SportStars Magazine

Pahulu’s POV: 2018 MLK Classic at St. Mary’s College Report

Akinjo, Salesian too much for Modesto Christian 76-62

The main event featured #5 Salesian Prep (Richmond) led by their point guard #11 James Akinjo as he is the top guard in California. Akinjo will be going to UConn next year to play for Coach Kevin Ollie as he informed me that his game fits Coach Ollie’s system. To my surprise, Salesian is ranked #5 in the nation and their tallest starter, #3 Joshua Jefferson is only 6’5.”  The Salesian Pride also have the McClanahan twins, #0 Jaden and #4 JoVon — both 5’11” at 175lbs but are so athletic they play tall and aggressive.

Modesto Christian Crusaders is led by #5 Junior Ballard who will be playing Division 1 basketball next year at Cal Poly- San Luis Obispo (my alumni). 

ModestoChristian #3, Aaron Murphy of the Crusaders goes for another highlight dunk. Sam Stringer photos

 Salesian is leading at the end of the first period 19-13. In the second period, #3 Aaron Murphy for the Crusaders makes a statement dunk to be down by only 2. At the half, the Pride are only up by 3 (31-28). In the 3rd, Akinjo is taking over with his cross handles and penetration to the basket. #14 for the Pride – Shane Bell hits a buzzer-beater 3-pointer and Salesian goes up 54-45 after 3 periods. The Crusaders are looking frustrated and exhausted as the Pride continue to attack.

James is showing why he is going to UConn because of his handles, defense and unselfish play to dish dimes to his teammates. He finishes with 35 points and has the highest score of all 6 games played at the 2018 MLK Classic. For Modesto Christian, #5 Junior Ballard is the high man for his team, finishing with 15 points. The Crusaders got some young talent in Murphy (Jr) and #2 Michael Pearson (Soph) as they proved themselves they can play with the elite teams. The Pride fans came out deep to support this team and you can count me in to be on the bandwagon for the Pride as they are exciting to watch and I look forward to see how far they can go in CIF playoffs.

Damien Victorious Between the Battle of the Spartans 61-52

Photo by Sam Stringer

De La Salle, the host of this prestigious MLK Classic for its 21st edition, has to regroup this year with a lot of seniors graduating from last year. DLS is led by #33 Justin Pratt. Their opponent Damien — the team in from SoCal, are led by their senior guard tandem— #15 Elijah McCullough and #20 Cameron Shelton. Both are going Division 1 next year; McCullough to Sacramento State University and Shelton will be attending Northern Arizona University. Damien coaches are raving about their fabulous freshman, #1 Malik Thomas who is 6’3.” 

To start the game, Damien goes on a full court press and I’m thinking this will be a long game for De La Salle. However, Damien only leads 16-12 after the first period. De La Salle makes the adjustments in the 2nd period and now Damien is struggling with a DLS zone defense. In Southern California, most of the elite teams go man defense — De La Salle leads Damien at halftime 32-21. Damien finetunes at halftime with #20 Shelton attacking to the basket. Shelton finishes with a game-high 20 points followed by Pratt with 17 as Damien defeats De La Salle 61-52.

DeLaSalle #33 Spartans big man Justin Pratt goes for a layup

Surprised not to see the student section of De La Salle at this year’s classic as they have always represented at previous MLK Classics I’ve attended. 

Bishop O’Dowd Athleticism overcomes Pleasant Grove (UT) Big Men 64-54

Pleasant Grove Vikings are the first Utah team to make an appearance in the MLK Classic. They are led by their junior big man, 7’3” Matt Van Komen. He is a tall gentle giant.

Bishop O’Dowd Dragons are led by their backcourt with #2 Elijah Hardy and #5 Naseem Gaskin as the first guard tandem from the same team in the Bay Area to go D-1 next year. Hardy will be attending UDub (University of Washington) and Gaskin will be going to the U (University of Utah). Gaskin, at only 6’3” was given the task to start the game to guard the big man, Komen. 

6th man for the Dragons, #32 Miles Owens at 6’7” 315lbs (who has a football scholarship for CAL) now has the assignment to guard Van Komen and he is playing great defensively on the big man in addition to making his free throws when he gets fouled. The Vikings backup #33 Jesse Boggess – at 6’7”, fills in well and is being aggressive against the Dragons. 

Bishop O’Dowd #2,Elijah Hardy. Photo: Sam Stringer

I’m not quite sure why Boggess isn’t playing alongside Van Komen as opposed to subbing in for the big man. In the 4th period, the Dragons have 5’9” Sr. Ross Williams take over offensively and plays exceptional defense against Pleasant Grove’s small point guards. Williams finishes with a high score for Bishop O’Dowd with 19 pts as the Dragons win 64-54.

Pleasant Grove #22 big man Jr. 7’3″ Matt Von Komen takes it in the post for another dunk

Big Man, Van Komen finishes with 10 pts for his team — as he needs to be aggressive offensively. My recommendation for him is to play AAU in the Bay Area this summer so he can easily play at the next level because he is quick on his feet and strides in full court at ease.  With high school basketball becoming so popular with shoe sponsors like Nike, Adidas, Reebok, Under Armour, etc, I won’t be surprised if Van Komen goes to a prolific prep academy next year for his senior year.


Oak Park Big Men Too Much for Valley Christian 77-54

Oak Park #44; Photos: Greg Jungferman

Oak Park Eagles, Ventura County in Southern California, are led by their big man #44 Riley Battin who is 6’10” and will be going to the University of Utah next year. Battin plays the 4 as the Eagles center #55 Ezekiel Richards – at 6’11”, has overcome injury and is making his season debut against Valley Christian. The Warriors are led by their big man #21 Jaydah Allen-Tovar 6’8”, who is only a junior and according to his coaches, every D1 recruit who has visited the school this season has offered Jaydah a scholarship.

Valley Christian #21, Jr. Jaydah Allen-Tovar taking his time at the free throw line

Oak Park also has talent in the Slajchert brothers, #0 Clark – only a sophomore and #33 Wes who is a senior, both are starting in the Eagles backcourt. In the 2nd period, Slajchert takes a fast break and finishes with an AND1. He sure got handles. The Eagles lead at halftime 34-30.

In the 3rd period, #44 Battin is hitting 3s as he’s got range for his size. In the 4th period #0

Clark Slajchert takes over and is penetrating to the basket and shooting critical 3s for his team. He is so confident with his game. Oak Park puts the game out of reach as they win easily 77-54. Riley Battin finishes with a high score of 28pts and #2 Jaylon Bryant finishes with 16 for Valley Christian.


Moreau Catholic Defeats Defending NorCal Open Division Champs, WoodCreek 59-56

Moreau Catholic #00,Leonard Turner. Greg Jungferman photo

Both teams suffered a huge loss in the offseason as Moreau Catholic #1 Freshman in the country last year, Kyre Walker transferred to Hillcrest Prep in Phoenix, AZ and Woodcreek big man Jordan Brown transferred to Prolific Prep in Napa (where #4 2017 NBA pick Joshua Jackson of Kansas played). But the Moreau Catholic Mariners, led by their Coach Frank Knight (1995 graduate from Fremont HS- Oakland who led his team its last appearance at CIF D-1 State Runner-Up to Mater Dei) continues to stock-up young talent on his roster. The team is led by #11 Glenn Byrd and #00 Leonard Turner, both juniors.

Woodcreek has a big man in #5 Chris Cagle, 6’7” 215lbs. He’s eating, taking the ball to the floor

Timberwolves Chris Cagle fighting off his jumpshot from Mariners traffic

and showing his midrange game as he has 20 pts by halftime— the score tied at 27. The Mariners are not shy of the spotlight and come out victorious 59-56 as Turner leads his team with 14pts while the Woodcreek Timberwolves big man, #5 Cagle led his team with 28pts. There is a possibility they both might see each other in a very competitive NorCal Open Division Playoff. 

St. Patrick – St. Vincent Squeaks by Las Lomas 52-48

Defending Div IV State Champs St. Patrick – St. Vincent started the MLK Classic against #3 Bay Area-ranked Las Lomas Knights, who are led by #24 Nathan Robinson, a transfer from Sacred Heart Cathedral in San Francisco. On the other side of the court, St. Patrick – St. Vincent is led by their prized sophomore, center #22 Dishon Jackson at 6’8” 220lbs, who has athletic jeans from both parents— his mother, Shabaki played basketball at CAL and his father Joshua was a basketball standout at Cal State Hayward (now CSU-East Bay). The Bruins started their season slow as PG #11 Akil Edwards (Jr) and forward #23 Marshel Martin (Sr) had an extended football season prohibiting them from joining the basketball team until mid-December.

St. Patrick-St. Vincent#22; Photo Credits: Greg Jungferman

Going into the 4th period of this very competitive game, with the Bruins leading 48-43 with 1:13 remaining, Robinson makes the game interesting by hitting a crucial 3 to make it a one possession game. Time not being friendly for Las Lomas, they had to foul, #11 Edwards who continued to make his free throws and the Bruins are victorious, 52-48. Jackson led the Bruins with 16pts and Robinson led the Knights with 17pts. This was Las Lomas first loss of the season. Impressive! 

Las Lomas#24, Nathan Robinson trying to get his shot over the Bruins big men

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