CIF-Southern Section announces boys hoops preseason watch list

Valencia junior shooting guard Jake Hlywiak puts up a jumper in the CIF State Championships opener against Gardena at Valencia High School. Cory Rubin/The Signal

With the prep basketball season on the horizon, the CIF-Southern Section released the 2019-20 boys basketball preseason watch list with four Santa Clarita Valley programs mentioned. Golden Valley, Santa Clarita Christian, Trinity Classical Academy and Valencia each make an appearance on the list.

The Vikings make the CIF-SS Division 1 list after going undefeated in Foothill League play (10-0) last season to finish with the most wins in program history (26) on their way to deep CIF-SS Division 2AA and CIF State Division II playoffs runs 

Facing Rancho Cucamonga two times in the postseason, the Vikings fell to the Cougars in the semifinals of the CIF-SS playoffs and again in the CIF State regional semifinals, but return a couple of players from last year’s team

Junior point guard Noah Veluzat returns for his first full-season at Valencia after transferring from Santa Clarita Christian ahead of the season. Veluzat is joined by the arguably the Foothill League’s best pure-shooter in senior Jake Hlywiak to form a lethal backcourt.

Double-double machine Kevin Konrad provides a reliable low-post presence down low with the departures of Josh Assiff, Jayden Trower and Richard Kawakami to graduation.

The Vikings move up a division from last year and join powerhouses Bishop Montgomery, Etiwanda, Mater Dei and Sierra Canyon in Division 1.

SCCS jumps up to Division 2AA from 3AA after reaching the CIF-SS Division 3AA title game, finishing up as the runner-up.

The Cardinals lose two starters in Kevin Stone, who is at Mineral College a NJCAA Division 1 men’s basketball program, and Justin Collins, who is playing for Cal State, Los Angeles, but returns the meat of the team.

Junior Josh O’Garro has elevated his play with hard work throughout the summer and looks to be one of the rising stars coming out of the Southern Section, while seniors Caden Starr, Kaleb Lowery and Kyjuan Cannady continue to polish and perfect their undeniable chemistry and talent.

Newcomers Ty Harper and Tiago Soares, the younger brother of The Master’s University men’s and women’s basketball players Tim, Jessica and Stefanie Soares, will be impact players for the team.

Golden Valley makes an appearance on the Division 4AA list with the return of head coach Chris Printz rejoining the program for his second stint and eighth season overall at Golden Valley.

“I have been impressed with how hard our kids have worked and how much they have had to overcome,” Printz said. “When I stepped down as head coach, I really stepped far away from basketball because I wanted the program to run its own course. They have really come together as a group and are working hard for each other.”

Although the Grizzlies finished last year at the bottom of the Foothill League standings, the return of Benecio Preciado and Dave Sentango anchor a relatively young Grizzlies team ahead of the season. 

Sophomore Mark Hamilton, Jr. will be a new cog in the machine that looks to make an instant impact this season.

Trinity Classical Academy is the final SCV team and second Heritage League program (SCCS) to make the preseason watch list dropping down from Division 5AA to Division 5A.

The Knights finished in third place in the final Heritage League standings and qualified for the CIF-SS Division 5AA playoffs, but fell to the eventual champion Santa Clara in the opening round.

Trinity loses its third-leading scorer and best rebounder from a year ago in Zach Totten, but is more than capable with returning seniors Kyle Fields and Niko Figuereo. Up-and-coming sophomores Nathan Thomas and John Cervantes-King are also weapons to keep an eye on.

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