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  • Jose Luis Villegas /

    Ayanna Edwards and her Sacramento High teammates are continuing their reign as The Bee’s top-ranked team.

  • Paul Kitagaki Jr. /

    D.J. Wilson of top-ranked Capital Christian is a standout in what may be the region’s most talented collection of big men.

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Preps Plus: Story lines abound as basketball season reaches midway point

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014 - 11:36 pm
Last Modified: Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014 - 11:23 am

The high school basketball season has reached the mid point, and there’s no time to catch one’s breath.

If teams aren’t already feeling the rigors of the season with holiday tournaments and league races, those that advance past the early rounds of the playoffs will surely fight fatigue and brewing expectations come March. That’s when the Sac-Joaquin Section late rounds, Northern California and CIF State championships will be held at Sleep Train Arena.

Sacramento High has continued its dominance of area girls basketball, led by a regional-record five Division I scholarship signees, and has maintained its position as The Bee’s No. 1-ranked team for more than three seasons.

The best of the boys comes from one of the section’s smallest schools in top-ranked Capital Christian, with a collection of big-time talent that has taken on big-time competition.

In the 2013-14 prep season, we’ve heard words – “undue influence, transfers, suspensions” – usually saved for sullied NCAA programs used to describe one of the area’s powerhouse programs. The four-week suspension of Sheldon coach Joey Rollings resulting from recruiting allegations will teach teams what to avoid (parents encouraging players to switch schools, open gyms with rival players working out, etc.).

And for an area not known for being a recruiting hotbed over the decades, times are changing. The boys have players headed to Michigan and Washington, and who knows where else.

A closer look:

Tall and talented – The region may have its best-ever crop of big men. Many are versatile, and they come in a range of ages.

Senior bigs include D.J. Wilson (6-foot-9) of Capital Christian, a Michigan recruit; Malik Pope (6-9) of Laguna Creek, headed to San Diego State; Mason Stuteville (6-9) of Casa Roble (numerous offers); Cameron Oliver (6-8) of Grant (11 Pacific-12 Conference offers); Vasilije Saraba (6-6) of Del Campo and Connor Drake (6-8) of Del Oro (UC Santa Barbara on a volleyball scholarship).

Jesuit has two talented senior big men in 6-9 Brady Anderson and 6-7 Air Force commit Lake Lutes.

Junior Marquese Chriss (6-9) of Pleasant Grove has verbally committed to Washington. Sophomore Solomon Young (6-7) of Sacramento had one Pacific-12 coach raving recently about his rebounding ability, going so far as to compare him to Dennis Rodman. Freshman starter Darren Nelson (6-7) of Granite Bay is sure to grow in talent and size.

Dragon dynasty – Can anyone beat the Sacramento girls team? The top-ranked Dragons are unbeaten against area competition the past three seasons and are riding a 97-game league winning streak. Senior center Ayanna Edwards leads the charge with inside scoring and rebounding while doubling as as the team’s laugh track. Tonight, the Dragons visit No. 2 McClatchy, one of the section’s youngest teams.

Sunny disposition – Why are Dalayna Sampton of Florin and Jasmine Redmon of Monterey Trail smiling these days? They’re headed to the beach for four years. The senior honors students have signed letters of intent with Hawaii, though the forwards first aim to do some damage in the Division I playoffs as interior scorers and rebounders.

Nice playing mean – They’re all manners before and after games, but in the heat of competition, it’s hard to top the competitive drive of seniors Ali Bettencourt and Jenn Hoffman of Oak Ridge.

Teammates since elementary school, Bettencourt is effective inside as a forward/center, and Hoffman, a guard, has torched teams for three-plus seasons as a 3-point shooter and ballhandler.

Multi-sporting – The multi-sport star is a dying breed, but it’s not extinct. Isaiah Bailey was a 1,000-yard receiver for Jesuit, and now he scores on baseline moves and 3-point shots for the second-ranked and 18-1 Marauders. No. 4 Folsom has key contributors from football stars in guard Josiah Deguara and frontcourt players Cody Creason and Lukas Hendricks. No. 5 Cosumnes Oaks has four football players on the court, including Alex Van Dyke and L.J. Reed. No. 6 Del Oro has football standouts Trey Udoffia and Michael Moore on its team.

Size of the fight – Some of the area’s top floor leaders are 6-foot or smaller. Grant’s Donovan Brown is “our little big man,” coach Deonard Wilson said. Franklin’s captain is John Moscoso, a pass-first guard. Jesuit is sparked by co-captain Nick Hilton. Other standout gurds include Uchenna Iroegbu of Capital Christian, Jalen Coates of Burbank, Cole Taira of Kennedy, Leondre Lintz of Monterey Trail and Richard Reed of Laguna Creek.

Youth be served – Never has the region been so heavy on such promising young talent on the boys side (it’s been the norm for decades for girls).

No. 3 Sacramento starts all sophomores, including guards Tre Finch and Christian Terrell. The area’s leading large-school scorer is Folsom sophomore guard Jordan Ford (22.9 points). Sheldon, which has no upperclassman starters, is led by sophomore guard Devin Greene. Woodcreek junior guard Noah Blackwell is a three-year starter who said his best days are ahead as he gains experience.

“Players are growing up with skills, and they’re ready unlike never before,” Burbank coach Lindsey Ferrell said.

Unsung, yet appreciated – A collection of juniors who may soon draw attention as league races heat up: Pioneer wing Gabriel Torres (25.8 points); Liberty Ranch forward DeAndre Stallings (25.3), Cordova guard Jordan Roberson (19.5) and Pleasant Grove guard Johann Tate (19.1).

Follow The Bee’s Joe Davidson on Twitter @SacBee_JoeD.

Read more articles by Joe Davidson

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