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Central Section 2023 Player Rankings

By Paul Hernandez, 08/08/21, 12:00PM PDT


Central Section Class of 2023 Top 35 End of Year Player Rankings

The player rankings below are based on my own evaluation of the players in their high school settings, as well as club basketball and individual player events. For the Class of 2023 I have also relied on input from high school and club coaches, basketball trainers, members of the media, scouts from various parts of California, and other resources. Unlike the Class of 2021 and 2022 Rankings, players from the Class of 2023 have not had the amount of opportunities to be seen and evaluated since their high school careers began due to the Covid-19 Pandemic. Therefore, it is very likely that these rankings will look different by the time I update them in April of 2022. Included in the player rankings below are player information and the high school attended. This is the first player ranking I have done for the Class of 2023 and will be the final rankings of the calendar year.

1. 6’7 Mike Davis Jr. (San Joaquin Memorial HS)

Davis is a forward/wing with good size, physicality and athleticism that impacts the game on both ends. Davis was a key part of the Panthers’ run to the Central Section Boys Open Division Championship game and, despite a tough loss, he was the leading scorer with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Davis has been an integral player for the Panthers since coming into high school but due to a hand injury, he missed the playoff push his freshman year. He made his presence felt in the 2021 post-season and was the most proficient player for the Panthers in the Open Division Championship game. Davis has good footwork in the post, good back to the basket post moves, great hands around the basket, passes well out of the post, and is consistent from the mid-range jumper. Davis is dominant on the glass, uses his agility to battle amongst bigger players, and has a lengthy wingspan to alter shots at the rim. Davis played on the UAA Circuit for West Coast Elite and has garnered attention from D2 and a few D1 programs. If he can develop into a consistent threat from the perimeter his stock would rise significantly and would likely find himself on the radar of multiple D1 coaches.

2. 6’4 Jamar Howard (Mission Prep HS)

During his sophomore year, Howard moved from Monterey to the Central Coast and will be attending MIssion Prep HS in San Luis Obispo. Howard had a sensational freshman campaign at Pacific Grove HS, where he averaged 18 points per game and compiled nearly 10 games of 20 plus points. Despite missing his sophomore season due to transferring schools, Howard made a lot of noise in club basketball as arguably the top prospect for the West Coast Elite Central Program. Howard put up big numbers on the top national team in the West Coast Elite Program and has attracted the attention of coaches at the D1 level, as well as a lot of interest from D2 programs. Howard is an athletic and high energy wing/slasher that plays with an infectious positive attitude every time he hits the court. Howard has active hands on defense, altering shots and stealing the ball from the opponent, leading to open court scoring. Howard runs the floor nicely and gets a lot of points in the open court off of his hustle and high energy finishes above the rim. He shoots the ball with some accuracy from the 3 point line, opening up the court for himself or teammates cutting through the lane. Howard is tough to defend when he is moving off the ball and slashing through the paint, where he gets a lot of points at or above the rim. His relentless motor and willingness to be all over the court make him an intriguing prospect that has room to grow offensively. Howard is expected to have a big junior season at MIssion Prep and will be the focal point of their offense.

3. 6’4 Luis Marin (St. Joseph HS)

Marin is coming off a solid sophomore season that was capped off by the Knights winning the Central Section Boys Open Division Championship, as he was a key part of the roster as one of the best 6th men in the Central Section. Marin has good size and athleticism as a true combo guard and with the Knights graduating 4 of the 5 starters, his role will drastically increase this coming season alongside super senior Dre Roman. Marin followed up his impressive sophomore campaign with a dominant club season with BTI 16u Select, where he averaged 19.8 points, 8 rebounds, and 6 assists per game with a high of 36 points in the BattleZone Tournament during the 1st NCAA Live Period of July. Marin has solid handles, is effective at scoring from all 3 levels, displays good court vision and playmaking abilities with the ball in his hands, and has the moves to create his own offense off the dribble. Marin has good length to defend multiple positions, has good instincts to disrupt passing lanes, and is active on the glass for his position. Marin, like Howard above him in the rankings, will be in positions to take a run at the #1 spot when these rankings are updated in Spring of 2022.

4. 5’11 Amari Carraway (San Joaquin Memorial HS)

Carraway is coming off a standout sophomore season, where he averaged 21.3 points per game for the Pueblo Warriors from Tucson, Arizona. Carraway put up big numbers as a freshman at Washington Union (Fresno, CA), but with the high school season perceived as an unlikely outcome he moved to Ariziona to be able to play his sophomore year. Recently, Carraway has moved back to Fresno and will be attending San Joaquin Memorial, making for an electric backcourt with recent Fresno State commit and national prospect Joseph Hunter. Carraway has crafty handles, has the moves to create space and scoring opportunities, is effective at scoring from all 3 levels, improving court vision and playmaker when the ball is in his hands, and is electric in the open court. He has great on court speed and athleticism, and puts a lot of pressure on the opposing defense when he is on the attack. The Central Section is getting back one of the more promising 2023 prospects and a welcome addition to the Panthers, who graduated some key players in Jaden Geron, Jalen Douglas and James Prescott.

5. 5’11 Issac Martinez (Clovis West HS)

Martinez started his sophomore season off as a facilitator, but as the need for additional scoring became apparent after a few games, Martinez’s role for the Golden Eagles focused more on scoring. As Martinez started to put up double digit scoring performances, opponents had to move away from a game plan focused on stopping Clovis West’s all-time leading scorer in Cole Anderson. He finished the season averaging 12.5 points, 3 assists, 3 rebounds, 55% from the field and 40% from beyond the arc per game this past season, and was 2nd in scoring behind Anderson for the Golden Eagles. Martinez has good ball handling skills, has shifty moves to keep his defender off balance, can score from all 3 levels, is a highly efficient shooter from beyond the arc, and moves well off the ball to create openings for catch and shoot opportunities. Martinez, along with some impressive young hoopers, will be one of the driving forces on the offensive end for the Golden Eagles, as there will be points to be had post-Anderson. The significant adaptation of Martinez’s game in a shortened season, and his ability to make the transition to being a more prolific scorer without much practice, along with the success the Golden Eagles had this past season is a key reason I have him ranked in the top 5 for the Class of 2023.

6. 6’4 Jaden Haire (Hanford West HS)

Haire is a player that I have only seen live a few times recently but have heard a lot about over the past year. With the shortened season and lack of tournaments this past high school season, I was not able to catch every team from the Central Section. However, I was able to catch a few players during the July Live Periods and Haire was one that lived up to the hype and then some, playing with EBO 17u at the Pangos 32 Showcase in Garden Grove. Haire is an intriguing prospect with good size and skill, who displayed the ability to score at a high level. He has 3 level scoring capabilities, has good moves to create off the wing, attacks the defense, has the physicality to absorb and finish through contact, is active on the glass, and sees the floor well. He is definitely on the radar of players I will make sure to see this upcoming season and hopefully will attend a few player showcases to get more familiar with his game.

7. 6’1 Joaquin Rios (Stockdale HS)

Rios had a solid freshman season as a starter for the Mustangs and played the lead guard position. However, due to the restrictions during the shortened Covid season, the Mustangs played minimal games and the season was somewhat of a loss for the rising sophomore prospect. However, he did play a few spring events with WCE Central Program and then again in July during the Live Periods and performed very well. Rios has the ability to score from all 3 levels, but he is at his best when he is looking to score in the midrange areas of the court. In transition, Rios does a solid job of finding the right spot to be in and ready to fire when the ball finds him. In the half court setting, Rios uses the pump fake nicely to get to his pull-up jump shot. He has good footwork in the paint and is able to pin smaller defenders on his back and spin off them to the rim. Rios has great touch around the basket, and his court vision and playmaking ability make him tough to guard. Rios is a smart player that rarely makes bad decisions with the ball in his hands.

8. 6’1 Yaj Vance (Edison HS)

I only saw the Tigers play once during Vance’s sophomore campaign and it was the 2nd game of the season and he was barely coming off of injury. Nevertheless, Vance had a solid showing during the July Viewing Periods with WCE Central Program and showed why he is one of the best guards in the Central Section for the Class of 2023. Vance is a crafty guard that can bully his way to the cup when on the attack. Vance has solid handles, makes good use of the hard pound dribble to get the defender off balance, has the strength and physicality to finish through contact around the rim. Vance has good court vision and makes good decisions when attacking the basket, finding open teammates once the defense collapses. Defensively, Vance has strong hands, good lateral movement to stay in front of his man, and brings the edge and toughness to be a lockdown defender. Look for Vance to have a big junior campaign, as the roster will be relatively young for the Tigers and he has the confidence and the game to lead the squad this coming season.

9. 5’10 Prince Ellis (South HS)

Ellis had a solid sophomore season for the Rebels, as the offense focuses around his scoring and lead guard play. Ellis also played during one of the Live Period weekends and played extremely well for the WCE Central Program. He will be the focal point for South HS this coming season and will be able to put up big numbers offensively. Ellis is a crafty ball handler that is capable of making difficult shots from various spots on the court. Ellis keeps pressure on the defense allowing other teammates open looks. Ellis has nice handles, shifty moves to create separation from the defender, capable of scoring from all 3 levels, and able to hit difficult shots at an efficient rate. Ellis has good court vision, and when he is on the attack he pulls the defense in and does a solid job of finding open teammates. He has active hands on defense and creates turnovers and open court scoring opportunities.

10. 6’5 Tyron Tyler Jr. (Independence HS)

Tyler started his HS career off as a key part of the Central Section Boys D2 Championship team. However, due to Covid compliance, the Falcons played limited games and were not able to play in the playoffs to defend their 2020 Championship. Nevertheless, Tyler had a solid showing during club ball and will be one of the core players this coming season for the Falcons. Tyler is a rangy wing/guard that scores in bunches when his shot starts falling. Tyler has the ideal frame and length that fits the mold of modern basketball prospects. Tyler has solid handles, can create off the perimeter, has a long first step to get by his defender, and is effective as a 3 level scorer. Tyler has a smooth stroke on his jumper and is at his best when he minimizes the dribble and gets to the mid-range shot. Defensively, Tyler can guard multiple positions, has the wingspan to alter shots around the rim or on the perimeter, and disrupts passing planes with his ragne. When Tyler starts hitting from beyond the arc, he is a really tough player to defend with his length on the wing.

11. 6’1 Demell Argus Turner (Lemoore HS)

12. 6’1 Khristian Holmes (San Joaquin Memorial HS) -Transferring to Weston Ranch

13. 6’ LaDanian Streets (Central East HS)

14. 6’4 Jalyen Bryant (Clovis North)

15. 6’2 Jay Jay Jones (Centennial HS)

16. 6’3 Henry Madden III (Central East HS)

17. 5’10 Elijah West (Centennial HS)

18. 6’1 Yash Pattel (Righetti HS)

19. 5’11 Jayden Abuyan (Centennial HS)

20. 5’10 Nick Esparza (Selma HS)

21. 6’1 Mekhi Johnson (Ridgeview HS)

22. 6’1 Adam Silmon (Arroyo Grande HS)

23. 6’1 Daniel Rodriguez (Robert F. Kennedy)

24. 6’5 Kaleb Cole (Sanger HS)

25. 6’7 Caedan Hamilton (St. Joseph HS)

26. 6’4 Kaleb Jackson-Carter (Clovis West HS)

27. 5’10 Nate Moua (Hoover HS)

28. 6’4 Dylan Swillis (Central East HS)

29. 5’9 James Hagan (McLane HS)

30. 5’10 Lucca Hart (Nipomo HS)

31. 6’5 Charlie Stump (Bakersfield Christian)

32. 6’4 Riley Bermke (Lemoore HS)

33. 5’9 Tramaine Stocker (Independence HS)

34. 5’10 Markel Sanders (Clovis West)

35. 5’9 Damareya Cooks (MIra Monte)

36. 5’10 Jake Pruneda (Bullard HS)

Notable Player:

6’ ZJ Cotton - Is likely to return to the Central Section but has moved out of the area and attended high school in the Inland Empire in Southern California for the 2021 season. Therefore, I do not have him officially in the rankings for the Central Section at this time, but if he does return to the Fresno area he would be Top 20.

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