augustine


DIxon, the defending CIF Player of the Year who inexplicably enters his final season unsigned, is one of the smoothest scorers statewide. There have been questions about whether he plays hard enough on the defensive end, but he is looking to answer his critics in his last hurrah.


Who's the best prospect: Ryan Enos, 6-9 Jr. F, Cathedral Catholic, Charlie Hutchison, 6-7 Jr. F, Mission Bay and Lolo Rudolph, 6-2 Jr. PG, Saint Augustine


This trio, as it pertains to upside, is a strong one. Enos is a prototype stretch four with his ability to shoot from three and patrol the paint as a rim protector; Hutchison is a Swiss Army Knife-type playmaker at the four who can dribble, pass and shoot, and Rudolph is an electrifying guard in the open court and half court with his speed and court vision.


Who's the Dark Horse: Cathedral Catholic

Don't count the Donns out. Sure, they graduated their leader, Jaden Lebel, but a year earlier we were talking about them graduating their entire senior core, only to make another run at the Open Division. This year's group will need for 6-9 Ryan Enos to take the step from prospect to star, while seniors Shea Fitzgerald and Thomas Fleming provide leadership and timely scoring from the perimeter. Will Cunningham is also high on sophomore guard Amon Andrews, who he sees as a potential x-factor off the bench.


Prediction


  1. Saint Augustine - Speed kills, and the Saints have plenty to spare

  2. Mission Bay - The Bucs will reload just fine with Gil and Rami Anglo leading the way

  3. Cathedral Catholic - The Dons are big and have a strong PG in senior Shea Fitzgerald.

  4. San Diego - The senior trio of Noah Marte, Baron Noble and Miles Harris are criminally underrated.

  5. Hoover - Ozzeno Diallo in any other league would be a POY candidate

  6. Patrick Henry - The Patriots need Cam'ron Bellamy and Kai Nakamura to have big years to stay afloat




All League

Jurian Dixon, Sr. G, St. Augustine (POY)

Lolo Rudolph, Jr G, St. Augustine

Jaden Matingou, Jr. G, St. Augustine

Charlie Hutchison, Jr. W, Mission Bay

Shea Fitzgerald, Sr. G, Cathedral Catholic


2nd Team

Ian De La Rosa, Jr. G, St. Augustine

Derrius Carter Hollinger, Sr. W, St. Augustine

Ryan Enos, Jr. F, Cathedral Catholic

Noah Marte, Sr. G, San Diego

Ozzeno Diallo, Sr. G, Hoover

Thomas Metcalf, Sr. F, Mission Bay


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