Sanger, CA – Last Saturday, January 6th, the Sanger Apaches hosted their annual Central Valley Showdown powered by NorCal Sports TV. The event featured 8 games, primarily between Central Section teams with the addition of Monterey High School from NorCal. I arrived for the 2nd game of the showcase between Redwood of Visalia and Washington Union of Fresno and wrapped the day up with the host team Sanger taking on Clovis East. The event featured some great match-ups, highlighted by the game between Sierra of Tollhouse and Edison of Fresno, as senior Logan Kilbert entered the game needing 25 points to become the all-time leading scorer in Central Section basketball history, which he accomplished on his first shot attempt of the 2nd half with the corner 3-ball.
In this article I highlight 10 players I recognized as top performers from the one-day showcase. There were others that played well but these are under the radar players that I have not done an evaluation on recently or younger players looking to establish a name for themselves. The list of players is in alphabetical order and not ranked order. I have included the following information for each player: their name, school attended, height, graduation class, a short description of how they played at the event with relevant statistics, and a brief discussion of their skills.
5’10 James Brown 2024 McLane (Fresno CA)
Brown displayed his quick lead guard skills in a win over Justin Garza of Fresno, as he put up a team-high 18 points with a pair of threes. Brown has great on court speed with the ball in hand, accelerates off the dribble with a quick first step to get by his defender, and is a creative finisher around the basket over height. Brown has the moves to create space off the bounce and is effective with the perimeter shot. Defensively, Brown has active hands to knock the ball away from his opponent to get out in transition, where he is tough to defend.
6’1 Ray Brown 2024 Edison (Fresno CA)
Brown turned up the heat in the 2nd half of the Tigers game against Sierra of Tollhouse, as he would score 14 of his team-high 20 points after the break connecting on 4 threes to go with his 5 rebounds. Brown is a combo guard with a solid frame, the moves to get downhill and attack the defense, and the strength to finish through contact, as was evident on a few of his finishes around the basket. Brown has solid handles, moves to create off the dribble, and improved accuracy from the perimeter, especially the 3-ball. Good on-ball defender that does a solid job on the glass to push the pace of play.
6’6 Micah Cole 2025 Sanger (CA)
Cole is one of the more intriguing long-term prospects as a wing/forward/slasher that showed his ability to be a threat off the catch and shoot, as he finished with 15 points and a pair of threes in the loss to Clovis East to cap off the event. Cole has a massive wingspan, great athleticism and bounce, alters shots in the post and the perimeter, and has the handles to push the ball off the glass and get into transition. Cole excels in the open court, runs the lanes effectively, and gets to the open spot for the lob dunk or corner 3-ball. High ceiling for Cole and depending on how his game expands over the next year will tell where he ends up at the next level.
6’9 Cole Gilcrest 2024 Redwood (Visalia CA)
Gilcrest is one of the more formidable bigs in the Section and made his presence felt in the post in the Rangers 53 to 42 win at the Central Valley Showdown, as he was near a double-double with 14 points and close to 10 rebounds. I had to take a break in the 2nd quarter of this game and was not able to stat the entire game so I do not have accurate rebound numbers but I had 6 down in the time I was able to keep stats. Gilcrest has good touch around the basket, the footwork to score in various ways around the cup, and is a good rim protector and rebounder. He has an accurate mid-range jumper from the high-post and gets up and down the court well in transition.
6’ Javon Hicks 2024 Selma (CA)
Hicks was all over the place for the Bears in its impressive win over Tulare Western by a score of 66 to 50. Hicks would score a game-high 18 points to go along with his stout perimeter defense that led to 4 steals. Hicks has active hands on defense, has good timing to jump passing lanes, and turns defense to offense routinely. Hicks has a nice mid-range jumper and moves well off the ball to get open looks.
6’3 Zander Jensen 2027 Redwood (Visalia CA)
Jensen has had an impressive start to his high school career for the Rangers, as was on display in its win over Washington Union of Fresno leading the team in scoring with 14 points on limited minutes due to a sore ankle. Jensen has solid handles, moves to create off the dribble, accurate shot from the perimeter, and plays with good control and pace when looking to attack the paint. Jensen has good court vision, finds the mismatch in the post with accurate entry passes, and does a solid job on the glass to push the ball up the court. One of the top freshmen in the Section and already a key piece to Redwood’s rotation.
6’4 Logan Kilbert 2024 Sierra (Tollhouse CA)
Kilbert put on the best scoring display of the day at the Central Valley Showcase, as he would score an event high of 36 points and knocked down 6 threes. It was an all around special game, as Kilbert would set the all-time Central Section scoring record once he hit the 25-point mark and the Chieftains would get a big win over Edison of Fresno, which is a Division 1 program. Kilbert has the moves to create space off the dribble, can launch from anywhere past half court, has a quick release on his perimeter shot, and is lights out from beyond the arc. He moves well off the ball, gets to open spots for catch and shoot opportunities, and has a deadly stop and pop jumper. Kilbert does a solid job on the glass, looks to push the ball up the court, and is underrated as a play maker with quality court vision.
6’5 Jeremy Pierro 2024 Clovis East (CA)
Pierro led the Timberwolves in a win over the host team Sanger, as he would score a team-high 18 points and connect on 3 threes in the first half to get the lead up early. Pierro is a versatile wing/slasher that does a solid job on the boards, has the handles to push the pace of play, and makes good reads to open teammates. Pierro has good length and a big wingspan, good footwork and lateral quickness, and is capable of defending the 1 through 4 positions. He has shifty moves to create off the perimeter and a much improved jumper with accuracy from beyond the arc off the catch and shoot. Underrated unsigned senior that would be a great fit for a JUCO program next year.
6’5 Skylarr Redwood 2024 Roosevelt (Fresno CA)
Redwood was one of the more intriguing off-season transfers coming from Clovis West, as he has made major strides in his overall game. This was the first time I have seen the Rough Riders with Redwood in the line-up and he did not disappoint, as he would go for 30 points and 13 rebounds in the win over Clovis High, 62 to 56. Redwood has good length and athleticism as a wing/forward to impact various parts of the game, is a solid rebounder, serves as a legit rim protector with the ability to defend smaller players on the perimeter, and can push the ball off the glass up the court. Redwood is effective with the mid-range jumper, showed improved accuracy from the 3-point line, and was looking to dunk everything close to the rim, displaying his quick leaping ability. One of the better diamonds in the rough seniors that fits well alongside standout junior James Miller.
6’4 Matt Williams 2025 Clovis (CA)
Williams displayed his ability to score in volume quickly in the loss to Roosevelt of Fresno, where he would score 16 of his team-high 20 points in the 3rd quarter to help his team storm back and tie the game at 41 a piece going into the final frame. Williams has good moves to create off the bounce, moves well off the ball to get open looks from the perimeter, and is accurate with the 3-ball. Williams is solid on the boards, is versatile on the defensive end, and has range with the 3-ball. Good athlete that has lots of upside and plays at another level when assertive on the court.