With the new playoff format of the state's Open Division, crowing a Player of the Year (POY) will be more interesting. Below are the POY candidates who can put up big statistical numbers in any given game and over the course of the season. These players also have the intangibles to take their teams deep into the postseason.
Aaron Gordon - Leading Mitty to a third straight state title could warrant POY honors for the third consecutive year, a feat never accomplished before. The versatile forward has the ability to put a team on his shoulders and carry them. Despite having missed most of the summer season due to a toe injury, Gordon bounced back in time for the Nike Peach Jam/EYBL Finals. The national recruit has narrowed his choices to Arizona, Kentucky, and Washington but is expected to decide in the spring period. More importantly and immediately, Gordon is focused on finishing strong in his senior campaign.
Marcus Lee - The long wingspan of the Kentucky commit has been synonymous with his defense, shot blocking, and rebounding ability. But during the summer season, Lee showcased some fluid back to the basket moves and a crisp mid-range jumper. The added offensive arsenal will be needed as he will be the focal point for his Wolverine team. Lee made big strides during the summer. His past Deer Valley teams never made deep postseason runs but a deep run during his senior year would validate his POY candidacy.
Jabari Bird - Bird decided to stay local by committing to Cal, where his father also played during his collegiate years. The versatile wing will be looking for another state title run in his senior year as he was clutch in the postseason. Another similar performance this season would warrant him POY. Salesian adds some post players to give legit rebounding and size but the offense will still flow through Bird to facilitate and to score.
Elliott Pitts - De La Salle exited the postseason earlier than usual last year. A deep run in the upcoming season will require a big performance by the Arizona commit. Pitts has good size for a shooting guard and will be a matchup problem for any opposing team. This year's Spartan team has some added interior size which should alleviate Pitts from some of the rebounding and post responsibilities. Pitts should be the offensive focus and in turn should see his numbers rise as well.
D'Erryl Williams - Williams II displays all the intangibles in helping his Sheldon team win. He does what is needed to help the team in any facet of the game and also plays as a true point guard in looking to facilitate more than score. During the summer and fall, Williams II showed a more aggressive nature in looking for his own shot and was also quite accurate from beyond the arc that ultimately helped him decide on signing with San Diego State. If these tendencies carry over into his senior year, expect some big numbers. However, he may be sidelined early in the season due to a minor ankle issue.
Dakarai Allen - Allen has the length and wingspan to be a defensive stopper at the next level. In addition, his toughness despite not having a large frame also is seen in his rebounding and ability to getting to the basket. These attributes led him to sign with San Diego State with childhood friend, Williams II. Earlier in his high school career, Allen had a tendency to defer to to teammates but looked to be the go to guy last season and will be expected to do the same in his senior campaign.
Raymond Bowles - Bowles has always had a scorer's mentality who can score from the inside or the outside. But the Pacific bound shooting guard may not need to be so this upcoming season as two key transfers and several underclassmen are ready to help. As a result, his POY consideration should be based less on actual point totals and more on the team's performance and his other ways of adding value to his team. Regardless, Bowles has the ability to take over offensively if Modesto Christian needs him to.
Henry Caruso - The Ivy League bound small forward has good size, lateral movement, and overall scoring ability. He plays in a cerebral manner that fits the Princeton style of play. Serra is expected to be runner up to Mitty in league play but Caruso has a strong supporting cast that can surprise. Producing in these big league games could warrant him in the POY discussion.
Rae Jackson - At Rodriguez, Jackson was expected to do many things, especially the scoring. Jackson believes that he will be more effective as a point guard on the next level. Switching to El Cerrito, Jackson will have more playmakers that will alleviate his need to score and can help showcase his other basketball skills. El Cerrito has a deep team and can make a deep run in the postseason. Jackson could naturally step in and be the leader of the Gauchos to put him in POY consideration.
Gabe Bealer - Bealer had a breakout season as a junior after transferring to Antelope from Jesuit. He averaged 16.6 points and 7.4 rebounds in helping the Titans to a 30-2 record and the school's first section title. They are back in the mix among the top teams in Northern California as Bealer and fellow NCP Top 40 senior Isaiah Ellis look for another section crown and better success in the state playoffs. The 6-fot-5 Bealer is a rangy wing who slashes well, can finish at the rim and is a better outside threat than most think.