NorCal Clash Provides Proving Ground And Newest San Leandro High Standout Makes The Most Of It •
In a basketball all-star event like the NorCal Clash, players are preparing for their move from the high school stage onto a larger platform: the college game. It’s an evolutionary stage for these players. For senior forward Keshad Johnson, his move to a bigger stage is happening sooner than later.
Johnson helped put small Envision Academy-Oakland on the basketball map, earning the attention of some big-time colleges. But now he’s moving to a larger spotlight.
After gaining the player of the game award at the ninth annual NorCal Clash at Chabot College, Johnson talked about moving on to a Division I program at San Leandro High — admitting that he said he might miss “a couple games” as he clears eligibility. Johnson spoke about his future after being named player of the game. He helped the Clash’s Class of 2019 all-stars earn a 116-107 win over the Class of 2020 all-stars on Aug. 26.
“For my senior year, I am looking to go as far as I can,” he said, hoping to create bigger things for San Leandro, after taking Envision “from a school that wasn’t known to one of the best known schools in Oakland.”
Johnson was part of a very balanced, solid performance from a group of NorCal’s top seniors. He scored 13 points, tied Bryce Johnson of St. Mary’s-Stockton for top rebounder with 11 boards, led everyone with two steals and had one of the game’s three blocked shots. Ezra Manjon of Heritage-Brentwood finished with 21 points and seven rebounds. Bryce Johnson had 15 points as part of his own double-double. Steven Richardson from Grant-Sacramento added 15 for the “2019’s,” who had seven players score in double figures.
“What an athlete for his size,” 2019 coach Tom Costello said of Keshad Johnson, “Very impressive. You have two guys with double-doubles; Ezra was phenomenal. The guys were really into it. It was a good atmosphere and a great event.”
Costello, Dublin High’s head coach, was coaching for the first time in the NorCal Clash. He was impressed to see the players’ effort extend well past the offensive game.
“It’s refreshing when you see some guys really compete and show some defensive effort,” he said. “When you have media watching, college coaches watching, that’s the separator.”
The 2020 class, which kept it close in the first quarter, was led by 31 points from Bryce Monroe of Archbishop Riordan-S.F.. Jhaylon Martinez of Vanden-Fairfield added 19 points and 13 rebounds. But the seniors’ experience proved to be too much.
Keshad Johnson is one of Northern California’s most coveted senior recruits, ranked 22nd in the state by ESPN. He said he is currently at 13 offers, rattling off Fresno State, San Diego, Cincinnati, San Diego State, New Mexico and Pepperdine among schools in the mix.
“People who have been already recruiting me at this time, I like that they see the potential in me,” he said. “I am pretty much settling on them, but I am still (open to) major offers.”
The NorCal Clash is the first “bookend” to two East Bay-based events put on by event director Gerry Freitas, owner of Hoop Review. There’s also the NorCal Tip Off Basketball Classic to kick off high school season. The 12th annual edition set for Saturday, Nov. 24, at Newark Memorial High. The Tip-Off is a team showcase, but the Clash is a different animal
“I think what this does is put the spotlight on the top players in NorCal,” Freitas said. “Each year it does become more significant, in the Bay Area, in NorCal. The whole purpose is to promote NorCal basketball. It’s a pretty well established tradition at this point. And we’d like to see it continue to grow.”
Costello, who has known Freitas dating back to Freitas’ days as head coach at College of Notre Dame, noted: “Gerry always runs a first-class event. He’s one of the hardest working guys I’ve ever been around. He’s nonstop.”