Bakersfield, CA: Friday night May 20th, I was pleased to co-host the inaugural Central Cali Prospect Preview Showcase with Clutch Clips Hoops and Valley Sports Media at the beautiful Dignity Health Sports Complex. We were fortunate to have the Director of the prestigious Pangos All-American Camp Dinos Trigonis come up from Long Beach to scout and support the event. The event featured some of the top prospects throughout the Central Section of California from the classes of 2023 – 2026 (Juniors – 8th Graders), as games were arranged by class in a showcase format. The first game featured a mix of 8th graders and freshmen, the second a blend of freshmen and sophomores, and the third game had sophomores and juniors. I and other personnel working the event selected the top players from each game to play in the final game, the Creme of the Crop Top 25, which consisted of 25 of the event’s top performers. The Top 25 Game was won by Team White over Team Black, 115-113, in a double-overtime thriller. Junior Armari Carraway, sophomore Zykiar Henderson, and freshman Tounde Yessoufou were named co-MVPs of the Top 25 Game. This article takes a look at 15 of the top performers from the showcase, provides an overview of how they performed, an evaluation of each player’s skill set, and their player information. This list of players is in alphabetical order and not done in a ranked order and was determined by myself, as well as other media and personnel in attendance. We begin this article with a look at super sophomore Connor Amundsen.
2024 5’11 Connor Amundsen (Clovis North/Fresno CA):
Amundsen is a true lead guard that plays with poise and confidence and is capable of creating his own offense or making plays to get his teammates open looks. Amundsen did not waste any time making his presence felt in the class of 2023/2024 Game, as he was on the attack often, scoring at the basket and knocking down a 3-pointer. Amundsen finished with 14 points and earned a spot in the Top 25 Game. He continued his high level of play in the Top 25 Game, scoring 16 points and handing out countless dimes. Amundsen started to work the 2-man game with Tounde Yessoufou and they were an unstoppable duo, which was a lot of fun to watch. Amundsen has shifty handles, keeps the ball on a string to survey the floor, has great court vision to find open teammates, and is a creative finisher around the basket. Amundsen has a smooth stroke from the perimeter, accurate stop and pop mid-range jumper, nice touch on the floater, and is knockdown from beyond the arc, either off the dribble or catching and shooting when moving off the ball. Connor does not miss opportunities to showcase his skill set and has performed well in all formats of grassroots basketball.
2023 6’ Armari Carraway (San Joaquin Memorial/Fresno CA):
Carraway is a lightning-quick lead guard that keeps constant pressure on the defense and can score it in volumes. Carraway had a solid showing in the class of 2023/2024 Game, as he finished with 10 points and earned a spot in the Top 25 Game. Halfway through the first half of the Top 25 Game, Carraway got going offensively and hit an array of difficult shots from various spots on the court, which got the crowd hyped. Carraway topped off his stellar play in the Top 25 Game by hitting an extremely tough fadeaway fifteen-foot buzzer-beater to send the game into a 2nd overtime. Despite the Black Team losing by two, 115-113, Carraway scored a game-high 30 points and was named co-MVP of the Game. Carraway has elite handles, makes nice use of the hesitation move and his quick first step to get by his defender, is a crafty finisher around the basket over size, and has improved his efficiency from the 3-point line. Carraway has quick hands and gets into his opponent’s dribbling space to create turnovers and easy transition points. He has solid court vision and is able to make plays to open teammates when attacking off the dribble. Carraway will be one of the lead catalysts for the Panthers this upcoming season and likely their leading scorer.
2023 6’3 Jhace Boston (Stockdale/Bakersfield CA):
Boston is a physically gifted combination guard that can run the offense or manufacture his own scoring opportunities. Boston had an impressive showing in the class of 2023/2024 Game, where he connected from three and finished with 11 points, which earned him a spot in the Top 25 Game. Boston chipped in 10 points in the Top 25 Game and had an all-around impressive showing at the Central Cali Prospect Preview. Boston has nice handles, uses his strong build to attack off the dribble and finish through traffic in the paint, and has nice touch on finishes around the basket. Boston effectively hits threes off the dribble, has good moves when looking to attack the defense, rebounds well for his position, and likes to push the tempo in the open court. Boston will look to capture a 2nd league MVP next season and the Mustangs will be one of the teams to make noise in the South Valley.
2025 Jonavon Darrignton (San Joaquin Memorial/Fresno CA):
Darrington is an assertive lead guard that does not hesitate to look to put the ball in the basket and does it from all 3 levels. Darrington came out in the class of 2025/2026 Game and was looking to get buckets. He finished with 13 points and landed a spot in the Top 25 Game. Darrington has a tight handle on the ball, is shifty with the ball in hand, has the shake to get his defender off-balance, and is a tough shot maker around the basket. Darrington is an efficient 3-point shooter, with the ability to shoot off the dribble or off the catch and shoot 3-ball. Lock up defender that likes to compete at a high level. Impressive showing and one of my biggest stock risers from the event.
2024 6’3 Jordan Espinoza (Clovis North/Fresno CA):
Espinoza is a guard/wing that plays with a blue-collar mindset along with the skill to create his own scoring opportunities. Espinoza had 12 points and nearly 10 rebounds in the class of 2023/2024 Game, which earned him a spot in the Top 25 Game. Espinoza is active on the glass, locks up on defense, gets into opponents’ dribbling space to create steals and loose balls, and will be the first on the ground to tussle for the ball. He has decent handles, a nice shot from the mid-range, and can stretch the floor with the 3-ball. The type of basketball player that does not need to score a lot of points to leave his mark on a game, but can drop 20 or more in a given game.
2024 6’5 Rippen Gill (Centennial/Bakersfield CA):
Gill is a lengthy perimeter player that continues to develop his ability to score the ball from numerous spots on the court. Gill had it going from beyond the arc, from the mid-range, as well as above the rim in the class of 2023/2024 Game, where he led his team with 16 points and was selected into the Top 25 Game. Gill continued to fill it up in the Top 25 Game, as he scored 16 points, 14 of those coming in the 2nd half to help lead Team White to a two-point victory in double overtime. Gill has solid ball-handling skills, good moves to create off the dribble, and gets downhill to the basket with the physicality to finish through contact. Gill has a smooth stroke from the perimeter and is efficient from the 3-point line, which opens up driving lanes for him to attack. Defensively, Gill has the versatility to defend on the wing or in the post, is an underrated rim protector, and is solid on the boards with the handle to push the ball off the glass in the open court. Gill will enter next season as a favorite to win league MVP for a second straight season, and a shot at All-Area MVP for the South Valley.
2025 5’10 Gabriel Gutierrez (Independence/Bakersfield CA):
Gutierrez is a shifty lead guard that makes plays at a high level and impacts both ends of the court. Gutierrez was aggressive on defense, made plays to get others involved, and finished with 12 points in the class of 2024/2025 Game, earning a spot in the Top 25 Game. Gutierrez had a sequence of plays in the Top 25 Game, as he went back and forth with Armari Carraway, where he hit some difficult shots from all 3 levels and got the gym hyped. Gutierrez would finish with 12 points and a handful of assists and steals, leaving his mark on the top game. He has great handles, is shifty when on the move with the ball in hand, keeps his defender off balance with numerous moves to shake his opponent, and is a creative scorer around the basket oversize and length. Gutierrez has solid court vision, keeps the ball on a string, keeps his head on a swivel when on the attack to find open teammates, and gets into his opponents’ dribbling space on defense, which leads to turnovers.
2024 6’5 Zykiar Henderson (Frontier/Bakersfield CA):
Henderson is a big, physical guard that is capable of scoring the ball from all 3 levels with accuracy. Henderson was added to the Central Cali Prospect Preview last minute and he made the most of his opportunity. Henderson scored 10 points in the class of 2023/2024 Game, as well as pulling down countless rebounds and making plays to open teammates, which earned him a spot in the Top 25 Game. Henderson took it up a few notches in the Top 25 Game, as went for a team-high 25 points and earned co-MVP honors, as he helped Team White win a highly contested double-overtime game. Henderson has a strong handle on the ball, has nice moves to create off the dribble and gets into the teeth of the defense, and has a strong build to muscle through contact around the basket. Henderson gets to his shot spots, can stop on a dime and has nice lift on his mid-range jumper to shoot over taller players, and is accurate from the 3-point line. Henderson controls the rebounds and looks to push the ball off the glass in the open court frequently, where he shows the court vision to make plays for open teammates or create his own buckets. Henderson has emerged as one of the better prospects in the Central Section and has been one of the better players for Jalen Green Elite’s 16u 3SSB team.
2025 6’2 Loukas Jones (Clovis North/Fresno CA):
Jones is a lengthy shooting guard that has limitless range and is fearless on the court. Jones has sprouted a bit since I last saw him during the high school season and his game seems to be blossoming as well. Jones had a solid showing in the class of 2024/2025 Game, going for fifteen points and showing his ability to hit from deep and earning a spot in the Top 25 Game. Jones handles the ball with fluidity and under control, has good wiggle when attacking the defense to create separation, can score it from all 3 levels with accuracy, and showed improved playmaking and court awareness. Jones is a threat as soon as he crosses half-court, which opens up all kinds of scoring options that he is becoming more familiar with using. Jones is active on the glass and on defense, as he plays with good energy and has length to disrupt his opponents. Jones is another freshman to keep an eye on in what is shaping up to be a strong class of 2025.
2024 6’3 Logan Kilbert (Sierra/Tollhouse CA):
Kilbert is a combination guard that can make plays for his teammates or can go get his own buckets. Kilbert impacted the game in numerous ways, as was evident by his play in the class of 2023/2024 Game, where he had 6 points, multiple assists and rebounds, which earned him a spot in the Top 25 Game. Against the event’s top talent, Kilbert showed his ability to score the ball from deep, as well as get to the basket, finishing with 15 points. Kilbert has great court vision, keeps the ball on a string to survey the court for teammates to get open, makes reads in tight windows, and makes some flashy but accurate passes with the ball in hand. As a scorer, Kilbert has a smooth stroke from the 3-point line, uses his physicality to get downhill and finish through contact at the basket, and has a nice pull-up jumper he hits frequently. Kilbert put up big scoring numbers last season and will look to do the same next season. Another stock riser from the event and a player to keep an eye on as he enters his junior season.
2023 5’11 Issac Martinez (Clovis West/Fresno CA):
Martinez is a true shooting guard that can light it up from the perimeter and score the ball in bunches. Martinez did enough in the class of 2023/2024 Game to earn a spot in the Top 25 Game and he took full advantage of the opportunity. Martinez got going in the Top 25 Game and showed off his ability to score the ball from all 3 levels, with the perimeter being his comfort zone. Martinez finished with 21 points in the Top 25 Game, as he connected on five 3’s and hit a couple of tough mid-range shots off the dribble. Martinez has solid handles, keeps his dribble tight, makes great use of the crossover to create space from his defender, and is a creative finisher over the bigs. However, Martinez is at his best when he is on from fifteen feet and beyond, where he is a knockdown 3-point shooter, which opens up lanes for him to attack off the wing. Martinez will be a key piece for the Golden Eagles next season and one of the top scores for Clovis West, as he looks to earn consecutive league Titles and MVPs.
2025 6’5 Julius Olanrewaju (Coalinga/CA):
Olanrewaju is a big and physical guard/wing that is capable of scoring the ball from all 3 levels and put up huge numbers in his freshman high school campaign for Coalinga. Olanrewaju showcased his scoring capabilities early in the class of 2024/2025 Game, where he knocked down a 3-pointer and had a clean finish at the basket and finished with 12 points. Olanrewaju was selected to the Top 25 Game and continues to show he is not just one of the best freshmen in the section, but one of the top prospects in the Section regardless of class. He has smooth handles, makes good use of the crossover to change direction, uses his frame to get through smaller perimeter defenders to attack the basket, and has nice touch on his finishes at the cup. Olanrewaju can fill it up from the perimeter and is accurate beyond the arc with good range. He is a good rebounder and that allows him to push the ball off the glass and get into transition. I look forward to seeing how he progresses over the next few years and will have a big summer with WCE NorCal UAA 16u.
2025 6’2 Abram Potts (San Joaquin Memorial/Fresno CA):
Potts is a combination guard that is emerging as one of the better shot-makers from the freshman class in the Central Section. Potts was one of the biggest stock risers from the Central Cali Prospect Preview, as he displayed an array of moves to score the ball and finished with 16 points and 4 threes in the class of 2024/2025 Game. Potts was awarded with his quality play by being selected to the Top 25 Game. Potts knocked down another 3 threes in the Top 25 game and finished with 11 points. Potts has good handles, moves to create off the dribble and get to his shot spots, and has a sweet form on his shot. Potts has really become comfortable shooting the ball from any spot on the court, is accurate with the 3-ball, and has developed a consistent fadeaway mid-range shot. Potts rebounds the ball well and has solid court vision to operate with the ball in his hands.
2025 6’4 JC Turner (Hanford/CA):
Turner is a lengthy wing/forward that has a nice touch around the rim and is an intriguing long-term prospect to watch in the Central Section. Turner was dominant around the basket on both ends, rebounds well, alters shots with his length, and is a good finisher at the rim. Turner had 14 points and at least 10 rebounds in the class of 2025/2026 Game and made his impact in the Top 25 Game on the boards. Turner impacts the game in various ways and if he develops a consistent perimeter game will make a case for top 10 or higher in a strong 2025 class.
2026 5’11 Clifford Willis (Thompson/Bakersfield CA):
Willis is a creative lead guard that makes quality plays beyond his years and is already able to score it from 3 levels just a matter of reps for consistency. Willis had 15 points to lead all scorers in the class of 2025/2026 Game and had some pretty dimes in transition that were in tight windows on the move. Willis was more of a facilitator in the Top 25 Game amongst some of the older players but held his own and is a young prospect to keep an eye on over the next few years. Willis has nice handles, is creative off the dribble, gets to his shot spots, can stop on a dime and pop, or use the hesitation to get to the basket. Willis is tough on defense, has active hands to create turnovers, and excels when he can get out and push the pace of play.
2025 6’5 Tounde Yessoufou (St. Joseph/Santa Maria CA): Featured in Picture
Yessoufou is a superior athlete with the physical attributes that allow him to impact the game in a number of ways on both ends of the court. Yessoufou, recently named State Freshman of the Year by CalHi Sports, was electrifying on both offense and defense at the Inaugural Central Cali Prospect Preview Showcase. Yessoufou had a huge 42-point outing the week before at the Pangos Best of SoCal Showcase, hosted by Dinos Trigonis, and continued to display his high level of play this past Friday night against fellow Central Cali hoopers. Yessoufou had 20 points in the class of 2024/2025 Game and earned a spot in the Creme of the Crop Top 25 Game, where he went for 24 points and was named co-MVP. Yessoufou displayed his elite bounce and body control in the Top 25 Game, as he had countless dunks capped off with a 360 windmill in transition, as well as the game-winning basket for Team White in a double-overtime victory. Yessoufou is a great rebounder, has good timing and agility to alter/block shots on the wing or in the paint, and has the lateral quickness to stay in front of perimeter players and the strength to guard taller players in the post. Offensively, Yessoufou gets downhill with the ball, uses his solid frame and agility to finish through contact around the basket, has nice touch on his finishes from within fifteen feet, and is effective from the 3 point line. He has improved his ball-handling skills and perimeter moves to create off the dribble, which will make it nearly impossible to defend Yessoufou as he gets more accurate with his shot from the perimeter. Yessoufou has recently received multiple Division 1 offers from Arizona State and the University of Portland and will see that list grow over the next few months as he will be playing in Section 7 in June and the EYBL Circuit in July with Team Why Not 15u. Impressive athlete and young man.