Written By: Tippy Mcternan (Big Apple Sports)
The California State JUCO playoffs get underway this week with a number of Metro-area players playing prominent roles as their team seeks to advance to the Great Eight tournament set for March 14-16 in Stockton.
The New Yorker who made the biggest impact in the state this season was Kevin Menner, who led Ventura to its seventh straight Western States Conference-North crown while compiling a 25-6 mark and a #4 seed in the upcoming state playoffs. Menner, a 6-6 swingman from Brooklyn (NY) Lincoln HS, was third in the state and first among the freshman class in scoring with 23.5 ppg. He passed the 30-point mark 7 times this season: 38 vs. Bakersfield (129-126 win) on 11/9, 30 vs. Mt. San Jacinto (91-86 win) on 12/16, 33 vs. Cuesta (86-69 win) on 1/9, 32 vs. Moorpark (104-89 win) on 1/19, 34 vs. Hancock (124-80 win) on 1/30, 36 vs. Los Angeles Pierce (87-66 win) on 2/6 and 39 vs. Hancock (87-78 win) on 2/23. The Pirates will also be counting on 6-3 soph guard Prince Abidoye out of Brooklyn (NY) Midwood HS, who averaged 5.9 points and 3.3 assists with a game-high of 17 points against Oxnard on 2/20.
Fresno (28-7) captured the Central Valley Conference title and a #2 seed with a balanced scoring attack that included Bronx (NY) Regionals Kenya Edwards, who averaged 8.5 ppg. while reaching double digits 13 times, including a high of 17 points in a 96-93 victory over Bakersfield on 11/25.
Derrick Langley, a 6-6 freshman forward from Brooklyn (NY) Robeson HS, is a member of Foothill Conference Champion Mt. San Jacinto (26-6), who earned a #5 seed. Langley, who made 62.5% of his field-goal attempts, had his best outing in a 12/4 game against Palomar when he compiled 20 points and 8 rebounds in an 87-76 victory.
Los Angeles City (24-8), the South Coast-North runnersup and #8 seed, received 12.8 ppg. from Scott Sterling, a 6-2 guard from Bronx (NY) Regional HS. Sterling dropped a season-high 31 points in a first-place showdown with eventual champ Los Angeles Trade Tech, which pulled out a 97-94 decision on 1/25. He also drained 7 threes and scored 23 points in a 77-74 triumph over Santa Ana on 12/7.
Gary Felices, a 6-1 sophomore guard from North Bergen (NJ) HS, shot 52% from the floor while averaging 8.8 points for Bakersfield (19-14), who finished second in the Western States-South Conference and received a #12 seed. Felices had a team-high 19 points in a 115-110 overtime loss to conference champion and #1 seed Citrus (30-1) on 1/30.
Los Angeles Valley (17-11) received a #13 seed behind the efforts of Shaun Johnson, a 6-7 soph forward from Newark (NJ). Johnson averaged a double-double of 16.5 points and 10.1 rebounds. Among his standout performances were: 23 points, 8 rebounds and 8 blocks in an 87-85 decision over Moorpark on 11/23; 21 points and 16 rebounds in an 86-75 win over Long Beach on 12/28; and 21 points and 16 boards in an 81-79 loss to Canyons on 2/16.
Glendale (16-15) got contributions from three freshman New Yorkers while getting in as the #18 seed: Tyief Thompson (6-1 guard) and Curtis Leslie (6-5 forward) from Brooklyn (NY) Grady HS and Lanval Gordon (6-1 guard) from Bronx (NY) Covenant Academy. Leslie averaged 11.7 points and 6.9 rebounds with 6 games over 20 points, including his season-high of 26 points in a 92-80 loss to #1 seed Citrus on 1/23. Gordon also had his season-high against Citrus, hitting for 19 points in a 95-76 loss on 2/16. Gordon averaged 7.5 ppg. for the season while Thompson added 4.8 ppg.
Among the New Yorkers whose team failed to make the postseason:
Johnny Barnes, a 6-6 soph forward out of Queens (NY) Bryant HS, who averaged 18.8 points and 10.0 rebounds for San Bernardino (13-15). Barnes recorded 9 double-doubles this season, including a 35-point, 22-rebound explosion in a 95-78 loss to Los Angeles Valley on 11/24. He also dropped 34 points in an 88-74 setback to East Los Angeles, and reached double digits in scoring in 25 of his team's 28 games.
Alden Gibbs, a 6-3 freshman guard from Brooklyn (NY) Canarsie HS, had averages of 13.8 points, 6.6 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 3.5 steals for Siskiyous (9-20). He recorded 3 double-doubles with a high game of 25 points in an 83-71 defeat by Butte on 2/6.
Southwestern finished just 13-16 despite receiving solid contributions from a pair of sophomore forwards from Queens. Campus Magnet's 6-5 Rondu Stevens had 7 games over 20 points while averaging a team-high 15.0 ppg. His season-high was 26 points in an 83-70 loss to San Diego Mesa on 2/20. Gilbert started slowly this season but achieved his season-highs in the last month: 20 points in a 69-65 loss to MiraCosta on 2/13 and 13 rebounds in a 55-45 win over Grossmont on 2/9. His season averages were 8.8 points and a team-high 8.5 boards.
Kerel Mitchell, a 6-1 freshman guard from Brooklyn (NY) Erasmus HS, had a dream game for Merritt (15-15) on 11/30 when he was perfect from the floor while netting 22 points in an 83-75 setback to Reedley. Mitchell made all seven of his field-goal attempts (including two threes) and was 6-of-6 from the foul line. He averaged 6.3 ppg. over the full season