Khayla Rooks returns after averaging 14.6 points a game for Mission Hills as a freshman.
What: San Diego Classic features 180 high school teams in three divisions. The tournament, the largest of its kind in the nation, is in its 28th year and includes many of the top teams in the West.
When: Thursday through Sunday. Complete schedule online.
Where: UC San Diego RIMAC Arena, Alliant University, Canyon Crest Academy.
Format: High school names are for identification only. Teams are not officially associated with the schools. Girls must attend the school they represent. There are no all-star or club teams entered.
Locals: 3A (top division) -- Bishop's, La Costa Canyon, La Jolla Country Day, Mission Hills. 2A (middle division) -- Carlsbad, Del Norte, El Camino, Horizon, Mission Vista, Montgomery, Mt. Carmel, Oceanside, Our Lady of Peace, Poway, Rancho Bernardo, San Marcos, Scripps Ranch, Sweetwater, Torrey Pines, University City, West Hills, Westview.
Championships: Sunday at RIMAC Arena -- 1A Division (JV and freshmen), 1 p.m.; 2A Division, 2 p.m.; 3A Division, 3 p.m.
Tickets: $7 per day; $26 for tournament pass.
When Mission Hills High girls basketball coach Chris Kroesch thinks back to the end of the 2013-14 season, he remembers the loss. He remembers the disappointment.
Losing by 36 points is never enjoyable, especially in the state playoffs. The result left a bad taste with the San Diego Section Division I champions.
Starting today, the Grizzlies can begin the process of healing through the annual San Diego Classic, a three-division tournament that will feature 180 teams from seven states and even a squad from Germany.
“What I told the girls is this is going to be some of the best competition you’re going to face, game in and game out,” Kroesch said. “So no matter what, win or lose, let’s go out there to compete and go out the right way — share the ball and defend.”
Mission Hills is one of 32 teams competing in Division I, the top flight of the four-day event running Thursday through Sunday. Throughout the summer, the Grizzlies have participated in open gyms together. But the team considers this week’s tournament “a big deal.”
One thing from last year’s squad Kroesch remembers specifically was its chemistry. Perhaps the best of any team he has coached, he said. Heading into this season, Mission Hills returns 10 of its 11 players.
Eight will be playing in the San Diego Classic.
“We just had so much growth from the beginning to the end of the season,” Kroesch said. “You’re just hoping that the groundwork that you laid during last season, the girls are retaining it and applying that to their game.”
Kroesch also is looking for leadership. And he’s hoping it can come from a rising sophomore.
Khayla Rooks, who is the daughter of former NBA player Sean Rooks and sister of Cal Bears basketball player Kameron Rooks, was named All-San Diego Section second team after averaging 14.6 points per game as a freshman. She scored 16 points in the section Division I title game.
Over the offseason, Kroesch gave her a list of things to do during AAU competition — ranging from improving her conditioning and strength to on-court adjustments. But most important on the list was becoming more of a vocal leader and helping raise her teammates’ level of play.
Rooks’ adjustment toward that role at Mission Hills begins in earnest at the San Diego Classic.
“We want her being that coach on the floor,” Kroesch said. “But the goal is to go out there and compete.
“We want to win every game, obviously, but the biggest thing really is let’s be competitive this weekend.”