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Foothills Christian to play hoops on ESPN2

12/16/2015, 3:30pm PST
By John Maffei

National television appearance part of Knights' far-flung schedule the past two seasons

Foothills Christian, shown playing in last year's state playoffs, is scheduled to play Cypress Lakes of Katy, Texas, on ESPN2.

Last season and the start of this one have been a blur of big-time games against top-flight opponents for the Foothills Christian high school boys basketball team.

On Friday, the Knights will make a national television appearance against Cypress Lakes of Katy, Texas.

ESPN2 will carry the contest from Desert Edge High in Goodyear, Ariz., with tipoff set for 3:30 p.m. in San Diego.

“Heck, yes, this is a good deal for us,” said Foothills Christian coach Brad Leaf. “Really, it’s a phenomenal opportunity for our players, the school and for us to represent San Diego.”

Foothills (4-1) enters the game ranked No. 1 in San Diego, No. 11 in the state and No. 48 in the nation.

The Knights are led by 6-foot-10 forward T.J. Leaf. A five-star recruit by ESPN who has signed with UCLA, Leaf is ranked No. 13 in the nation on the ESPN Top 100.

Cypress Lakes (8-3) is ranked No. 36 in Texas and No. 183 in the nation.

The Spartans are led by point guard De’Aaron Fox, a five-star ESPN recruit. He’s ranked as the No. 7 prospect nationally and has signed to play at Kentucky.

Foothills Christian has already beaten nationally ranked Corona Centennial this season with Leaf scoring 30 points.

The Knights’ only loss is to Chino Hills, ranked No. 3 in the nation. Leaf had 44 in that game. Chino Hills boasts UCLA-bound point guard Lonzo Ball, who is ranked No. 11 in the nation.

“Chino Hills was really good, and Lonzo Ball is pretty amazing,” said Brad Leaf. “So it will be interesting for us to see a top-10 player like Fox.”

The Paragon Marketing Group, which is based near Chicago, works with ESPN recruiting expert Pete Biancardi to put together an 11-game national TV package called the GEICO ESPN High School Basketball Showcase.

Foothills Christian, Santa Ana Mater Dei and Chatsworth Sierra Canyon are the other California teams on the TV schedule.

Paragon and Biancardi look at top teams and players when searching for games.

“We’re driving to Arizona,” Brad Leaf said. “The sponsors pick up our transportation costs, food and hotel, so it should be a great experience for our guys.”

Foothills played Constitution of Philadelphia, Jefferson of Brooklyn and Lone Pine of Utah last season.

The Knights are scheduled to play Sacred Heart of Connecticut in Springfield, Mass., in January.

Local fans can see Foothills Christian starting Dec. 26 in the Under Armour Holiday Classic at Torrey Pines High.

The Knights are scheduled to play Oakland Bishop O’Dowd at 9 p.m. the first day with Corona Centennial, Diamond Ranch, Torrey Pines, San Leandro, Army-Navy, Pebblebrook of Georgia, Los Angeles Fairfax, Issaquah of Washington, St. Augustine and Bellevue of Washington in the same bracket.

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