Leagues to Watch

As the basketball season begins, we take a look at some of the top leagues in Northern California. Five leagues are profiled ranging from the South Bay all the way up to Sacramento.
West Catholic Athletic League
Headlined by No. 2 ranked Mitty, the WCAL is one of the top leagues in the Bay Area. The Monarchs will look for their third consecutive WCAL title behind senior Aaron Gordon; however, don't count out Serra. The Padres were the only WCAL team to defeat the Monarchs last season and return seniors Henry Caruso, Andre Miller, and Jacqui Biggins. Riordan, who finished last in league play last season, should be a sleeper team to watch with good guard play. The Crusaders return Geru Mabrey and Jiday Ugbaja and will also add Burlingame transfer Frankie Ferrari. Bellarmine will be led by Navy-bound guard Grant Vermeer, who is one of the more underrated players in the area. Sacred Heart Cathedral will lose Josh Fox and Taylor Johns to UC Riverside, but will return their backcourt of Khalil James and Herman Pratt. St. Ignatius was slightly shocked when Stephen Domingo decided to forgo his senior year and attend Georgetown, but they will have one of the top junior prospects with Trevor Dunbar. The biggest question for the Wildcats will be their surrounding pieces. St. Francis will return the Johnson twins, Khalil and Khalid, while Valley Christian loses most of their squad with the exception of Jay MacIntyre. This league seems like Mitty's to lose, but it will be interesting to see how the middle of the pack plays out.
Projected Finish:
1. Mitty
2. Serra
3. Riordan
4. Bellarmine
5. Sacred Heart Cathedral
6. St. Ignatius
7. St. Francis
8. Valley Christian
Players to Watch:
Jacqui Biggins 6-0 G Serra (2013)
Henry Caruso 6-5 F Serra (2013)
Trevor Dunbar 5-10 PG St. Ignatius (2014)
Frankie Ferrari 5-11 PG Riordan (2014)
Aaron Gordon 6-8 F Mitty (2013)
Khalil James 5-8 PG Sacred Heart Cathedral (2013)
Khalid Johnson 5-9 PG St. Francis (2013)
Khalil Johnson 6-0 G St. Francis (2013)
Geru Mabrey 5-9 PG Riordan (2013)
Jay MacIntyre 5-10 G Valley Christian (2014)
Blair Mendy 6-1 PG Bellarmine (2013)
Andre Miller 5-11 PG Serra (2013)
Deondre Otis 5-9 PG Sacred Heart Cathedral (2014)
Connor Peterson 6-2 G Mitty (2014)
Herman Pratt 6-1 G Sacred Heart Cathedral (2013)
Jiday Ugbaja 6-0 PG Riordan (2014)
Grant Vermeer 6-2 G Bellarmine (2013)
Delta River Athletic League
The Delta River Athletic League features some of the best teams and prospects in Sacramento. No. 3 Sheldon is the team to watch, as they only lose one starter to graduation. San Diego State bound seniors D'Erryl Williams and Dakarai Allen will lead the squad in addition to Franklin transfer and Washington-bound scoring guard Darin Johnson. Pleasant Grove will be another team to watch as they return some talented seniors including Malik Thames, Matt Hayes, and Cole Nordquist along with some young prospects. Jesuit loses a majority of their roster to graduation, but should still remain at the top of the league with great coaching and young talent. Brady Anderson and Lake Lutes should be two juniors from Jesuit to watch. The next tier of teams may not be as strong as the top three, but can still compete. Ponderosa will be led by junior Chris Snyder, and Oak Ridge will be led by Grant Dean. Folsom may not be as dominant as the football team, but keep an eye on Edwin Olympio. Overall, Sheldon should remain the league champs, but Pleasant Grove and Jesuit may be able to contend as well.
Projected Finish:
1. Sheldon
2. Pleasant Grove
3. Jesuit
4. Ponderosa
5. Oak Ridge
6. Folsom
Players to Watch:
Dakarai Allen 6-5 W Sheldon (2013)
Brady Anderson 6-8 F Jesuit (2014)
Marquese Chriss 6-5 Pleasant Grove (2015)
Grant Dean 6-4 G Oak Ridge (2014)
Tom Fitzgerald 6-6 Pleasant Grove (2014)
Matt Hayes 6-0 G Pleasant Grove (2013)
Armani Hampton 6-3 G Sheldon (2013)
Jalen Hicks 6-1 PG Sheldon (2013)
Darin Johnson 6-4 SG Sheldon (2013)
Lake Lutes 6-6 SF Jesuit (2014)
Ryan Manning 6-6 F Sheldon (2013)
Cole Nordquist 6-3 W Pleasant Grove (2013)
Edwin Olympio 6-4 F Folsom (2013)
Chris Snyder 6-9 PF Ponderosa (2014)
Malik Thames 6-1 PG Pleasant Grove (2013)
D'Erryl Williams 6-4 PG Sheldon (2013)
Tri-County Athletic League-Rock Division
The first season of the Tri-County Athletic League-Rock Division should be one of the best in Northern California. No. 1 Salesian is the obvious favorite, led by three Division I signees Jabari Bird, Mario Dunn, and Markel Leonard. The Pride also return Jermaine Edmonds and Jawian Harrision Jr. in addition to transfers Jonathan Galloway and Lance Coleman. El Cerrito should have good guard play with transfer Rae Jackson along with sophomore Tyrell Alcorn and senior Marcellus Pippins. St. Patrick/St. Vincent will have a good balance of inside-out play with junior Jalen Canty in the paint and guards Jason Webster and Jose Flores on the perimeter. St. Joseph Notre Dame, who made the Division V state title game last season, will return the third ranked 2014 prospect with Temidayo Yussuf. St. Mary's and Pinole Valley may not be strong contenders for the league's first title, but Jeremy Dennis is an underrated guard from St. Mary's to watch.
Projected Finish:
1. Salesian
2. El Cerrito
3. St. Patrick/St. Vincent
4. St. Joseph Notre Dame
5. St. Mary's
6. Pinole Valley
Players to Watch:
Tyrell Alcorn 6-0 PG El Cerrito (2015)
Jabari Bird 6-5 SG Salesian (2013)
Lamont Banks 6-3 F St. Joseph Notre Dame (2015)
Jalen Canty 6-7 PF St. Patrick/St. Vincent (2014)
Lance Coleman 6-6 F Salesian (2015)
Andrew Cox-Gilmore 6-5 F Pinole Valley (2013)
Jeremy Dennis 6-4 SG St. Mary's (2014)
Mario Dunn 5-10 G Salesian (2013)
Jermaine Edmonds 6-3 W Salesian (2013)
Akeem Ellis 5-10 G Pinole Valley (2013)
Jose Flores 6-2 G St. Patrick/St. Vincent (2014)
Jonathan Galloway 6-8 PF Salesian (2014)
Jawian Harrison Jr. 5-10 PG Salesian (2014)
Rae Jackson 6-3 SG El Cerrito (2013)
Markel Leonard 6-0 PG Salesian (2013)
Marcellus Pippins 5-10 G El Cerrito (2013)
Jonathan Savage 6-0 G El Cerrito (2013)
Jason Webster 6-0 G St. Patrick/St. Vincent (2013)
Temidayo Yussuf 6-6 F St. Joseph Notre Dame (2014)
Western Alameda County (WAC) Foothill Conference
The WAC-Foothill Conference is another new yet strong league. It seems as if Bishop O'Dowd and Castro Valley are the two main contenders, but San Leandro is a tough, underrated team to watch. O'Dowd will be led by sophomore big man Ivan Rabb, but other role players will need to step up. Castro Valley features three talented juniors with Jalen McFerren, Derrick Clayton, and Demareyeh Lane. San Leandro is comprised of scrappy guards who can force turnovers on the defensive end. Berkeley will lose Langston Morris-Walker to Oregon State, but returns Justyce Key and Henry Cornelious. Mt. Eden and San Lorenzo don't seem to be serious threats to the upper half of the league, but should not be overlooked. The WAC-Foothill League is filled with younger talent and it will be interesting to see if an experienced San Leandro team can make a run with Bishop O'Dowd and Castro Valley.
Projected Finish:
1. Bishop O'Dowd
2. Castro Valley
3. San Leandro
4. Berkeley
5. Mt. Eden
6. San Lorenzo
Players to Watch:
Ish Ali 6-0 G San Leandro (2013)
Dejon Budreaux 6-1 G San Leandro (2013)
Noel Briones 5-9 G Mt. Eden (2013)
Derrick Clayton 6-5 SF Castro Valley (2014)
Henry Cornelious 6-5 F Berkeley (2013)
Ali Faruqbey 6-1 G San Lorenzo (2013)
Justyce Key 5-11 G Berkeley (2013)
Demareyeh Lane 5-11 G Castro Valley (2014)
Jalen McFerren 5-10 PG Castro Valley (2014)
Ivan Rabb 6-8 F Bishop O'Dowd (2015)
Isiah Thompson 6-2 G San Leandro (2013)
Stevinaire Young 6-3 G Mt. Eden (2013)
Bay Valley Athletic League
The previous leagues were filled with guard play, but the BVAL has some solid forward prospects. Marcus Lee and his Deer Valley squad top the list, as the Kentucky-bound power forward is lethal on the defensive end. Point guard Kendall Smith will also be a Division I prospect from Deer Valley to watch. Heritage and Freedom can definitely compete for the title with some 2014 players leading them. Heritage features junior forward Shon Briggs, who can post up smaller defenders yet has enough quickness and ball handling ability to take advantage of a bigger defender on the perimeter. In the backcourt, seniors George Johnson and Pierre Carter will also lead the Patriots. For Freedom, junior forward Elliot Smith is an athletic player who can slash to the basket. Some underrated prospects such as Sam Bide and James O'Neal will form a solid backcourt. Defending BVAL champs Liberty graduated eight seniors and will also lose Jonathan Galloway to Salesian, but Brandon White is a returning guard to watch. Pittsburg and Antioch may struggle in a tough league, but won't be pushovers. The BVAL should be a fun three team race between Deer Valley, Heritage, and Freedom.
Projected Finish:
1. Deer Valley
2. Heritage
3. Freedom
4. Liberty
5. Pittsburg
6. Antioch
Players to Watch:
Sam Bide 6-1 G Freedom (2013)
Shon Briggs 6-6 F Heritage (2014)
Pierre Carter 6-4 Heritage (2013)
George Johnson 5-10 PG Heritage (2013)
Tim Jordan 6-3 F Freedom (2014)
Marcus Lee 6-9 PF Deer Valley (2013)
James O'Neal 6-2 PG Freedom (2013)
Shaun Rodgers 6-5 F Antioch (2014)
Elliot Smith 6-5 F Freedom (2014)
Kendall Smith 6-3 Deer Valley (2013)
Brandon White 6-2 G Liberty (2013)