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Time to jump through some hoops

01/10/2013, 9:09pm PST
By John Maffei

San Diego vs. Los Angeles Challenge offers local teams a chance to make their marks.

St. Augustine’s Brynton Lemar is being recognized as one of the top point guards on the West Coast. The Saints will play in the S.D. vs. L.A. Hoops Challenge on Saturday.

Saturday will reveal plenty about the state of high school boys basketball in San Diego.

The county doesn’t have a super team, especially in Divisions I and II.

Army-Navy in Division IV and Lincoln in Division III — when all the Hornets’ best players are on the floor — could contend in the state tournament.

Yet there doesn’t appear to be a La Costa Canyon, which reached the state finals in Division I last season.

Seven teams ranked in the San Diego Section’s Top 10 will be in action Saturday during the San Diego vs. Los Angeles Hoops Challenge at Lincoln High.

“Long Beach Poly, Bishop Montgomery, Loyola, Etiwanda, St. John Bosco and Mater Dei in Santa Ana are among the best teams in Southern California,” said prep basketball expert Frank Burlison. “But San Diego teams did very well in the holiday tournaments.

“La Costa Canyon won the Mission Prep Tournament. St. Augustine got to the championship of the National Division of the Torrey Pines tournament.

“Army-Navy won three games in the National Division. And with the big man (7-foot-1 Cheickh N’diaye) in the middle could be a force.

“And Mission Hills is one of the best-coached teams in Southern California. They have a good big man (7-foot Sean Rooks) and execute so well.”

San Diego teams will try to maintain the momentum they built over the holidays.

Torrey Pines, El Camino, Army-Navy and St. Augustine don’t want to stumble against lesser opponents.

Mission Hills, ranked No. 25 in the state by MaxPreps, has to show well against No. 47 L.A. Price.

Lincoln, which has been hit hard by ineligibility and injuries, needs to play well against No. 13 El Camino Real.

And Hoover needs to make a statement against No. 45 Compton.

Burlison, who offers scouting services and writes on basketball for his website, said the San Diego Section Division I champion could have a chance to advance a round or two in the state tournament.

But the highest-ranked San Diego teams on the state level are Cathedral Catholic and St. Augustine, ranked No. 2 and No. 4 in Division III; La Costa Canyon, ranked No. 6 in Division II; and Army-Navy, ranked No. 6 in Division IV. Mission Hills checks in at No. 12 in Division I.

“Just like football, there is an Open Division in basketball,” Burlison said. “So two of the best Southern Section teams will end up there. I don’t see a San Diego County team in the Open Division, but someone could make some noise in Division I.”

Mesa (Ariz.) coach Shane Burcar got a taste of San Diego basketball in the Torrey Pines Holiday Classic.

“I really like coming to San Diego for this tournament,” Burcar said. “This was our third year and the field was really strong.

“I was very impressed with Mission Hills. We’re one of the best teams in Arizona, according to the polls, and they’re not even the best team in San Diego, and they were a handful.”

Sierra Canyon coach Ty Nichols, who coached at Vista, sees the upside of San Diego basketball.

“Give (Saints coach) Mike Haupt talent, and he’ll win,” Nichols said. “And Mike has two really talented players (Brynton Lemar and Trey Kell).

“Throw in Cathedral Catholic and Mission Hills, and I think San Diego County is really up this season.

“There are maybe seven or eight Division I scholarship players. That’s huge.”

San Diego’s top players include N’diaye, who has committed to Oregon State, and Rooks, who has committed to Cal.

La Costa Canyon’s Jeff Van Dyke has committed to Pepperdine. Lemar has committed to UC Davis.

“San Diego has two 7-footers who are committed to Pac-12 schools and a 6-foot-10 junior (Evan Fitzner of Francis Parker), who is really, really good,” Torrey Pines coach John Olive said. “Fitzner will be very heavily recruited because he’s a big man who can shoot, run the floor and slash to the basket.

“And the underclassmen in the county are very good.”

Two freshmen — Brandon Cyrus of Torrey Pines and TJ Leaf of Foothills Christian — caught Burlison’s eye.

“Cyrus is very good, and with coaching will get better,” Burlison said.

“Leaf (a 6-8 freshman) is so skilled. And he plays better against the better players. He stands out. He’s an exceptional rebounder, jumps well and moves like a guard.”

Burlison called Lemar “one of the best pure point guards on the West Coast.”

But can San Diego hold its own against the state powers at playoff time?

“I don’t think so, but you don’t necessarily measure the strength of a section by the playoffs,” Burlison said. “San Diego has some great wins in the tournament season, has some really, really good players — players who are worth going to see play.

“Overall, I think the San Diego Section is up. It has more good teams than ever but just doesn’t have that one or two really great teams.”

SoCal showcase

What: San Diego vs. Los Angeles Hoops Challenge, featuring seven boys basketball teams ranked in the San Diego Section Top 10.

When: Saturday.

Where: Lincoln High.


No. 10 Torrey Pines (9-4) vs. Compton Centennial (7-7), 11:30 a.m.

No. 6 El Camino (12-2) vs. Oaks Christian (7-8), 1 p.m.

No. 4 Army-Navy (12-3) vs. Long Beach Jordan (8-12), 2:30 p.m.

No. 7 Mission Hills (13-2) vs. Los Angeles Price (15-3), 4 p.m.

No. 3 St. Augustine (8-2) vs. Woodland Hills Taft (7-7), 5:30 p.m.

No. 8 Lincoln (6-5) vs. Woodland Hills El Camino Real (13-2), 7 p.m.

No. 2 Hoover (14-3) vs. Compton (9-5), 8:30 p.m.

Tournament season headlines

San Diego’s top teams have made some noise against teams outside the county:

•?Top-ranked Cathedral Catholic (13-2) beat Tesoro (14-3) and Pasadena (9-4). Cathedral’s losses are to Santa Maria St. Joseph (11-4) and Etiwanda (10-2, ranked No. 7 in the state). The Dons are No. 18.

•?No. 2 Hoover (14-3) has beaten Burbank (9-6), Lexington (10-6, No. 14 in South Carolina), Canyon Country Canyon (10-6) and Arizona teams Gilbert (11-5, No. 5 in the state), Desert Vista (9-8) and Red Mountain (13-6, No. 18 in Arizona).

•?No. 3 St. Augustine (8-2) has beaten Richmond Salesian (10-3, No. 15 in the state) and Riverside JW North (14-2, No. 21). One of the Saints’ losses is to Sacramento Sheldon (9-4, No. 16 in the state).

•?No. 4 Army-Navy (12-3) beat Denver East (10-2, No. 1 in Colorado), Foothill (13-3, No. 3 in Nevada), Desert Pines (12-2, No. 5 in Nevada), Canyon Springs (10-8, No. 14 in Nevada), Lincoln (9-1, No. 6 in Washington) and a good Mundelein team from Illinois.

•?No. 5 La Costa Canyon (12-3) handed Mission Viejo (15-1, No. 8 in the state) its only loss of the season.

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