Sale­sian, Mitty at the top to start

San Francisco Chronicle - - PAGE 2 - MaxPreps se­nior writer Mitch Stephens cov­ers high school sports for The San Fran­cisco Chron­i­cle.

It was a dream sea­son for Mis­sion’s boys bas­ket­ball team in 2016-17.

The Bears went 35-1. They won the first North­ern Cal­i­for­nia and state cham­pi­onships for San Fran­cisco pub­lic schools. They fin­ished No. 1 in The Chron­i­cle’s Metro rank­ings, an­other first for an S.F. school.

Guard Ni­amey Har­ris was the Metro Player of the Year.

Har­ris is now at City Col­lege of San Fran­cisco. The next two lead­ing scor­ers, Jamion Wright and Jay­den Fos­ton, also grad­u­ated.

With the 2017-18 sea­son right around the cor­ner, the Bears have to start all over again.

Mis­sion’s at­ti­tude: Bring it on.

“These guys ac­tu­ally have got a lit­tle chip on their shoul­ders,” Mis­sion coach Arnold Ze­laya said. “They know a lot of peo­ple think there’s go­ing to be a big drop off this year. That it’s go­ing to be a big strug­gle. They don’t.”

Nei­ther does Ze­laya, whose team re­turns 10 of its 15 play­ers from last sea­son, in­clud­ing 6-foot-3 for­ward Robert Lee, and twins U’Jah Pratt (5-11) and Ijah Pratt (5-8).

All three are on Mis­sion’s foot­ball team, which could pre­vent a strong start of the sea­son. Then again, Har­ris broke his col­lar­bone in the Turkey Day Game last sea­son and missed the first six bas­ket­ball games.

“We went 6-0 in those games, so these guys know how to win with­out him,” Ze­laya said. “We’re go­ing to be just as fast as last sea­son. It’s a very re­silient group. They’ve won a lot games.”

With a big off­sea­son from 6-5 An­thony McBride, Adrian Otis and Ben Knight, the Bears won a lot of sum­mer games over good teams, in­clud­ing St. Ig­natius. They played SacJoaquin Sec­tion power Fol­som close and split two games with Univer­sity, which might have its best team in school his­tory.

“There won’t be a big dropoff,” Univer­sity coach Randy Bes­solo said of Mis­sion. “They play so hard and they’ve got some size and shoot­ers. They’re by far the best team in the AAA.”

The best boys team in the Metro Area is up for grabs, but Sale­sian-Richmond, led by one of the na­tion’s top point guards, James Ak­injo (Con­necti­cut com­mit), be­gins at No. 1.

“I like this group,” long­time Sale­sian coach Bill Mel­lis said. “These guys have put in a lot of work, they get along great and they play re­ally hard.”

Two Sale­sian starters from last sea­son, Ja­mario Bibb and Der­rick Lang­ford, trans­ferred to El Cer­rito, but the de­vel­op­ment of Josh Jef­fer­son (6-5), Manny Adeoye (6-9) and the McClana­han twins, Jaden and JoVon, makes Mel­lis smile.

“We’re go­ing to be pretty good,” he said.

So is St. Ig­natius, which sur­prised many last sea­son by us­ing its small lineup to win 23 games. With the re­turn of vir­tu­ally its en­tire ros­ter, in­clud­ing All-West Catholic Ath­letic League guards Bran­don Beck­man and Dar­rion Tram­mel, the Wild­cats are con­sid­ered the WCAL fa­vorites.

“I don’t think there’s any ques­tion about that,” Mitty coach Tim Kennedy said, “but no one is un­beat­able in this league. Ev­ery­one has a stud and any­one can beat any one on any given night.”

That’s sort of the im­pres­sion through­out the Bay Area, said Bishop O’Dowd-Oak­land coach Lou Richie, whose team pos­sesses the most ex­pe­ri­enced and tal­ented back­court in Wash­ing­ton-bound point guard Eli­jah Hardy (Wash­ing­ton) and Utah-signee Naseem Gaskin.

Richie noted that five of the top seven teams in North­ern Cal­i­for­nia are from the SacJoaquin Sec­tion, ac­cord­ing to NorCalPreps.com.

“Sup­pos­edly, it’s a down year in the Bay Area,” Richie said. “That could work out well for us.”

The Metro Area girls scene couldn’t be health­ier as the top eight teams should vie for the CIF Open Di­vi­sion tour­na­ment. Mitty, ranked fifth na­tion­ally by MaxPreps, ap­pears clearly above ev­ery­one else.

No. 2 Pinewood-Los Al­tos Hills re­turns just about ev­ery­one, and com­bined with a strong fresh­man class, could win its sev­enth state ti­tle.

D. Ross Cameron / Spe­cial to The Chron­i­cle

Arch­bishop Mitty’s Ha­ley Jones re­turns for Chron­i­cle No. 1 Mitty, which is ranked fifth na­tion­ally by MaxPreps.

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