For pure basketball entertainment, it was a first quarter reminiscent of the Chino Hills days with the Ball brothers.
Joshua Christopher, a 6-foot-4 sophomore guard at Lakewood Mayfair, delivered three dunks and three NBA-length three-point baskets during an eight-minute flurry against Norwalk Glenn in which he also threw a pass off the backboard to assist a teammate for a dunk.
“Being an entertainer is part of my character,” Christopher says. “I can’t let anything change me, whether it’s basketball or school. I have to be myself.”
This was supposed to be the season in which LaMelo Ball (Chino Hills), Marvin Bagley III (Chatsworth Sierra Canyon) and Bol Bol (Santa Ana Mater Dei) would be packing gymnasiums in Southern California. Instead, Ball is going to Lithuania to play professionally, Bagley is a freshman star at Duke and Bol moved to Nevada.
The good news is that Christopher leads a talented group of sophomores who should provide plenty of entertainment through the 2019-20 season.
Among the standouts: 6-7 Johnny Juzang of Studio City Harvard-Westlake; guards Jaylen Clark and D.J. Davis of Corona Centennial; 6-9 Evan Mobley of Temecula Rancho Christian; guards Lamont Butler of Riverside Poly and Clark Slajchert of Oak Park; forward Terren Frank of Chatsworth Sierra Canyon; 6-9 center Mason Hooks of Harvard-Westlake; and 6-7 wing Ziaire Williams of Sherman Oaks Notre Dame.
Christopher, though, is the one who fans should get most excited about. He’s the youngest of four basketball-playing siblings. Sister Paris, 31, is 5-11 and played at Mayfair and St. Mary’s. Patrick, 28, starred alongside Brandon Jennings in his senior year at Compton Dominguez and was an All-Pac-12 guard at Cal. Caleb, 18, is a 6-0 senior guard at Mayfair (9-2) who recently scored 36 points against Dominguez.
But baby brother is on a path to brilliance. In a year’s time, he has grown much stronger and more explosive even though he doesn’t lift weights. Maturity and spending hours working out with Patrick have helped produce a 10-game stretch in which he averaged 28.3 points. He made all 14 of his free throws in a game last week. He scored 43 points against Aliso Niguel. And don’t forget about the one-handed tomahawk dunks he delivers for cheering fans.
“Ever since I was a baby,” he says, “the ball’s been around me.”
His legs are as thick as tree stumps. He has the physicality to mix it up inside but the range to fire away from beyond the three-point arc.
When he was in fourth grade, he played against sixth-graders. That’s what having older brothers does for you. “That took my game to another level,” he says.
He’s both humble and confident. If a fan wants to talk to him, he’ll comfortably look up and chatter away right before tipoff. People want to be around him. “I like to get the fans involved,” he says. “I like to play in front of a lot of people.”
Says Mayfair coach Tony Davis: “He has a personality and it’s not a negative and not forced. It’s natural, outgoing.”
His father, Laron, is a musician who has traveled the world and left his children with a singular idea. “I preached fun,” Laron says.
He also had a rule.
“You can’t live in my house,” he says, “unless you bounce a ball.”
Says Joshua: “My dad has always been that guy who would look at me and wouldn’t be that person who’d give me a bunch of advice.All he would tell me is it’s just basketball. You know what you need to do. He just lets me play ball.”