Every week during the basketball season, we will be publishing our take on the top ten boys and girls basketball teams in San Francisco. This is our preseason list and we will update the rankings again in December. Feel free to make your own rankings and discuss ours in the comment section.
1. University (20-13 last season)
The standout group of sophomores that were on the University squad that made it to the Northern California Division V championship game in 2010-2011 are now seniors and are the driving force behind our reasoning why the Red Devils are the top preseason team. University head coach Randal Bessolo jokes that he is returning six starters – all five from last season and senior forward Will Carroll, who started every game as a sophomore but missed the 2011-2012 season with a knee injury. Dynamic 6-foot-4 senior Harold Getz, who can play every position on to court, will be the centerpiece in Bessolo’s run-and-gun system, along with sharpshooting senior point guard Chris Mah. Throw in fellow shooters James Burton and Jack Gale, as well as Carroll in the middle, and another trip to the NorCal championship game game (almost surely against division rival St. Joseph Notre Dame) appears to be in the works.
2. Riordan (10-15 last season)
A group of transfers, highlighted by former Burlingame shooting guard Frankie Ferrari, will likely make the Crusaders the City’s best team when they become eligible in early January, but for now, they look to be a step below. Leading scorer and point guard Geru Mabrey will be the focal point for opposing defenses early in the season, but Graham Gilleran, a 6-foot-6 forward, could lighten the load if he can improve on his 5.5 points and 4.9 rebounds per game last season. Junior guards Jiday Ugbaja and Bobby Arenas will also be scoring threats, but the other frontcourt position is up for grabs, with likely candidates Christian Hernandez and Zach Masoli.
3. Sacred Heart Cathedral (28-6 last season)
The Irish lost their two best players, forwards Joshua Fox and Taylor Johns (both now at UC Riverside), but still have the talent in the backcourt to be one of the City’s top teams. No one is expecting another run to the state championship this year, but the Irish still have do-everything guard Herman Pratt, as well as point guards Khalil James and Deondre Otis, who should all be starters. The Irish will also get senior forward Yanoj Jackson back from a foot injury that sidelined him for all of 2011-2012, but head coach Darrell Barbour hinted that the key to their season may be the development of junior forward Liam O’Reilly, who is now around 6-foot-4.
4. Marshall (15-15 last season)
The Phoenix have all four of their starting guards from last season returning, but lose center and 20-20 threat Mark Alexander to graduation. In Alexander’s place will be 6-foot-5 senior Albert Collins, who may not be the dominant force Alexander was, but is not short on athleticism. Junior starters Jason Smith, Mizell Parker and Preston Deming are the most talented group of underclassmen guards in the City, and along with steady senior scorer Aumen Holliday, will challenge for an Academic Athletic Association title again. The biggest issue for Marshall in recent years has been depth and they essentially had a five-man rotation last season, but head coach Dezebee Miles said he will have 13 players when they tip off the season in the Straw Hat Pizza Classic in Antioch on Nov. 29.
5. Mission (23-11 last season)
The Bears still have standout senior point guard Antoine Porter and senior shooting guard Kevin Murray back, but lost all of their inside presence from last season’s AAA championship squad. Six-foot-5 forwards Gione Edwards and Shaquille Fisher, along with rebounding machine Miles Prescott, are all gone to graduation and the remaining group of forwards is not imposing. Relatively undersized forwards Armani McFarland (6-foot) and Issac Straznickas (6-foot-2) will be in the mix in the frontcourt. We’re not big on summer leagues or scrimmage results, but the Bears did beat No. 6 St. Ignatius by double digits over the summer.
6. St. Ignatius (11-16 last season)
With would-be senior Stephen Domingo, who left St. Ignatius after his junior year to enroll early at Georgetown, the Wildcats would probably be our preseason top team. Without Domingo, it appears the West Catholic Athletic League season could be a long one for the Wildcats. Conversely, SI could be liberated by Domingo’s departure. Flashy junior point guard Trevor Dunbar should have full control of the St. Ignatius offense, but another scoring threat needs to emerge. Other than Dunbar (who averaged 10.6 points per game), the projected starting lineup averaged 13.1 points per game combined last season.
7. Stuart Hall (19-10 last season)
There may not be a more imposing lineup in the City than the group the Knights will put on the floor this year. Stuart Hall will have five players at 6-foot-4 or taller, highlighted by sophomore small forward Armani Collins, who is the leading scorer returning (9.6 points per game). The lineup should also include 6-foot-5 senior center Andreas Peritos (7.4 points and 5.3 rebounds per game last season) and 6-foot-7, 235-pound junior transfer Jose Vargas. Vargas is a transfer from Mexico, where he was a member of the under-19 national team.
8. Lincoln (20-13 last season)
The Mustangs lose their top three scorers from last season, but will still be in the conversation for a AAA title. Lincoln will likely have the biggest frontcourt in the league with brothers Seth and Douglas Snoddy. Seth, a junior, stands at 6-foot-7 and Douglas, a senior, is 6-foot-4. Lincoln head coach Matt Jackson said Seth has improved his offense with a new mid-range game, but both brothers should also be invaluable on defense in a league that lacks many big bodies. Overall, defense should be a strong point for the Mustangs, with the return of lockdown perimeter defender Mitchell Lee and six physical players coming from the football team once its season is over.
9. Urban (15-11 last season)
Standout guard Nate Cohen won’t have to shoulder all of the load for the Blues this season, but he will carry a significant amount if Urban is to be successful. The 6-foot senior could very well lead the Blues in scoring, rebounding and assists this season, but will get help from sharpshooting guards Matthew Monges and Harrison Golding. Point guard Harry Krinsky, who was the team captain last season as a junior, has settled into the role of distributor and incoming 6-foot-3 freshman Andre Campbell Jr. should get regular playing time in the frontcourt.
10. Lick-Wilmerding (18-11 last season)
The defending Bay Counties League West champs are looking up at three league opponents at the moment, mostly due to the fact that their two main ball-handlers and leading scorers, Phillip Stone and Isaiah Boone, graduated last school year. What the Tigers will have is a tall and talented frontcourt. Seniors Matthew Bergland (6-foot-6), Benjamin Schneider and Andrew Rauch (both 6-foot-4) all should be starters.
The best of the rest, with last season’s records: Gateway (17-3), Washington (16-16), Lowell (19-11).