SoCalHoops High School News
High School Team Preview:
Mater Dei (Santa Ana)--(Nov. 3, 2000)
Ok, so the HoopsTV guys are borrowing our tried and tested formula for high school previews (a formula which, if the truth be told, Mike Miller at the old WestCoastHoops helped perfect), but since those guys back east rarely have quite the same feel we do for the SoCal players, we couldn't let another year go by without doing our own profile and preview of a team which many consider this season will be not just one of the best teams in SoCal, but possibly one of the top teams in the country.
As we've said in our other recent previews, we're not going to focus on coaches' bios this year, for a variety of reasons. But we will note that while Monarchs' head coach Gary McKnight is not without his critics, he is unquestionably one of the most successful coaches around. If you want to access the biographical information we've got for him here at SoCalHoops, you can check our past previews of Mater Dei from 99-00, and 98-99, or just type his name into the SoCalHoops search tool (lower left of the navigation bar). Now on to the team:
Mater Dei Monarchs
It really doesn't bear repeating, but we'll say it anyway even though it is already obvious to everyone who follows high school basketball, both locally and nationally: Mater Dei has been one of the most consistently successful programs in the country for close to twenty years now. They've won 3 State Titles (87, 90, 95) and will be looking for a 4th this year. Since 1983, they've won an unprecedented 14 Southern Section Championships (83, 85, 86, 87, 88, 90, 92, 93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 99 and 00), and 18 league championships (83 through 87, and 89-00, missing out only in 1988. And this Monarch team, like others before it, has it's share of "premier" players. This Monarch team has two D-I commits already, both to Pac-10 schools--Jamal Sampson (6'-11" Sr. C) to Cal Berkeley and Cedric Bozeman (6'-5" Sr. G/F) to UCLA-- and they've got a few more D-I level guys on the roster as well, who will all likely sign in the spring (more about all of the players below), and at least four other underclassmen who all have, well, more than just a chance at being D-I recruits, most notable among them Harrison Schaen (6'-8" So. PF). Mater Dei traditionally plays a "big time" schedule, and will do so again this season, hitting some of the highest of the high-profile tournaments which attract college coaches and scouts from around the country, as well as at least three "showcase" events during the regular season (the adidas LB Poly-Double MLK Pump Hoop Challenge, the Nike MLK Dream Classic, and the Nike Extravaganza, in which the Mater Dei games will be among the main, featured events.
Moving Up from JV:
And as most everyone knows, the Monarchs are the defending CIF Southern Section I-A Champions. Just about every pundit with an opinion or a website has "ranked" this season's team in their pre-season polls or ratings as among the top 5 teams in the country , and most of those polls we've seen have Mater Dei positioned as the No. 2 team in the country only behind Oak Hill Academy, another high-profile Nike-sponsored team from Mouth of Wilson, Virginia, which again seems to be everyone's favorite this year.
And while it's not a big point, but one which bears a mention, FoxSports has the record at 34-3, while HoopsTV has it 34-2, and as it turns out FoxSports is wrong on this one. The record was actually 34-2 because one of their losses, to Northwest Christian was in fact ruled a win by forfeit because NW used an ineligible player. It's not a big deal, but for the sake of accuracy, here's how it worked out last year: Going into the playoffs Mater Dei was 26-2 --if you count the NW game as a loss, 27-1 with the "win", (6-0 in league), the only other loss was to Concord De La Salle (a 51-55 loss at the Nike Extravaganza). In the Southern Section D-IA playoffs, Mater Dei won 5 more games, including the section championship. In the State Regional playoffs, they beat Crenshaw in the first round, Westchester in the semis and lost to Clovis West 71-64. Final Record: 34-2. Again, not a big deal, but at least it's accurate, and we want to thank Ben Bolch of the LA Times for taking us to task on our original faulty addition (we had it at 35-3 ourselves). . . . meaning, you must always trust those Times guys, spend the money and buy the paper (if I was GW I'd be saying "subliminable" [sic]:^). . . . The complete record from last season is below in case you want to add it yourself.
What's different this year? Gone from last year's team are a number of guys who everyone thought might be here to help this year, including two who left in mid-season, the Soderberg brothers, Lance (6'-8" Jr. SF) and Erik (6'-10" Sr. PF) both of whom transferred to Corona Centennial. Also gone is their dad Mark, who was an assistant at Mater Dei for three seasons. Patrick Hadden (6'-1" Jr. PG), one of the better point guards in the current junior class left for Woodbridge at the end of the year, and James Webster (6'-3" Jr. G), a tough defensive enforcer who got a lot of time last season also transferred out. The biggest hit though was the loss of starting two-guard, Steve Scoggin who is at UNLV, and the Monarchs will miss his 14 ppg average. Chris McGuigan another tough defender with a decent shot also graduated, and while he wasn't much of an impact player last year due to injuries, he was always tough. Geoff McKnight and Nick Farano also graduated. And frankly, we didn't see Matt Leinart listed on the roster, so we assume he's just not going to play this season. We don't follow Mater Dei football, but we understand that he likes to throw the hand-spheroid a bit. :^).
Who returns: Seven players in total, and with them, the heart of the Mater Dei offensive lineup. Starters will likely include Jamal Sampson, Cedric Bozeman, Harrison Schaen, and maybe Mike Strawberry or Ricky Porter, but from there, who the fifth starter is (assuming that it's not all five of the guys just listed) is really anyone's guess right now, and there are a number of others who could, and likely will start at various times during the year, including among the returnees Brian Baker. Potential starters also include all three transfer players, Travante Nelson and Wesley Washington (who both played on SCA's AAU 12-U, 13-U, and 14-U three-time national championship teams along with Harrison Schaen), and Shaun Michel, who transferred from D-IA rival and playoff nemesis, Simi Valley.
Among the returning starters, if Sampson can stay healthy (he was plagued with injuries and a bout of mononucleosis last season, which had him missing about half of the games), he has the potential to be a McDonald's All-American selection, probably along with Cedric Bozeman if he too can stay injury free. Even missing half the games last year, Sampson was selected All-Southern Section (2nd team) and Jamal averaged 16 ppg and 10 boards, impressive numbers. Many also forget that Sampson wasn't always at Mater Dei: He transferred there after being a rarely used 6'-9" freshman on LA Westchester's 1997-98 State Championship team, which had Tony Bland (Syracuse/SDSU), Brandon Granville (USC), Albert Miller (Irvine), David Bluthenthal (USC), and Chris Osborne (ASU-signee)--those were the starters. . .the subs included CJ Williams, Eric Knight and Lou Wright (Memphis-signee). As a soph at Mater Dei, Sampson had to work his way into the Mater Dei rotation, and last season, as we said, he had illness and injury problems. But when he's good, he's really good, a spectacular shot-blocker, and for a guy his size, he's a surprisingly good shooter away from the basket, and he's got incredibly long arms, with a great touch around the rim. Oh, did we mention that he's Ralph Sampson's nephew? Yes, he comes by his skills and his height honestly. And even though he's probably played a lot less in high school than most other guys who will wind up signing at the D-I level this fall, he's got true NBA-potential, which if anyone can help develop, Cal head coach Ben Braun certainly will, along with some help from Jon Wheeler, Cal's big-man assistant coach.
Cedric Bozeman is one of those guys who really defies positioning: He can play the one, has a good enough shot to be a two, and can slash to the basket and play like a true three. Many expect that he'll wind up playing the point next year at UCLA after Earl Watson leaves, and he just might. Cedric averaged 14 ppg and 5.3 rpg and will be looking to have a truly remarkable senior season. How he will top last season, when he was selected as the Southern Section Division I-A Player of the Year, and was an All-State Selection as well, will be hard, but with that elusive State Championship, that would probably do it. He has great height, can run the floor and make spectacular passes, and he has a good shot from the perimeter.
Among the other seniors on the team, there are at least four who could start at any given moment at either the one or the two: Shaun Michel transferred in from Simi Valley after a tumultuous junior season, but he played all summer with Mater Dei, did well and seems to be very happy and productive, and he could be a big impact player this season. He's a big, strong point guard, with excellent skills, is one of the better defenders around, and he's vastly improved his game from the time two years ago when Simi lost to Mater Dei at the Bren Center in one of the worst games we've seen any two teams play. . . .Brian Baker is another solid, tough combo guard, who played club ball with Belmont Shore this summer and fall, and while he is probably more of a true point, he's also a good enough shot that he could play the two as well. He was getting some early recruiting attention this summer from schools like LMU but will likely wait until spring before deciding on a college. Ricky Porter is also a solid ball-handler with a good shot, and after averaging 8 ppg and 2 rpg, the big question is whether he can step in to replace Scoggin's missing points and defense. Rumor has it that he and Jamal are such close friends that Ricky is going to attend Cal and intends to walk-on to the team. Travis Gabler is another senior on this team who shouldn't be overlooked, and he averaged 4 ppg and 1.7 rpg as a spot player, but he will be expected to make bigger contributions this season.
About sophomore Harrison Schaen, Gary McKnight said it last year, and it's still true today: "Harrison could be the best player I've ever coached, ever seen at Mater Dei. By the time he leaves, he'll be All-CIF, All-State, and a huge recruit for the colleges.He's got the best hands of any big man I've coached. He runs, he's tall, and he's smart." Harrison is one of those guys who we've been following since he grade school, and this past spring with BWBA and in the summer with Belmont Shore he really took off, has gotten stronger, bigger, quicker and may be the most talented of the three sophs on this team, although Wesley Washington, a transfer from Fontana might just be a more versatile guard, and Wesley is certainly one of the top players in the country as well. Harrison can dunk, runs very well, is a great shot blocker, and has been rated by most who have seen him as one of the best prospects in the country in his class. Again, we'll repeat the quote that McKnight gave us last season (borrowed by HTV, so we don't feel to bad about linking to their videos either): "Harrison has a chance to be the best player we've ever had at Mater Dei. Period." McKnight said. Travonte Nelson, one of the other transfer guards, who was 1/3 of the "Fab Frosh" last year at Fontana (only Trayvon Williams remains at Fontana) along with Washington, is a quick ball-handler with good passing skills, built low and solid, but on this team he may be pushing for playing time. . . .we'll see how things work out, but this is going to be a very competitive, very crowded bench, with at least 10 guys with a realistic shot of playing some solid minutes.
|Strawberry contests a shot|
Mike Strawberry (who is the nephew of Darryll) is one of those who, on the depth chart, is likely to start as well, and over the summer he seems to have finally come to grips with the fact that he won't be a post player, and he's adjusted well to the wing, where he's a tenacious defender and can score by slashing to the basket or popping out for the medium range jumper as well as getting up and jamming from close range, which he likes to do a lot. . Likely to be backing up Strawberry will be Travis Delgado, a senior this season who only limited time last season, and then only later in the year but before the playoffs. He's good enough to be playing, but the only question will be where, in this crowded lineup he'll fit in.
Among the other guys coming up, we just don't know a lot about most of them, at least not in terms of how much playing time to expect from any of them nor what they are really capable of doing, but we have seen most of them play in some of the fall stuff. Mark Brown, Jeremy Born, and J.P. Voisinet al were brought up to the varsity roster last season for the playoffs, although none of them saw action, and AJ Ward is another of those 6'-6" juniors who has the potential to be a solid player, while Kenny Chicoine and Mike Garcia will likely see a lot of time in those games where the starters have already done their work and can use the rest.
As always, Mater Dei will play an ambitious schedule. They'll start off both "easy" and "hard" with a three-way scrimmage against Santa Clara (that's the "easy" part), and Compton Dominguez on Friday, Nov. 24 at Santa Clara, with the scrimmage getting underway at 11:00 a.m.
From there the rest of the schedule looks like this:
|La Habra||@Glendora Triple Crown Classic||Tuesday||11/28/00||6:00 p.m.|
|TBA||@Ocean View Tournament of Champions||Mon-Sat||12/4-12/9/00||TBA|
|Carlsbad||@Santa Margarita||Tuesday||12/12/00||6:00 p.m.|
|TBA||@Las Vegas Holiday Prep Classic,
Green Valley & Durango HS, Las Vegas
|TBA||@ Beach Ball Classic Tournament,
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
|Foothill||@ Bren Center, UC Irvine||Tuesday||1/2/01||TBA|
|Villa Park||@ Cal State University, Fullerton||Saturday||1/6/01||7:30 p.m|
|Santa Margarita*||@Santa Margarita||Friday||1/12/01||7:30 p.m.|
|TBA||@LB Poly-Double Pump MLK
|TBA||@MLK Dream Classic||Monday||1/15/01||TBA|
|St. John Bosco*||@ Mater Dei||Friday||1/19/01||7:30 p.m.|
|De La Salle||@ Nike Extravaganza, LB Pyramid||Saturday||1/27/01||7:30 p.m.|
|Santa Margarita*||@Santa Ana College||Wednesday||1/31/01||7:30 p.m.|
|Servite*||@Ocean View HS||Friday||2/2/01||7:30 p.m.|
|Los Alamitos||@ Lynwood HS||Saturday||2/3/01||TBA|
|St. John Bosco*||@St. John Bosco||Wednesday||2/7/01||7:30 p.m.|
If things go according to plan at the Las Vegas Holiday Prep Classic, Mater Dei could match up against Oak Hill, which is currently ranked by many as the No. 1 team in the country. Of course to get there, they'll have to go through some other tough competition but it's the matchup that everyone is looking forward to seeing. Oak Hill features Billy Edelin at point, Rashaad Carruth on the wing, DeSagna Diop a 7'-0" center who didn't give Tyson Chandler that much trouble when Dominguez finally knocked them off at last year's Nike Extravaganza, but who has gotten a lot better and it will be interesting to see Jamal take him on. Oak Hill also features Mario Boggan, one of the top junior forwards in the country.
At the Beach Ball Classic, Mater Dei will compete in the Millennium Cup Tournament and will possibly fact three other programs who between them have won the event nine times: Queens, NY Archbishop Molloy, DeMatha Catholic and their legendary coach Morgan Wooten have won it three times, while Philadelphia's Simon Gratz has also won the tournament twice.
Of course the "season" is just a prelude to the CIF Playoffs and the State Championship tournament, and things will be a bit more interesting with the further subdivision of D-I into three playoff divisions, I-AAA, I-AA and I-A. With Mater Dei's enrollment expected to remain about the same (at about 1550), the Monarchs will probably wind up in the lowest enrollment subdivision, i.e., they would likely remain in D-IA. We were sort of curious about the other schools with similar enrollment figures, so just to get a look at who might likely end up in the same playoff division as Mater Dei, we compiled our own projected Southern Section D-IA playoff pool (using schools with enrollments from a low end of 1500 to a high of 1649), and we did that and here's what Mater Dei's playoff division is likely to look like assuming that things don't change too much in terms of overall enrollment figures. This is a very interesting division, and while there are a few teams which can challenge Mater Dei (well, more than a few), it will be very competitive. . . We're looking forward to it.
St. John Bosco
And just in case you're really interested in last year's record (1999-2000 season) here it is:
|Mater Dei||Opponent||Opp. Score||Mater Dei||Opponent||Opp. Score|
|70||Santa Barbara||61||72||University (SD)||47|
|75||Savanna||44||72||St. John Bosco*||46|
|77||Ocean View||59||63||Santa Margarita*||57|
|63||Centennial||53||51||De La Salle||55|
|102||Canyon||62||96||St. John Bosco||48|
Regular Season Record: 26-2, 6-0
*NW forfeit--record 27-1, 6-0
|50||Ribault||48||Southern Section D-IA Playoffs|
|56||NW Christian**||72||111||Keppel (2nd round)||56|
|79||Boston English||70||90||Thousand Oaks||43|
|65||Robert Service||41||79||Victor Valley||55|
|66||St. Dominic||53||53||Simi Valley||39|
|64||University (SD)||42||Record after SS Finals: 32-1|
|64||De La Salle||54||California State Tourney (Southern Regionals)|
|60||Santa Margarita*||55||Record After State: 34-2|
|62||Los Alamitos||42||Final Season Record: 34-2, 6-0|
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