The Class of 2024 may have been the most negatively impacted group of prospects due to Covid-19 with regards to player exposure and name recognition. This was even more of an issue for players in smaller, less recruited areas like Central California. For this class, players were in 8th grade when the world of basketball, and the world in general, came to an abrupt halt, and players were forced to travel to other states to play. To make things worse for the Class of 2024, specifically in California, it appeared to most as if there would be no high school season at all for the 2020-2021 academic school year, which further hindered players from gaining exposure. After a major push by groups such as Let Them Play CA, made up of coaches, parents, and athletes, a season was set to take place in California, which would be in the Spring of 2021.
The Spring 2021 season would prove to be beneficial for some schools and sections of California, but problematic for other programs and areas. In the Central Section, programs such as Clovis West, San Joaquin Memorial, Bakersfield Christian, Clovis North, and eventual Open Division Section champs, St. Joseph, played over 25 games and were not heavily impacted by the stringent Covid testing protocols that were implemented. Other schools, specifically in Kern County, or the South Valley of the Central Section, such as Centennial and Independence of Bakersfield were limited to under 10 games of play due to the strict Covid protocols. Making matters worse for the Class of 2024, most high school coaches had not really had a chance to evaluate their freshman talent, so unless you came into high school with name recognition or had height the chances of a freshman making varsity in the shortened season was slim to none. Therefore, the Class of 2024 would not truly get a chance to showcase their skills at the high school level until the Summer 2021 club season, where most played on 15u teams that did not get much attention during the NCAA Live Periods, as coaches were focused on players in the 2021 and 2022 Classes.
The 2021 Fall showcase and preseason high school events were where Central Section players from the Class of 2024 were able to start making a name for themselves. For example, myself and Clutch Clips Hoops hosted two Fall events to help expand our knowledge of players from the Classes of 2022-2025, so that I could produce an adequate list of the top players in the Central Section per class, as well as provide names to keep an eye on throughout the 2021-2022 high school basketball season. This is my first official player rankings for the Class of 2024, as I now have enough knowledge of players outside the top guys to put together a complete and comprehensive list of the Section’s Top 35 Prospects. This list has been compiled over the past year and a half, with the criteria for these rankings being 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 high school basketball scene in the Central Section on players in these rankings, but the order of the players is my own ranked order. We begin the Class of 2024 Rankings with Connor Amundsen of Clovis North (Fresno) at the #1 spot.
Amundsen was the starting point guard for the Broncos his freshman year and played a pivotal role in the Broncos’ bid to a 2nd straight Open Division Sectional Playoff birth. Over the past year, Amundsen has taken advantage of numerous opportunities in all three arenas of grassroots basketball. He earned Top 30 honors at the prestigious Pangos All-West Frosh-Soph Camp, which featured the top prospects from the 2024 and 2025 Classes in the Western Region; was the Most Oustanding Player at the inaugural Central Cali Prospects Next Up Showcase; led his high school team to the Division 1 California State Championship Game; and just had a monster 38-point game at the illustrious Section 7 Tournament in Arizona. Amundsen has been playing with West Coast Elite’s NorCal 16u UAA team through the Spring club season and has garnered interest from multiple Division 1 and 2 programs on the West. Connor is currently ranked #26 by CalHi Sports for the Class of 2024.
Coming in at the #2 spot is Zykiar Henderson of Frontier (Bakersfield). Henderson is a player that I have known about for a few years now, but his high school team only played a handful of games during the 2021 Covid season and I had not seen him play live in-game since middle school until he attended our Next Up Showcase back in August. Henderson was dominant at that event, which featured over 40 of the Central Section’s top prospects from the 2024 and 2025 Classes. The big guard continued his high level of play at another regional showcase before leading the Titans in scoring, twenty points per game, as it made a run to the Division 2 Sectional Championship Game. Henderson has been playing club basketball for Jalen Green Elite’s 16u 3SSB squad on the Adidas circuit where he has been one of their top players. Despite the success of the past year, Henderson’s future at Frontier and in the Central Section may be short-lived, as he is set to move to Taiwan in July to attend Tongtex Secondary High School for academic and basketball reasons. Zykiar is currently ranked #36 by CalHi Sports for Class of 2024.
Rippen Gill from Centennial (Bakersfield) comes in at the #3 spot and much deserved after leading his team to a league title and earning co-league MVP as a sophomore, averaging 16 points and 7 rebounds a game. Gill is a wing/forward that is developing the perimeter skills to become more versatile at the one through four positions and has been playing with Jalen Green Elite’s 16u 3SSB team for club basketball. Gill is currently ranked #42 by CalHi Sports for the 2024 Class.
At the #4 rank, I have Logan Kilbert of Sierra (Tollhouse) who led his team in points and rebounds per game, at twenty-seven and eight. Kilbert’s name was thrown my way by a coach in the Central Section and the kind words given to his game and level of play have been spot on in the multiple times I have seen him play the past three to four months. He is playing club basketball with Fresno/Clovis-based Swoosh Elite 16u team, which has a roster with multiple players on this list. The location at a small school has kept his name hidden, but with a solid showing in Las Vegas over the Memorial Day weekend at the West Coast Elite tournament, catching the eyes of influential people like Ronnie Flores of CalHi Sports, he is looking to gain notoriety outside the Section. Logan is ranked #53 by CalHi Sports for the 2024 Class.
Liberty of Bakersfield’s Deshawn Usochu comes in at #5, as he has been the driving force for the Patriots since he entered high school. Usochu was a known prospect coming out of middle school and I saw him play a lot during his freshman year, as he played for West Coast Elite’s SoCal 15u UAA team. He was a featured player on varsity as a freshman, however, due to Covid protocols, Liberty only played 10 games that season and had to forfeit their playoff game due to Covid testing protocols. Usochu was a Top 15 player at our Next Up Showcase, which was followed by a high school season where he led the Patriots in scoring with 16 points per game and showed his defensive prowess with 4 steals per game. Usochu was playing for Bakersfield All Out 16u during the Spring, but I did see him play with WCE SoCal 16u UAA team during the Memorial Day Weekend so not sure what his plans are for July. Deshawn is currently ranked #51 by CalHi Sports for the 2024 Class.
Bentley Waller of Bakersfield Christian lands at #6 for the first round of 2024 Rankings. Waller, arguably the prospect with the highest ceiling of any player on this list, has been one of the top prospects in the Central Section since elementary school. As a freshman, Waller was a key piece for the Eagles in its march to a Division 3 Section Title during the 2021 Covid season. Waller had a strong showing at our Next Up Showcase back in the Fall of 2021, as he was named one of the Top 5 players. Waller has had a tough year since that showcase, as he missed a majority of Bakersfield Christian’s games this past season and is currently recovering from an injury that has him out until late July. He has grown half a foot in a year and his body seems to be adjusting but once he is back healthy Waller is a player that could jump up this list by the time I update in the Fall. Bentley is currently ranked #56 by CalHi Sports for the Class of 2024.
The next three spots in these player rankings come from the Clovis Unified School District. Sharpshooter Jackson Young of Clovis West (Fresno) comes in at #7, as he has continued to assert himself as the most deadly perimeter shooter in the Central Section regardless of class. Young played Varsity as a freshman for the Eagles, as it earned a spot in the Open Division and played over 25 games during the Covid season. The Eagles were led by senior Cole Anderson that year and Young was servicing as a nice scoring option off the bench. Young’s role expanded m as a sophomore and he often led the Eagles in scoring, as well as being its three-point specialist, highlighted by his seven made threes in the Open Division Section Champion Game that helped lead one of the greatest comebacks in Central Section boy’s basketball history. Last week at Modesto Christian’s Summer Classic, Young had a monster 27-point game, connecting on seven threes, and he continues to develop as a combination guard.
Jordan Espinoza of Clovis North (Fresno) comes in at #8, as I have him in a virtual tie with Usochu (listed above) for the best two-way player in the top 10 of this list. Espinoza brings a level of mental and physical toughness that is difficult to match on the court, with the skill set to impact the game in countless ways. Espinoza is another player that was on Varsity as a freshman and benefitted from playing with bigger players like former Bronco AK Okereke (2021 graduate). His role would drastically expand his sophomore year, and he was Clovis North’s 2nd leading scorer and rebounder, with twelve and five per game. Espinoza has been impressive throughout the Spring club season playing with Fresno/Clovis-based Swoosh Elite 17u, where he has led them in scoring and been one of the top rebounders.
The third player in a row from Clovis Unified is Jermery Pierro of Clovis East at #9. I have been familiar with Pierro’s game since middle school, as he was a player that attended our open runs during the dark days of Covid restrictions. Pierro was on varsity as a freshman for Clovis East, but his role was limited. This past season, Pierro saw an increase in responsibilities for the Timberwolves, was one of their top 3-point shooters and has the versatility and size to guard multiple positions on the defensive end. Pierro has the skill and the build that programs are looking for at the next level and will be called upon to shoulder more of the scoring load for a young Clovis East roster.
Zy’Kayvious Reese of West High (Bakersfield) rounds out the Top 10 for the 2024 Player Rankings, after a great showing at our Next Up Showcase last Fall and a productive high school season, averaging fourteen points and seven rebounds per game. Reese will be the focal point for the Vikings this upcoming season and be a candidate for league MVP with the new league formations starting in the 2022-2023 school year.
The remaining list of 25 players in these rankings brings to attention some interesting prospects. The players with height in this list that I will be keeping an eye on as collegiate prospects would be Arinze Onyeguli (#15), Luke Jacobson (#19), Dre Davis (#16), Kyshawn Johnson (#26), and Skylarr Redwood (#29). Given that a core part of the criteria for these rankings is collegiate projection, size and height are something that coaches are always looking for. The progression of the players mentioned could move them up depending on the level of play and development over the next two years.
Players like Zach Chauhan (#12) and Trejon Fulton (#27) should project higher for the next round of these rankings, but time on the football field may hinder their progression and development as basketball prospects. Centennial’s (Bakersfield) forward duo of Godwill Fomusoh (#13) and Donquavious Bolton (#28) are both promising prospects for the next level and will be part of a Golden Hawks team that has looked really good this Summer. As for guards, I am really intrigued with the transfer of Troy Lei (#22) to Bakersfield Christian, as he will face better competition and be around more talent, which should allow his game to flourish after missing most of his sophomore season due to injury. I will be releasing the Class of 2025 Player Rankings this week and will update these 2024 Rankings in the Fall of 2022, before the start of the high school season.
|Rank||Player Name||Height||Postion||High School (Location)|
|1||Connor Amundsen||5'11"||PG||Clovis North (Fresno CA)|
|2||Zykiar Henderson||6'5"||CG||Frontier (Bakersfield CA)|
|3||Rippen Gill||6'5"||WF||Centennial (Bakersfield CA)|
|4||Logan Kilbert||6'4"||CG||Sierra (Tollhouse CA)|
|5||Deshaun Usochu||6'3||CG||Liberty (Bakersfield CA)|
|6||Bentley Waller||6'4"||PG||Bakersfield Christian H.S. (CA)|
|7||Jackson Young||6'2"||SG||Clovis West (Fresno CA)|
|8||Jordan Espinoza||6'3"||WF||Clovis North (Fresno CA)|
|9||Jeremy Pierro||6'4||WF||Clovis East (Clovis CA)|
|10||Zy’Kayvious Reese||6'4"||WF||West (Bakersfield CA)|
|11||Jaleel Jackson||6'2"||PG||Bullard (Fresno CA)|
|12||Zach Chauhan||6'3"||WF||Clovis West (Fresno CA)|
|13||Godwill Fomusoh||6'4||PF||Centennial (Bakersfield CA)|
|14||Marshel Sanders||5'9"||CG||Clovis West (Fresno CA)|
|15||Arinze Onyeguli||6'6"||PF||Independence (Bakersfield CA)|
|16||Dre Davis||6'8||PF||San Joaquin Memorial (Fresno CA)|
|17||Cole O'Brien||6'2"||SG||Liberty (Bakersfield CA)|
|18||Justin Stroud||6'4"||PF||Central Valley Christian (Visalia CA)|
|19||Luke Jacobson||6'7||SF||Mission Prep (San Luis Obispo CA)|
|20||Jovarie "JoJo" Hayden||5'9"||PG||Ridgeview (Bakersfield CA)|
|21||Louis Duarte||6'3"||WF||Garces Memorial (Bakersfield CA)|
|22||Troy Lei||6'0"||PG||Bakersfield Christian H.S. (CA)|
|23||Va'Ron Mitchell||6'3||CG||Central (Fresno CA)|
|24||David Rios Jr.||5'10"||PG||Bullard (Fresno CA)|
|25||Treyvonn Sanderson||6'3"||WF||Clovis H.S. (CA)|
|26||Kyshawn Johnson||6'5"||WF||Bullard (Fresno CA)|
|27||Trejon Fulton||6'3"||WF||Liberty (Bakersfield CA)|
|28||Donquavious Bolton||6'4"||WF||Centennial (Bakersfield CA)|
|29||Skylarr Redwood||6'4"||WF||Clovis West (Fresno CA)|
|30||Brooks Dawson||6'2"||WF||Stockdale (Bakersfield CA)|
|31||Aiden Morillo||5'8"||CG||Liberty (Bakersfield CA)|
|32||Dacory Deans-Boldin||6'3"||WF||Ridgeview (Bakersfield CA)|
|33||Isaak Smith||6'4"||PF||Kingsburg H.S. (CA)|
|34||Dilibe Allison||5'9"||PG||Clovis H.S. (CA)|
|35||Karl DiModica||6'4"||WF||Nipomo H.S. (CA)|
|T-36||JaShaun Banks||6'4||PF||San Joaquin Memorial (Fresno CA)|
|T-36||Jai'Yon Dixon||5'10"||CG||Golden Valley (Bakersfield CA)|