Army-Navy 7-footer Cheikh N’Diaye blocks shots and can run the floor.
The North County boasts a pair of talented 7-footers. Cheikh N’Diaye of Army-Navy, who grew up in Senegal, is a shot-blocking machine who runs the floor well. He has signed to play at Oregon State. Kameron Rooks of Mission Hills was just coming into his own last season when he broke his foot. The son of former NBA player Sean Rooks, Kameron isn’t as agile as N’Diaye, but he is a space-eating shot blocker with good post moves.
Valley Center and San Marcos both return all five starters from last season. Valley Center, which went 21-7, returns guards Michael McInerney, a pass-catching football star, Brett Henderson and James Schweindt along with forwards John Broomell and Mitchell Rush. San Marcos, which was 20-10, returns guards Cole Preston, Ben Perez, Alex Preciado and Marc Pacia and forward Riley Bell, the team’s big man at 6-feet-5.
San Ysidro a contender?
The Cougars are a Top 10 preseason team. But can they make a case for the top 5 by season’s end? Five key players return from a team that advanced to the Division I semifinals last year. San Ysidro has moved to Division II this season, making that division the one to watch.
Gridiron to hardwood
Behind Boise State football commit Aaron Baltazar, Eastlake has ruled the Mesa League of late. The Titans will again be the league favorite, but a few other schools also have their share of two-sport talent. Otay Ranch star wide receiver Chris Martin focused on football last year, but his addition on the court makes the Mustangs dangerous. Twins Christopher and Christein Humphery at Olympian lead a balanced Eagles team.
Izzy’s the man
Mount Miguel coach Jay Rowlett labels senior guard Izzy Wagner as one of the best players in the section. An accurate 3-point shooter, Wagner, who averaged 18.1 points a game last season, never seems to be out of range. “He can get a shot off at any time he wants to, from any place on the court,” Rowlett said. “He’s never satisfied. He’s always in the gym working on something.”
At 6-feet-7, Grossmont’s Tommy Rutherford, an unheralded freshman, could develop into one of the unexpected impact players in the Grossmont Hills League. He has been compared to some of the elite players from East County in the past, and Grossmont coach Frank Foggiano believes Rutherford can back it up. For the Foothillers to have success in league, Rutherford will have to live up to his preseason billing.
Dons a factor
Cathedral Catholic returns four of its five starters from a 17-win team, led by the talented Xavier Williams, Brandon Michael and shooting guard Nick Prunty. Niksha Federico, a solid 3-point shooter, and playmaking guard Michael Rosenburg fit the system perfectly. Trouble is the Dons lack size and tall and talented Lincoln and St. Augustine stand between Cathedral and the Western League title.
If someone steps up at the point, Lincoln might find itself back in the state championship game. The Hornets start with two of the state’s best in 6-foot-4 twins Tyree and Tyrell Robinson. Add 6-6 Jeremiah Turner and the dramatically improved Melifonwu brothers, 6-9 Daniel and 6-5 Fred, and size could be a major factor.
-- Steve Brand, Bill Dickens, Dennis Lin, John Maffei"