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March 18, 2008

Big Dance Has a Golden State Flavor

The three-week run of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament starts this week and for the many former California high schoolers who are in it, this "Big Dance" will be unlike any high school dance they've ever attended.

Of the final 65 Division I college teams playing in the tourney, 28 of them contain at least one player who finished their high school basketball career in California before venturing all over the country to play in college.

Of those 28, it should be of little surprise that leading the way with the most Californians is the UCLA Bruins with 11, led by Etiwanda's Darren Collison, Fairfax's Josh Shipp and Leuzinger's Russell Westbrook. UCLA looks to be a serious threat to capture the NCAA championship as one of four number one seeds. They captured the Pac-10 championship last weekend over Stanford and play their opening game in nearby Anaheim.

Former Casa Grande Gaucho Josh Akognon led the Cal State Fullerton Titans to the Big West tournament championship while earning tourney MVP honors. With nine of their 13 players from local high schools, the Titans earned an automatic spot in the NCAA tournament for the first time in 30 years.

Akognon leads the way, averaging nearly 20 points a game while Sylmar High's Frank Robinson averages 16 points a contest. Westchester's Scott Cutley is the third of the team's trio of double digit scorers averaging nearly 15 points a game.

Rob Jones from Riordan of San Francisco teamed up with former Clovis West Golden Eagle De'Jon Jackson to lead the San Diego Toreros, which consist of seven former California high schoolers, to back to back upset wins over St. Mary's and then Gonzaga in the championship game of the West Coast Conference tournament to earn an automatic bid. All three of those WCC teams earned spots in the big dance.

Stanford, with six California high school alums, is led by San Joaquin Memorial's Robin and Brook Lopez while USC, also with six, includes Daniel Hackett from St. John Bosco and Davon Jefferson from Lynwood.

Arguably the most intriguing first round match up in years involves a California college as sixth-seeded USC will battle eleventh-seeded Kansas State in the Midwest Regional on Thursday night. The Wildcats do not have a Californian on the roster, but almost every basketball fan around the country will be glued to the television to watch Kansas State's Michael Beasley and USC's O.J. Mayo. Actually those two top-five freshman won't match up against each other much, so the more interesting match up will be Mayo reuniting with former high school teammate Bill Walker.

The 2007 EA SPORTS National Player of the Year at Huntington High School in West Virginia, Mayo was a teammate of Walker's at North College Hill High School in Cincinnati in 2005-2006, when both were named EA SPORTS All-Americans as juniors. Walker then enrolled at Kansas State after being ruled ineligible to play his senior season at NCH and he actually played against USC last year, scoring 19 points, before being lost for the seasonto a torn ACL.

Walker is actually still a freshman eligibility-wise and Mayo is his best friend going back to kindergarden in Huntington, West Virginia. Mayo is just one of several first-year players expected to be a high first-round NBA Draft choice. Most expect Beasley to be the No. 1 pick, with Mayo, Derrick Rose (Memphis), Eric Gordon (Indiana) and UCLA's Kevin Love rounding out our all-freshman team. While non of those highly-regarded players are from California, Lynwood's Jefferson will be one of the players assigned to slow down Beasley (who set a NCAA freshman record for double-doubles with 26 and counting) so his participation in the NCAA tourney is more than important here.

The most underrated of the fabulous freshman is James Harden, another California native. Harden attended Artesia High School in Lakewood and like Mayo, Rose, Gordon and Love, was an EA SPORTS All-American last year. Harden's college team, Arizona State, was arguably the most scrutinized "bubble team" to not make the Big Dance. Although Harden's Sun Devils lost a few untimely games, most point to ASU's sweep of rival Arizona as the main reason they should have been included in this year's tournament. Although Harden joined Love and company on last year's EA SPORTS All-American team, he was the runner-up to NCAA participant Taylor King of Duke for CalHiSports.com Mr. Basketball State Player of the Year honors.

King's alma mater, which just recently won the CIF Division II state championship defeating Archbishop Mitty of San Jose, leads the 65 different high schools represented on this list with a total of four players in this year's tourney including King. Harvard-Westlake and Fairfax of Los Angeles are next with three each, including Bryce Taylor of Oregon and Alex Stepheson of North Carolina for Harvard-Westlake and UCLA's Josh Shipp for Fairfax.

The following 37 colleges are in the tournament without a player from a California high school: American, Arkansas, Baylor, Belmont, Butler, Clemson, Davidson, Drake, Georgetown, George Mason, Georgia, Kansas, Kansas State, Kent State, Marquette, Maryland Baltimore County, Memphis, Michigan State, Mississippi State, Mount Saint Mary's, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Pittsburgh, Saint Joseph's, Siena, South Alabama, Temple, Tennessee, Texas, Texas-Arlington, Texas A&M, Western Kentucky, Winthrop, Wisconsin, Villanova, West Virginia and Xavier.

Here are the California high schools in alphabetical order with players on teams participating in the upcoming NCAA Division 1 basketball championship tournament:

(Note: Red-shirting players not on active roster were not included for this report.)

Aliso Niguel (Aliso Viejo)
Terence Green - USC
Michael Roll - UCLA

Aragon (San Mateo)
Matt Lee - UCLA

Bella Vista (Fair Oaks)
Patrick Lacey - San Diego

Bishop Montgomery (Torrance)
Fred Washington - Stanford

Branson (Ross)
Nick Price - San Diego

Drew Shiller - Stanford

Burroughs (Ridgecrest)
Gavin MacGregor - BYU

Canyon Springs (Moreno Valley)
Andre McGee - Louisville
Tron Smith - Saint Mary's

Capistrano Valley (Mission Viejo)
Keith Wilkinson - USC

Casa Grande (Petaluma)
Josh Akognon - Cal St Fullerton
Kenneth Alexander - Cal St. Fullerton

Castro Valley
Chris Reid - Purdue

Centennial (Corona)
Anthony Goods - Stanford

Cleveland (Reseda)
Andre Murray - Portland St.

Clovis West (Fresno)
De'Jon Jackson - San Diego

Devin Ginty - San Diego

Crespi (Encino)
Joey Ellis - UCLA

Dominguez (Compton)
Derek Wright - Austin Peay

Edison (Fresno)
Darshawn McClellan - Vanderbilt

El Camino (Oceanside)
Gyno Pomare - San Diego

El Segundo
Jamie Jones - Portland St.

Etiwanda (Rancho Cucamonga)
Darren Collison - UCLA

Fairfax (Los Angeles)
Matt Shaw - UNLV
Josh Shipp - UCLA
Chace Stanback - UCLA

Harvard-Westlake (North Hollywood)
Jon Jaques - Cornell
Alex Stepheson - North Carolina
Bryce Taylor - Oregon

Diamon Simpson - Saint Mary's

Helix (La Mesa)
Lance Hurdle - Miami

Ray Reed - Cal St. Fullerton

La Costa Canyon (Carlsbad)
Chase Budinger - Arizona

Deonte Huff - Portland St.

Leigh (San Jose)
Marcus Morgan - Cal St. Fullerton

Leuzinger (Lawndale)
Donnell Beverly - Connecticut
Russell Westbrook - UCLA

Los Alamitos
Landry Fields - Stanford

Davon Jefferson - USC

M.L. King (Riverside)
DeAndre Robinson - UCLA

Mater Dei (Santa Ana)
David Bagga - Arizona
Kamyron Brown - Oregon
Chris Henry - Washington St.
Taylor King - Duke

Julian Conyers - Coppin St.

Modesto Christian (Modesto)
Michael Porter - Kentucky

Montgomery (Santa Rosa)
Tyler Tiedeman - Boise St.

Murrieta Valley (Murrieta)
Daniel Fleming - San Diego

Natomas (Sacramento)
Mareceo Rutledge - UNLV

North Salinas (Salinas)
Eric Petty - Mississippi Valley St.

Oakland Tech (Oakland)
Quentin Thomas - North Carolina

David McGrath - UCLA

Kyle Austin - USC

Paso Robles
Derrick Jasper - Kentucky

Andrew Green - Cal St. Fullerton

Poly (Long Beach)
Curtis Allen - Oral Roberts
Marcus Lewis - Oral Roberts

Rancho Buena Vista (Vista)
Jeremy Cross - Washington St.

Eli Holman - Indiana

Riordan (San Francisco)
Rob Jones - San Diego

River City (West Sacramento)
Aaron Garner - Boise St.

San Diego
Jamelle Horne - Arizona

San Joaquin Memorial (Fresno)
Brook Lopez - Stanford
Robin Lopez - Stanford

San Ramon Valley (Danville)
Omar Samhan - Saint Mary's

Santa Barbara
Taylor Rochestie - Washington St.

Santa Cruz
Junior Robinson - Cal St. Fullerton

Santa Margarita (Rancho SM)
James Keefe - UCLA

Sheldon (Sacramento)
DeMarcus Nelson - Duke

South Gate
Lorenzo Mata-Real - UCLA

St. John Bosco (Bellflower)
Daniel Hackett - USC

St. Mary's (Berkeley)
Larry Gurganious - Gonzaga

Frank Robinson - Cal St. Fullerton

Technical (Oakland)
Quentin Thomas - North Carolina

Tokay (Lodi)
Julius Thomas - Portland St.

Deon Thompson - North Carolina

Villa Park
Drew Viney - Oregon

Washington (San Francisco)
Marcio Lassiter - Cal St. Fullerton

Westchester (Los Angeles)
Scott Cutley - Cal St. Fullerton

Woodbridge (Irvine)
Austin Daye - Gonzaga

Woodland Christian (Woodland)
Ian O'Leary - Saint Mary's

Comments or corrections? Email mark@studentsports.com.

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