Baron Davis’ challenge: Choose greatest L.A. high school basketball players

Marques Johnson
Former Crenshaw High and UCLA standout Marques Johnson during his Clippers days.
(Brian Drake, NBAE / Getty Images)

Baron Davis sent out the challenge on Twitter.

“Top 20 LA high school hoopers you have seen ... Go!”

I’ve covered high school sports in Los Angeles since 1976, so this was a challenge that required time to think about. So many great players but had to stick with the criteria “you have seen.”

So here’s my list:

John Williams, Crenshaw. Too big, too strong and a man among boys during his high school days in the 1980s.

Marques Johnson, Crenshaw. Everyone’s favorite high school player in Los Angeles during the 1970s. He helped launch the Crenshaw domination and went on to UCLA and the NBA.

Gilbert Arenas, Grant. There was never a shot Arenas didn’t want to take as an offensive whiz in the San Fernando Valley.

Don MacLean, Simi Valley. Always confident and cocky, MacLean could back it up with an offensive repertoire in the 1980s that led to him becoming the all-time leading scorer in Pac-12 history during his UCLA days.

Baron Davis, Crossroads. He put the small Santa Monica school on the map and kept getting better at each level as a premier point guard.

Trevor Ariza, Westchester. When a commentator during the 2003 City championship game said, “I’d pay Trevor Ariza to shoot threes,” he probably didn’t realize Ariza would develop into a legitimate NBA three-point shooter.


Chris Mills, Fairfax. Few players were as versatile as Mills, who could play guard, forward or center.

Jordan Farmar, Taft. One of the smartest point guards who had the athleticism, work ethic and confidence to take on any and all competitors.

Jason and Jarron Collins, Harvard-Westlake. Two tall, talented twin brothers who graduated from Stanford, made it to the NBA and always exuded class.

Tyson Chandler, Compton Dominguez. Will never forget his “60 Minutes” profile.

Nick Young, Reseda Cleveland. He overcame so much to get to USC, then the NBA. Always a friendly, nice kid with lots of talent and caused many to believe in him with his smile and personality.

Brandon Jennings, Dominguez. A point guard extraordinaire. Left Southern California to try the prep school rout but was a legend here.

Stevie Thompson, Crenshaw. Instant points and part of the Crenshaw craze of the 1980s.

Tayshaun Prince, Dominguez. Really developed into a great player at Kentucky and the NBA.

Dwayne Polee, Manual Arts. Turned in the greatest individual performance in a City championship game, scoring 43 points in the 1981 final.

Toby Bailey, Loyola. He flew through the air and was the best 6-foot-6 swingman of his era.

Paul George, Knight. Only time I saw him was in the Valley all-star game, when he was firing up threes and making them and I was asking myself, “Who is this guy?”


Ed O’Bannon, Artesia. Lived up to all the expectations and hype.

Russell Westbrook, Leuzinger. Saw him before anyone envisioned him as an NBA All-Star. He had so much athleticism and upside and all he wanted was a chance. UCLA gave it to him and the rest is history.

Darren Daye, Granada Hills Kennedy. I’m adding a 21st because I forgot about Daye, who was versatile, played defense, could shoot and was one of the great high school players from the late 1970s.