Recent HS Grads In The DrewBy Dave Rogahn
While the current group of high school basketball players was off in Las Vegas, a trio of standouts from last season showed their abilities in the Drew League, the west coast's top pro-am league, this past weekend.
Stanley Johnson (Mater Dei), Daniel Hamilton (St. John Bosco) and Deonte North (Centennial-Corona) all had the chance to match up against the overseas pros and even a few NBA stars in the final regular season weekend of the Drew League.
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The Drew is mainly the province of players out of college who are playing professionally overseas or locally in a minor pro league such as the ABA. And after July 1st there are always a few NBA regulars sprinkled in among the league's 28 teams, and this season that has included the likes of all-stars James Harden and Paul George.
Saturday, Johnson teamed up with Harden and veteran overseas pro Steve Moore as their team, the Soleclinics, had a showdown with Inland Empire-based Salvatori's No Shnacks, which included Jamaal Franklin of the Memphis Grizzlies.
The Soleclinics held a lead much of the game, including a 10-point advantage midway through the third quarter and led by 7 entering the fourth quarter. But No Shnacks rallied late to come away with a 98-94 victory, clinching the final playoff spot and eliminating the Soleclinics from the postseason picture.
Johnson finished with 28 points - topped only by Harden's 39 - and added 9 rebounds, 2 assists and a steal. That capped a remarkable summer season for him despite being one of the youngest players in the league. He scored 34 points in an early-season game against CABC and had 27 points and 12 rebounds a few weeks later against The Clozers in the game in which Brandon Jennings scored 57 points.
Earlier on Saturday, North took the court for the defending champions, the CitiTeam Blazers, and scored 13 of his team-high 17 points in the fourth quarter to help the Blazers pull away late for a 90-67 win over Hank's Spiders.
One of his teammates on the Blazers was recent Long Beach State standout Larry Anderson, who figuratively passed the torch to the newest 49er for a score in the fourth quarter. North made a pair of three-pointers along the way to his 17 points, and he also had 7 rebounds and 3 assists. The Blazers finished the regular season 8-3 and are the #3 seed in the Mike Brown division of the playoffs.
On Sunday, Hamilton was in the starting lineup for Problems alongside longtime Drew League standout and sometime NBA guard Bobby "LB" Brown in a match-up against the Jaguars, who entered the day tied for first place in the Kenny Brunner division with an 8-2 record. But Hamilton and the Problems pulled the mild upset, holding off a late Jaguar rally to come away with a 96-86 win.
Brown poured in 37 points and captured the Drew League Top Performer award for the week, but Hamilton played a huge role in the victory with 16 points plus 11 rebounds, 6 assists, a block and a steal, and was one of three players to score in double digits for Problems. The win improves Problems' record to 7-4 entering the postseason.
In all it was a trio of impressive performances by the youngest players in the league, and bodes well for their futures in college next season and beyond.