Will the Saints march again? The Full-Time Hoops Preseason Top 10
1. St. Augustine
Previous Season: 14-7 (6-2 Western), Open Division Semifinalist
Key Returners: Jurian Dixon, 6-5 Jr. G; Lolo Rudolph, 6-2 So. PG; Ian De La Rosa, 6-4 So. W; Jaden Matingou, 6-2 Jr. G; Prince Adjei, 6-7 Sr. C; Patrick O'Leary, 6-5 Jr. F; Vincent Ricchiuti, 6-5 Jr. W
Key Newcomers: Derrius Carter-Hollinger, 6-5 Jr. W
Key Departures: Isaiah Brickner, Charlie Gehler, Jerry McClure
The Skinny: It's hard for Head Coach Mike Haupt to hide is exuberance about this year's iteration of his Saints squad, which starts the season as the clear and convincing No. 1 in San Diego. And it starts in the back court, where Haupt has four unique - and talented - guards that will give teams matchup problems on both ends. Dixon, who made the All CIF First Team in his first year with the Saints, has great size and can score it from multiple levels. De La Rosa, an all-Western league selection as a freshman, provides energy and physicality and is pound-for-pound one of the best offensive rebounders in the section. And Rudolph, who started from Day 1 as the team's floor general, is a feisty on-ball defender who can guard 90 feet and attack defenders going downhill. The surprise of the summer was the emergence of Matingou as a legitimate scoring option after a year where he was the team's defensive specialist. Ricchuiti, who quietly transferred from La Jolla as a sophomore, has emerged as a big shooter who can space the floor for their guards. On top of that, the Saints then got one of the prizes of the transfer market when Carter-Hollinger checked in from Foothills Christian. His versatility on both ends adds yet another wrinkle to a team full of weapons.
The Rub: Functional size. While the Saints guard play is superb, the questions will if Adjei has taken the next step to provide the Saints a defensive anchor in the post. During the fall, it appeared that Prince was starting to realize his vast potential. If he does, then Saints will have a chance to make a noise at a statewide level.
2. San Marcos
Previous season: 25-2 (10-0 Palomar), CIF Open Division Semifinalist
Key Returners: Devon Arlington, 6-3 Sr. G; Max McCall, 6-4 Sr. G; Evan Record, 5-9 Sr. G; Jonathan Bauckmann, 6-8 Sr. F; Lucas Gordon, 6-8 Sr. F; Nick Ianniciello, 6-4 Sr. G; Josiah Novelozo, 6-0 Sr. G; Zane Goldman, 6-0 Jr. G
Key Newcomers: Jacob Baba, 6-5 Sr. F
Key Departures: Zekkiah Knowles, Christian Littlejohn, Jeric Lovgren
The Skinny: A few months removed from an undefeated regular season run, much of that group's core returns for another stab at perfection. The Knights once again have a squad that can play a variety of styles and will stymie opponents with their zone defensive schemes. The team's strength is it's three-guard back court. Arlington, who recently signed to Yale, is a physical guard who can punish opponents off the bounce and has developed a fairly reliable midrange game to complement his penetration. McCall is the team's defensive linchpin who creates scoring opportunities for his teammates with his passing off the dribble. And there aren't many better spot-up shooters than the diminutive Record, who has a quick release and shoots the ball with a ton of confidence. The Knights also have plenty of size in the front court, with seniors Bauckman, Baba and Gordon - who has grown 10 inches since his freshman year. Ianniciello, who played big minutes for the Knights last year, might be one of the region's best reserve players. Knowing how special this team can be, Head Coach Dante Carey has put together a very competitive non league schedule. Right out the gate, they play Heritage Christian on the road, and travel to Las Vegas in December for the Tarkanian Classic.
The Rub: Can the team score it consistently? During the fall, the Knights have had long spells where they haven't been able to manufacture offense. The team will need McCall, who at times has been a reluctant scorer, to become a consistent secondary scoring option alongside Arlington.
3. Torrey Pines
Previous season: 30-1 (8-0 Coastal NC) Open Division Champions, State Open Division Regional Finals runners up
Key Returners: Otto Landrum, 6-8 Sr. F, JJ Bartelloni, 6-5 Jr. SG; Logan Huston, 6-4 Sr. G
Key Newcomers: Eden Pinn, 6-6 Sr. F; Dylan Kail, 6-3 So. G; Zach Jackson, 6-5 So. F; Alex Cabulio, 6-3 Jr. G
Key Departures: Chris Howell, Nick Herrmann, Diego Campisano, Cameron Klein, Nate Witte
The Skinny: The Falcons "reload not rebuild" mantra will be put to the test this season, after graduating the heart and soul of one of the top teams in San Diego history. But the lone returning starter is a good one: Landrum, who signed with Boston University, is a dominant interior force in a year when San Diego's landscape is bereft of big men. Landrum gives the Falcons an alpha who they can look to for offense in a pinch, and takes pressure off of the newcomers as they develop throughout the year. Huston and Bartelloni were sparingly used during the title run, but are talented guards who can shoot it. The program's newcomers have a ton of long-term potential. Kail, a sophomore, will get the starting point guard nod, and is a capable shooter and an underrated rebounder at 6-2. Johnson, a transfer from Coronado, brings length and shot-making ability on the perimeter and Cabulio is a strong jack-of-all-trades type who has looked very capable during the team's fall play. John Olive's Falcons will contend once again.
The Rub: Inexperience. This team only returns 3 players who played meaningful varsity minutes last year, and John Olive's Wisconsin Swing system is notoriously tough for newcomers to master. How quickly players like Kail, Jackson and Cabulio can master it will determine if the Falcons make it to their fourth straight Open Division title game.
4. Mission Bay
Previous season: 17-10 (3-5 Western) Division 1 Semifinalists
Key Returners: Angelo Gil, 6-1 Jr. PG; Rami Anglo, 6-3 Sr. G; Thomas Metcalf, 6-4 Jr. F; Jordan Cooper, 6-6 Sr. F, Charlie Hutchison, 6-7 So. F; Joshua Macagapal, 5-9 Sr. G; Charles Grebing, 6-4 So. F; Gavin Giraourd, 6-0 So. G
Key Newcomers: Marcos Korch, 6-1 So. G; Isaah Whitehurst, 6-1 So. G; Quaylon Bryant, 6-0 Jr. G
Key Departures: KJ Gonzalez, Kristian Gonzalez, Jack Ketchum
The Skinny: The Bucs were set to be one of the top 3 teams in San Diego when, in a pretty shocking development, the Gonzalez brothers transferred back to Mater Dei Catholic after both having breakout years for Marshawn Cherry. Convention wisdom would dictate the Bucs would fall significantly, but, this fall the Bucs have proven otherwise. The big reason is the play of Gil, who has become a force in the new role allocation, and looks like one of the CIF Player of the Year candidates. His supporting cast is solid and the Bucs will always defend and play physical, trademarks of a Cherry team. The other beneficiary of the shift in roles is Anglo, who after years of being the team's designated defensive stopper has shown off a dramatically expanded offensive game. The one-two back court punch is as potent as any team in San Diego. The front court includes several intriguing pieces, including a much improved Metacalf, a rebounding and shot-blocking specialist in Cooper and one of the more versatile underclassmen prospects in San Diego in Hutchison. The Bucs, in short, are still an Open Division contender.
The Rub: Maturity. At times during the fall, the Bucs have shot themselves in the foot in close games with self-inflicted mistakes, including an excessive number of technical fouls. And last season, eligibility issues sidelined key players for critical stretches. In order to be the best version of themselves, the team needs to avoid those moments.
5. San Ysidro
Previous season: 23-7 (7-3 Mesa League) CIF Division 1 Quarterfinalists, CIF Regional 4AA Champions
Key Returners: Sebastian Medina, 6-3 Sr. G; Martin Flores, 6-8 Sr. F; Miguel Figueroa, 6-1 Sr. G, Luis Rodriguez, 6-6 Sr. F, Princetin Metu, 6-4 Jr. F
Key Newcomers: Andrei Tovar, 6-7 So. F; Fran Valenzuela, 6-8 Sr. F
Key Departures: Raheem Nowlin
The Skinny: The "Border Boyz" closed the season stronger than almost every team in San Diego, stunning Bonita Vista on the final day of the regular season, and parlaying an at-large CIF Regional Playoffs bid into a title. Terry Tucker's group has size and potent guard play, and they love to get out and run, perhaps more than any team in the top 5. They return the section's leading scorer in Flores, but Medina is the team's heart and soul. The physical guard can impose himself on defender attacking the basket or score it efficiently from three and midrange. The addition of Valenzuela gives the team a fourth player above 6-6, making it easily the biggest team in the Top 10. Tovar, who missed last season with a leg inury, has returned to add a big post presence. For the first time in nearly a decade, the road to the Mesa League title does not run through Mater Dei Catholic.
The Rub: Defense. The Cougars can score it with the best of them, but stopping other teams from scoring has proven to be an issue during the fall. When they tighten up on that end, they're as good as any team ahead of them. When they allow other teams to get it rolling, they are susceptible to upsets.
6. La Costa Canyon
Previous season: 13-11 (3-5 Coastal NC), CIF Division 1 Finalists, CIF Regional 3A Finalists
Key Returners: Christian Brown, 6-5 Jr. W; Brayden Hendricks, 6-4 Sr. G; Ty Hendler, 6-4 Jr. G; Vincent Berlucchi, 6-7 Sr. F; Gabriel Tawfilis, 6-3 Sr. G; Preston Ochoa, 6-0 Sr. G
Key Newcomers: Shane Perry, 6-5 So. G; Beau Rabe, 5-9 Jr. G; Parker Jelsing, 5-11 Jr. G
Key Departures: Brendan Perry, Jack Norrbohm, Will RIchards
The Skinny: The Mavericks have had a number of false starts in the effort to revive the glory years of the program, when they were perennial contenders with guys with last names like Budinger, Shrigley, McCarthy, Fuller and Twombly. Last year's team gelled down the stretch after a couple of disruptive COVID-19 pauses, making a surprise run to the D1 finals and nearly topping Mater Dei Catholic. This edition of the Mavs might have the best chance to lead the program to its first Open Division appearance in five years. Led by Brown, a rapidly improving swingman who can beat you from the perimeter and is one of the region's best rebounders, the Mavs have an alpha that gives them a go-to player in close games. The supporting cast is versatile and talented. Hendricks is also another vastly improved player from year's past and a sharpshooter with size that was a staple of vintage Mavs teams. Berlucchi, who has been hampered by an ankle injury since summer, is rounding back into form and gives the Mavs a versatile inside-out threat. The guards on the team, led by Hendler, are also solid. This fall, the Mavs proved their mettle by taking on several Open Division contenders, beating San Ysidro twice and taking Torrey Pines down to the wire without Hendricks.
The Rub: Durability. With the exception of Brown, each of LCC's top 7 rotation players have sustained a moderate to serious injury in the past year. They'll need all of them accounted for to make a run.
7. Francis Parker
Previous season: 11-9 (7-5 Coastal); CIF D1 Quarterfinalists
Key Returners: Camden McCormick, 6-4 Sr. G; Vinny Ferrari, 5-11 Sr. G; Orion Samikoglu, 6-1 Sr. W; Tino Mededovic, 6-3 Sr. G; Martin Rudolph, 6-0 Sr. G
Key Newcomers: Quincy Williams, 5-10 Jr. G; Kamran DuBois, 6-6 So F; Logan Watts, 6-0 Jr. G
Key Departures: Daryl Sledge
The Skinny: It's small ball for another year at Parker under Jim Tomey, and that's not a bad thing. The Lancers have become one of the toughest matchups in all of San Diego over the past three years playing at a breakneck pace, shooting lots of threes and getting after it on the defensive end. This collection of players is similar to the team of two seasons ago, when Kimo Ferrari and crew made a surprise Open Division appearance. Led by McCormick (who is underrated statewide,as he has been a double-double threat since his freshman year) and Kimo's younger brother Vinny Ferrari, the Lancers return almost the entire roster from last season, and its role players from a year ago are experienced and improved. The most improved? Samikoglu, who has gone from an undersized post to a legitimate college-level utility guard, having committed to Colorado College. Another player whose brother Miles starred on the 2020 team, Quincy Williams is an ex-factor off the bench for the Lancers.
The Rub: Depth. For the first time in three seasons of the Parker small-ball, small-roster era, the team suffered a loss of one of its key players due to injury when McCormick was sidelined for a month. The Lancers went from Open Division contenders to Division 1 during that stretch. This year's Lancers must walk the same tightrope with a roster that can be dramatically altered by just one injury.
8. Mater Dei Catholic
Previous season: 18-4 (9-1 Mesa), CIF Division 1 Champions, CIF Regional 2AA Champions
Key Returners: Brian Dukes, 6-4 Sr. F; Dominic Nankil, 6-2 Jr. G; Chris Eugene, 5-10 Sr. G
Key Newcomers: KJ Gonzalez, 5-11 Sr. G; Kristian Gonzalez, 6-4 Jr. G; Jerry McClure, 6-0 Jr. G; Rollin George III, 6-1 Jr. G; Josiah Jefferson, 6-4 So. F; Ian Cruz-Colin, 6-2 Jr. W
Key Departures: Melo Sanchez, Christian Ubochi, Kailon King, Dexter Stratton, Mauricio Reyes-Esquer
The Skinny: Most teams that graduate their entire starting five would not be fringe Open Division contenders the very next year. But the Crusaders benefited from the "transfer portal" more than any team in the county. The return of the Gonzalez brothers after a one-off year at Mission Bay immediately improves the outlook, as do the addition of big-time grid-hoopers George and McClure, who are solid basketball players in their own right. Combine that with Dukes, who was an underrated piece of last year's final team, and Nankil, the Crusaders star quarterback, and Mater Dei will again be a tough contender in the Mesa League, albeit playing from a position that the program hasn't been in since the early 2010s - not the preseason favorites. That honor goes to San Ysidro. But with a football physicality and the scoring prowess of KJ and Kristian Gonzalez (the former has been on a tear all fall), they will be in the mix.
The Rub: Chemistry. Getting so many new pieces on the same page would be tough enough without the rub of half of them being football players, meaning we potentially might not see the Crusaders complete roster until December.
9. Mission Hills
Previous season: 16-9 (7-3 Palomar), CIF Open Division Quarterfinalists
Key Returners: Justin White, 6-5 Sr. F; Jayden White, 6-6 Sr. W; Caleb Hofmeister, 5-8 Jr. G; Jack Jillson, 5-10 So. G; Cam Herrera, 5-10 Sr. G
Key Newcomers: Kyle Neff, 6-4 Jr. W; Trey Vergenz, 6-5 Jr. W; Jake Bishop, 6-1 So. G; Bradley McGlothlin, 6-5 So. F
Key Departures: Diego Czarnowski, Austin Schultz, Mike Miller, Jared Hanson
The Skinny: The Grizzlies were one of the surprise stories of the pandemic season, racing out to a 16-6 record and nearly defeating Cathedral Catholic midseason. And then they played San Marcos two games before the playoffs and the dream season turned on its end, as the Knights hammered them twice by 50 points. This team, however, didn't lose a ton from last year, and might be improved in the area of their biggest weakness - dynamic guard play. Hofmeister and Jillson, who were reserves last year, are better scorers and shooters than their departed counterparts. Combine that with the return of the talented - and underrated - White twins, and some underrated wing play from Neff and Vergenz (who has to sit 30 days before suiting up) and you have a recipe for another Open Division contention.
The Rub: Back Court size. Hofmeister and Jillson are very good, but they're also very small. This could cause issues on the defensive side of the ball against teams with size in the back court. How well Head Coach Curtis Hofmeister is able to overcome that will determine the team's ceiling.
10. San Diego
Previous season: 16-14 (4-4 Western), CIF Div. 1 Quarterfinalists
Key Returners: Miles Harris, 5-11 Jr. G; Noah Marte, 6-0 Jr. G; Baron Noble, 5-9 Jr. G; Kanta Thomas, 6-1 Sr. W; Oliver Buckley, 6-5 Sr. F
Key Newcomers: Gavin Guinn, 6-1 Fr. G; Jayden Wade, 6-5 Fr W; Davaughn Hueitt, 6-6 Fr. F; Treyshawn Degrate, 5-9 Fr. G; Eli Green, 6-0 Jr. G; DeAndre Walker Jr., 6-3 So. W
Key Departures: AJ Burgin, Myles Bennett, DJ Ralston, Jadon Green
The Skinny: It's a new era at the Cave, with the graduation of the program's leading career scorer and three-time CIF Champion, AJ Burgin. But Head Coach Bazz Fontenot has built the Cavers into a complete program that is able to absorb such a big loss and still be a contender moving forward. This team is young, but dynamic. The returning juniors, Harris, Marte and Noble, are an underrated back court regionally. Harris, who actually started in the Cavers D2 finals win as a freshman, is a steadying force on offense and a very good on-ball defender. Marte is a knockdown shooter whose game is rapidly expanding on both ends. And Noble, the team's 6th man last season, is as dynamic a guard scoring the ball as you will find this year in San Diego - not exaggerating. Fontenot has an exceptional freshman class, wth four that will immediately contribute - and likely star - on the varsity level. Wade and Degrate had strong summers with the team, Hueitt has made an impact defensively during the fall, and then there's Guinn, who surprised many with his transfer from St. Augustine during the fall.
The Rub: Experience. Playing so many freshman key minutes is always a crapshoot. It will be up to the program vets (Thomas will be an underrated piece on this team, as will the much-improved Buckley) to carry them through the ups and downs of a full varsity season.