The Class of 2026 has already shown glimpses of being one of the deepest classes of potential next-level prospects the Central Section has had since the Class of 2021, which ended up having 7 players go on to play Division 1 basketball and a number of others playing at various levels (Division 2, Division 3, NAIA, or JUCO). Furthermore, the 2026 Class will be the first cohort of players since the pandemic that will not be subjected to the rigorous Covid protocols and guidelines throughout the 2022-2023 season, which should help with player exposure and development. The talent of this class is fairly spread out as far as schools are represented, but the cluster of this list of players will compete in the TRAC league, making for some interesting match-ups over the next four years. Clovis East has the largest group of freshmen, with four being on the roster and all playing contributing minutes this season. Overall, a majority of the names on this list will be key pieces to their team’s success and should lead to an interesting update to this list in the Spring of 2023.   

The individual showcases and team events throughout the end of the Summer and the Fall have provided countless platforms for players from the 2026 Class to showcase their skills and capabilities. The Central Cali Next Up Showcase, Pangos All-West Frosh/Soph Camp, West Coast Elite’s Bakersfield and Fresno Exposure Camps, and the Clovis West Fall Showcase are some of the key events that have allowed me ample opportunities to evaluate and observe the play of a majority of the top freshmen in the Central Section. Through these evaluations, along with feedback from knowledgeable media, coaches, and other relevant basketball personnel from the Section, I have compiled a list of the top 21 freshman prospects for this first round of player rankings for the 2026 Class. I will update these rankings at least two times a year over the next four years, as some names will be added to expand this list to 30 plus by next year at this time. 

This list takes into consideration two key factors in determining where players are ranked and will be the same criteria used each time this list is updated. The criteria for these rankings are as follows: current skill level and production on the court, as well as future projection at the collegiate level. Although this class appears to have more players with Division 1 potential compared to the 2023-2025 class of players, I do not see any reaching the national status of super sophomore Tounde Yessoufou of St. Joseph in Santa Maria. Nevertheless, the depth of this class combined with the immediate impact many will have on their high school varsity team is intriguing and could lead to some impressive statistics and numbers that will set some of them on track to achieve key milestones and even school records. I begin the Class of 2026 rankings with Jackson Scarborough of the Clovis Cougars at the #1 spot. 

Scarborough has been the player that has garnered the most attention within and outside the Central Section since the start of middle school, as he has performed in various regional and national exposure events over that time period, which include the West Coast Elite Junior All-American Camp, the Pangos All-West Frosh/Soph Camp, Made Hoops Midwest Middle School Camp, the CP3 Middle School Combine, Central Cali’s Prospect Preview, and Central Cali’s Next Up Showcase to name the more prestigious events. Scarborough has played club basketball with Fresno-based EBO and is attending Clovis High School. Scarborough is a lengthy forward that has the perimeter skills to create off the dribble, is accurate from the 3-point line to stretch the defense, and protects the rim and controls the rebounds on both ends. The Cougars are looking to build around the top prospect in the freshman class, as Scarborough would be a key piece in helping re-establish Clovis in the difficult TRAC league. Given the minutes Scarborough is expected to get this season, he will have the opportunity to put up quality numbers to start off his high school basketball campaign. Scarborough has the skill and the frame to be a high-level wing/forward prospect and is already on the radar of Division 1 programs on the West Coast. The accomplishments already accumulated combined with the next-level projections are why I have Scarborough ranked at the top of this list.   

Julius Price of St. Joseph (Santa Maria) comes in at #2 and, in my observation, is the most developed and complete player in the freshman class. Price has performed well in team-based events for the Knights and made his name one to know in the Class of 2026 in California, as he made the all-tournament team in the talent-laden Ron Massey Classic in early September. This was followed up by a monster showing at the Pangos All-West Frosh/Soph Camp in late December, where he opened up the event with a 32-point performance and earned a spot in the Top 30 Creme of the Crop Game. Price has emerged as the primary ball-handler for the Knights and, along with senior combination guard Luis Marin and super sophomore Tounde Yessoufou, St. Joseph has one of the top perimeter threats in the state of California. Price has the court vision to make plays, the physicality to finish through contact at the basket, and the accuracy from the perimeter to create driving lanes to attack the defense. He is a lockdown on-ball defender that can guard the 1 through 3 positions and generates turnovers and open-court baskets.  

At the #3 rank is the lengthy stretch-four Parker Spees of San Joaquin Memorial (Fresno). I have been able to observe Spees in all three arenas of prep school basketball (club, high school team, and individual showcases) and he has performed well in each. Spees was a Top 10 player at the Central Cali Next Up Showcase, earned a spot in the Top 60 Creme of the Crop Game at the Pangos All-West Frosh/Soph Camp, and recently was a Top 20 selectee at the West Coast Elite Fresno Exposure Camp. Spees has good length and skill to operate on the perimeter and the moves and touch around the basket to make an impact in the post. Spees is highly effective from the 3-point line, has the handles and moves to create off the dribble, protects the rim and alters shots, and controls the glass with the handle to push the ball up the court. Spees made the move to San Joaquin Memorial, which gives the Panthers one of the top underclass rosters in the Central Section and will keep them as one of the top programs in the Section and beyond the next 3 years. 

Dalen Felder of Clovis East (Clovis) comes in at #4 and will help lead what looks to be the top freshman cohort of any team in the Central Section. After Price, Felder is the most complete player at this stage of his career for the freshman class and will look to put up big numbers for the Timberwolves this season in points, assists, steals, and rebounds. Of the Top 20 players in this list, Felder is the one I have seen the least in person. I saw him a few times with Jalen Green Elite’s 14u National team over the Summer and in a few games at the Clovis West Fall Showcase, but despite the limited observation, it is clear that Felder is one of the top freshmen in the Central Section. Felder has elite handles, shifty moves to create off the dribble, is accurate from the perimeter with range beyond the arc, and generates perimeter turnovers with active hands on defense. Felder has good court vision and makes quality decisions with the ball in hand, as he weaves through the defense to make plays in tight windows or create his own scoring opportunities. Currently, I would have Felder as a Division 2+ prospect with the likelihood that he becomes a true Division 1 prospect going into his sophomore season. 

Rounding out the Top 5 for the freshman class at #5 is Elias Gish of Clovis North (Fresno). The lengthy sharp shooting wing/guard had a solid Summer club season that led to a productive  Fall showing at the Clovis West Fall Showcase and the West Coast Elite Fresno Exposure Camp, being selected to the Top 20 All-Star Game. Gish has shown early on that he will have a significant impact this season, which has only become more of a necessity with the season-ending surgery to standout junior Connor Amundsen. Gish has smooth handles, the moves to create off the perimeter is a capable 3-level scorer, and can light it up from the 3-point line with the size and length to shoot over most perimeter defenders. Gish does a solid job on the boards, can push the tempo in the open court, and has the court vision to advance the ball and make plays. Gish has the versatility and the skill set to play off the wing and can operate in the post with his length and touch around the basket. 

At the #6 spot, and the first player from the South Valley is Cliff Willis of South High School (Bakersfield). Willis had some strong showings at the following events: Central Cali Prospect Preview, a Top 5 at the Central Cali Next Up Showcase, and the West Coast Elite Bakersfield Exposure Camp where he earned a Top 20 All-Star Game selection. Willis will be the focal point for the Spartans right out of the gate as the lead guard, which will allow him to compile some impressive stats early in his high school career. Willis has great court vision, nice moves to create off the dribble, keeps the ball on a string to survey the floor, makes quality decisions, and has a smooth stroke from the perimeter with a nice floater. Can catch fire from deep. 

Aidan Beechler of Clovis East (Clovis) comes in at #7 and will be another key freshman piece for the young but talented Timberwolves. I was able to see Aidan play with the Fresno-based EBO club team in the Summer, and then again at the Central Cali Next Up Showcase, where he was a Top 10 player in the event. Beechler played well for Clovis East at the Clovis West Fall Showcase and will be one of the featured players for the Timberwolves this season. Beechler has good handles, nice moves to shake his defender, the physicality to bully his way through contact at the basket, the court vision to make plays when on the attack, and can score it from the perimeter with accuracy. Plays with a great pace and feel for the game. 

The #8th ranked player in this list is Javance Coleman Jr. of Bullard (Fresno). I saw Coleman play a few years ago during the Covid pandemic when we were hosting open runs where he displayed quality combination guard skills and was more of a scorer. This Fall, I was able to see him with his high school team, which was followed by a solid showing at the Pangos All-West Frosh/Soph Camp in late September. The Knights graduated a large chunk of their scoring from last year’s team and Coleman has shown he is ready to step in and have an immediate impact offensively. What I like most about the evolution of Coleman’s game is he is a much-improved playmaker and willing facilitator. Coleman has the shifty handles and moves to create separation from his defender, the creativity to finish around the basket over height, nice touch on the floater, and can space the floor with the 3-ball. Coleman has good lateral quickness and footwork with active hands-on defense to generate turnovers. He will be one of the leading scores for Bullard as a freshman. 

Coming in at #9 in these rankings is Keon Hill of Hoover (Fresno). I have been able to see Hill with his high school team and, recently, in the West Coast Elite Fresno Exposure Camp where he made the Top 20 All-Star Game. Hill is a physical and athletic wing/forward that gets downhill and attacks the basket with authority but has nice touch on finishes at the rim. Hill controls the glass, does a nice job protecting the basket from the weak side, has enough handle to create off the dribble, and is effective from the 3-point line to open up driving lanes. Hill, along with sophomore sensation Dereon King, will be the future of the Patriot program but Hill will have an immediate impact this season scoring and rebounding. Hill excels in the open court and can either push the ball and outlet or run the open lanes. A lot to like about Hill and he is just scratching the surface of his potential. I could see Hill as a player that makes moves up this list if he stays dedicated to developing his perimeter game and getting into events that provide player exposure.  

Concluding the Top 10 is McKae Amundsen of Clovis North (Fresno) at the #10 spot. Amundsen, the younger brother of the #1 ranked 2024 player in the Central Section Connor Amundsen, has hit the ground running and has wasted no time in carving out his own identity as a player. Amundsen played club basketball with West Coast Elite’s NorCal 15u UAA squad and performed well throughout the Spring and Summer. I have been able to see Amundsen with his high school team and in various individual settings (Pangos All-West Frosh/Soph Camp, Central Cali’s Next Up Showcase, and most recently West coast Elite’s Fresno Exposure Camp as a Top 20 All-Star Game selectee), and he makes his presence felt in any arena of grassroots basketball. Similar to Gish (listed above at #5), Amundsen’s role as the lead guard will likely expand with Connor out for the season. Amundsen has great court vision, keeps the ball on a string, weaves through the defense, can create his own offense or make plays for others, and can light it up from well beyond the 3-point line. I would expect Amundsen to run the point more often than anticipated as a freshman, but he has the IQ and skill to make it happen. 
There is minimal separation between Amundsen at #10 and the next four players on this list; Jace Kellogg, Irvin Calloway, Sean Smith, and Moses Curry (#11 – #14). All four have impressive handles, court vision to make plays, the moves to create their own scoring opportunities, and can play at either guard position effectively. The player that is most intriguing to me and would have likely been higher on this list if I would have seen him more up to this point is Lydell Farmer of Clovis East. The lengthy and athletic wing/forward played football during the Fall so my chances to see him up to this point have been minimal but given his build and skill set, he could be a player that makes movement up this list by the time I update in the Spring. I will be releasing the updated versions of the player rankings for the classes of 2023-2025 over the next few weeks, as the high school season has now gotten underway. 

1Jackson Scarborough6'8PFClovis H.S (CA)
2Julius Price6'3CGSt. Joseph (Santa Maria CA)
3Parker Spees6'5WFSan Joaquin Memorial (Fresno CA)
4Dalen Felder6'2PGClovis East (Clovis CA)
5Elias Gish6'3WFClovis North (Fresno CA)
6Cliff Willis6'CGSouth (Bakersfield CA)
7Aidan Beechler6'2CGClovis East (Clovis CA)
8Javance Coleman Jr.6'1PGBullard (Fresno CA)
9Keon Hill6'3WFHoover (Fresno CA)
10McKae Amundsen5'7PGClovis North (Fresno CA)
11Jace Kellogg5'10PGClovis West (Fresno CA)
12Irvin Calloway6'PGBakersfield Christian (CA)
13Sean Smith5'10CGClovis West (Fresno CA)
14Moses Curry6'SGLiberty (Bakersfield CA)
15Lydell Farmer6'3WFClovis East (Clovis CA)
16Joshua Padilla5'10CGClovis North (Fresno CA)
17Jensen Hirschkorn6'5PFKingsburg H.S. (CA)
18Trenell Emerson Jr.5'7PGClovis East (Clovis CA)
19Simon Kebede5'9PGStockdale (Bakersfield CA)
T-20Cash Essert6'5PFBakersfield Christian (CA)
T-20Matthew Esparza5'9PGSelma H.S. (CA)