With two months left in the high school basketball season, it's a good time to present 10 players who have thrust themselves into the conversation to succeed Stanley Johnson from Santa Ana Mater Dei as the most valuable player in Southern California basketball.
The requirements to be considered: You have to play top competition. You have to lead your team to championship contention. You have to contribute in multiple ways.
Drum roll, please:
Lonzo Ball, Chino Hills. When it comes to producing excitement in a variety of ways, Ball is in a class by himself. The junior committed to UCLA does magical things with the ball. He's unselfish and unyielding in trying to get his team a victory.
Stephen Thompson Jr., Torrance Bishop Montgomery. Whatever his team needs him to do — pass, score, defend — Thompson has been delivering for the 19-1 Knights. "He's been so consistent," Coach Doug Mitchell said. "I don't think anybody is playing better."
Headed to Oregon State, Thompson is part of an outstanding group of guards in Southern California who always seem to take charge when the game is on the line in the fourth quarter.
Sedrick Barefield, Corona Centennial. The Southern Methodist-bound Barefield keeps coming through against anybody and everybody. He first focuses on helping teammates, and when they call upon him, he's ready. His offensive capability is vastly improved along with his court leadership.
Rex Pflueger, Mater Dei. Asked to step up his game as a rebounder and clutch contributor, the Notre Dame-bound Pflueger has embraced his new role with vigor and success. "Rex is playing great," Coach Gary McKnight said.
Lindsey Drew, Fairfax. Point guards are like quarterbacks. You judge them by how well their team is performing, and Drew has helped the Lions to a 19-0 start. It seems as if on a weekly basis he improves and contributes with assists, rebounds, blocked shots and consistent scoring.
Jeremy Hemsley, La Verne Damien. A 33-point performance in a win over Chino Hills on Wednesday night that lifted the Spartans to a 16-2 record provides a clue to Hemsley's contributions. Headed to San Diego State, he's calm, cool and knows when to take charge.
Bennie Boatwright, Sun Valley Village Christian. With games of 50 and 41 points this season, the 6-foot-10 USC-bound senior has stamped himself as the best offensive big man in Southern California. He has made major progress as a rebounder and it's easy to project him one day playing in the NBA.
Tyler Dorsey, Pasadena Maranatha. The competition has been tough, but Dorsey is averaging 32.3 points and put together a stretch of games in which he scored 40, 41, 36, 44 and 42 points. The Minutemen are still very much alive for a section title despite a 7-8 record.
Cody Riley, Sierra Canyon. The 6-8 sophomore picks his spots and keeps working on his outside shot while providing some devastating inside play as a rebounder, shot blocker and scorer for the 13-1 Trailblazers.
Dikymbe Martin, Riverside North. He has led North to a 17-1 record, averaging 19.1 points while distributing the ball and making big shots and good decisions. Only a junior, he's a point guard to gush over.