“Welcome Freshmen” was a TV series on Nickelodeon from 1991 to 1993, and that’s an appropriate title for what’s happening this summer in high school basketball.
Talented freshmen are being put on the court at the varsity level and delivering.
Spencer Freedman of Santa Monica scored 31 and 25 points in his first two games last week. Brandon Williams, a guard from Encino Crespi, helped the Celts go unbeaten in their tournament. Jamal Hartwell, a point guard at Fairfax, caused Coach Harvey Kitani to say he has the same attributes as former Loyola point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright.
Mykell Irving, a 6-foot-4 forward, helped Chaminade win its own tournament title. D.J. McDonald, a guard, had the game-winning basket for Alemany against Calabasas. Austin Galuppo of West Ranch had 31 points in a summer game.
All are freshmen. And this week will be the unveiling of some more freshmen. At L.A. Windward, Coach Steve Smith has the 6-5 son of Shaquille O’Neal, Shareef O’Neal, who’s supposed to grow to 6-10. But the best freshman of all at Windward is 6-4 guard Jules Bernard. And he’ll be pushed by 6-3 guard Payton Moore and 6-1 guard Corey Silverman Lloyd.
Santa Margarita is expected to show off later this month 6-8 Race Parks, the son of former Huntington Beach Marina and Duke standout Cherokee Parks. Santa Ana Mater Dei played 6-7 Michael Wang, a freshman originally from China. Michael Feinberg, a guard at Chatsworth Sierra Canyon, will be playing in the Fairfax tournament in two weeks.
Many of the freshmen are ready to go, because they’ve faced lots of top competition in youth basketball and at camps. Others are surprisingly mature, because they repeated a grade.
More freshmen will be making their debuts, and the question is who will they be playing for. There’s Harrison Butler, the son of former Orange County standout Ricky Butler, and Caleb Christopher, the brother of former California guard Patrick Christopher.
Still unknown is whether Cassius Stanley, a top player who attends Sierra Canyon, intends to play this winter or repeat the eighth grade.
Holding back promising athletes has gained in popularity, particularly among basketball players.
CIF rules disqualify players who turn 19 before June 15, so parents better be careful on age restrictions.
Of course, there’s always prep school when age requirements become an obstacle.
It’s all part of an intriguing summer basketball scene, where players are coming and going and fans can’t wait to discuss the latest transfer rumors in the bleachers.
Several top returning players are expected to end up at new schools. Another top player is considering leaving Southern California for a prep school back east.
This week, there are tournaments at Westchester and Maranatha. Next week, Fairfax hosts its tournament loaded with top teams.