The first-ever Prep Focus midseason Top-10 ranking of the best boys’ basketball teams in The City (records as of press time Wednesday):
1. St. Ignatius (12-5, 5-2 WCAL)
The Wildcats are among the Bay Area’s elite, and they haven’t even played their best yet. In Tuesday’s win at Riordan, they shot just 5-of-19 on 3-pointers and still put up 73 points. Darrion Trammell has led the charge for SI, routinely breaking 20 points and shooting at about a 90 percent clip at the free throw line. Junior forward Neal Begovich is getting stronger every day after a knee injury in December, and fellow junior Sam Nangle is making appearances on his way back from injuries as well.
2. University (19-1, 3-0 BCL West)
Randy Bessolo’s team is an offensive machine, lighting up opponents from long distance. In a Tuesday win at Stuart Hall, Spencer Spivy put up 30 points with 10 rebounds as he affirmed his role as one of the best all-around players in the region. Charley Moore scored 22 while Max Fried had 14 points and 22 rebounds. The Red Devils’ lone loss this year was to Serra in the championship of the Bambauer Classic, Marin Catholic’s prestigious four-day tournament.
3. Riordan (11-6, 2-5 WCAL)
With a sophomore at point guard in Je’Lani Clark, the Crusaders have shown flashes of brilliance. He scored 18 as Riordan nearly took down defending WCAL Bellarmine on Friday. First-year head coach Joe Curtin also has a sharpshooter in James Chun, who has numerous Division II offers, and a dynamic player in Watida Mukukula, a native of Zimbabwe who became eligible in January after transferring from a prep school.
4. Sacred Heart Cathedral (11-6, 2-5 WCAL)
The Fightin’ Irish have a core as good as any. It’s been so good, they’ve amassed a few impressive wins, including WCAL victories over Riordan and Mitty. Point guard Bryce Monroe is one of the best sophomores in Northern California, and earned an offer from University of San Francisco after scoring 28 in a Bruce-Mahoney loss to St. Ignatius. Combine his efforts with senior guard Gary Hudson, junior wing E.J. Neal and rebounding extraordinaire Amin Oglesby, and SHC is tough to beat.
5. Stuart Hall (13-8, 3-1 BCL West)
One of the youngest teams in San Francisco has grown up lately. Junior guard Miles Amos is an absolute stud, but the Knights have been propelled to new heights by the development of younger players under Amos’ leadership. Nigel Burris, who scored 21 in Tuesday’s loss to University, is establishing himself as one of the best freshmen in the region. As good as Stuart Hall may be now, this may just be a precursor for next year’s success.
6. Mission (11-8, 6-0 AAA)
The dropoff has been nowhere near as bad as some feared for the defending Division III State Champions. The development of junior guard Ben Knight and senior forward Anthony McBride has Mission once again atop the AAA standings and keeping up with elite competition. The Bears lost to SI by five and went down to the wire with Stuart Hall. As usual, Arnold Zelaya’s team plays at breakneck speed and creates havoc with tremendous defensive pressure.
7. Lick-Wilmerding (18-2, 2-1 BCL West)
Walter Lum is one of the top players in all of San Francisco, and maybe one of the most prolific scorers in the entire Bay Area. In one of the Tigers’ two losses, a 67-62 defeat at Riordan, Lum scored 34 with fellow stars Royce Fong and Zachary Johnson out due to injury. Johnson suffered a setback and is out for the season after undergoing knee surgery, but Fong has returned as Eliot Smith’s team has racked up notable victories, including a pair over Jefferson and an overtime victory over fellow small-school powerhouse Branson.
8. Washington (11-10, 3-2 AAA)
Washington forces teams to play on the outside with tight zone defense and has a pair of big scorers in Jerry Tang (15.5 ppg) and junior Jackie Luong (17.1 ppg). While the Eagles own a handful of solid wins, keeping Mission close in a 54-42 loss was perhaps their biggest statement to show their ability to hang with the best of them.
9. Lincoln (8-12, 4-1 AAA)
The Mustangs start just two seniors and has a pair of stellar guards in sophomore Rafiq Griffin and junior Shakur Blaylock. In Monday’s win over Burton, Griffin scored a game-high 21 points. Another junior, Pajri Samhi, stands at just 5-foot-9 but plays much bigger, racking up 17 points and 16 rebounds in that win against the host Pumas.
10. Lowell (14-6, 4-1 AAA)
As always, Robert Ray’s team plays suffocating defense, having allowed just one opponent to reach 60 points all season. When the Cardinals can hit a few outside shots, they’re almost impossible to beat because of their ability to slow the game down and limit possessions.
Prep Focus writer Ethan Kassel covers high school sports throughout the Bay Area. If you have a story tip, game to watch or player to track, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.