The 2014 California State Basketball Championships presented by Farmers Insurance are upon us. The loaded 2-day slate at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento, home of the Sacramento Kings, is headlined by two of the best players in the country in Stanley Johnson and Ivan Rabb facing off in a rematch of a December overtime classic.
By Brandon Tatera
Boys Open Division: Bishop O'Dowd vs. Mater DeiMater Dei won in December at the Tarkanian Classic in Las Vegas and is favored once again, as they look to go 35-0. The key might be how Bishop O'Dowd does against Mater Dei's big wings in Johnson and Rex Pflueger. Bishop O'Dowd has talented smaller guards in Paris Austin and Juwan Anderson but lacks a perimeter defender other than 6'5 Shane Farley. Expect Rabb and 4-star sophomore M.J. Cage to have a good battle in the post against each other.
Boys Division I: Monte Vista vs. Corona CentennialCentennial is led by Long Beach State bound guard Deontae North and SMU junior point guard commit Sedrick Barefield. They'll face off with a 31-1 Monte Vista team. Centennial's fast pace system will look have success against the Mustangs' inside out duo of Cal Poly signee Trevor John and 6'9 Spencer Rust.
Boys Division II: Folsom vs. St. John BoscoEmerging sophomore guard Jordan Ford of Folsom faces off with arguably the best junior guard in the nation in Arizona commit Tyler Dorsey. The trio of Ford, sophomore guard Jared Wall, and 6'7 junior Colin Russell face off with the highly acclaimed trio of Dorsey, 5-star UConn commit Daniel Hamilton, and 4-star sophomore Vance Jackson.
Boys Division III: Sir Francis Drake, San Anselmo vs. ChaminadeChaminade's imposing front line of 6'9 Long Beach State signee Jack Williams and 6'10 sophomore Trevor Stanback faces off with a smaller but talented Drake squad. Juniors 6'1 guard Malik Huff, 6'5/6'6 Jasper Verduin and Jesse Hunt are each nearly double figure scorers with Hunt at 17.7 points per game. Michael Oguine hit a game winning shot in the regionals to send Chaminade to state.
Boys Division IV: Moreau Catholic vs. Bishop MontgomeryHigh level guards galore in this one. Bishop Montgomery is led by Long Beach State bound point guard Justin Bibbins with emerging 3-star junior Stephen Thompson alongside him. Moreau Catholic is young with talented freshman Damari Milstead and sophomores Armond Simmons and Brandon Lawrence along the perimeter. All 5 players along with 4-star sophomore wing Oscar Frayer are future Division 1 players to watch.
Boys Division V: St. Joseph Notre Dame vs. Renaissance AcademyLong Beach State bound 6'7 Temidayo Yussuf is a load inside and will be a lot for Renaissance to handle. Renaissance will counter with 6'6 seniors Marty Gaizauskas and Steve Herve with Marquise Mosley at the guard spot.
Girls RecapThe girls' slate is also loaded and headlined by an open division clash of traditional powers. Salesian and their trio of McDonald's All American/Louisville bound Mariya Moore, Colorado bound Zoe Correal, and Sacramento State bound Taylor Crowder.
They face off against a Long Beach Poly squad for the Open title with 4 D-1 seniors in UCLA bound LaJahna Drummer, Louisville bound Arica Carter, Michigan signee Emoni Jackson, and Utah bound Jada Matthews.
Other players to watch include Kelli Hayes (Archbishop Mitty/UCLA), Devin Stanback (Chaminade/Pepperdine) the sister of former UCLA/UNLV standout Chase and sophomore stud Trevor, Haley Cremen (Justin-Siena/Chico State) and talented Sierra Canyon junior Kennedy Burke.
More on the Boys Open Division match up from Jack NelsonThis year one game stands out from all the others; the Mater Dei Monarchs vs. the Bishop O'Dowd Dragons. It might be the most important game played in California in years, as the results of this one will affect the rankings of teams across the country.
Max Preps declared on Monday of this week that if Mater Dei defeats Bishop O'Dowd, they will be named the mythical National Champions for the 2013-14 season. The SoCal champs are 34-0 coming into the game and are ranked #1 in California. Bishop O'Dowd is 28-4 and ranked #2 but don't let that record deceive you, as since the calendar turned over to start the 2014 part of the season, Bishop O'Dowd has won 23 straight games, and by an average of 27 points a game.
This game features two of the biggest stars in high school basketball. Mater Dei's 6-7 Sr. Stanley Johnson was named the Gatorade player of the year in California. With Ivan Rabb Bishop O'Dowd has the top junior in California and in this reporter's opinion will be the nation's outstanding player in the class of 2015. A win for Mater Dei could push Johnson to the top of this year's class. He is looking to be the first Californian to ever start on 4 straight state championship teams in the top division. He is in a 3- or 4-player mix being considered for the POY honors.
Another big reason for the hype surrounding this game is that these two teams met in a classic on December 21st, 2013 in the championship game of the 2nd annual Jerry Tarkanian Classic in Las Vegas. Mater Dei captured a victory with a thrilling 63-59 OT victory over Bishop O'Dowd.
Even though the Mater Dei has been the top ranked team by MaxPreps since early February, I would say they are slight underdogs. The Monarchs are hindered by a very thin bench, not in numbers obviously, but in production. While 4 of the starters average in double figures, the top three players off the bench average 2.2, 1.5 and 1.3 respectively.
Bishop O'Dowd has more than just the home crowd advantage - they have also played their CIF Division championship and regional championship game in this same arena in the last 3 weeks. Of course this will be Johnson's 4th game on this court and he has had big games in all of them.
Rabb is really a smooth player and has the greatest post moves I have seen In basketball in years. Seeing him in several games, I thought he looked like he had been working in the gym or backyard of NBA great, Akeem Olajuwon. Rabb has those kinds of moves. In the December game against Mater Dei, Rabb had a double double of 24 points and 21 rebounds. You really don't see many 20-20's in high school basketball.
Well like I said, I think Vegas would probably make the Dragons a slight favorite in this game but I will keep my money in my billfold, because I do not think it is a good bet to go against Stanley Johnson. It figures to be a great game no matter who wins.
Californiapreps.com will have extensive coverage for the two days, with two writers and a photographer on site.