Inland Empire: Boys basketball preview

Top 10

1. Etiwanda – The Eagles return five of their top seven players from a team that lost by three points to Mater Dei in the Southern Section Division 1AA final. Byron Wesley, a 6-foot-5 small forward who has signed with USC, is one of the top players in the state. Running the point will be Jordan Daniels, undersized at 5-8 but a lightning-quick ball handler who is drawing interest from mid-major colleges.

2. Corona Centennial – The Huskies finished 25-5 last season, losing by six points to Etiwanda in a section quarterfinal. Dominique Dunning, a 6-4 wing who has signed with New Mexico, was the Big VIII League most valuable player last season and a first-team Division. I-AA selection. He’ll have plenty of support with the return of second-team senior guards Michael Caffey and Gelaun Wheelwright.

3. Murrieta Valley – The Nighthawks return their top three players from last season’s team that won the Division 2AA title. Justin Gudger, a 6-4 senior forward, averaged a team-high 17 points and six rebounds and was named the Division 2AA player of the year. Austin Quick, a 6-3 senior guard, averaged 14.1 points before missing the postseason with a knee injury, and 6-1 senior guard Mark Tarabilda averaged 8.1.

4. Redlands East Valley – The Wildcats return their top three scorers, leading rebounder and top two assist leaders from a team that finished 17-11 last season. Paulin Mpawe, a 6-9 senior center who signed with Pepperdine, averaged 9.4 points, 11.4 rebounds and 3.4 blocks while earning first-team all-Citrus Belt League honors. Another first-teamer, 5-11 senior guard Terrell Todd, averaged a team-high 16.7 points, and 5-7 senior guard Greg Dishman averaged 10.1 points and 3.9 assists.

5. UplandJohn Gilliam, a 6-2 senior guard, returns after leading the 21-9 Highlanders to the Division 1AA quarterfinals. He averaged a team-high 21.2 points last season, and was named the Baseline League co-most valuable player and a Division 1AA first-team selection. Myles Pearson, a 5-11 junior guard also returns. He averaged 9.7 points last season and a team-high 2.7 assists.

6. Rialto Eisenhower – The two-time defending Division 2A champions lost plenty to graduation, including Citrus Belt League most valuable player Alex Varner, but return first-team all-CBL selection Bernard Ireland, as well as second-teamers Devin Gardner and Keyon Sayles.

7. Moreno Valley Rancho Verde – Another team that’s facing a bit of a rebuilding year after losing Kyle Fuller (Vanderbilt) to graduation. The Mustangs finished 27-5 last season and lost to Mater Dei in the second round of the Division 1AA playoffs. The go-to guy this seeason will likely be Spencer Poston, a 6-1 senior guard who was a first-team all Inland Valley League selection.

8. Fontana Summit – One of the top point guards in the Southland, 5-10 senior Montigo Alford, returns for a team that finished 29-4 and advanced to the Division 2AA semifinals. Alford is still playing football for the SkyHawks, so it may take a few weeks to get in basketball shape. The other key returner is 6-6 senior forward Dorian Cason, who has signed with Portland.

9. ElsinoreEarl Twyman, a 6-1 junior point guard, was the Sunbelt League co-most valuable player last season and a second-team Division 3AA selection while leading the Tigers to the section semifinals. He’ll have some help with 6-2 senior guard Jared Forte and 6-5 junior forward Tucker Nordby.

10. Riverside King – A Southern Section Division 1AA champion and state semifinalist just two seasons ago, the Wolves graduated Julius Anders (15.6 ppg) and Brandon Woods (13.6) from a team that finished 12-16 last season, but return the next three leading scorers in Raymond Nelson (9.0), Nikko Turner (6.8) and Adam Smith (5.2).

Other players to watch:

Marcus Baugh (Riverside North), 6-5, So., Wing

Mason Biddle (Riverside Arlington), 6-0, Sr., PG

David Carbajal (Moreno Valley Valley View), 6-6, Sr., PF

Isaiah Como (Moreno Valley Vista del Lago), 5-10, Sr., SG

Andre Darville (Victorville Silverado), 5-10, Sr., PG

Zeke DeBlase, (Victorville Victor Valley), 5-11, Sr., PG

Marcus Hall (Palm Springs), 6-1, Sr., G

Conway James (Riverside North), 5-8, Sr., PG

Mervyn Lindsay (Moreno Valley Canyon Springs), 6-5, Sr., SG

Raymond Nelson (California School for the Deaf), 6-3, Sr., G

Marc Ringnell (Perris), 6-8, Sr., C.

Louis Rose (Bloomington), 6-2, Sr., G

Stephen Scroggins (Moreno Valley), 5-10, Jr., G

Notes: Xavier Johnson, a 6-7 wing who was the Southwestern League most valuable player as a sophomore at Temecula Chaparral last season, transferred to Mater Dei in the offseason. Marcus Bradley, a 6-6 senior forward who averaged 19 points and 10.4 rebounds at Beaumont last season, transferred to Corona del Mar. Jordan Mathews, a sophomore guard who starred at Riverside North last season and is the son of UCLA assistant coach Philip Mathews, transferred to Santa Monica High.

Mark your calendar:

Nov. 30-Dec. 4: Big Daddy Tournament, hosted by Perris Citrus Hill

Dec. 6-11: Nighthawk Classic, hosted by Murrieta Valley

Dec. 7-11: Riverside Kiwanis Tournament

Dec. 9: Summit at Etiwanda

Dec. 16 Riverside King at Corona Centennial

Dec. 16 Redlands East Valley at Upland

Dec. 21 Redlands East Valley at Compton Dominguez

Dec. 22: Elsinore at Murrieta Valley

Dec. 27-30: San Bernardino Kiwanis Tournament

Jan. 5 Etiwanda at Eisenhower

Jan. 7: Arlington at Rancho Verde

Jan. 13 Eisenhower at Redlands East Valley

Jan. 17: MLK Inland Extravaganza, hosted by Riverside King

Jan. 20: Roosevelt at Centennial

Feb. 1: Redlands East Valley at Eisenhower