Column: Star power in prep basketball: From Bronny James to Zaire Wade
NBA training camps are going full speed and college basketball teams are holding official practices, so don’t make fun of me for catching basketball fever in the middle of football season by spending most of Saturday watching a 16-team high school tournament at Cal State Los Angeles even though the season is more than a month away from an official start.
The Rolling Hills Prep Fall Classic had plenty of star power with Chatsworth Sierra Canyon, Santa Ana Mater Dei, Temecula Rancho Christian, Westchester, Studio City Harvard-Westlake, Torrance Bishop Montgomery and Windward participating.
Basketball is the new must-see sport in Southern California because players are moving here from other states and other countries to test themselves and be seen.
“It seems like talent wants to come to L.A. for exposure,” Brentwood coach Ryan Bailey said.
Fans are paying attention because so many celebrity kids are involved. Bronny James, the freshman son of LeBron James, plays for Sierra Canyon. Dwyane Wade was courtside in a VIP seat because his son, Zaire, also plays for Sierra Canyon. Freedom Rhames, the son of actor Ving Rhames, plays for Brentwood. Ashton Hardaway is a 6-6 freshman who plays for Torrance Bishop Montgomery and the son of Penny Hardaway. No one leaves home in L.A. without a camera because everyone wants to capture a TMZ moment, and going to a basketball game makes the chances a lot more likely.
There were more than a dozen people holding cameras stationed under the Sierra Canyon basket for a meaningless fall game on Saturday night. Two weeks ago, hundreds showed up to watch the Trailblazers in another game. They’re going to be a draw similar to the days of the Ball brothers at Chino Hills.
At halftime of Sierra Canyon’s game against Rolling Hills Prep, Dwyane Wade put his arm around Bronny JAmes, offering some words of encouragement. Bronny’s father was in the Bay Area playing in an exhibition game for the Lakers.
One of the best games was Windward knocking off Westchester 70-53. If Sierra Canyon slips up, the Wildcats are more than ready to challenge them. Four players scored in double figures, led by Devin Tillis with 23 points.
Point guard Devin Askew took a recruiting visit to Kentucky, so he missed Mater Dei’s 61-43 win over Santa Monica.
Among the players preparing for breakthrough seasons:
Remington Rofer, Los Angeles Loyola. He has grown to nearly 6-8 and is being compared to former Cubs standout Stone Gettings, now at Arizona. “He’s had a great fall,” coach Jamal Adams said.
Rofer, a junior, scored 10 of his team’s first 13 points against La Canada, culminating in a primal scream as if he were playing volleyball, which he grew up learning from his father, Brian, who was a longtime volleyball assistant coach at UCLA. Basketball, though, has taken over as Rofer’s priority.
“It’s my passion,” he said.
He finished with 27 points in a 65-47 victory over La Canada. He was only disappointed in that he didn’t to take a charging foul, something he tries to do every game. Who doesn’t want that kind of player on your team?
Peyton Watson, Long Beach Poly. Listed two years ago at 6-3 on the varsity roster as a freshman, Watson has grown to 6-7 as a junior and is on his way to becoming one of the best players ever for the Jackrabbits. “He’s grown into his body,” coach Shelton Diggs said.
As a sophomore, Watson was on a team of 12 seniors, giving him the opportunity to learn from veterans. His versatility and improving three-point range has elevated him into elite status and caused Arizona, USC and Washington to offer him scholarships.
Kyle Brown, La Canada. The 6-2 senior guard averaged less than 10 points a game last season. Coach Tom Hofman said he expects Brown to average more than 20 points this season, calling him “the best offensive player I’ve ever coached” in his 34 years. He scored 25 points against Loyola. He’s smart enough to be recruited by Caltech.
Wynton Brown, St. John Bosco. A 6-7 senior who rarely played last season, Brown has the athleticism to light up a gym. “He’s a really good athlete who has grown into his basketball skills,” coach Matt Dunn said. He had 13 points in a 60-51 victory over Long Beach Poly. He’s committed to Northern Arizona.
Mason Hooks, Harvard-Westlake. Headed to Princeton, the 6-9 Hooks looks indestructible as bodies bang off him. He has worked on hitting the open 15-foot shot to go along with his physical inside play. He’d be a terrific offensive tackle in football. He had 22 points and 20 rebounds in a 69-57 win over Ontario Colony.
Dylan Andrews, Windward. The sophomore is a charismatic point guard who has his coach, Colin Pfaff, excited about how good he’ll be over the next three seasons. “He takes the coaching, applies it and wants to win,” Pfaff said. He had 13 points in Windward’s win over Westchester.
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