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Eric Sondheimer has been covering high school sports for the Los Angeles Times since 1997 and in Southern California since 1976. Get his latest from the field and follow all our prep sports coverage and analysis here.


LaMelo Ball is turning 16 on Tuesday

LaMelo Ball, left, posing after a Chino Hills game last season. (Eric Sondheimer)
LaMelo Ball, left, posing after a Chino Hills game last season. (Eric Sondheimer)

LaMelo Ball turns 16 on Tuesday.

With 201,000 Twitter followers and 2.4 million Instragam followers, he’s more than just a high school basketball player at Chino Hills. He’s a social media star.

Like him or despise him, everyone seems to have an opinion about him. He also happens to have a brother playing at UCLA, another brother playing for the Lakers and a father named LaVar known for speaking his mind.

LaMelo is a pretty good basketball player who’s committed to UCLA. He started for a state championship team as a 5-foot-10 freshman. He scored 92 points in a single game last season as a 6-2 sophomore.

He has grown to 6-5 and should be dunking for the first time this coming season.

“Oh yeah, he’s dunking,” new Chino Hills Coach Dennis Latimore said.

And LaMelo knows how to entertain.

He has to work harder on defense, and that will be something many will be focusing on to gauge his improvement.

“When you’re leaking guys, some call it cherry-picking. I say keep doing it if the other team isn’t stopping it,” Latimore said. “From what I’ve seen, he’s pretty scrappy. We can all improve on defense.”

The good news is that LaMelo is a “true” junior, with lots more physical growth to come. Mentally, he’s as strong as they come. He can shoot from anywhere, can pass with precision, is unselfish and embraces the attention he receives.

The big surprise from the workouts Latimore has conducted over the summer is LaMelo's cousin, Andre Ball, who will be a senior and has been slowed down by injuries the last two seasons.

“Of all the guys, I’ve been most impressed with Andre,” Latimore said. “He’s long, he’s 6-7 with a 6-10 wingspan. He can dribble, shoot it and has a great attitude. I think if he stays healthy, he’s going to be one of the most surprising players in California basketball.”

There's also going to be an emphasis on getting the ball inside to 6-9 junior Onyeka Okongwu.

So get ready for another year of entertaining Chino Hills basketball. It will be the third coach in three years, but the Huskies plan to run and gun, and with LaMelo and Onyeka leading the charge, beware.


Southern Section releases girls' volleyball teams to watch

The Southern Section has released its list of teams to watch in girls' volleyball.

In Division 1, Corona del Mar, Mater Dei, Maryrmount, Santa Margarita and Mira Costa lead the list.

Here's the link to complete breakdown of teams to watch.

Get Eric Sondheimer's latest updates from the field


Mater Dei tops first Division 1 coaches' poll in football

Mater Dei has been given the No. 1 spot in the first Southern Section Division 1 football coaches' poll.

St. John Bosco is No. 2 and Corona Centennial is No. 3.

In Division 2, Edison is ranked No. 1. In Division 3, Sierra Canyon is No. 1. In Division 4, Roosevelt is No. 1. In Division 5, Paraclete is No. 1.

Here's the link to complete rankings.


Narbonne coach Manuel Douglas is not happy with Utah after Troy Williams becomes backup

Football recruiters for Utah won't be getting a warm welcome when they try to visit the Narbonne campus.

"We'll look at them skeptically," coach Manuel Douglas said Monday after news came out that Utah has demoted former Narbonne quarterback Troy Williams from starter to backup. Utah named sophomore Tyler Huntley as the starter.

Williams, a senior, started all 13 games for Utah last season and directed the team to wins over USC and UCLA. Douglas said Williams has already graduated and could have transferred to another school but stayed.

"They should have let him know and been more upfront," Douglas said. "I'm very disappointed."

Williams is a captain for the team this season. He arrived last year from Santa Monica College. Utah has a new offensive coordinator this season.


Southern Section basketball playoff divisions to be released on Sept. 29

The Southern Section is scheduled to release its basketball playoff divisions for the 2017-18 season on Sept. 29.

There also could be changes in how the Open Division is run.

There's a movement to reduce the Open Division from 16 teams to eight in boys and girls, according to Commissioner Rob Wigod.

It will be up to the basketball advisory committee to make a recommendation.

If the bracket is reduced, the eight Open Division teams would be guaranteed state playoff berths and it would likely strengthen the competitiveness of the Division 1 playoffs.

The Open Division is made up of the best teams in the Southern Section at the end of the regular season.


High school football season begins with intriguing City vs. Southern Section matchups

Jared Greenfield, left, and Rayshawn Williams of Crenshaw. (Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)
Jared Greenfield, left, and Rayshawn Williams of Crenshaw. (Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

High school football is back, and this week's opening games on Thursday have plenty of intriguing matchups involving City Section vs. Southern Section.

For Thursday, start with Calabasas facing Dorsey at Agoura. Calabasas has its usual group of transfer students to help out as the program moves up to Southern Section Division 2. Dorsey, hoping to challenge Narbonne in the City's new Open Division, returns running back Charles Mincy Jr.

There are other quality City vs. Southern Section matchups. On Thursday, Crenshaw is playing South Hills at Covina District Field. On Friday, Narbonne is hosting Gardena Serra. Both are ranked in The Times' preseason top-25 rankings. Also on Friday: Alemany at San Fernando; St. Paul at Venice; El Camino Real vs. St. Bonaventure at Ventura College; Birmingham at Harvard-Westlake; Garfield at Montebello; Crespi at Sylmar.

On Friday, No. 1 St. John Bosco is in Florida playing St. Thomas Aquinas on ESPNU. No. 2 Santa Ana Mater Dei travels to Bishop Amat.

Other competitive openers: JSerra vs. Corona del Mar at Newport Harbor; Long Beach Poly vs. Los Alamitos at Veterans Stadium; Edison at Tesoro; Servite at Norco; La Habra at Upland; Sierra Canyon at Westlake; Oaks Christian at Chaminade.


Three Harvard-Westlake players help USA Water Polo cadet team win gold at tournament in Serbia

George Avakian, Nolan Krutonog and Nico Tierney, expected to be top sophomore water polo players at Harvard-Westlake this fall, helped the U.S. men's cadet national team win the gold medal at the Darko Cukic Memorial tournament in Belgrade, Serbia, with a 9-6 win over Croatia.

It's an historic win for a U.S. team in an international tournament.

Avakian led all scorers with three goals. Krutonog, the goalie, turned away 17 shots.

Avakian played at La Cañada last season but is in the process of transferring to Harvard-Westlake.

The team is filled with Southern California products. Here's the link to the overall cadet roster.


Mission Viejo, St. Margaret's, Villa Park win football openers in Hawaii

It was an Orange County sweep in football openers in Hawaii this weekend.

Mission Viejo completed the sweep with a 39-14 win over Baldwin on Saturday night in Maui.

Joey Yellen, a junior quarterback who transferred from St. John Bosco, made an impressive debut, throwing touchdown passes to Austin Osborne, Olaijah Griffin and Elijah Collier.

Jamari Ferrell rushed for more than 100 yards for the Diablos, who opened a 39-0 lead.

Also on Saturday, St. Margaret's defeated Kealakehe, 34-14.

On Friday, Villa Park defeated Honolulu Damien, 14-6.



Sherman Oaks Notre Dame shows off running game

Despite two offensive line starters being held out because of injuries, Sherman Oaks Notre Dame showed off a promising rushing attack on Friday night in a scrimmage against St. Bonaventure.

Junior running back McKel Broussard ran hard and gave every indication he has the ability to be a productive back for the Knights. Quarterback Noah Taylor, a standout on the baseball team, also has running skills. Cameron Jones, a receiver, had a touchdown on a fly sweep.

St. Bonaventure was making its debut under first-year coach Tony Henney, who had success during his days at Nordhoff, Trabuco Hills and Westlake. The Seraphs are in a rebuilding mode after player defections following uncertainty about who their coach would be.

Under new Southern Section playoff divisions, it's important to win games in the nonleague season to be able to make it to the playoffs, so Notre Dame will be trying to go 4-0 before entering the Mission League. The Knights open against Santa Maria St. Joseph at home on Friday, followed by games against Birmingham, Leuzinger and San Fernando.

St. Bonaventure hosts El Camino Real at Ventura College on Friday, followed by games against Lawndale, St. Joseph, Argonaut, Hart and Paraclete.


Fairfax is thrilled with its new quarterback, junior Scott Harris

Fairfax unveiled its new quarterback on Thursday in a scrimmage against Birmingham. Junior Scott Harris is a transfer from Sherman Oaks Notre Dame who played junior varsity last season.

"He's good," Birmingham coach Jim Rose said.

Fairfax coach Shane Cox is even more impressed.

"He's a great passer, a great runner," Cox said. "We're extremely happy to have him."

Fairfax will be part of an extremely competitive Western League this season. From top to bottom, there won't be any easy games, and picking a league champion will be no easy task.

It must be tough to be a quarterback at Notre Dame because another former Knight passer, Erik Zimmerman, is in contention to start at Corona del Mar this season.


T.J. who? Chaminade is just fine with running back Andrew Van Buren

T.J. Pledger was supposed to be one of the top running backs in California at Chaminade this season. Then he moved to Florida to attend IMG Academy. Don't feel sorry for the Eagles, because his backup, Andrew Van Buren, is quite a player.

Van Buren, committed to Boise State, had three touchdown runs on Thursday night in a scrimmage against City Section power Narbonne in which the Eagles pretty much ran at-will when using their power pitch offense. The Eagles opened a 35-17 lead early in the third quarter.

Chaminade's offensive line is outstanding, led by Dylan Kellogg, and starting next week against Oaks Christian, opponents had better be ready for the Eagles' short-yardage offense.

Quarterbacks Ryan Stevens and Mac Griffin were also efficient and effective. Stevens had a TD pass to Nick Crespo.

Narbonne was successful when quarterback Jalen Chatman was able to get tempo going on offense. He had a 65-yard touchdown pass to Noah Jackson and another short TD pass. He was intercepted by Dallas Taylor-Cortez and Blake Antzoulatos.

Narbonne held out running back Jermar Jefferson, who was nursing a knee bruise. The Gauchos open next week at home against Gardena Serra.

Edgar Ramos made a 38-yard field goal for Narbonne. Jonah Lipel was booming kickoffs into the end zone for Chaminade.



Thousand Oaks, Westlake win Southern Section appeals on football placement

The Southern Section Executive Committee voted Thursday to uphold the appeals of Thousand Oaks and Westlake over their new football league placement for next season.

The successful appeals means the Northern Area must go back to the drawing board and try to figure out an acceptable plan for new leagues.

"There was no definable criteria used in establishing those leagues," Thousand Oaks Coach Mike Leibin said.

Agoura also appealed but was rejected.

An appeal by Laguna Beach was rejected. Laguna Hills won its appeal for all sports and its area must meet again to decide league placement.


Matt Sorensen is new baseball coach at Golden Valley

Golden Valley announced the hiring of Matt Sorensen as its new baseball coach.

Sorensen starred at Cal State Fullerton, where he pitched in the 1999 College World Series.

He's a former Brea Olinda head coach.


Giancarlo Stanton's high school coach, Tom Dill, is pretty excited

Giancarlo Stanton (right) and Hunter Greene in a 2016 photo at Sherman Oaks Notre Dame. (Eric Sondheimer)
Giancarlo Stanton (right) and Hunter Greene in a 2016 photo at Sherman Oaks Notre Dame. (Eric Sondheimer)

With every home run Giancarlo Stanton hits for the Miami Marlins (he's up to 44), Sherman Oaks Notre Dame Coach Tom Dill gets more excited.

"Unbelievable," he said.

Dill was Stanton's baseball coach at Notre Dame. Kevin Rooney coached him in football and Bill Bedgood coached him in basketball. Stanton, 27, was All-CIF in each sport.

The moon shots coming from his bat have a whole nation of baseball fans offering admiration.

Dill, though, is the one who still talks with Stanton frequently by phone. There's a life-size poster of Stanton in the Notre Dame baseball clubhouse.

"It's pretty cool," Dill said of seeing Stanton hit home runs in six consecutive games.

Fans in the San Fernando Valley and the 818 area code have long known that Stanton is one of the greatest athletes to come out of the area. Now many others are getting to understand his immense power and skills.


19 Banning players are suspended for opener because of 2016 altercation

The punishment for players who left the bench during an altercation involving Banning and El Camino Real in the playoffs at the end of last football season will hit the Pilots hard.

Banning will be without 19 returning players for its season opener on Aug. 25 against North Torrance. They must serve one-game suspensions, City Section Commissioner John Aguirre said Tuesday. Aguirre said Banning has enough players to field a team for the game, despite the suspensions.

Three other former Banning players who transferred to Carson are also facing one-game suspensions. A fourth former Banning player now at Carson has a 30-day suspension for participating in the altercation. It began on Aug. 7, the first day of practice in full pads. He'll end up missing two games.

Aguirre said he reviewed film of the incident last week. El Camino Real previously punished its players last season, holding them out of a playoff game.


JSerra looks to thrive under Coach Pat Harlow

For years, Pat Harlow was one of the most respected assistant coaches. The former USC and NFL offensive lineman was considered a great line coach.

Now he's the head coach at JSerra in his first season. Get ready for the Lions to thrive.

These are exciting times for Harlow, whose son, Sean, is trying to earn a starting spot with the Atlanta Falcons on their line. His youngest son, Jack, is a 6-foot-2, 280-pound junior at JSerra.

There's lots of talent at JSerra, which returns 13 starters.

Quarterback Matt Robinson already has demonstrated his ability. He's twice been selected first-team all-Trinity League. He can run, pass and lead.

Shawn Nielsen, whose father, Ron, played at UCLA, is an improving lineman and will team with returnee Jack Bolduc, another lineman.

The addition of the McClain brothers — Abdul-Malik and Munir — from Santa Margarita, adds to the talent.

JSerra has a challenging schedule with nonleague games against Corona del Mar, Alemany, Bishop Amat, Vista Murrieta and Los Alamitos before entering the powerful Trinity League schedule.

JSerra is also going to play home games for the first time on campus.

In Harlow, JSerra thinks it has a leader around whom it can rally.




With Makani Whiteside now at Taft, City Section is loaded with top guards

With junior guard Makani Whiteside transferring from St. John Bosco to Taft, the City Section is suddenly loaded with top guards for the 2017-18 basketball season.

Taft now has Kihei Clark, a senior who's committed to UC Davis, and sophomore Demetrius Calip. The 6-foot-3 Whiteside, an outstanding student, averaged 14.3 points as a sophomore.

Fairfax is the City title favorite with the return of guards Jamal Hartwell and Ethan Anderson. Westchester also has a pair of outstanding guards in Jordan Brinson and Jeremiah Turley.

Birmingham returns All-City guard Devonaire Doutrive.


Marvin Bagley III says he will reclassify and attend Duke

Marvin Bagley III is already used to cameras and attention after playing in Drew League this summer (Eric Sondheimer)
Marvin Bagley III is already used to cameras and attention after playing in Drew League this summer (Eric Sondheimer)

Marvin Bagley III, considered the No. 1 high school basketball player in America for the class of 2018, announced Monday night that he is done with prep basketball. He will reclassify and attend Duke.

Bagley, a 6-foot-11 forward who's 18 years old, played for Chatsworth Sierra Canyon last season as a junior, averaging 24.6 points and 10.1 rebounds. There was speculation all summer that he would not return to Sierra Canyon and would seek to take his talent to the college or professional level. He finally made his announcement live on ESPN's SportsCenter and was down to Duke, UCLA and USC.

He said since Duke offered him a scholarship as a ninth grader, he had been interested in the school.

"I really trust the coaching staff over there," Bagley said. "They told me if i went there, it would go smooth and get me better. I'm very happy with my decision."

By completing his high school credits and joining a college team now, it means Bagley will be eligible for the 2018 NBA draft and put him into position to be a candidate for the No. 1 spot.

Bagley has spent the summer playing in the Drew League in Los Angeles against pros and ex-pros. Drew League chief financial officer Mike McCaa said, "In 44 years, he's had the most impact of any high school player I've witnessed."

Here's the news release on Tuesday from Duke basketball confirming Bagley had signed a financial aid agreement.

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