Central Section – The high school basketball season has come to an end and the club season is already underway with some quality events on the calendar over the next two months. Furthermore, the transfer portal is in full swing at the moment with thousands of players entering over the last two weeks and college coaches and programs scouring the portal for older and experienced players that have already proven what they can do at the college ranks. Therefore, it is no secret that the transfer portal has hurt the recruitment of high school players that are not top 150 nationally ranked prospects for their respective grad class. In an area like Central California, this is even more of an issue for player recruitment, as the Central Section is one of the least recruited regions of California. 

This article is designed to shed a spotlight on the top 20 unsigned seniors in the Central Section. Most of these players are JUCO prospects in the modern recruiting environment, but there are a few players that are D2+ prospects now and have either received offers or have interest from schools at that level. Bentley Waller, Rippen Gill, and Logan Kilbert are true D2 prospects or higher and should be at a four year program next season. There are also a few players that have outstanding GPAs and high academic schools should look into these prospects for next year or in the next few years. The following information is in the player evaluations below: player name, height, position, high school, a brief description of their skill set, GPA, season statistics if available or provided, and my projection on where they are currently as next level prospects. Thank you to all the players, coaches, and media that helped accumulate the stats for a majority of the players. If you have any interest in any of the players in this article, please reach out to me for contact information. This list of players is in alphabetical order and not in ranked order. We begin with the Central Section D3 Champ, Nate Becerra. 

Nate Becerra 6’5 F (North Bakersfield/CA)
Becerra is more of a traditional forward at this point in his development but has the potential to emerge into a true wing/forward. Becerra was pivotal for the Stars in their Division 3 Central Section Title run, as well as the Stars run in the Division 5 State Playoffs, making it to the final four. Becerra has been a walking double-double the past two years of his high school career and was co-SYL-Mountain League MVP this past season with averages of 19.6 points, 9.3 rebounds, and 2.1 blocks per game. Becerra has great footwork in the post, gets good positioning to score around taller players in the paint, has nice back to the basket moves, and is effective with the jumper from the high-post. Becerra uses his length and wingspan to alter shots around the basket, does a solid job on the glass on both ends, and runs the floor well in the open court to get ahead of the ball for easy transition buckets. Becerra is a solid JUCO prospect that has the potential to play at the four-year level with NAIA or D3 being a likely destination with continued growth in his perimeter game. Good student as well with a 3.2 cumulative GPA. Coachable, great work ethic, and room to keep improving. 

James Brown 5’11 PG (McLane/Fresno CA)
Brown is a crafty lead guard that had a standout senior season for the Highlanders, as he became the basketball program’s all-time leading scorer and earned 1st Team All-NYL honors. Brown has dynamic handles, shifty moves to create space from his defender, and makes nice use of the change of pace off the dribble to get by his opponent where he is a crafty finisher around the basket. Brown has active hands, gets into his opponent’s dribbling space, and generates turnovers that lead to open court points. Brown averaged 15.6 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 2.7 steals per game to show off his on-ball defensive prowess. Brown plays with a great burst of speed off the dribble and would be a nice lead guard pick-up at the JUCO level. 

Ray Brown 6’2 CG (Edison/Fresno CA)
Brown is a combo guard that has the court vision to make passes in tight windows, as well as score in volume when he gets hot from behind the arc. Brown led the Tigers in scoring this season and his overall stats show his impact on both ends of the court. He averaged 18 points, 5.8 rebounds, 6 assists, and 3.2 steals per game. Brown has a nice burst of speed off the bounce, can take the contact when attacking down the lane, has a smooth stroke from the perimeter, and can light it up from the 3-point line quickly. Brown is a solid on-ball defender, has quick hands to poke the ball out, and the strength to snatch it from his opponent and get into the open court. Brown is a two sport athlete and if he decides to pursue hoops at the next level, he would be a great JUCO asset with the potential to play at the D2 level. 3.0 GPA and a tough minded player that plays better as the game intensifies. 

Zachary Chauhan 6’4 WG (Clovis West/Fresno CA)
Chauhan is an athletic wing/guard that has been one of the leading scorers for the Golden Eagles the last two years, as it has been a top 4 team in the Section in those two years. Chauhan has solid handles to create off the dribble, has the physicality to finish through contact around the basket, and is effective at scoring the ball from the mid-range to the 3-point line. Chauhan moves well off the ball, gets to open spots for catch and shoot opportunities, and has impressive court vision to find open teammates cutting off the ball. Defensively, Chauhan is one of the better on-ball perimeter defenders, has the ability to guard bigger players on switches, and has active hands to create turnovers that lead to transition offense. Chauhan gets off the ground quickly to control the boards, can push the ball up the court off the defensive rebounds, and can score in volume. Chauhan had averages of 13.8 points, 3.4 rebounds, and shot 50% from the field. Chauhan has a 3.1 GPA and would be a great fit for a JUCO program next year with his ceiling being Division 2. 

Dre Davis 6’8 F (San Joaquin Memorial/Fresno CA)
Davis is a forward that dominates the boards and can stretch the floor from the 3-point line. Davis earned 1st Team All-CMAC honors this season for the Panthers and was a key piece in the team’s D2 State Championship last season. Davis is capable of being a double-double machine and took some major strides in his offensive game this season. I am not sure what his plans are for next year, but with his size and shooting ability, Davis would be a guarantee for a JUCO program. 

Rippen Gill 6’6 WG (Centennial/Bakersfield CA) 
Gill is a wing/guard that impacts the game in countless ways, and is not just one of the top unsigned seniors in the Central Section but in the State of California overall. Gill is a 3 time SYL-River MVP and has been the focal point of the offense since his sophomore year. Gill led the Golden Hawks to the Division 2 State Championship Game this season and, despite the loss, led his squad with 22 points. Gill put up impressive individual stats again this season with 18.6 points, 7.7 rebounds, 4 assists, and 4.1 steals per game, which showcased his ability to impact both ends of the court. Gill has solid handles, moves to create separation off the bounce, can score the ball from 3-levels, and moves well off the ball for catch and shoot threes. Gill can operate at the guard spot with good court vision and decision making as a playmaker, or be more of a scorer when operating from the wing. Gill runs the floor well, controls the boards, and can defend the 1-4 positions effectively. D2 prospect with the potential to play at the D1 level with current interest from CSU East Bay, Redlands, Sacramento State, and Fresno Pacific. Gill will play with the EYCL Oakland Soldiers this Spring and Summer to make one last push before he decides on where to go. Also, a quality student with a cumulative GPA of 3.6+.  

Lance Haworth 6’2 PG (Highland/Bakersfield CA)
Haworth is a versatile lead guard that has good size and skill to run the offense, as well as the shot making to be effective scoring the ball. Haworth has been under the radar playing for a smaller program but did get some traction last Spring and Summer with the WCE Central program. Haworth keeps the ball on a string, has the height to survey the floor and see over the defense, and the court vision and precision to find open teammates in the half court setting. Haworth has the moves to create off the dribble, plays with good pace to get his defender off balance, and is a smooth finisher around the basket with touch on the floater. Haworth is effective with the jumper and efficient from the 3-point line, does a solid job on the glass, and plays with good poise under pressure. Lance averaged an impressive 20 points per game, along with 6 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 steals to go along with an outstanding GPA of 4.0. Given the lack of exposure, it is safe to say he will be a JUCO player right out of high school most likely, but with continued development and shooting efficiency, along with his grades, he would be an ideal candidate for a high academic D3 program, with D2 as his ceiling. 

Javon Hicks 6’1 CG (Selma/CA)
Hicks is a multifaceted combo guard that can create his own offense, as well as lock up perimeter opponents with tough on-ball defense. Hicks had a great senior campaign for the TCC-Kings League Champs and was awarded league MVP honors. Hicks has active hands on defense, gets into his defenders dribbling space, has good timing on jumping passing lanes, and routinely turns defense to offense. Offensively, Hicks has moves to create off the perimeter, is a creative finisher around the basket over size, is accurate with the jump shot, and is efficient from the 3-point line off the dribble or the catch and shoot. Hicks averages 19.1 points, 4 renounds, and 4 steals per game this season, which illustrates his tenacity on defense and scoring ability. Hicks will be a solid get for a JUCO program and if he can develop into a true lead guard, with his defensive prowess, could play at the NAIA/D3 ranks. 

Jaleel Jackson 6’3 PG (Bullard/Fresno CA)
Jackson is an impact two-way lead guard that can play on and off the ball effectively. Jackson had primarily been a facilitator on the offensive end the past few seasons, but this season, especially with the season-ending injury to Ja’Vance Coleman, Jackson really stepped it up as a scorer. Jackson would earn 1st Team All-CMAC League this season with averages of 12.1 points, 5 assists, 1.5 steals, and 4.3 rebounds per game for the CMAC Champs of Bullard. Jackson hit some big time shots in the Knights run to the Division 3 State Final Four and is currently playing with Fresno-based Trained to Go 17u club team for the Spring and possibly Summer. Jackson has a long wingspan that allows him to be a lock-up on-ball perimeter defender, has quick hands to poke the ball out from his opponent, as well as timely at jumping passing lanes turning defense to offense. Jackson makes nice use of the crossover to get by his initial defender, plays with good change of pace, and has the court vision to thread the needle when on the attack. Jackson has improved his accuracy on his jump shot and become a threat from the 3-point line. Currently Jackson is projected to be a JUCO prospect and has interest from a solid list of California JUCOs but continued work on shooting accuracy to go along with the other positive aspects of his game, his ceiling should be D2. 3.0 GPA for high school.  

Kyshawn Johnson 6’6 FW (Bullard/Fresno CA)
Johnson is an athletic forward with a long wingspan that allows him to play much bigger than his height when operating in the post. Johnson is a high-level rim protector, has the athleticism to step out and alter shots on the wing, uses his length to deflect passes that lead to steals, and has great lateral movement to stay in front of smaller players. Johnson runs the floor well, controls the boards and outlets quickly to get up the court in transition, and has nice touch around the basket. Johnson is still just scratching the surface of his full potential and is a JUCO product at the moment. However, the growth I’ve seen the past few years has been impressive and in the right system and under the right player development coach, Johnson has the potential to be a 4-year player with a D2 ceiling if he can develop into a true wing/forward. Great basketball frame and motor.   

Logan Kilbert 6’4 SG (Sierra/Tollhouse CA)
Kilbert is the most accomplished player on this list of unsigned seniors and he will likely sign by the end of the school year, but still time to get in on this lights out shooter and prolific scorer. Kilbert is the all-time leading scorer in the history of Central Section basketball with a total of 3,334 points for his career, and another Northwest Sequoia League MVP, as he would total 3 MVPs over his 4-year career. Kilbert averaged 29.3 points, 7.1 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2.5 steals per game with numerous games scoring in the 30s. Kilbert has the moves to create his own shots off the dribble, is lights out from the 3-point line, a fluid stop and pop mid-range jumper with good lift, and moves well off the ball with a quick release on catch and shoot opportunities. Kilbert does a solid job on the boards, can push the ball up the court, and has good court vision to make plays when the defense over commits. Not only is he a highly intelligent basketball player, Kilbert is a great student with a 4.03 GPA. D2 prospect with the academic resume to get into a high academic institution. Tough player that competes on every possession and scores in volume from 3-levels.   

Va’Ron Mitchell 6’4 WG (Edison/Fresno CA)
Mitchell is a versatile wing/guard that can operate in the post using his solid frame, as well as create off the perimeter with solid perimeter skills. Mitchell averaged 16.4 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 2 assists per game for the Tigers and had some standout showings in the first part of the season, like earning player of the game honors at the Heart of California Basketball Classic. Mitchell has the handles and moves to create off the dribble, the frame to absorb contact and finish at the rim, can knock down the 3-ball with consistency, but is at his best when he is hunting the mid-range jumper. He does a solid job on the glass and can push the pace of play in the open court. Mitchell is an underrated facilitator and can play the 1 through 4 effectively. He is also a quality student with a 3.5 GPA and, although may have to go the JUCO route next year, Mitchell has one of the highest upsides of any of the players in this article. 

Jeremy Pierro 6’5 WF (Clovis East/CA)
Pierro is a lengthy and athletic wing/forward two-way impact player that provided the upper class leadership needed on a relatively young Timberwolve roster. Pierro earned First Team All-TRAC League and had season averages of 13 points, 4 rebounds, and a steal per game, Pierro has the length and enough size to defend in the paint, as well as the lateral quickness and active hands to lock up perimeter players, anticipates and jumps passing lanes routinely to create transition points, and has a nice stop and pop jumper. Pierro does a solid job on the glass, looks to push the pace of play, and moves well off the ball. I have been most impressed with his improved accuracy from the 3-point line both off the catch and shoot, as well as off the bounce. Also, a really good student with a 3.9 GPA.  

Skylarr Redwood 6’6 WF (Roosevelt/Fresno CA)
Redwood is a lengthy and athletic wing/slasher that is one of the more intriguing unsigned seniors and long term prospects in the class of 2024. Redwood spent his first 3 years of high school at Clovis West before transferring to Roosevelt of Fresno where he would put up career numbers and arguably the most improved player in the Section. Redwood averaged 15.3 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1.5 steals per game and was the 2nd leading scorer on the team. Redwood uses his long wingspan to control the boards, and serves as a high-level shot blocker in the post, as well as on the perimeter, with the agility and foot speed to switch off and defend smaller players and the height and bounce to defend bigger players in the key. Redwood has good handles, makes nice use of the crossover to create space from his defender, and, with his size and length, can shoot over most perimeter defenders. Redwood has nice touch around the basket, enough court vision to make plays when on the attack, and has really improved his efficiency on his jump shot. Redwood is looking into a year of postgraduate reclassification, but a good JUCO could be an ideal route as well. Redwood is still scratching the surface of his full potential and with continued work on his guard skills, his ceiling is D1 but could take a few stops before getting to that point. Really impressed with his progress and play this season and you can’t teach the physical attributes he possesses. 

Ronnie Roche 5’10 pg (Kings Christian/Lemoore CA)
Roche is a dynamic lead guard that was one of the more prolific scorers in the Central Section this past season. Roche has attended a few of our player showcases over the past two years and displayed his ability to run the point and make plays for others. However, his role for his high school team was getting buckets at a high clip, as he averaged 28.9 points per game this season to lead his team to a East Sierra League Title. Roche was 3 time League MVP and boasts an impressive GPA of 4.3, which opens up opportunities with high academic institutions to further his hoops career. Roche also displayed a solid on-ball defensive prowess, as he would average nearly 5 steals a game, at 4.6, which allowed him to get out in the open court and create easy transition points. Roche has the court vision to make plays when on the attack, keeps the ball on a string to survey and see holes in the defense, and the moves to create space for open looks. Roche is a knockdown perimeter shooter that is highly efficient from the 3-point line and would be a nice addition for a JUCO program with his ability to be an impact scorer off the bench right away. 

Tad Tibbett 6’4 WF (Immanuel/Reedley CA)
Tibbett is a wing/forward that can score in the post, as well as space the floor with his accuracy from the perimeter. Tibbett, one of two standout seniors for the Eagles, led the way this year to a TCC League Title for Immanuel. Tibbett was named TCC MVP with averages of 22.1 points and 7.1 rebounds per game. Tibbett does a solid job on the boards, has enough handle to push the ball up the court, good footwork and post moves to score in the paint, and a nice touch on the jump shot to pull bigger defenders away from the basket, which opens up lanes for him to attack off the dribble. Tibbett would be a solid addition to a JUCO program and already has a good, physical build to hang with the size and build of most JUCO rosters. 

Mikah Tolpezninkas 6’3 SG (Immanuel/Reedley CA)
Tolpezninkas is a lights out shooter from the perimeter and, although he can play at the 3 or 4 spots, is at his best playing the 2 or shooting guard position. Tolpezninkas was named TCC Offensive Player of the Year and put up solid numbers of 20.9 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 2.7 assists per game to showcase his all around impact on the offensive end of the court. Tolpezninkas moves well off the ball, gets to his shot spots, and has a quick release with good size to get his shot off over most perimeter defenders. Tolpezninkas has the moves and handles to create space off the dribble, gets good lift on his mid-range jumper, and can score in volume with great accuracy from the 3-point line. He has a solid frame, which allows him to be a good finisher through contact around the basket. Likely a JUCO prospect right out of high school, Tolpezninkas ceiling is D2 as he has the size and shooting ability to earn minutes on a 4-year roster with continued development as a combo guard. However, given the 3.9 GPA, that could open up avenues for playing at a high academic institution to continue his playing career. 

Javier Torres 6’2 PG (Dinuba/CA)
Torres is a big lead guard that impacts the game in a variety of ways, either running the offense or creating his own scoring opportunities. Torres led the Emperors to a Division 2 Central Section Title this past season, as well as a WYL Title and MVP honors. Torres averaged 16.1 points, 8.7 rebounds, 4.8 assists, and 2.3 steals per game, which is a reflection of his overall impact on both ends of the court. Torres keeps the ball on a string, has the moves to create off the dribble, has a solid build to finish through contact when attacking the basket, and has improved his accuracy on the perimeter jumper. Torres can defend the 1 through 3 effectively, has active hands on defense, and turns defense to offense routinely. He does a solid job on the boards, and looks to push the pace of play off the glass with the court vision to find open teammates up the court or in the half court setting. Torres would be a solid addition for a JUCO program and with continued development on his shooting efficiency, his ceiling is likely NAIA or D3. 

Deshawn Usochu 6’3 CG (Liberty/Bakersfield CA)
Usochu is a true combo guard that has the physical build and athleticism to defend bigger players on switch offs. Usochu had one of the more underrated high school careers, as he averaged a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds per game. To highlight his all around impact on both ends as a guard, Usochu averaged nearly 5 assists and 3 steals per game, showing he could be a facilitator when the defense over focused on him, as well as an elite on-ball defender that routinely turned defense to offense. Usochu has averaged similar stats over the last 3 years of his high school career but the lack of success of the Patriots the past few seasons has kept Usochu out of the spotlight in comparison to other players like Rippen Gill, Jhace Boston, Bentley Waller, etc. while putting up similar statistics. Usochu already has the frame to compete at the next level and his two-way impact, especially as a defensive stopper, should get him on the court in his first year if he ends up in the right program. Usochu is likely a JUCO player next year and should be a guy that programs are highly considering, and with continued development on his shooting efficiency his ceiling is D2.   

Bentley Waller 6’4 CG (Bakersfield Christian/CA)
Waller is a crafty lead guard with size, skill, and the basketball IQ to run an offense at the 4-year level. After a few seasons with injuries that limited Waller’s play, he showed why he is one of the top prospects in the Central Section regardless of class this season. Waller led the Eagles to another SYL-Valley League Title and was named League co-MVP. Waller averaged 24.3 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists per game and had multiple 30 point games, as well as top player and all-tournament honors at multiple showcases and tournaments this season. Waller is the top unsigned senior prospect in the Section and has offers from CSU Bakersfield and interest from other Division 1 programs. Waller has elite handles, great size and court vision to make plays to open teammates in the half court setting, the moves to break down his defender and create space for open shots, and plays with great change of pace to keep his opponent off balance. Waller is a crafty finisher around the basket, a smooth stop and pop mid-range jumper, and can light it up from beyond the arc, either off the dribble or the catch and shoot. Given the craziness of the transfer portal it is not as easy to say where a player with Waller skill and size will land, but if not D1 next year, that is definitely the potential of this intriguing prospect when said and done. His older brother took an unusual path to D1 play, so Waller and his family understand that everyone’s path is different in this era of college basketball but I expect to see him on a D1 roster next year.