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The year of the Warrior: Montgomery headlines summer primer

Montgomery and its "Big 4" is having one of the best runs for a San Diego program in recent history that did not end in a championship.

As sophomores, brothers JJ and Alek Sanchez, Xair Mendez and Devin Hamilton shocked the SD hoops landscape and upended star-studded San Ysidro to win the Mesa League championship. The team then doubled down on the success and made the Open Division finals, where they lost to St. Augustine.

The 2023-24 opened with them as co-favorites to win the crown, and they made it to the championship for a second straight year, but a suspension and key injury on the eve of the finals doomed them, as Carlsbad claimed the crown.

Barring the unforeseen, Montgomery will open the 2024-25 season as the prohibitive favorites to win the school's Open Division championship. Anything less than a title will likely be viewed as a disappointment, as the window of one of the top quartets in recent SD memory will have closed without a championship to show for it.

Who will challenge the Aztecs in San Diego? Which teams will emerge as sleepers? Which players are on the move and how will the moves impact the landscape? Who will be favored in the lower divisions?

We should learn the answers to several of these questions during June, when high-school teams take the floor as "clubs" during the June Scholastic Period. The month includes several tournaments held by local universities and two mega tournaments during two NCAA-sanctioned high school evaluation periods, June 21-23 and June 28-30.

Who are the Contenders?

Outside of the Aztecs, several teams will likely reprise their role as Open Division contenders.

St. Augustine

Mike Haupt's team loses several key pieces in Lolo Rudolph, Ian De La Rosa and Isaiah Hasten, but return breakout star Jaden Bailes and a trio of super talented 2027 prospects in Anthony Etheridge, Paisios Polamolu and Drew Parker, as well as 2025 starter Manny Cortez. Add in Mater Dei Catholic transfer Lincoln Grogan -- one of the region's top shooters -- and Haupt should have enough to make another title run.


The Lancers return one of the region's most prolific scorers in Jake Hall, who will attempt to etch his name in the record books and become the fourth player in CIF history to score 3,000 career points. Gone are many of his teammates from the Open Division title run (Tony Duckett, Jael Martin, Euan Davis and Tristan Guzman) but the cupboard isn't bare. Look for juniors Trenton Mehl, Briggs Young and Dylan Sims to all take the next step for the Lancers alongside returning contributors Jordan Garner and Jett Kenady.

La Jolla Country Day

The Torreys return four of five starters, including All-CIF 1st Team point guard Chris Carrillo and all-league selections Wyatt Tilson and Ely Elegado and key glue guy Henry Kiamilev. Many of the supporting cast play multiple sports and won't be available for much of the summer, but when they come together during the winter, they will be vying for a top seed in the Open Division once more.

Cathedral Catholic

The Dons finished second in the Western League last year, but lost sophomore guard Ty Ingram, who spent one season with the program, to transfer. Ryan Enos, the team's 6-9 post presence, graduated. But Graham Bousley returns almost every other key returner, including All CIF selection Patrick O'Brien, fellow seniors 6-3 G PJ Jourdain and 6-5 wing Steven Evans Glynn, and rapidly improving rising juniors Max Meza and Kai Carlson. This group has the pieces to be a player in the Open picture.

Mission Bay

Gone is the 2024 core that helped the Buccaneers make it to consecutive D1 title games, but the Bucs depth the past two seasons will serve them well in the transition.

2026 Caleb Newton gives them a bona fide star, and 2026 Clay Grebing will slide into the role vacated by Pomona Pitzer-bound Charlie Hutchison. Returners Atreju De La Cruz and Pablo Balderas are experienced and talented, and incoming transfers Maseyo Elliott (Mater Dei Catholic) and Jocori "JoJo" Bartlett (Chaparral) will give the Bucs a loaded and deep back court. Can they get over the hump and get to the Open Division race?

Torrey Pines

Much of the Falcons outlook depends on durability, as two potential starters - 2025 F Karel Novy and 2026 Zander Ovies are coming off of yearlong injuries. John Olive's team will rely heavily on returners Cody Shen (6-2 senior guard) and Tevaris Green (6-4 junior wing), while looking for several of the role players off of last year's team to emerge. 6-6 rising junior Chase Rogowski and rising seniors Zain Mehio and Amir Sadeghi are the most likely options. JVers Chase Othick, Landon Dorsey and Harris Notrica will also be in the mix.

Who are emerging as potential Open Division teams?

San Marcos

The Knights made a deep run in the Division 1 playoffs last season with a deep squad that relied a lot on its youth, namely its underclass guard duo of Jalen Williams and Richie Ramirez. The lineup returns 8 of its top 10 scorers, and the returners will absorb much of the production lost via graduation. Look out for senior shooter Elias Flaim and Colton Kelley and the interior duo of Jackson McCall and Mike Brown to all have breakout campaigns. Rising juniors Ty Sagaser and Chris Crowell add depth on the wing, and rising sophomore Nico Mott has microwave-like scoring ability off the bench. The Knights are officially back.

Rancho Buena Vista

When you have a guard as talented as rising junior CJ Aldrich, you are in a good position. Making that position even stronger? Four of the team's top six contributors not named Aldrich -- talented rising senior Ayden Horn and his twin brother Matthew, intriguing 6-5 senior Caden Keys and 6-3 guard Isaiah Justice -- are also back. The Longorns will miss senior guard Trent Lotito, but the returning cast is good enough to make a push in the Longhorns return to the Division 1 ranks.

Victory Christian

The Knights fell short of the D2 championship game at the hands of eventual champ University City, but have loaded up for a potential Open Division push. The two-time Section scoring leader Angel Ochoa transfers in from St. Joseph Academy, as does 6-6 rising senior center Elijah Bragg from nearby Mater Dei Catholic, bolstering the returning core of rising junior star Jayden Gray, unsung rising junior Isaiah Owens and rising senior Angel Escarcega. Watch out for role guys Adrian Fernandez, Chato Garcia and Ben Cordova, who will provide quality depth, something that last year's team lacked.

Francis Parker

Anytime you return one of the region's leading scorers - and a potential player of the year candidate - expectations will be high. That's the case for the Lancers and rising sophomore star Tavid Lee Johnson, who took the section by storm in his freshman year. Most of the team returns, including midseason addition Amon Andrews, who set the Lancer's single-season three-pointer record in just a half season last year, and incoming transfer Ezekiel Walker, a two-year varsity standout from Maranatha Christian. Rising junior Deven Dubois (who's pushing 6-6) and rising sophomores Kai Jones and Niccolo Whitchurch round out a talented core that should be a contender to topple La Jolla Country Day's from its Coastal League perch.


The Eagles won't be eligible for the Open Division as a Division 2 team, but they will make a run at the Top 10 from the outset. It's returning backcourt trio of Jordan Walker, Sammell "DJ" Humphries and Tristan Anderson is one of the county's most potent, with reserves Koa Cardeno, Matthew Huertas, Earl Taylor and Nygil Hilliard adding experience and depth. Their front court, including rising juniors Xaiver King and Yaseen Chemsi, is underrated. Under Marty Ellis, the team has been able to use a swarming full-court defense and a spread offense to give teams fits. This might be his best team yet.

The Way Too Early Top 10:

  1. Montgomery

  2. St. Augustine

  3. Carlsbad

  4. La Jolla Country Day

  5. Cathedral Catholic

  6. Mission Bay

  7. Torrey Pines

  8. San Marcos

  9. Victory Christian

  10. Rancho Buena Vista

Just outside:

Bishop's - Nick Levine has his most talented foursome in years: Jacob Tsai, Owen Turner, Lucas Myer and Romeo Wright

Bonita Vista - Aaron Owens, Treyvon Davis and Jerry Stokes give new head coach Dean Curry a running start

Christian - Steele Canyon transfers Alex Williams and Ronnie Scott pair with Juju Lebel and Gannon Pisapia to give Will Cunningham a solid group in Year 2

Eastlake -Rugged returning core of Jordyn Webster, AJ Reavis and Reuben Del Busto break in the Ryan Gardocki era

El Camino - "Core 4" of Logan Ardent, Justin Johnson, Devin McGee and Shawn Sidiqi will be formidable

Francis Parker - Johnson and crew ready to take the next step

La Costa Canyon - Jasper Buck leads a Mavericks team with young talent

Olympian - Lots of talent on the undersized Eagles

Poway - Lots of returning talent, headlined by a very good 2026 class (Rodriguez, Mariduena, Chapman, Heverly, Clifford and Avila) and seniors Gabe Menck and transfer Sawyer Flint.

Sage Creek - Elijah Stephens has been dominant, supporting cast is unheralded.

San Diego - Treyshawn Degrate and Isaiah Marte are an underrated back court regionally. Lamar Smith is up next.

Santa Fe Christian - Rising junior Dax Hall is one of the section's top returning players, but lots of turnover from last year's squad.

Vista - Lots will hinge on status of guard Gavin Guinn, who is seeking a waiver to play his final year

Coaching Carousel: Swift and Surprising

In a break from previous seasons, the coaching carousel was relatively short in San Diego, but nonetheless significant. Here are the big changes:

Bonita Vista

OUT: Don Dumas

IN: Dean Curry, San Ysidro head coach

Skinny: Dumas shocked the program with his resignation to take a job with the district. Enter Curry, a long time assistant under Dumas after a lone season at San Ysidro.


OUT: Marlon King

IN: Ryan Gardocki, LCC Freshman coach

Skinny: King, who resigned due to professional obligations, is replaced by first-year varsity head coach Gardocki, a surprise selection by the South County school.


OUT: Ryan Smith

IN: Brad Hollingsworth, Oceanside athletic director

Skinny: Smith, Who helmed the Pirates for four seasons, stepped down for personal reasons, and is replaced bylongtime coach and athletic director Hollingwsorth, who was 97-38 at Calvin Christian from 2010-15.

Saint Joseph Academy

OUT: Ben Hernandez

IN: Terry Tucker, Norco head coach

Skinny: In a shocker, the tiny Catholic school in San Marcos announced it had hired Tucker, who one two section titles and a state crown during stints at Crawford and San Ysidro.

Scripps Ranch

OUT: Brock Flint

IN: Search ongoing

Skinny: Flint resigned midway through last season, and was replaced by his assistant Travis Pettey. Pettey is one of several candidates for the position, which has yet to be filled.

San Diego Largely MIA from Live Periods

Last year, the region was well represented in the two NCAA evaluation period events near California, the inaugural Boys California Live - which was held in gyms in and around Irvine - and Arizona's Section 7 Team Camp.

A year later, the Boys California Live is being held in Roseville, a Sacramento suburb, Section 7 has changed its selection criteria, and San Diego is largely shut out of both events.

Nine San Diego teams will make their way to Northern California for the June 28-30 event, while only three teams will participate in Section 7 June 21-23 - Torrey Pines, St. Augustine and Mission Bay.

Several programs that attended last year's California event cited travel costs and logistics as the reason they were unable to make it up north. Several will attend the UC San Diego Team Camp the same weekend.

Section 7 opted to take teams that had at least one prospect that could be identified as a high major talent or legacy programs that had attended several of the previous events.

While the local university team camps will give local teams an opportunity to showcase their talents directly in front of the program's staff, not being represented at the evaluation events as robustly as last year hurts a number of our local prospects.

Key Camps and Leagues

San Diego State Team Camps

Session 1: June 7-8

Session 2: June 14-15

Point Loma Nazarene Team and Elite (individual) Camps

Elite Camp Session 1: June 8

Team Camp Session 2: June 14-15

Elite Camp Session 2: June 30

Elite Camp Session 3: July 27

UC San Diego Team and Elite camps

Team Camp Session 1: June 21-23

Prospect Camp Session 1: June 26-27

Team Camp Session 2: June 28-30

Prospects Camp Session 2: Aug. 1-2

CSU San Marcos Team and Elite camps

Elite Camp Session 1: Aug. 4

Team Camp: Sept. 7-8

Elite Camp Session 2: Sept. 28

Hoover Summer League

Dates: Tuesdays and Wednesdays, May 28-July 10

Location: Hoover and Lincoln HS

Maranatha Christian Summer League

Dates: Tuesdays and Wednesdays, June 4-July 3

Locations: Maranatha Christian and San Pasqual

Monte Vista Summer League/ Tournament

Dates: July 5-7, July 12-14

Location: Monte Vista

Rancho Buena Vista Summer League

June 10- July 3

Location: Rancho Buena Vista HS


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