Junior Lonzo Ball of Chino Hills and senior Jeremy Hemsley of Damien have led their respective teams to state tournament championship games. So not surprisingly they have earned special recognition.
Both are among the seven recipients named winners of the John R. Wooden Award for their division. Ball was the honoree in Division 1 while Hemsley is the honoree in Division 3.
They are in select company. Here is the list of those honored:
* Open – Lindsey Drew, Los Angeles Fairfax
* Division I - Lonzo Ball, Chino Hills
* Division II – Chimezie Metu, Lawndale
* Division III – Jeremy Hemsley, Damien
* Division IV - Stephen Thompson Jr., Bishop Montgomery
* Division V - Cody Riley, Sierra Canyon
* Division VI - Roderick Williams, Price
He runs. He jumps. He passes the ball with pinpoint precision. He scores at will. Defense? He plays that pretty well too.
Yes he probably leaps tall buildings in a single bound.
He’s Chino Hills junior guard Lonzo Ball. If you haven’t seen him play do yourself a favor and make a it a point to do so next season, his senior campaign.
He’s one of those players that come around every 10, maybe 20 years or so. He’s a lean 6-foot-6 but he plays much bigger than that. His game is so well rounded it’s scarey.
Most think he’ll be one and done at UCLA, then go on to the NBA. That’s a lot of expectations for a guy not out of high school but he passes that eye test. Everywhere I go basketball fans and true experts are talking about him, even when his team isn’t necessarily playing.
He single-handedly propelled Chino Hills to a 62-51 win over Corona Centennial in the Division 1 Southern California Regional at The Pyramid In Long Beach. His line for the night – 26 points, 15 rebounds, 8 steals, 5 assists, 3 blocked shots. That’s pretty insane when you think about it.
Despite how good he is, he is still pretty grounded and has a good temperment on the court. He stole the ball right out of the hands of Centennial’s Ike Anigbpgu in the closing seconds of the third quarter with Chino Hills up 45-34. The Centennial player, perhaps a little embarrassed and frustrated had a few choice words and it looked like there might be minor skirmish. Ball just shook his head, grinned and walked away.
Here’s what Centennial coach Josh Giles had to say about him:
No one knew quite what to expect when the CIF announced it was having an “Open” Division in which all the premier teams would compete.
Etiwanda boys coach Dave Kleckner, whose team was among those chosen, was vocal about not liking it. His objection is that his was going to be one of the few public schools lumped in with a bunch of high-profile private schools perceived to have a clear advantage.
Others have said they’d love the challenge if they thought they had the talent to really compete.
Chino Hills boys coach Steve Baik was one of those who was on the fence about it. The Huskies have been an up and coming team in recent years. Well they have officially arrived.
Chino Hills (26-4) will face Mater Dei (28-1) at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday at the Honda Center in the championship game of that Open Division. Winning a CIF title in any Division is an accomplishment so this is the “king” of all accomplishments.
The Huskies weren’t the most talked about team in that Open division to start with but the Huskies are the team people ARE talking about now.
It’s a marvelously talented team with so many weapons. UCLA commit Lonzo Ball, just a sophomore, gets most of the attention. He has a freshman brother LiAngelo that might be even better before its all over. The two combined for a phenomenal play on Tuesday with LiAngelo getting a steal at the opponents end, then unleashing a full-court pass with one hand to his brother who connected for an easy layup. You won’t see a better play!
Seniors KC Cyrpian, Bishop Mency and Mark Williams have been stellar too. It was Cyprian leading the effort on Tuesday with 23 points (6 3-pointers) in a win over Redondo Union.
Big Man Nnamdi Okongwu is just a junior and has a lot of raw talent. He’ll work hard over the summer and should be a beast by next season.
The Huskies could have won Division 1-AA but what they’ll get out of this experience and tournament run will be far more rewarding.