Pleasant Grove senior point guard Malik Thames' primary focus tonight will be trying to lead the Eagles to a CIF state boys Division I basketball championship against Santa Monica at Sleep Train Arena.
But before the 8 p.m. tipoff, Thames will be keeping an eye on the San Diego State vs. Oklahoma South Region second-round game in the NCAA Tournament in Philadelphia. Thames' brother Xavier, a Pleasant Grove graduate, is a junior guard for the Aztecs.
Xavier Thames teams in the Aztecs' backcourt with good buddy Chase Tapley, a former Sacramento High standout and The Bee's 2008 Player of the Year.
Tapley (13.5 points per game) and Thames (9.8) are the No. 2 and No. 3 scorers for San Diego State.
Thames is a Washington State transfer in his second season with the Aztecs (22-10).
Tapley, a senior and two-time All-Mountain West Conference selection, is the first San Diego State player to compete in four NCAA tournaments.
Tapley's prep career was capped by a memorable showdown with Klay Thompson of Santa Margarita in the CIF Division III state championship game in 2008. Thompson, who now plays for the Golden State Warriors, scored 37 points to Tapley's 35 in a 72-55 win over the Dragons.
Mission complete? One of the goals for creating the boys' and girls' Open Division championships was to nudge the public schools back into the state title picture.
Though they represent fewer than 10 percent of the schools in California, private schools swept all 10 girls and boys titles the past two seasons.
Public schools are guaranteed at least three champions (D-I girls and D-I and D-II boys) this weekend and will possibly win a fourth (D-II girls).
CIF officials also hope the Open Division will create more buzz at the Sleep Train Arena box office.
Last year's event drew a little more than 13,000 for the three sessions, with more than 4,500 on hand to watch mega-power Mater Dei of Santa Ana beat Sheldon in the D-I boys final.
Pleasant Grove is expected to draw a large crowd tonight, while CIF officials have their fingers crossed that the Open Division boys and girls games will draw well for Saturday night's third session.
Archbishop Mitty of San Jose features 6-foot-9, NBA-ready Aaron Gordon, perhaps the best boys player in the state finals since Jason Kidd in 1991 and 1992. The Monarchs play perennial power Mater Dei, winner of a record nine boys state titles.
Mater Dei is ranked No. 9 nationally by USA Today and is led by USA U-17 world championship team member Stanley Johnson, a 6-7 junior forward, and Elijah Brown, a 6-3 senior guard committed to Butler. Brown is the son of former Cleveland Cavaliers and Los Angeles Lakers coach Mike Brown.
The girls' Open Division game matches Maxpreps.com's national No. 2 Windward of Los Angeles and No. 3 Bishop O'Dowd of Oakland.
Windward (32-0) is coached by former Stanford player Vanessa Nygaard and features USC-bound Courtney Jaco and Jordin Canada, considered by many to be the best junior point guard in the country.
O'Dowd counters with one of the most talented girls teams in NorCal history, led by 6-4 McDonald's All-American Oderah Chidom (Duke), 6-4 Breanna Brown (Virginia Tech), 6-2 Kendall Waters (Cal) and 5-4 point guard Ariel Bostick (San Diego State).
He's back Brian Harrigan led the Sacred Heart Cathedral of San Francisco girls to Division III or IV state title wins at Sleep Train Arena in 1998, 2006, 2007 and 2008. The 2008 win capped a 33-0 season and earned his team the nation's top ranking.
On Saturday, Harrigan brings St. Francis of Mountain View to Sacramento to play Lynwood for a D-II title.
It's only Harrigan's second season at the Santa Clara County school, and the Lancers come in as big underdogs to a Lynwood team with three D-I-caliber players, including two commits. Lynwood coach Ellis Barfield had state title teams in 1993, 2002 and 2003.
Call The Bee's Bill Paterson, (916) 326-5506.