The Class of 2024 has finally had a full year on the court without being negatively impacted by the stringent Covid protocols that hindered player exposure and opportunities for the first year and a half of their high school careers. Although Covid guidelines were in place last season at this time, most teams and players had already had the virus rip through their teams after the holiday tournaments and I do not recall any team missing a key player in the playoffs. After the high school season, players from the 2024 Class would get four NCAA Certified Live Periods (two in April and two in July) for the Spring and Summer portions of the club season, as well as the scholastic live period in June where hundreds of teams converged on Arizona for the illustrious Section 7. Section 7 in June was particularly beneficial for the current junior class, as hundreds of Division 1 coaches (along with lower divisions) flocked to State Farm Stadium to scout players with their high school teams, as well as players that do not play on one of the three shoe company circuits (Nike’s EYBL, Adidas’ 3SSB, and Under Armour’s UAA). The last round of 2024 Player Rankings was also my first for this age group and at the time it was looking relatively bleak with regard to recruitment, as many were just learning about the effects of the transfer portal and the additional year of eligibility players had gotten during the shutdown year of 2020-2021. Since the initial round of rankings, more players have generated attention from college coaches and scouts but the pathway to playing at the next level has drastically changed for many players in the already under-recruited Central Section of California.
As mentioned above, players from the 2024 Class had five NCAA Live Period events last April, June, and July. Beyond the Live Period weekends, there were countless other platforms and opportunities for players to gain exposure through live-streamed coverage, as well as evaluations from reputable national and regional scouts. In the Central Section alone, myself and Clutch media hosted our inaugural Central Cali’s Prospect Preview last May and in September we held our 2nd Annual Central Cali’s Junior/Senior Showcase, both of which provided a platform for the 2024 Class. In the Fall, players were able to further display their skills and talent in various events with their high school teams. Although this is not part of the official high school season, players are able to gain exposure through evaluators and scouts in attendance. All of this is to say that while the Class of 2024 is still reeling to some extent from the impact of Covid on their options for playing after high school, the exposure has drastically improved and the post-Covid recruiting landscape is much clearer at the time of updating these player rankings compared to last June.
This is my second round of player rankings for the Class of 2024, and the list has expanded from 35 to 40 players. This list has been compiled over the past two years, 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 community in the Central Section on players in these rankings, but the order of the players is my own ranked order. I had planned on producing this list before the start of the preseason in November, but after the first month of the season there were multiple players that caught my attention and needed to be added to this list, as well as some that are no longer in the top 40 for various reasons. For the first round of player rankings for the Class of 2024 I had Connor Amundsen of Clovis North at the top of the list. Despite the shoulder surgery that ended his junior high school season, I had planned on keeping him at the top after a great showing at elite events like the Border League in Las Vegas just prior to the start of the official high school season. However, given that I pushed the release date for these rankings from the early part of the preseason to the middle of league play, I feel it is only fair to give recognition to players that have performed well and been on the court and moved Amundsen down a few spots for this round of player rankings. I did the same thing last year with Bentley Waller of Bakersfield Christian, who I had initially slated at the #2 spot after his standout freshman year but ended up dropping him four spots after missing his sophomore season. Amundsen has been the ideal teammate and I am confident he will come back with a vengeance with the expected return date to be around June I believe, which would have him ready for Section 7 in Arizona.
Another noticeable name missing from the top of these rankings is Zykiar Henderson, who was at the #2 spot in the first round of this list of players. Before the start of the school year, Henderson moved to Taiwan to attend a school/basketball academy. Henderson has since suffered a knee injury that led to surgery and at the time of this article, I am not aware of his plans for next year. Given his departure from the Central Section, Henderson is no longer in these rankings and will not be added back in unless he were to return for his senior season, which is highly unlikely. Those are the two most notable changes given it was the top two players for the first round of the 2024 player rankings. There are eight new players that have made the updated list, with Javier Torres of Dinuba being the highest-ranked of those players at #16. There were three other players that dropped out of this updated list but those were all players ranked outside the top 25 from the initial rankings for this class.
Taking over the top spot for this round of 2024 player rankings is wing/guard Rippen Gill of Centennial. Gill had a solid club season over the Spring and Summer playing for the newly established Jalen Green Elite 16u team on the Adidas 3SSB circuit. Gill had multiple standout showings at individual player showcases, as he was a top 5 player at our Central Cali’s Junior/Senior Showcase and followed that up with being selected to the Top 30 Game at the Pangos Diamond in the Rough Showcase in Long Beach. Gill has continued his high level of play throughout the preseason and league play for Coach Carter at Centennial. Gill was named to the All-Tournament team at the Paul Sutton Classic held at Providence in Burbank, Most Valuable Player at the Clovis Elks Tournament, and most recently Player of the Game at the Edison MLK Super Saturday Showcase after scoring 30 points in a win over Central of Fresno. Gill has been the leading scorer for the Golden Hawks and has come up with big shots in key moments of league play the past two weeks. Gill has been garnering more attention from Division 1 programs, as well as significant interest from Division 2 programs. Gill is a lengthy player that can operate in the post or score from the wing, has a smooth shot from midrange to the 3-point line, can score from all 3-levels effectively, and is improving as a perimeter defender with the physical build to guard bigger players around the basket. Centennial is having a superb season and are likely to end up in the top 5 when it comes time to seeding teams for the playoffs, with the possibility of earning one of the top four spots and a first-round bye.
Coming in at the #2 spot in these updated rankings is lead guard Bentley Waller of Bakersfield Christian. Waller played a key role for the Eagles as a freshman en route to winning a Section title but missed significant playing time his sophomore year due to health issues related to his growth spurt. Waller grew about half a foot in a year and is currently 6’4” and has been the leading scorer for the Eagles this season. Waller and the Eagles had a rough start to the year, as the line-up had to wait for transfers to clear, but have won 9 of its last 10 games since the addition of the transfer players to the team. Waller made the All-Tournament Team at the Lloyd Williams Tournament at North Bakersfield and recently earned Player of the Game honors in a win over Edison of Fresno at its own MLK Super Saturday Showcase. Waller has elite handles, the size and court vision to see over defenders and make plays to open teammates, can score it from 3-levels, has good body control to finish through contact, has great touch on his shot, and is efficient from the 3-point line with next-level range. Waller, along with backcourt mate Gabe Gutierrez, will be a vital piece for the Eagles, as it has been moved up to Division 1 in the Central Section but Coach Brown always has his team ready for the postseason. Waller recently received a Division 1 offer from Cal State Bakersfield and will look to capitalize on that during the remainder of the high school season into the club season.
Connor Amundsen of Clovis North is the #3 ranked player in this round of the 2024 rankings. I already detailed in the introduction why I moved Connor down two spots from the top-ranked player, and it has nothing to do with him dropping as a prospect long-term but is just part of the process when a player is away from the court. Having said that, no player in this class has generated more buzz amongst coaches and scouts as Amundsen has and he usually shines brightest when on the bigger stages. He was impressive last June at Section 7 and returned with a lot of interest from Division 2 programs, and some Division 1 as well. Amundsen had a solid club season with West Coast Elite NorCal 16u UAA team that won their division on the Under Armour Circuit and was a featured player. Amundsen was awarded Most Outstanding Player at our 2nd Annual Junior/Senior Showcase, and finished off the Fall with a terrific outing in one of the top 3 divisions at the Border League in Las Vegas. Shortly after Amundsen had surgery and its was made clear he would take the season off to rehabilitate and heal. Despite being sidelined for the season, Amundsen has been very much a part of the team’s success this year. He has been an assistant coach, using his social media platform to highlight the team’s achievements, attends practices, and is learning how to lead in other ways than just with the basketball in hand. Having said that, I am anticipating a strong return and am confident he will be challenging for the top spot by this time next year. I am not sure if he is staying with WCE but that discussion is for another article.
The next two spots on the list saw no movement, and at the #4 spot is combination guard and sharpshooter Logan Kilbert of Sierra of Tollhouse. Kilbert has been the leading scorer for the Chieftains again this season and is coming off a monster 40-point game to lead his team in a win over Redwood of Visalia at the Sanger Showcase. Kilbert played well at our Central Cali Prospect Preview last May but was not able to attend our Junior/Senior Showcase due to the football season. Being in a small school division in an already small school market makes it tough for players like Kilbert to gain the exposure necessary to get on the radar of college coaches. However, I have seen Kilbert perform very well at a Pangos Showcase last Summer against high-level talent from Southern California and beyond. Kilbert can score it from various spots on the floor, has the moves and the handles to create off the dribble, plays with great pace and change of speed to keep his defender off balance, can finish through contact, can light it up from the 3-point line, and has sneaky bounce that was on display with his baseline throwdown at the Sanger Showcase. Kilbert needs to ensure he plays in the right individual events and if he stays with Swoosh Elite of Fresno he will be playing Adidas Gold events.
Deshawn Usochu of Liberty holds down the #5 spot in this updated list. Usochu has been the guy for the Patriots since his sophomore year and has further cemented that throughout his junior campaign, leading the team in points and rebounds per game. With his physical and athletic build, Usochu always defends the opponent’s best player and plays great perimeter defense with the footwork and agility to close off the dribble drive and create turnovers and easy points. Usochu has a smooth crossover move with good acceleration to get his defender on his hip, the strength to bully to the rim with the shot-making ability to stop and pop from the midrange, and continues to improve his accuracy from the 3-point line. One of the best two-way players in the South Valley and is amongst the contenders in a tight race for SYL-River MVP. Usochu played with Bakersfield based All Out Basketball last season with an occasional run with WCE SoCal 16u UAA but another player that needs a little bigger platform this Spring and Summer to enhance his profile for the collegiate level.
The Broncos are represented at the #6 spot by wing/forward Jordan Espinoza of Clovis North. Espinoza has been one of the core pieces for the Broncos the last two seasons and this year he has really stepped up his leadership role on the court and his offensive production has helped ease the loss of Amundsen. Espinoza is another top tier two-way perimeter player in the Central Section and plays with great energy and effort game after game. Given his toughness and physical presence on the court, Espinoza is capable of, and often does, defend interior players much taller than he is and handles his own on the boards, while being able to create scoring opportunities in creative ways over size. Espinoza has been one of the leading scorers and rebounders for Clovis North and he will be relied upon heavily throughout the rest of league and the playoffs, as the expectations have not changed from last year in making a run in the Section and State playoffs.
The Golden Eagles secure the next two spots with Zach Chauhan of Clovis West at #7. Chauhan was a critical player off the bench last season as the Golden Eagles won the Section Open Division title and has stepped it up a notch this season earning All-Tournament honors at Clovis West’s own Nike Invitational and the Tarkanian Classic in their respective division. Chauhan is one of the leading scorers, does a solid job on the boards, and can shoot the ball with accuracy from the perimeter. Chauhan will likely play with Swoosh Elite of Fresno this upcoming club season at Adidas Gold events and would benefit from attending a few quality player showcases to get his name and skill set in front of scouts and media. Chauhan moves well off the ball, has good size and lift to shoot over taller perimeter defenders, has the handle and moves to create off the dribble, and with his ability to rebound well for his height can push the ball up the court. He is a quality defender that can guard the 1 through 3 positions effectively. Chauhan will be key to the Golden Eagles’ success the remainder of the regular season and the postseason.
Sharpshooter Jackson Young of Clovis West drops in at #8. Young had some big-time performances and was a core piece of last year’s Section title team, as he connected on 7 threes and had a game-high 23 points in the Section Open Division Championship Game to help spark the 20-point comeback win. Young remains a core piece of the Golden Eagles’ pursuit of another Section title and is one of the best 3-point shooters in the Central Section with the ability to score in volume when on fire from the perimeter. Young is able to shoot off the dribble or the catch and shoot with the 3-ball, as well as the moves to get downhill and attack the basket. Young has solid court vision and his experience from last year’s postseason run will be heavily relied upon as an upperclassman this season. I would anticipate that Young is playing with Swoosh Elite again this club season and should have the platform to highlight his 3-point shooting efficiency and his ability to play off the ball or on the ball.
The first newcomer to the top 10 at the #9 spot is Justin Stroud of Central Valley Christian. In the first round of these rankings, I had Stroud outside the top 15 and had not planned on moving him up much but, with the numbers Stroud has been putting up that earned him a spot in the top 10. Stroud was playing football during the early parts of the preseason and I had not seen him live since last season, which is why I had no plans to move him up but since hitting the court Stroud has been a walking double-double. Stroud has been punishing on the boards; scoring around 20 points per game and pulling down at least 10 rebounds in the process. Stroud has also been impressive facilitating the ball with multiple games near triple-double numbers. Stroud has good size and good touch around the basket, controls the boards, can score from the perimeter off the dribble, and has the athleticism and agility to defend on the wing and the strength to guard taller players. Stroud has options as a multiple sport athlete but if he focuses in on hoops he could be one of the best next-level prospects in the 2024 class.
Rounding out the top 10 is Dre Davis of San Joaquin Memorial. Davis has made some of the biggest strides of any player on this list and with his height and size, he is an appealing prospect in the Central Section. Davis has improved his efficiency from the perimeter, is effective from the 3-point line, does a nice job on the glass, and will be a key piece for the Panthers in their postseason ambitions to go after a Section title. Davis does have the ability to space the floor, which draws out bigger defenders that opens up the basket. Davis has good court vision and passes well out of the high-post finding cutting teammates off the ball.
There were other players that made some significant jumps in this updated list. Donquavious Bolton of Centennial went from #29 to #14 with his impact on the boards and interior scoring for the Golden Hawks being key reasons he moved up fifteen slots. Javier Torres of Dinuba, Nate Becerra of North Bakersfield, and Ray Brown of Edison all went from not ranked to top 20 based on their level of play and impact on their team’s success throughout the majority of the current high school season. I did my best to compile the most comprehensive list of players from the Central Section and make this information available for public consumption by coaches and other scouts and media personnel.
Below you will find the rank order for the Class of 2024 Top 40 Central Section Player Rankings, which include the following information: current rank, their previous rank in parentheses, the player’s name, height, player position, and current school attending. I will have the updated Class of 2025 published this week and will update this list before the start of their senior season if not earlier.
|Rank||Player Name||Height||Postion||High School (Location)|
|1 (3)||Rippen Gill||6'5"||WF||Centennial (Bakersfield CA)|
|2 (6)||Bentley Waller||6'4"||PG||Bakersfield Christian H.S. (CA)|
|3 (1)||Connor Amundsen||5'11"||PG||Clovis North (Fresno CA)|
|4 (4)||Logan Kilbert||6'3"||CG||Sierra (Tollhouse CA)|
|5 (5)||Deshawn Usochu||6'3||CG||Liberty (Bakersfield CA)|
|6 (8)||Jordan Espinoza||6'3"||WF||Clovis North (Fresno CA)|
|7 (12)||Zach Chauhan||6'3"||WF||Clovis West (Fresno CA)|
|8 (7)||Jackson Young||6'2"||SG||Clovis West (Fresno CA)|
|9 (18)||Justin Stroud||6'4"||PF||Central Valley Christian (Visalia CA)|
|10 (16)||Dre Davis||6'8"||PF||San Joaquin Memorial (Fresno CA)|
|11 (11)||Jaleel Jackson||6'2"||PG||Bullard (Fresno CA)|
|12 (9)||Jeremy Pierro||6'4"||WF||Clovis East (Clovis CA)|
|13 (10)||Zy’Kayvious Reese||6'4"||WF||West (Bakersfield CA)|
|14 (29)||Donquavious Bolton||6'4"||WF||Centennial (Bakersfield CA)|
|15 (14)||Marshel Sanders||5'9"||CG||Clovis West (Fresno CA)|
|16 (NR)||Javier Torres||6'2"||PG||Dinuba (CA)|
|17 (21)||Louis Duarte||6'3"||WF||Bakersfield Christian (CA)|
|18 (19)||Luke Jacobson||6'7"||SF||Mission Prep (San Luis Obispo CA)|
|19 (NR)||Nate Becerra||6'5"||PF||North (Bakersfield CA)|
|20 (NR)||Ray Brown||6'2"||CG||Edison (Fresno CA)|
|21 (23)||David Rios Jr.||5'10"||PG||Bullard (Fresno CA)|
|22 (22)||Va'Ron Mitchell||6'3"||CG||Edison (Fresno CA)|
|23 (13)||Godwill Fomusoh||6'4"||PF||Centennial (Bakersfield CA)|
|24 (25)||Kyshawn Johnson||6'5"||WF||Bullard (Fresno CA)|
|25 (31)||Aiden Morillo||5'8"||CG||Liberty (Bakersfield CA)|
|26 (20)||Jovarie "JoJo" Hayden||5'9"||PG||Ridgeview (Bakersfield CA)|
|27 (24)||Treyvonn Sanderson||6'3"||WF||Clovis H.S. (CA)|
|28 (27)||Trejon Fulton||6'3"||WF||Liberty (Bakersfield CA)|
|29 (NR)||McKay Olsen||6'2||WF||Clovis East (CA)|
|30 (NR)||Zach Soriano||6'1"||SG||Arroyo Grande (CA)|
|31 (15)||Arinze Onyeguli||6'6"||PF||Independence (Bakersfield CA)|
|32 (17)||Cole O'Brien||6'2"||SG||Liberty (Bakersfield CA)|
|33 (30)||Brooks Dawson||6'2"||WF||Stockdale (Bakersfield CA)|
|34 (NR)||Wendell Ware||6'3"||WF||Edison (Fresno CA)|
|35 (30)||Skylarr Redwood||6'5"||WF||Clovis West (Fresno CA)|
|36 (32)||Dilibe Allison||5'9"||PG||Clovis (CA)|
|37 (NR)||David Vasquez||5'9||PG||North (Bakersfiel CA)|
|38 (26)||Troy Lei||5'9"||PG||Bakersfield Christian (CA)|
|39 (28)||Dacory Deans-Boldin||6'3"||WF||Ridgeview (Bakersfield CA)|
|T-40 (NR)||Kaden Lopes||5'10"||SG||Lemoore (CA)|
|T-40 (33)||Karl DiModica||6'4"||WF||Nipomo (CA)|