As the high school basketball season tips off, national interest grows. Five-Star is adding to that fever pitch. It's unveiling an all-encompassing new preview package: 50 States in 50 Days. Until Nov. 23, it will examine a different basketball state, breaking down its top teams, players and rivalries.
Which schools are title favorites? Which players are flying under the radar? All the answers are to come. The package -- which can be found in its entirety here -- continues today with California.
Archbishop Mitty (San Jose)
The defending Division II champion, Archbishop Mitty is back, and in many respects, better than ever. Coming off a 32-2 campaign that included a string of 20 consecutive victories, the Monarchs return junior Aaron Gordon, a five-star forward. He'll team up with Neil Vranciar and Thomas Peters to provide impressive frontcourt depth, a luxury that could prove especially valuable come March.
Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.)
No stranger to success, Mater Dei could be poised for another big season in 2011-12. UNLV-bound Katin Reinhardt and Colorado-bound Xavier Johnson are back from last year's Division I champs, as is 6-3 guard Elijah Brown, the son of Lakers' coach Mike Brown. The schedule is brutal (Nov. 28 vs. Mission Viejo; Jan. 16 vs. Christ the King), but coach Gary McKnight should be prepared: Entering his 30th season, he's 892-81 with 20 CIF section titles.
De La Salle (Concord, Calif.)
The Spartans have the depth to challenge anyone, building on a 27-6 campaign in which they reached the Division I state final. To replicate that success, a roster brimming with young talent needs to mature. Following a trip to Hawaii for the Iolani Classic in December, De La Salle plays Archbishop Mitty (32-2 last year) and San Ramon Valley (26-3) by early February.
Loyola (Los Angeles)
Led by super sophomore Parker Jackson-Cartwright and backcourt running mate Justin Childress, Loyola has the talent to make a postseason run. If 6-5 forward Julian Harrell can increase his already impressive 15.7 points per game, the Cubs could avenge last year's heartbreaking 72-70 loss to Mater Dei in the Division I playoffs.
Long Beach Poly (Long Beach, Calif.)
Another casualty of Mater Dei's dominant postseason run, Long Beach will experience something of a changing of the guard this year. Alexis Moore (USC) and Ryan Anderson (Boston College) are gone, shifting responsibility to forwards Jordan Bell and Roschon Prince. Rising juniors, they could be up to the task. Both have attracted interest from Arizona, UCLA and USC, among others.
PG Gabe York
Senior, Orange Lutheran (Orange, Calif.)
A mere 6-2 and 170 pounds, York plays well beyond his diminutive frame. He averaged 19.3 points as a junior, cementing his reputation as a prolific scorer. He can shoot, penetrate the lane and even defend, notching multiple steals in all but four games. Put simply: When he's in a rhythm, there's little that opponents can do. York committed to Arizona in July.
PF Grant Jerrett
Senior, La Verne Lutheran (La Verne, Calif.)
Widely regarded as one of the top power forwards in the class of 2012, Jerrett is a college coach's dream. He can both roll to the basket and step out to shoot the three, posing routine mismatches with his lengthy 6-9 size. His stats reflect that: 18.0 points and 10.1 rebounds in 2010-11. Jerrett also committed to Arizona, one of four top recruits in Wildcats' 2012 haul (Findlay Prep's Brandon Ashley and St. Mark's Kaleb Tarczewski are the others).
SF Aaron Gordon
Junior, Archbishop Mitty (San Jose)
The do-everything junior has generated plenty of recruiting buzz, and for good reason: He improved nearly every aspect of his game as a sophomore. Gordon averaged 18.1 points, 13.2 rebounds and 4.5 blocks for the Monarchs, and was sensational in this summers' FIBA Americas. Playing for the U16 team, Gordon averaged 17 points and 11.2 rebounds, and netted 24 points in the United States' 104-64 championship victory over Argentina. Arizona, Stanford, Washington and Kansas are among programs vying for his services.
SG Katin Reinhardt
Senior, Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.)
A silky smooth point guard blessed with athleticism and size, Reinhardt is a scoring machine. He's a nightmare in transition, blowing by defenders en route to 17.5 points per game as a junior. Surrounded by top talent at Mater Dei, Reinhardt should continue to thrive. Scouts have already taken notice. The 6-4 sharpshooter committed to UNLV in August.
SF Jabari Bird
Junior, Salesian (Richmond, Calif.)
A precocious young talent, Bird possesses a rare blend of power and explosiveness. He's dynamic around the rim and can punish defenders beyond the arc, averaging 15.7 points. Despite being ruled ineligible due to a transfer paperwork violation (he was reinstated eight days later), Bird has fast become a five-star prospect. Arizona, Cal and Washington have already made scholarship offers to date.