With 7’0 Evan Mobley, the #1-ranked player in country, and Gonzaga commit Dominick Harris, the Eagles are favored to win the Johnny Leonard Trophy
SALEM, OR - You never know what is going to happen in the world of sports.
The USA Olympic hockey team upset the mighty Soviets in 1980. Five years later, unsung Villanova shocked the world and defeated Patrick Ewing and Georgetown to win the NCAA national championship. In 1990, Buster Douglas knocked out Mike Tyson to take the heavyweight championship belt in boxing.
So anything can happen, right?
Well, the rest of the Capitol City Classic sure hopes so, as 15 “other teams” try to knock off the Rancho Christian (Temecula, CA) Eagles, the #1 seed and prohibitive favorites to win the Johnny Leonard Trophy at the 2019 Capitol City Classic.
Rancho is loaded, and the Eagles centerpiece is 7’0 Evan Mobley, an agile athlete who is more than just big. He’s a dominant presence, and he is heading for what likely will be a one-year career at USC next year before moving onto the NBA Draft in 2021. “Evan is a special young man,” said USC head coach Andy Enfield, who added Evan’s father, Eric, to his coaching staff and brother, Isaiah, to the Trojans’ team as well. “He is an incredible basketball talent who can dominate on the defensive end with his length and athleticism and on the offensive end with his tremendous skill set. We are equally excited about Evan’s exceptional work ethic, humble personality and outstanding academic achievements. He is a proven winner and we are ecstatic to welcome him to our program.”
24/7 Sports says it is hard to find a weakness in Mobley’s game, and that he plays hard and benefits from size, awareness, athleticism and agility... plus a 7-foot-4 wingspan. “Expected to be a high lottery pick,” says 24/7 Sports’ scouting report on Mobley, “and possible No. 1 overall pick in the draft.”
Besides Mobley, the Eagles under Coach Ray Barefield are loaded with athletes. Dominick Harris is a dynamic 6’4 point guard who can take over a game and has committed to Gonzaga. 6’7 junior Luke Turner is a sharp-shooter who spaces the floor for the Eagles. Bryson Stephens, Jaden Byers, and Elijah Goodwin are athletic and fast. Throw in 6’4 senior transfer Jayce Catchings – a talented wild card for Rancho – and you have the makings of a truly great high school basketball team.
“Honestly, I don’t see anybody beating them,” said Capitol City Classic Assistant Tournament Director Ben Collier, “they are really, really good. Could it happen? We’ll see.”
History may give the field some hope, though, Collier’s remarks notwithstanding. The last heavy favorite in the CCC – Centennial of Las Vegas (NV) in 2015 led by future Oregon Duck and NBA lottery pick Troy Brown, Jr. – did not find the going as easy as expected. Centennial struggled to beat Wilsonville by 1 in overtime in the semifinals, before falling to Timpview (UT) in a close championship game.
But for as good as Brown and company were, they were probably not as good as Rancho Christian is this year. The Eagles are 7-2 on the young season, losing twice in the BattleZone Classic in California, first to Santa Clarita Christian (CA), a team ranked among the top 20 teams in the nation, and then getting upset by Corona Centennial (CA), the winners of the 2018 Capitol City Classic.
They have since rebounded and appear to be rounding into form, with an impressive win over perennial powerhouse Christ the King (NY) at the Hoophall Classic in Arizona.
The team that may have the best chance to push the Eagles could be the Lanier Longhorns (GA). Lanier under coach Branden Mayweather may boast the best backcourt in the tournament, featuring 6’5 Sion James, a Tulane commit, and junior Andrew McConnell, a highly-rated prospect in his own right.
From Oregon, Tigard, Sherwood and Wilsonville all are strong programs and among the Portland teams that could make some noise. Tigard is led by mega dual-sport athlete Drew Carter and point guard Steven Long, and the Tigers tough-nosed and physical style of play has proven to be successful over time. Sherwood has two great senior leaders in point guard Jameson Guerra, an Oregon Tech signee, and 6’6 Blake Jensen. Wilsonville, meanwhile, stumbled in its season opener on the road against in-district rival West Linn, but has won three OSAA 5A state championships in the past four years and returns three starters in 6’6 Dakota Reber, 6’5 Keegan Shivers and 6’2 Gabe Reichle.
The Mid-Valley is well-represented in the 2019 CCC, with three teams from the Mountain Valley (South Salem, Sprague and West Salem) and four from the Mid-Willamette Valley (Central, Corvallis, Silverton and West Albany).
“All of those teams have strengths, are well-coached and have very good players, and the three Mountain Valley teams are all very good,” said Collier. “It would not surprise us to see any of them do very well this year, and Silverton and Corvallis are good, too. It should be very interesting to see how the local teams do, and if they can compete with the likes of Rancho Christian.”
The tournament tips off at 4:00pm Wednesday, 12/18 at Willamette University with a contest between the Parkrose Broncos and the Tigard Tigers. Rancho Christian begins their quest for the CCC crown on Thursday at 8:30pm with an opening round game against the Thurston Colts, the 2018 OSAA 5A state champions.
2019 CAPITOL CITY CLASSIC - OPENING ROUND PAIRINGS & SCHEDULE
Willamette University; Salem, OR
Wedneday, December 18
4:00pm - Parkrose Broncos vs. Tigard Tigers
5:30pm - Silverton Foxes vs. Sherwood Bowmen
7:00pm - Central Panthers vs. Wilsonville Wildcats
8:30pm - Corvallis Spartans vs. West Salem Titans
Thursday, December 19
4:00pm - Scappoose Indians vs. Lanier Longhorns (Buford, GA)
5:30pm - Wilson Trojans vs. Sprague Olympians
7:00pm - West Albany Bulldogs vs. South Salem Saxons
8:30pm - Thurston Colts vs. Rancho Christian Eagles (Temecula, CA)
The 16-team, bracketed four-round tournament will continue December 20-23.
2019 CCC SPECIAL EVENTS
Please see https://www.capitolcityclassic.com/schedules
Contest Extravaganza featuring Les Schwab Tires Slam Dunk Contest - 5:45pm or so on Sunday, 12/22
Please see https://www.capitolcityclassic.com/tickets