Column: Basketball’s future stars are already making a name for themselves this summer
You have to go back to the summers of 2014 and 2015 when Lonzo Ball was beginning to gain traction for Chino Hills while playing in the Fairfax tournament to understand how impressive 6-foot-8 junior Ziaire Williams of Sherman Oaks Notre Dame was earlier this week when he contributed 36 points, 10 rebounds and 10 blocked shots in a game against Santa Monica.
The Fairfax gym is beloved by scorers. Ball had a 45-point game in the summer of 2014, going against future Yale guard Alex Copeland of Studio City Harvard-Westlake. He had 23 points in the championship game going against future NBA second-round draft pick De’Anthony Melton of Encino Crespi in 2015. So there’s a bit of history involved in a gym that has seen many of Southern California’s best make an appearance.
Williams, 16, is a definite player to watch. Heavily recruited by Stanford, he could find himself getting a strong look from NBA scouts over the next two years, especially if the one-and-done rule is scrapped by 2020. He’s going to be that good. NBA scouts were already paying attention to him last month at the Pangos camp in Cerritos. Twenty-two NBA teams sent scouts to watch lots of quality young players.
“It’s crazy,” Williams said of the possible NBA scrutiny. “It’s something to think about.”
Notre Dame coach Matt Sargeant said he has relationships with people involved in the NBA and is “excited” for the interest in Williams. Of course, there’s much to be done before he can become a serious prospect. No. 1 is gaining strength, and he has already started working on his 175-pound frame. After his performance on Monday night, he went home to have a lifting session with his father.
There was another memorable performance this week at Fairfax. Benny Gealer, a freshman point guard for Rolling Hills Prep, made eight three-pointers and finished with 33 points in a win over Pasadena. He’s 15 years old and set to play for four years under coach Harvey Kitani.
“He gives me a lot of freedom,” Gealer said of his coach. “There’s no pressure, really.”
Santa Ana Mater Dei sophomore guard Devin Askew led his team into the championship game. He had 28 points on Friday against Temecula Rancho Christian.
Also playing this week at Fairfax was the expected No. 1 team in California, Chatsworth Sierra Canyon, led by Cassius Stanley, K.J. Martin and Terren Frank, who is a much improved junior. Coach Andre Chevalier got to focus on his current team instead of Bronny James rumors.
It was only a couple weeks ago, he said, he received 120 text messages on his phone after Gary Payton told a reporter that LeBron James’ eighth-grader son, Bronny, would be enrolling at Sierra Canyon. It was news to him and still hasn’t been confirmed. Sierra Canyon’s website had more than 24,000 visitors after the media report, according to a school official. The normal traffic is a couple thousand.
It’s going to be a summer of intrigue in high school basketball. Players are still moving around. Ryan Evans has moved from Santa Margarita to Santa Ana Mater Dei. Isaiah Johnson has gone from Irvine Crean Lutheran to Torrance Bishop Montgomery. Dominic Winbush has left L.A. Crenshaw for Woodland Hills Taft. Stay tuned.
Get ready for football: Fans of high school football will get to see many of the top skill-position players in Southern California at Huntington Beach Edison’s seven-on-seven passing tournament on Saturday.
Mater Dei, Bellflower St. John Bosco, Corona Centennial, Gardena Serra, Harbor City Narbonne, San Bernardino Cajon, Orange Lutheran and Mission Viejo lead the 20-team field.
The list of top quarterbacks is impressive: D.J. Uiagalelei, Bryce Young, Jayden Daniels, Ryan Hilinski, Joey Yellen, Doug Brumfield and Jake Garcia. Action starts at 9 a.m. There’s no tackling, no blocking and no pads. But you get to see plenty of fancy canopies and get to hear lots of parents predicting greatness.
L.A. hero: Brooklyn Nets guard Allen Crabbe has always been considered a hero to those at his alma mater, tiny Price Christian School in South L.A. So it comes as no surprise that with the school in jeopardy of closing, he wrote a reported six-figure donation to keep the more than 175-student body in session.
“I was at that school practically my whole life,” he told TMZ Sports. “I’m just happy and feel blessed to be in a position now to do this.”
6-8 sophomore gets 36 points, 10 rebounds, 10 blocks
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