Countdown to Tipoff: Boys No. 3, Andre Kelly

Lincoln's Andre Kelly, left, rises for a shot against rival St. Mary's during a Tri-City Athletic League boys basketball game last season at Lincoln High in Stockton. RECORD FILE 2016

It’s hard to believe that Andre Kelly is still a junior in high school.

Kelly has already had a fantastic varsity basketball career, without one game as an upperclassman.

The 6-foot-8 forward on the Lincoln boys basketball team averaged 19 points and 11 rebounds as a sophomore, shooting 57 percent from the field. Kelly was a second-team All-Area forward for The Record.

Kelly had 490 total points as a sophomore, and has 571 for his career. One thousand is certainly on the horizon for this kid.

That’s why Kelly is No. 3 on my “Countdown to Tipoff” boys basketball returner rankings.

Kelly is as talented, and as big a collegiate prospect as anyone in the area. I’m guessing there will be a question or two about why he’s not No. 1. Honestly, any of the top four have an argument to be No. 1. Kelly can prove that worth, too, this season by helping take Lincoln back to the playoffs, and using his length, stregnth and athleticism to become a dominant defensive player, too.

What he’s already accomplished is amazing, and he is likely going to get much, much better.

How it works: These player rankings are returning players only. These are weighed both by past varsity success and statistical prowess and the potential impact these players may have this year. All factors will be weighed, including whether a player must sit out time after a transfer or how long an existing injury might last.

Now, this counts down not to the first day of regular-season hoops, which for a handful of teams in the area is the week of Nov. 21-26 but the day the near entirety of the section begins: with the Foundation games on Monday, Nov. 28.

COUNTDOWN TO TIPOFF

No. 10: Gyse Hulsebosch (East Union G, senior)

No. 9: Jimmy Beltz (Elliot Christian G, senior)

No. 8: Tre Simmons (Brookside Christian G, senior)

No. 7: Milton Jordan (Franklin G, senior)

No. 6: Dwight Young (Manteca G, senior)

No. 5: Ephraim Estell (West F, senior)

No. 4: Tydus Verhoeven (Manteca F, senior)

No. 3: Andre Kelly (Lincoln F/C, junior)

No. 2: Sunday

No. 1: Monday

CONNECT WITH THOMAS LAWRENCE

Twitter: @RecordPreps

Facebook: Thomas Lawrence

Email: tlawrence@recordnet.com

Phone: 209-546-8272

Ask a Question: ask.fm/RecordPreps

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Countdown to Tipoff: Girls No. 3, Naje Murray

St. Mary's guard Naje Murray rises for a jumper during his team's win over St. Francis in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I finals in March at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento. CRAIG SANDERS/RECORD FILE 2016

Naje Murray won’t be on the court as soon as she’d like, but can still be a deciding factor in just how far this year’s St. Mary’s girls basketball team goes.

Murray, a senior guard for the Rams and returning first-team All-Area pick, tore her ACL in the offseason. Her recovery has gone faster than first thought, and she hopes for a mid-to-late January return.

That’s a huge factor in these rankings. Should Murray, in actuality, need until March to return, that’s a huge chunk of time where other players on this list will be helping their teams. So, this ranking is assuming Murray gets to play a month or so of the regular season and throughout the playoffs. Keep that in mind.

Different knees handle ACL recovery in different ways. Basketball can be particularly tough, because of all the sudden changes in direction using one’s knees. But we’ve also seen athletes recover incredibly, and fast, like Minnesota Vikings tailback Adrian Peterson.

What is sure, is what a terrific offensive player Murray was for the Rams last season.

The future San Diego State Aztec averaged 12.9 points and 2.8 steals for the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I champions. Murray shot 45 percent from the field and 39 percent from 3-point land. The year before, she was a key player off the bench in St. Mary’s CIF State Open Division championship run.

Murray is No. 3 on my “Countdown to Tipoff” girls basketball returner rankings.

How it works: These player rankings are returning players only. These are weighed both by past varsity success and statistical prowess and the potential impact these players may have this year. All factors will be weighed, including whether a player must sit out time after a transfer or how long an existing injury may last.

Now, this counts down not to the first day of regular-season hoops, which for a handful of teams in the area is the week of Nov. 21-26 but the day the near entirety of the section begins: with the Foundation games on Monday, Nov. 28.

COUNTDOWN TO TIPOFF

GIRLS BASKETBALL RETURNER RANKINGS

No. 10: Deyliana Lewis (Bear Creek F/C, sophomore)

No. 9: Shaylene Stark (Brookside Christian G, senior)

No. 8: Celeste Almendarez (Edison G, junior)

No. 7: Neenah Young (St. Mary’s G/F, junior)

No. 6: Lianna Tillman (Lincoln G, senior)

No. 5: Ariel Johnson (St. Mary’s G/F, junior)

No. 4: Zahria Hendrix (Lincoln G/F, senior)

No. 3: Naje Murray (St. Mary’s G, senior)

No. 2: Friday

No. 1: Nov. 28

CONNECT WITH THOMAS LAWRENCE

Twitter: @RecordPreps

Facebook: Thomas Lawrence

Email: tlawrence@recordnet.com

Phone: 209-546-8272

Ask a Question: ask.fm/RecordPreps

Posted in High School Sports, Sports | Leave a comment

Countdown to Tipoff: Boys No. 4, Tydus Verhoeven

Manteca forward Tydus Verhoeven celebrates after the Buffs won the CIF State Division III championship in March at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento. RECORD FILE 2016

Down the stretch, Tydus Verhoeven began finding his potential as a pensive, modern basketball player.

Verhoeven, a 6-foot-8, incoming senior wing on the Manteca boys team, did everything right in the Buffaloes’ historic run to a CIF State Division III championship. The No. 1-ranked recruit for the Class of 2017 on NorCalPreps.com had tremendous court vision, whether it was facilitating for fellow forwards Kenny Wooten and Anand Hundal or creating offense for himself.

His length, shooting touch, defensive capability and ability to see plays unfolding well before they happen makes him a unique recruit. Now, he and fellow senior Dwight Young are the two returning starters, on a Manteca team that’s defending a special title. Manteca, after all, was the first public school from San Joaquin County to win a boys basketball state title since Stockton High did so in 1928.

Verhoeven is No. 4 on my “Countdown to Tipoff” boys basketball returner rankings, comparing and contrasting the best from The Record’s coverage area: Stockton, San Joaquin County and the Mother Lode.

How it works: These player rankings are returning players only. These are weighed both by past varsity success and statistical prowess and the potential impact these players may have this year. All factors will be weighed, including whether a player must sit out time after a transfer or how long an existing injury might last.

Now, this counts down not to the first day of regular-season hoops, which for a handful of teams in the area is the week of Nov. 21-26 but the day the near entirety of the section begins: with the Foundation games on Monday, Nov. 28.

COUNTDOWN TO TIPOFF

No. 10: Gyse Hulsebosch (East Union G, senior)

No. 9: Jimmy Beltz (Elliot Christian G, senior)

No. 8: Tre Simmons (Brookside Christian G, senior)

No. 7: Milton Jordan (Franklin G, senior)

No. 6: Dwight Young (Manteca G, senior)

No. 5: Ephraim Estell (West F, senior)

No. 4: Tydus Verhoeven (Manteca F, senior)

No. 3: Friday

No. 2: Sunday

No. 1: Nov. 28

CONNECT WITH THOMAS LAWRENCE

Twitter: @RecordPreps

Facebook: Thomas Lawrence

Email: tlawrence@recordnet.com

Phone: 209-546-8272

Ask a Question: ask.fm/RecordPreps

Posted in High School Sports, Sports | Leave a comment

Countdown to Tipoff: Girls No. 4, Zahria Hendrix

Lincoln guard Zahria Hendrix, second from left, dribbles the basketball against Beyer during the Trojans Clash in December 2015. Hendrix is No. 4 on Thomas Lawrence's "Countdown to Tipoff" girls basketball returner rankings. RECORD FILE 2015

You can’t teach many of the things that make Zahria Hendrix a great basketball player.

Hendrix, a senior guard for the Lincoln girls hoops team, is superb in transition: whether it be creating a turnover on defense or slashing to the basket and scoring on offense. Not to mention, she’s excellent in a halfcourt offense, where her 3-point shooting ability is top-notch.

Hendrix signed with Stanislaus State women’s basketball earlier in November, where she’ll join a fellow Stockton high school product in Weston Ranch graduate Lizzy Alexander.

Hendrix is No. 4 in my “Countdown to Tipoff” girls basketball rankings — comparing and contrasting the best returning players in The Record’s coverage area: Stockton, San Joaquin County and the Mother Lode. As a junior, Hendrix averaged nine points, five rebounds, four steals and three assists, and those numbers are likely to grow this year: especially offensively.

Lincoln is the definitive preseason No. 2 team in the area, behind St. Mary’s, and has a shot at advancing to the section’s Division I semifinals down the line and thus advancing to the CIF State playoffs. That’s important, because Lincoln wouldn’t be pushed to the Open Division, but would play in the more manageable Division I.

That’s a long way off, but Hendrix is a key reason why the Trojans have a chance.

How it works: These player rankings are returning players only. These are weighed both by past varsity success and statistical prowess and the potential impact these players may have this year. All factors will be weighed, including whether a player must sit out time after a transfer or how long an existing injury may last.

Now, this counts down not to the first day of regular-season hoops, which for a handful of teams in the area is the week of Nov. 21-26 but the day the near entirety of the section begins: with the Foundation games on Monday, Nov. 28.

COUNTDOWN TO TIPOFF

GIRLS BASKETBALL RETURNER RANKINGS

No. 10: Deyliana Lewis (Bear Creek F/C, sophomore)

No. 9: Shaylene Stark (Brookside Christian G, senior)

No. 8: Celeste Almendarez (Edison G, junior)

No. 7: Neenah Young (St. Mary’s G/F, junior)

No. 6: Lianna Tillman (Lincoln G, senior)

No. 5: Ariel Johnson (St. Mary’s G/F, junior)

No. 4: Zahria Hendrix (Lincoln G/F, senior)

No. 3: Friday

No. 2: Sunday

No. 1: Nov. 28

CONNECT WITH THOMAS LAWRENCE

Twitter: @RecordPreps

Facebook: Thomas Lawrence

Email: tlawrence@recordnet.com

Phone: 209-546-8272

Ask a Question: ask.fm/RecordPreps

Posted in High School Sports, Sports | Leave a comment

Countdown to Tipoff: Girls No. 5, Ariel Johnson

St. Mary's guard Ariel Johnson dribbles against St. Francis during the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I championship game in March at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento. RECORD FILE 2016

Ariel Johnson could very well be higher on this list before the season’s over.

Johnson, an incoming junior guard for the St. Mary’s girls basketball team, has remarkable control on offensive, driving to the basket and making plays in the open court for the press-happy Rams.

It’s a fun time to be a Rams fan, as both Johnson and fellow junior Neenah Young will have much more pivotal roles after the graduation of Kat Tudor, Mi’Cole Cayton and Angel Johnson.

Ariel Johnson (no relation to Angel) averaged eight points, four rebounds, three assists and three steals as a sophomore, as St. Mary’s won the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I championship and reached the CIF State NorCal Open Division semifinals before a massive upset from Los Altos Hills-Pinewood.

Johnson is primed for an incredible season, and is No. 5 on my “Countdown to Tipoff” girls basketball returner rankings.

As I said, she is one of those who could rise considerably in the coming months. The opportunity is there for Johnson, Young and the younger Rams players.

How it works: These player rankings are returning players only. These are weighed both by past varsity success and statistical prowess and the potential impact these players may have this year. All factors will be weighed, including whether a player must sit out time after a transfer or how long an existing injury may last.

Now, this counts down not to the first day of regular-season hoops, which for a handful of teams in the area is the week of Nov. 21-26 but the day the near entirety of the section begins: with the Foundation games on Monday, Nov. 28.

COUNTDOWN TO TIPOFF

GIRLS BASKETBALL RETURNER RANKINGS

No. 10: Deyliana Lewis (Bear Creek F/C, sophomore)

No. 9: Shaylene Stark (Brookside Christian G, senior)

No. 8: Celeste Almendarez (Edison G, junior)

No. 7: Neenah Young (St. Mary’s G/F, junior)

No. 6: Lianna Tillman (Lincoln G, senior)

No. 5: Ariel Johnson (St. Mary’s G/F, junior)

No. 4: TBA

No. 3: TBA

No. 2: Nov. 25

No. 1: Nov. 28

CONNECT WITH THOMAS LAWRENCE

Twitter: @RecordPreps

Facebook: Thomas Lawrence

Email: tlawrence@recordnet.com

Phone: 209-546-8272

Ask a Question: ask.fm/RecordPreps

Posted in High School Sports, Sports | Leave a comment

Countdown to Tipoff: Boys No. 5, Ephraim Estell

Ephraim Estell is what modern basketball is all about.

Estell is tall, fast, strong and with the ability to throw down or cinematic dunk or hit a deep jumper if need be.

The 6-foot-6, now-senior averaged 12 points, 10 rebounds and three assists as West finished third in the Tri-City Athletic League and advanced to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoffs. That’s why Estell is No. 5 on my “Countdown to Tipoff” returner rankings, sorting out the top veteran players in Stockton, San Joaquin County and the Mother Lode.

Estell and junior Michael Hayes make West a contender in the TCAL. Defending co-champions St. Mary’s and Lodi both have massive turnover, and it might be West’s time to strike.

How it works: These player rankings are returning players only. These are weighed both by past varsity success and statistical prowess and the potential impact these players may have this year. All factors will be weighed, including whether a player must sit out time after a transfer or how long an existing injury might last.

Now, this counts down not to the first day of regular-season hoops, which for a handful of teams in the area is the week of Nov. 21-26 but the day the near entirety of the section begins: with the Foundation games on Monday, Nov. 28.

COUNTDOWN TO TIPOFF

No. 10: Gyse Hulsebosch (East Union G, senior)

No. 9: Jimmy Beltz (Elliot Christian G, senior)

No. 8: Tre Simmons (Brookside Christian G, senior)

No. 7: Milton Jordan (Franklin G, senior)

No. 6: Dwight Young (Manteca G, senior)

No. 5: Ephraim Estell (West F, senior)

No. 4: TBA

No. 3: TBA

No. 2: Nov. 25

No. 1: Nov. 28

CONNECT WITH THOMAS LAWRENCE

Twitter: @RecordPreps

Facebook: Thomas Lawrence

Email: tlawrence@recordnet.com

Phone: 209-546-8272

Ask a Question: ask.fm/RecordPreps

Posted in High School Sports, Sports | Leave a comment

Countdown to Tipoff: Girls No. 6, Lianna Tillman

Lincoln guard Lianna Tillman, right, rises in a Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoff game against Davis in February 2016 at Lincoln High in Stockton. RECORD FILE 2016

The Pacific women’s basketball team, under second-year coach Bradley Davis, values speed, comfort in transition and an ability to shoot from long distance.

That’s modern basketball, after all.

And it seems like the Tigers have a good fit in incoming recruit Lianna Tillman.

Tillman, a senior guard on the Lincoln girls basketball team, can be both the traditional point guard (pass first) or the modern point guard (3-point slinging, self-creating offense) depending on the situation. She and fellow seniors Zahria Hendrix, Kiara Manipol and Amilya Thompson make the Trojans very experienced and dangerous among Northern California competition.

That’s why Tillman is No. 6 on my “Countdown to Tipoff” girls basketball returner rankings.

Tillman averaged 10 points, four assists and three steals for the Trojans, who won the Tri-City Athletic League a year ago.

How it works: These player rankings are returning players only. These are weighed both by past varsity success and statistical prowess and the potential impact these players may have this year. All factors will be weighed, including whether a player must sit out time after a transfer or how long an existing injury may last.

Now, this counts down not to the first day of regular-season hoops, which for a handful of teams in the area is the week of Nov. 21-26 but the day the near entirety of the section begins: with the Foundation games on Monday, Nov. 28.

COUNTDOWN TO TIPOFF

GIRLS BASKETBALL RETURNER RANKINGS

No. 10: Deyliana Lewis (Bear Creek F/C, sophomore)

No. 9: Shaylene Stark (Brookside Christian G, senior)

No. 8: Celeste Almendarez (Edison G, junior)

No. 7: Neenah Young (St. Mary’s G/F, junior)

No. 6: Lianna Tillman (Lincoln G, senior)

No. 5: Tuesday

No. 4: Wednesday

No. 3: Thursday

No. 2: Nov. 25

No. 1: Nov. 28

CONNECT WITH THOMAS LAWRENCE

Twitter: @RecordPreps

Facebook: Thomas Lawrence

Email: tlawrence@recordnet.com

Phone: 209-546-8272

Ask a Question: ask.fm/RecordPreps

Posted in High School Sports, Sports | Leave a comment

Countdown to Tipoff: Boys No. 6, Dwight Young

 

Manteca guard Dwight Young, center, shoots a floater against Vista del Lago in a Sac-Joaquin Section Division III boys basketball semifinal in March at Galt High. CLIFFORD OTO/RECORD FILE 2016

Dwight Young was already a bad man entering the 2015-16 basketball season.

His 3-point stroke was silky and deadly, and his free-throw shooting brought to mind vintage Steve Nash. Any time the Buffaloes had a lead late, Young would get fouled and put the game away.

He kept up his sharpshooting ways down the stretch, but more important, grew tremendously as a basketball player. Once teams in the state playoffs caught onto his long-distance capability and had the proficiency to close out on him, or double team him, he stopped forcing shots like he would earlier in the season. That was an underrated reason why the Buffaloes stormed to the CIF State Division III championship.

Young had his heroic moments, too, like in the NorCal quarterfinals against Albany where he scored 18 of his 21 points in the final 3 minutes, 30 seconds in a 59-52 win.

That’s why Young, primed for an exceptional senior season with the Buffs, is No. 6 on my “Countdown to Tipoff” boys basketball returner rankings.

How it works: These player rankings are returning players only. These are weighed both by past varsity success and statistical prowess and the potential impact these players may have this year. All factors will be weighed, including whether a player must sit out time after a transfer or how long an existing injury might last.

Now, this counts down not to the first day of regular-season hoops, which for a handful of teams in the area is the week of Nov. 21-26 but the day the near entirety of the section begins: with the Foundation games on Monday, Nov. 28.

COUNTDOWN TO TIPOFF

No. 10: Gyse Hulsebosch (East Union G, senior)

No. 9: Jimmy Beltz (Elliot Christian G, senior)

No. 8: Tre Simmons (Brookside Christian G, senior)

No. 7: Milton Jordan (Franklin G, senior)

No. 6: Dwight Young (Manteca G, senior)

No. 5: Tuesday

No. 4: Nov. 23

No. 3: Nov. 24

No. 2: Nov. 25

No. 1: Nov. 28

CONNECT WITH THOMAS LAWRENCE

Twitter: @RecordPreps

Facebook: Thomas Lawrence

Email: tlawrence@recordnet.com

Phone: 209-546-8272

Ask a Question: ask.fm/RecordPreps

Posted in High School Sports, Sports | Leave a comment

Player of the Game: Tre Jenkins III

St. Mary's junior Tre Jenkins III had two interceptions and a fumble recovery in a 44-7 win over Pitman in a Sac-Joaquin Section Division I football quarterfinal on Friday. THOMAS LAWRENCE/THE RECORD

Tre Jenkins III showed just how versatile he and the Rams could be.

Jenkins, a junior on a very senior-heavy team, nabbed two interceptions (one of them SportsCenter worthy) with a fumble recovery and sizable return as the No. 2 St. Mary’s football team hammered seventh-seeded Turlock-Pitman 44-7 in a Sac-Joaquin Section Division I quarterfinal Friday at Sanguinetti Field in Stockton.

Jenkins, who also had one catch for 12 yards, is my Player of the Game.

HONORABLE MENTION

JAKE DUNNIWAY (St. Mary’s QB, senior)

Dunniway went 15 of 21 passing for 315 yards, five touchdowns and one interception.

KEATON  HAMPTON (St. Mary’s WR/CB, senior)

Hampton posted four catches for 133 yards and three touchdown catches of 23, 15 and 59 yards.

MARCUS APONTE (St. Mary’s WR/CB, junior)

Aponte had four catches for 73 yards and two touchdowns.

DEWEY COTTON (St. Mary’s WR/KR, senior)

Cotton had a team-high six catches with 74 yards and an 11-yard rushing TD.

JACOB PEREZ (Pitman QB)

Perez had a game-high 103 rushing yards, and did a nice job with option runs.

CONNECT WITH THOMAS LAWRENCE

Twitter: @RecordPreps

Facebook: Thomas Lawrence

Email: tlawrence@recordnet.com

Phone: 209-546-8272

Ask a Question: ask.fm/RecordPreps

 

Posted in High school football, High School Sports, Sports | Leave a comment

Countdown to Tipoff: Boys No. 7, Milton Jordan

Franklin senior guard Milton Jordan is one of the area's most dangerous scorers. Jordan is No. 7 on Thomas Lawrence's "Countdown to Tipoff" returner rankings. PHOTO BY DAVID STEUTEL/MAXPREPS.COM

Without his due fanfare or a ton of media attention, Milton Jordan has played some remarkable offensive basketball for Franklin High.

Jordan, a senior shooting guard, has averaged roughly 25 points, four rebounds and three assists pre game. He was pivotal in a Renaissance of sorts for Franklin last year, where the Yellowjackets stayed in playoff contention until season’s end and finished 10-13 overall after going a combined 4-46 in 2014-15 and 2013-14.

Jordan was at times unstoppable for the Yellowjackets. In a huge SJAA win over Stagg, Jordan went off for 21 of his 23 points in the fourth quarter of a comeback win.

He and Franklin have a better shot at competing in the SJAA this year, as defending outright champion Edison, runner-up McNair and third-place Chavez all graduated at least a couple top layers.

That’s why Jordan is No. 7 on my “Countdown to Tipoff” boys basketball returner rankings: drawing from The Record’s coverage area of Stockton, San Joaquin County and the Mother Lode.

Jordan’s stock up in air: Franklin does not have its statistics on MaxPreps, so it’s tough to gauge Jordan’s overall development (his stats that I have are a rough guess, not a concrete number) or how the team will fluctuate this year with the graduation of forward Jovon Woods.

He could be an even better player than No. 7 on this list, but that remains to be seen. Plus, I haven’t seen Franklin play so I don’t have the personal eye test.

How it works: These player rankings are returning players only. These are weighed both by past varsity success and statistical prowess and the potential impact these players may have this year. All factors will be weighed, including whether a player must sit out time after a transfer or how long an existing injury might last.

Now, this counts down not to the first day of regular-season hoops, which for a handful of teams in the area is the week of Nov. 21-26 but the day the near entirety of the section begins: with the Foundation games on Monday, Nov. 28

COUNTDOWN TO TIPOFF

No. 10: Gyse Hulsebosch (East Union G, senior)

No. 9: Jimmy Beltz (Elliot Christian G, senior)

No. 8: Tre Simmons (Brookside Christian G, senior)

No. 7: Milton Jordan (Franklin G, senior)

No. 6: Monday

No. 5: Tuesday

No. 4: Nov. 23

No. 3: Nov. 24

No. 2: Nov. 25

No. 1: Nov. 28

CONNECT WITH THOMAS LAWRENCE

Twitter: @RecordPreps

Facebook: Thomas Lawrence

Email: tlawrence@recordnet.com

Phone: 209-546-8272

Ask a Question: ask.fm/RecordPreps

Posted in High School Sports, Sports | Leave a comment
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    Bob Highfill

    Bob Highfill has been with The Record sports department since 1990. He started as a part-time reporter/agate clerk then covered the high school sports beat before taking on the Pacific athletics beat. In 2006, he was named sports editor. Bob was ... Read Full

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    Linesburgh has been a member of The Record's sports department since 1988. A native of Wantagh, N.Y., he covers the Stockton Heat of the American Hockey League, and has spent more than a quarter century reporting various other sports on the high ... Read Full

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    Lawrence became a prep and general assignment sports reporter for The Record in August 2014. He has covered high school, college and professional sports and more in his career. From November of 2011 through summer 2014, he covered college and prep ... Read Full
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