Garden Grove, CA – The first NCAA Live Period of July, 6th-9th, featured a lot of talented prospects playing in front of coaches throughout Southern California. I was mainly at the Pangos Sweet 16 Tournament hosted by Dinos Trigonis at The Maps Sports Facility. There were approximately (96) teams that played in (6) divisions in a 16-team bracket play format for 4 of the divisions, and a showcase format for the remaining two divisions. There were three 17u divisions, headlined by the Invitational Division. The Select Division for the 16u group and the Gold Division for 15u were the other top divisions. I was in attendance all of Friday and through the quarterfinals on Saturday evening, before departing SoCal, and was able to see a majority of the Central Section teams and players, as well as some quality next-level prospects from other areas in California, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Washington, and a few others.
This article takes a look at (25) players I selected as standout performers from the games I was able to see. These players are from the top 3 divisions for each age group (17u-15u). The list of players is not in ranked order but in alphabetical order. The following information is provided for the players below: a brief evaluation of each player’s skill set and strengths of their games, how they performed in the event, as well as all relevant player information. We begin this article with one of California’s top-scoring rising sophomores Kaiden Bailey.
2026 6’3 Kaiden Bailey (Crean Lutheran/Irvine CA)
Bailey is a shooting guard that scores in volume and is capable of making difficult shots under pressure. Bailey was one of the leading scorers at the Sweet 16 event, which was evident in his 22-point outburst against Kongo Black 17s with 15 of those coming before the break. Bailey has the moves and handles to create separation from his opponent, is capable of taking and making tough shots off the bounce, moves well off the ball to get open looks on catch-and-shoot opportunities, does a solid job on the glass to push the pace of play, and has limitless range from beyond the arc. Lights out scorer.
2024 6’7 Bryce Buchanan (Leroy Greene Academy/Sacramento CA)
Buchanan is a wing/forward that has the skills to play at the guard position, and can knock down shots beyond the arc. Buchanan moves well off the ball, has the size and length to shoot over most defenders, and connects on the 3-ball with accuracy. Buchanan does a solid job on the glass, has the handles to push the ball up the court, and has the moves to create off the dribble to get to his shot spots. Hidden gem in NorCal that has solid upside.
2025 6’7 Micah Cole (Sanger/CA)
Cole is a lengthy and athletic wing forward that controls the glass, alters shots, and understands spacing and running the lanes in the open court to receive passes in the open court. Cole started the live period off with a solid showing at the Pangos Premier 80, as he was one of the top under-the-radar players at the event. That level of play carried over to the Sweet 16 Tournament, where he had multiple games scoring in double-digits, and played impressive defense in the post and on the perimeter. Cole does a solid job on the glass, does not waste time on the outlet pass so he can get up the court, has the length to alter shots in the post, as well as the lateral movement to stay in front of smaller perimeter players. Cole has good hands around the cup, is a creative finisher around the rim, and runs the court with a purpose, and finds himself the recipient of transition passes for easy buckets.
2026 6’1 Ja’Vance Coleman Jr. (Bullard/Fresno CA)
Coleman is a strong and skilled lead guard that can create his own offense, as well as make plays for teammates when on the attack. Coleman ran the show for the talented Fresno-based EBO 15u roster, and showed why he is emerging as one of the best point guards in the Central Section. Coleman is poised with the rock in his hands, keeps the ball on a string to survey the court, has the court vision to find open teammates in tight windows, and makes quality decisions when orchestrating the offense. Coleman has made big strides as a playmaker, but his ability to create off the dribble remains the strength of his game offensively. Coleman has moves to shake his defender, can score it from 3-levels, has nice touch on the floater in the paint, is a creative finisher around the basket, and is accurate with the 3-ball. Defensively, Coleman stays in his opponent’s dribbling space, has strong hands to rip the ball from his man, and turns defense to offense routinely.
2024 6’9 Derelle Desire (Juan Diego/Draper CA)
Desire is a long and agile forward/center that blocks shots, plays above the rim, and can space the floor from beyond the arc. Desire was one of the top players at the Premier 80 and that level of play carried over to the Sweet 16 event, as Desire was a force around the basket all weekend for Salt Lake Rebels 17s and had 16 points and 10 plus rebounds in their opening round loss to Play Hard Play Smart 17s. Desire controls the glass, has nice touch on shots around the basket, uses his long wingspan to alter shots on the strong and weak side of the paint, and looks to throw it down anywhere near the cup. Desire has enough handle to put the ball on the deck when defenders over-pursue, can space the floor with the 3-ball to keep opponents honest, and can make plays to open teammates from the high post.
2025 6’10 Zane Gaul (Prescott/AZ - pictured)
Gaul is a forward/center that has a solid frame to bang with opposing bigs in the post, with nice touch on shots within fifteen feet. Gaul had a solid showing at the Premier 80 and followed that up with stellar post-play in the Sweet 16 Tournament, helping lead Factory AZ 16s to the championship win. Gaul had 12 points and 10 plus rebounds in the team’s quarterfinal win over Clutch Elite National 16s, as he showed a little bit of his overall offensive skill set. Gaul has nice footwork, good back-to-the-basket post moves, nice touch on the baby hook shot, can face up and take his man off the dribble from the top of the key to get to his mid-post jumper, and can space the floor with the 3-ball. A lot to like about the big fella and his offensive versatility.
2024 6’7 Jacob Gilchrist (Twelve Bridges/Lincoln CA)
Gilchrist is a wing/forward that can shoot the ball at a high clip from the perimeter, specifically from beyond the arc. Gilchrist had an impressive opening game for Play Hard Play Smart 17s, as he scored 15 points to help lead his team to a win, and connected on 3 threes in the process. Gilchrist has the handles and moves to create off the dribble, but was at his best moving off the ball and getting to his shot spots beyond the arc for catch-and-shoot opportunities. Gilchrist has the size and length to shoot over most perimeter defenders, can put the ball on the deck to get to his smooth jumper, and is a creative finisher around the basket. Gilchrist does a solid job on the glass, pushes the ball up the court, and good court vision to make plays. Hidden gem in NorCal.
2026 6’4 Jaeden Goodman (Inderkum/Sacramento CA)
Goodman is a wing/forward that impacts both sides of the ball and can space the floor from the perimeter. Goodman was impressive in the two games I watched of Play Hard Play Smart 15s and he left his imprint on both games with 12 points in a losing effort to Ryder Elite 15s. Goodman has a long wingspan to disrupt passing lanes and create turnovers, has the handle and moves to attack off the wing, and can space the floor from 3. Goodman is solid on the glass, can push the ball up, and is a formidable rim protector.
2024 6’5 Taylen Goodman (Inderkum/Sacramento CA)
Goodman is an athletic and lengthy wing/slasher that can lock up on defense, good timing on weak side blocks, and runs the floor well in transition. Goodman has the handle to create off the bounce, is a creative finisher around the basket, and gets downhill and draws fouls where he was solid from the free throw line.
2024 6’2 Jayden Haskell (Farmington/UT)
Haskell is a shooting guard that can light it up from various spots on the court with the moves to attack the defense. Haskell opened up the Sweet 16 Tournament with a 23-point showing in a win over Clutch Elite National 17s, and followed that up with a 25-point performance in a loss to Belmont Shore 17s. Haskell has shifty moves to create separation off the dribble, gets to his shot spots, has the physicality to finish through contact, gets to the foul line routinely, and is an efficient shot-maker off the bounce or the catch and shoot. Solid court vision to find open teammates when attacking the defense, and keeps constant pressure on the opponent by getting downhill.
2024 6’4 Presley Ibeh (Highland Prep/Surprise CA)
Ibeh is a physical and athletic combo guard that attacks the paint with ferocity, as he can get his own buckets or find open teammates on the perimeter for the kick-out pass. After an impressive showing at the Premier 80, Ibeh kept up his high level of play at the Sweet 16 Tournament with 14 points to help lead Factory AZ 17s to a quarterfinal win over Play Hard Play Smart 17s. Ibeh has a strong handle on the ball, the physical build to attack downhill and finish through contact in traffic, and has the court vision to find open teammates off the drive and kick out pass. Ibeh has the moves to create separation off the dribble, is accurate from the mid-range to the 3-point line, and is a lock-up on-ball perimeter defender with the strength to defend bigger players on switches. He was one of my favorite players to watch the first July Live Period.
2025 6’3 Johnnie Jones (Fairfield/CA)
Jones is a tough noised wing slasher that does not waste dribbles, attacks the basket getting downhill, and is a solid on-ball perimeter defender. Jones had a great showing in the tough quarterfinal loss to Fresno Wildcats Elite 16s, as he dropped 29 points and was nearly unstoppable from fifteen feet to the cup. Jones has enough handle to create off the wing, attacks the basket with a purpose, has the physical build to finish through traffic, has good touch on finishes around the basket, and is efficient with the mid-range jumper.
2026 6’5 Mohamed Kamara (Capital Christian/Sacramento CA)
Kamara is a wing/forward that does a solid job on the glass, has enough handle to push the ball, and has nice touch on shots within fifteen feet. Versatile defender that can guard all three perimeter positions, and is an interesting prospect to track this upcoming season.
2025 6’ Dereon King (Hoover/Fresno CA)
King is a poised lead guard that can make plays for teammates, as well as create his own scoring opportunities. King had a solid weekend of play at the Sweet 16 Tournament, where he would score 13 points and the game-winning 3-pointer to take town Team Build Up 16s, and followed that up with a 21-point showing in a marginal victory over Team Rampage National 16s to advance to the semifinals for the top 16u division. King has a strong handle on the ball, plays with good pace and makes good use of the hesitation, keeps his defender off balance to take advantage of his quick burst of speed to get downhill, and is a creative finisher around the basket. King has the court vision to make plays when on the attack, and his ability to space the floor with the 3-ball opens up driving lanes for him to exploit.
2024 6’8 Ring Nyeri (Liberty/Peoria AZ)
Nyeri is a lengthy and rangy wing/forward that is a high-level two-way player that plays with a relentless motor and can space the floor with the 3-ball. Nyeri was impressive at both the Premier 80 Showcase, which carried over to the Sweet 16 event highlighted by a 16-point and 10-plus rebound performance in a quarterfinal win over Play Hard Play Smart 17s. Nyeri is a great rim protector in the paint, has the length and agility to defend perimeter players, and uses his wingspan to deflect passes and create turnovers. Nyeri has solid handles, moves to create off the dribble, good touch on his mid-range jumper, nice touch around the basket, and can space the floor with the 3-ball. Plays with a great motor and leaves his imprint on multiple facets of the game.
2026 5’10 Ahmari Otis (De Anza/El Sobrante CA)
Otis is a shifty lead guard that can create his own offense and scores in a variety of ways. Otis was absolutely cooking in Team Rampage National 16s quarterfinal match-up against Fresno Wildcats Elite 16s, as he put on a scoring clinic and finished with a game-high 32 points, despite a tough overtime loss. Otis has dynamic handles, shifty moves to create separation from his defender, a great burst of speed off the dribble, capable of making tough perimeter shots with accuracy, effective from beyond the arc, and a creative finisher around the basket with a nice floater over height. Intriguing young guard that has good court vision to make plays when attacking off the perimeter.
2026 6’3 Myron Pondexter (Central/Fresno CA)
Pondexter is an athletic and bouncy wing slasher that does a solid job on the glass and has elite bounce that he showed off in the open court at the Sweet 16 tournament. Pondexter has decent handles, attacks downhill, has the length and lateral quickness to be a lock-up on-ball defender, generates turnovers that lead to easy transition buckets, and has crazy upside with work on the handles and moves to create his own offense off the bounce. Excels in the open court.
2025 6’3 Abram Potts (San Joaquin Memorial/Fresno CA)
Potts is a shooting guard that can fill it up from the perimeter and scores in volume, with improved play at the point. Potts had a decent showing at the Pangos Premier 80, but got it going from the field for the Wildcats Elite 16s at the Sweet 16 Tournament, going for 26 points and 28 points respectively in his 2nd and 3rd games of the event. Potts has handles and moves to create off the dribble, has the ability to take and make tough shots off the dribble from the mid-range to the 3-point line, and his stepback 3-ball is nearly impossible to defend when he is on the mark. Potts has shown improved play at the lead guard position, has the court vision to make plays when defenses overfocus on him, and is a creative finisher around the basket. Potts was recently offered by Fresno Pacific and has garnered a lot of D2 and D3 interest up to this point.
2026 6’8 Jackson Scarborough (Clovis/CA)
Scarborough is a lengthy forward that has the skill and perimeter shot to play on the wing, and is fastly emerging as one of the top rim protectors in the Central Section. Scarborough controls the boards on both ends, has impressive court vision to make plays from the post or full-court dimes off the defensive rebound. He has solid handles, can create off the perimeter, is accurate with the 3-ball, and has nice touch on shots around the basket. Scarborough has the handle to push the ball up the court, can play in the post or on the wing, and runs the floor well in transition.
2026 6’7 Parker Spees (San Joaquin Memorial/Fresno CA)
Spees is a lengthy and rangy wing forward that can light it up beyond the arc and holds down the paint as a rim protector with his large wingspan. Spees had a solid all-around showing at the Premier 80 Showcase, as he held his own playing alongside the likes of rising junior Nikolas Khamenia and rising sophomore Elias Obenyah. Spees got in his bag early and often in Fresno-based EBO 15u’s opening round game at the Sweet 16 event, as he would go for 36 points, which was one of the best individual scoring outputs of the tournament. Spees controls the boards, has the handles to push the ball off the glass, and the court vision to make plays up the court. Spees has the moves to create space off the dribble, is accurate from the mid-range to the 3-point line, moves well off the ball for catch-and-shoot opportunities, and can shoot over most perimeter defenders, which allows him to put the ball on the deck and attack open lanes. Spees has great hands around the basket, alters shots in the post and on the wing, and is one of the fastest-rising prospects in the Central Section. A name that will garner more attention, as he will be more of an integral part of the Panther game plan this upcoming season.
2024 6’6 Malachi Spencer (Weber/Pleasant View UT)
Spencer is a wing forward that impacts the paint on both ends of the court and can space the floor from the perimeter. Spencer scored 12 points in Kongo Black 17s opening game win over Clutch Elite 17s, with 10 coming in the 2nd half. Spencer does a solid job on the glass, has the wingspan to alter shots in the paint, as well as being able to switch on smaller perimeter defenders, and showed accuracy and touch with the mid-range shot. Tough player that has a solid frame to battle with taller players around the basket.
2026 6’1 Norelle Talbert (Citrus Hill/Perris CA)
Talbert is a lengthy wing/guard that has nice touch on the floater, has the handles and moves to get to the basket, and has nice touch around the basket. Talbert has the length to stay in front of perimeter opponents, showed he can space the floor from beyond the arc, and did a solid job on the glass with the ability to push the pace of play up the court.
2025 5’10 Uriah Tenette (Prescott/AZ)
Tenette is a crafty lead guard that is poised at the helm as a playmaker or a shotmaker. Tenette was in his bag for Factory 16s in its win against Clutch Elite National 16s in the quarterfinals, as he would score a game-high 19 points and served some pretty dimes off the attack. Tenette has a strong handle on the ball, keeps the rock on a string to survey the court, has elite court vision to find open teammates when attacking off the perimeter, and has a great burst of speed off the bounce to get into the defense where he is a creative finisher around the cup. Tenette showed he has the moves to create space off the dribble, connected on shots from the mid-range to the 3-point line with accuracy, and controls the flow of the offense. Quality lead guard that impacts the game in various ways.
2025 6’2 Jaylen Valdez (Capital Christian/Sacramento CA)
Valdez is a skilled scoring guard that can put up points in volume and seems to hit his stride when the game is on the line. Valdez had a strong showing at the Premier 80 Showcase and kept that rolling and then some in the opening round of play at the Sweet 16 Tournament, as he would put on one of the best scoring displays of the event with 34 points in a tough loss to Kongo Black 17s. Valdez plays with nice pace and change of speed, has a lethal crossover to create space from his defender, is capable of knocking down perimeter shots off the dribble from the mid-range to the 3-point line, and is a creative finisher around the basket. Valdez has solid court vision to find open teammates when on the attack, but is at his best when looking to score the ball. Defensively, Valdez has active hands to disrupt passing lanes, good footwork to stay in front of his opponent, and does a solid job on the boards with the ability to push the pace up the court.
2027 6’5 Eric Wooten (Orange Vista/Perris CA)
Wooten is a forward that was one of the more impressive incoming freshmen at the Sweet 16 Tournament, as he was a one-man wrecking crew for Cali Elite 15u against a loaded EBO 15u squad and finished with 19 points and at least 10 rebounds. Wooten has good body control, the strength to finish through contact at the basket, nice touch on the mid-range jumper, and good hands around the cup. Wooten has handles to create off the bounce, has nice back-to-the-basket moves, and gets downhill from the top of the key. Intriguing long-term prospect to track over the next four years.