The Class of 2023 is playing their first high school basketball season that has not been impacted or interrupted by the Covid pandemic and state and local protocols. Currently, there is no required testing for teams and, up to this point in the season, there have not been any rosters that have lost multiple players due to Covid. As I stated in my last updated rankings for the 2023 Class, the current seniors have been the most negatively impacted by the Covid pandemic of any graduation class in California in regards to player exposure and college recruitment. When you combine the pandemic with the realities of the transfer portal, it becomes even more of an uphill battle for players in this class to make it to the collegiate ranks. At a minimum, the pathway to playing at the next level will look much different for the current senior class and will likely be the new normal players are faced with in the post-Covid/transfer portal recruiting era. Having said that, there are plenty of players in this list that will have the opportunity to play at the next level, as long as the mindset is not Division 1 or bust.
I have been evaluating most of the players in these rankings since their freshman year but due to the impact of the pandemic, there are more players making it on this list for the first time as seniors than in previous years. This is also the first class I have compiled player rankings for all four years of their high school careers, as I started doing player rankings in 2020 their freshman year. Along with my observation of these players over the past three and a half years, these updated Winter rankings include the Summer club season, Fall individual showcases and camps, and Fall high school basketball leading up to this past week’s Mission Prep Christmas Classic Tournament. The criteria for these player rankings are based on a combination of potential to play at the collegiate level, as well as performance in the three arenas of prep hoops: high school team, club team, and individual events. I received input from coaches, media, and other members of the basketball community in the Central Section on these players, but the ranked order and final decision of the players is based on my own personal evaluations. We begin these rankings with no shake-up at the top.
This is the fourth round of player rankings I have done for the Class of 2023 and recent University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley commit Jamar Howard remains at the top of this list. Howard had a sensational club season that was capped off by taking 2nd Place in the 17u Under Armour Circuit Championship Game, as JJ was one of the leading scorers and rebounders for West Coast Elite’s NorCal team. Howard was on the football field during the Fall portion of the prep hoops season but came out with a bang last week at Mission Prep’s 23rd Annual Christmas Classic. Howard would score 33 points in the first two rounds of the event, followed by a 31-point outburst against eventual tournament champions Bishop Montgomery of Torrance. Howard is a dynamic scorer, elite athlete, versatile defender, and is just scratching the surface of his ceiling as a basketball player. At the collegiate level, Howard will be able to focus on basketball only, as he has been a 3-sport athlete throughout high school. I look forward to his progression over the next four years and to see what else he will accomplish in his time at Mission Prep.
Luis Marin of St. Joseph remains at the #2 spot in these updated rankings and will be a key contributor for the Knights this season, as they pursue a Section Title and more. As a sophomore, Marin played a key role as the 6th man for the Knights en route to winning the Central Section Open Division Championship. At the time, it appeared as though Marin would be the guy by his senior season for the Knights but the arrival of sophomore sensation and nationally ranked Tounde Yessoufou, along with freshman phenom point guard Julius Price, allowed the coaching staff to move Marin to the two-guard position. Marin has made the adjustments and looked really good in the Fall and this past week at the Mission Prep Christmas Classic, where he displayed his efficiency from the 3-point line, the court vision and the handles to run the offense, as well as the ability to move off the ball to get open for catch and shoot opportunities. Marin played with Jalen Green Elite’s 16u 3SSB team on the Adidas circuit and there has been talk of him reclassifying to 2024 and doing a postgraduate year, similar to 2022 St. Joseph graduate Dre Roman. The length, size, shooting ability, and decision-making with the ball in his hands make Marin an intriguing prospect at the next level and he is being looked at by a few Division 1 schools, as well as Division 2 programs.
The shake-up in these updated player rankings starts at #3, as we see Jaden Haire making a jump 3 spot from #6 in the previous rankings. Haire had a solid Summer club season with Fresno-based EBO, which was followed by a monster showing at our 2nd Annual Central Cali Junior/Senior Showcase where he was one of the top performers and displayed his elite athleticism and physically imposed his game on opponents in both games. Haire has put up big numbers to start off his senior season with the Huskies, which was highlighted by a 30-point and 17-rebound game against Edison of Fresno in the inaugural Heart of California Basketball Classic at the Save Mart Center in Fresno, CA. Haire recently received an offer from Fresno Pacific and has interest from other Division 2 schools. In my opinion, Haire has the potential to play at the Division 1 level but his path may be more like that of former Central of Fresno graduate Cedric Coward, who went to NAIA school Willamette out of high school and after one year entered the transfer portal and is now at Eastern Washington. Not saying Haire will go the NAIA route, but that his path to Division 1 will be his own.
Mike Davis Jr. of San Joaquin Memorial comes in at #4 and will be the anchor for the Panthers this season, as they have a very young and relatively inexperienced roster. Mike is a four-year varsity player and was part of San Joaquin’s Central Section Open Division Title his freshman year. Davis is a solid forward with good hands around the basket, gets off the ground quickly to control the rebounds, and has good timing to alter shots. Davis is a bit undersized as a forward at the next level, but he has averaged near a double-double for his high school career and the Panthers have played one of the toughest schedules over his tenure at San Joaquin. There has been interest from some Division 1 programs but at the moment it is unclear what next year will entail for the senior big man, with national JUCOs and California JUCOs showing a lot of interest. Davis moving down to #4 is more about the continued rise of Jaden Haire and I would have them both nearly tied at the moment.
Rounding out the top 5 of the 2023 player rankings is Panther teammate and electric combination guard Armari Carraway of San Joaquin Memorial. Carraway did slip one spot from the previous round of 2023 rankings, where he was at #4, which has everything to do with the play and next-level projection of Jaden Haire and not a knock on Carraway’s game. Carraway had a signature moment early in the preseason, as he would lead the Panther’s in scoring in the highly touted game against state power Sierra Canyon of Chatsworth at the Heart of California Basketball Classic. Carraway missed the Summer club season but did participate in the West Coast Elite Bakersfield Exposure Camp, where he displayed his tough shot-making abilities and dynamic handles to create off the dribble and was named Co-Most Outstanding Player of the showcase. Carraway played well for the Panthers in a few Fall team events and established himself as the main scoring option throughout the early goes of the season. Carraway has interest from college programs and it will be interesting to see how his post-high school basketball career will take shape, but he has the skill, toughness, and preparation to compete at the highest level of college basketball.
The player that made the highest jump of players in the top 10 is Caedin Hamilton of St. Joseph, going from #26 up to #6 in these updated player rankings. Hamilton has continued to develop his post-game over the past few seasons and has become a nearly automatic double-double. However, the biggest advancement in his game has been the physical development that has allowed him to be the force in the paint that anchors both ends for the Knights. I have stated numerous times that Hamilton is the key to St. Joseph making a deep run in the Section and beyond. He and Tounde are one of the more dominant duos around the basket and eat up the boards. Hamilton’s size and skill have garnered the attention of more Division 2 and even some Division 1 programs and that is a big reason why I moved him up this high. Yet, his play on the court also is a reason being that there is not much height in the Section and he can put up big numbers all season.
Holding steady at #7 is Jhace Boston of Stockdale of Bakersfield. The combination guard makes up one of the best trios in the South Valley for the Mustangs and has been one of the best scorers and facilitators in the Section. Boston had a solid Summer playing with the West Coast Elite Central 17u club team and followed that up with a top 10 showing at the 2nd Annual Central Cali Junior/Senior Showcase. Boston has the size and physicality to control the boards, handles to push the pace of play, the moves to create off the dribble, and can score it from three levels with accuracy. Boston has not gotten the same level of exposure as the players ahead of him in these rankings, but has the game and frame to compete at the Division 2 level if not Division 1.
The sharpshooter from Clovis West Issac Martinez drops to #8 in this updated list but has had another great start to the season, as he has earned tournament MVP honors at the Clovis West Nike Invitational and most recently at the Tark Classic in Las Vegas, NV. Martinez has been the leading scorer for the Golden Eagles this season and, as a senior on a team that returned nearly the entire core of last year’s Open Division Championship roster, has provided the veteran leadership of a four-year varsity player. Martinez did drop three spots from the last version of these rankings because the players above him are projecting higher at the next level at this point, as that is a core part of the requirements for these player rankings. However, given the on-court success, the other criteria for this list, I have to keep Martinez in the top 10 and he has earned his spot.
Staying in the top 10 and moving up one spot is the athletic and bouncy Kaleb Cole of Sanger. Cole was a standout player at the West Coast Elite Fresno Exposure Camp, has performed well throughout the early going of the season, and leads the Apaches in points, rebounds, and blocks. Improving as a perimeter threat offensively, can defend multiple positions with length and versatility, and is somewhat of a late bloomer but will be a contributing factor at the next level. Rounding out the top 10 is Stockdale’s Joaquin Rios who has made a great return from his injury that kept him out most of last season. Rios has been one of the top rebounders and scorers for the Mustangs and when he and Boston are both clicking and Adeleye is hitting threes, this team can hang with nearly anyone in the Section. I will update this list one more time at the end of the high school season for the Final Class of 2023 Player Rankings. Below are the Top 45 Prospects in the Central Section based on my evaluations and observations over the past four years. I will be releasing my updated Class of 2024 and 2025 Player Rankings over the next week and team rankings after the holiday tournaments are concluded.
|Rank (Previous Rank)||Player Name||Height||Position||High School|
|1 (1)||Jamar "JJ" Howard||6'6"||WF||Mission Prep (San Luis Obispo CA)|
|2 (2)||Luis Marin||6'5"||CG||St. Joseph (Santa Maria CA)|
|3 (6)||Jaden Haire||6'6"||WF||Hanford West H.S. (CA)|
|4 (3)||Mike Davis Jr.||6'7"||PF||San Joaquin Memorial (Fresno CA)|
|5 (4)||Armari Carraway||5'11"||CG||San Joaquin Memorial (Fresno CA)|
|6 (26)||Caedin Hamilton||6'9"||PF||St. Joseph (Santa Maria CA)|
|7 (7)||Jhace Boston||6'3"||CG||Stockdale (Bakersfield CA)|
|8 (5)||Issac Martinez||5'11||SG||Clovis West (Fresno CA)|
|9 (10)||Kaleb Cole||6'6"||PF||Sanger H.S. (CA)|
|10 (12)||Joaquin Rios||6'2"||CG||Stockdale (Bakersfield CA)|
|11 (13)||Yaj Vance||6'1"||PG||Edison (Fresno CA)|
|12 (9)||Mykayle McCoy||6'6"||PF||Roosevelt (Fresno CA)|
|13 (16)||Tyron Tyler Jr.||6'5"||WF||Independence (Bakersfield CA)|
|14 (14)||Prince Ellis||5'10"||PG||South (Bakersfield CA)|
|15 (15)||JayJay Jones||6'3"||WF||Centennial (Bakersfield CA)|
|16 (21)||Jaylen Bryant||6'4"||WF||Clovis North (Fresno CA)|
|17 (19)||Dylan Swillis||6'5"||WF||Central (Fresno CA)|
|18 (37)||Will Kuykendall||6'3||WG||St. Joseph (Santa Maria CA)|
|19 (8)||Henry Madden III||6'4"||WF||Central (Fresno CA))|
|20 (18)||Nicholas Esparza||5'11"||PG||Selma H.S. (CA)|
|21(22 )||Josh Nicholson||6'4"||WF||Roosevelt (Fresno CA)|
|22 (14)||Demell Argus Turner||6'1"||PG||Lemoore H.S. (CA)|
|23 (20)||Daniel Rodriguez||6'2"||SG||Robert F. Kennedy (Delano CA)|
|24 (23 )||Yash Patel||6'2"||WG||Righetti (Santa Maria CA)|
|25 (NR)||Gilbert Maravilla||6'2||PG||Sierra Pacific (Hanford CA)|
|26 (38)||Devon Riggins||6'4"||WF||Central (Fresno CA)|
|27 (24)||Riley Bermke||6'4"||WF||Lemoore H.S. (CA)|
|28 (25)||Juvon Manzanales||6'3"||WF||Mt. Whitney (Visalia CA)|
|29 (NR)||Karsten Adeleye||5'10||CG||Stockdale (Bakersfield CA)|
|30 (27)||Mekhi Johnson||6'1"||SG||Ridgeview (Bakersfield CA)|
|31 (28)||Charlie Stump||6'5"||PF||Bakersfield Christian H.S. (CA)|
|32 (29)||Lucca Hart||5'11"||SG||Nipomo H.S. (CA)|
|33 (NR)||LaDanian Streets||6'1||CG||Central (Fresno CA)|
|34 (NR)||Ki'mauri Washington||6'2||GW||Edison (Fresno CA)|
|35 (35)||Connor McFall||6'2||GW||Kingsburg H.S. (CA)|
|36 (36)||CJ Bell||6'4"||WF||Atascadero H.S. (CA)|
|37 (30)||Gustavo Chavez||5'11"||SG||West (Bakersfield CA)|
|38 (NR)||Mark Williams||5'10||CG||Bullard (Fresno CA)|
|39 32)||Elijah West||5'10"||PG||Centennial (Bakersfield CA)|
|40 (33)||Isaiah Perry||6'0"||PG||Garces Memorial (Bakersfield CA)|
|41 (NR)||Adam Silmon||6'2||WF||Arroyo Grande (CA)|
|42 (34)||Carmine Ficher||6'0"||PG||Tulare Western H.S. (CA)|
|43 (NR)||Nasr Chaudhary||6'3||WF||Clovis North (Fresno CA)|
|44 (NR)||Shawn Wong||5'10"||CG||Clovis North (Fresno CA)|
|45 (NR)||Cooper Schimpf||6'6||PF||El Diamante (Visalia CA)|