Win or go home. All signs point to the philosophy being recently adopted by California's premier prospects as the CIF State Playoffs start this week. The sense of urgency during this time of year is at an all-time high, naturally. Not only are titles at stake, but playing particularly well when it matters most can make a world of difference in the recruiting game.
College coaches and scouts alike figure to be out in force during the tournament to see some of the nation's more high-profile players in action. On the Golden State's biggest stage, of course. That said, we take a look at the recruits still alive and well in postseason play and put each individual on an all-star team, of sorts, based on geographical location.
STARTING FIVE FOR SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
Jordan McLaughlin, PG, Etiwanda (CA): Someone needs to run the show and the 5-foot-11 junior is one of the best around, regardless of class. Fellow underclassmen and Arizona-bound Parker Jackson-Cartwright was also considered for this spot. The same thing can be said about Virginia-bound London Perrantes from Encino (CA) Crespi and Xavier-bound Brandon Randolph from Inglewood (CA), both seniors. In the end, however, McLaughlin prevailed.
Isaac Hamilton, SG, Bellflower (CA) St. John Bosco: His selection was a no-brainer. The 6-5 senior is the nation's No. 6 player at his position in the 247Sports Composite Rankings and No. 22 overall. Hamilton (pictured) committed to UTEP back in mid-November, but his potential future plans could be on the verge of changing. The Miners coach Tim Floyd was recently approached USC, and if he ends up leaving, Hamilton could have a change of heart about UTEP.
Jordan Mathews SG, Santa Monica (CA): Given the fact that there's not an abundance of qualified post players from the Golden State, we decided to go with a small lineup and include the 6-3 senior. Also worth mentioning is, senior and USC commit Roschon Prince from Long Beach (CA) Long Beach Poly was a close second. Make no mistake, Matthews is deserving of recognition. Before committing to Cal in mid-September, Indiana and Kansas were interested.
Stanley Johnson SF, Santa Ana (CA) Mater Dei: In terms of a buzz on the national level, the 6-6 junior had commanded plenty of attention. Rightfully so. Johnson, after all, is one of the most highly-touted recruits around. He has offers from close to 30 schools and the process shows little, or no, signs of slowing down. In an attempt to curb interest, Johnson cut his list to 10, including West Coast schools Arizona, Oregon, San Diego State, UNLV, USC and UCLA.
Jordan Bell, PF, Long Beach (CA) Long Beach Poly: Without a true big man on this roster, the 6-8 and 225-pound senior would be asked to do plenty down low in the paint. Given his well-rounded skill set, odds are, Bell gets the job done. Before deciding that Oregon was the best fit in November, he had had a laundry list of potential suitors. UConn and Memphis were among the programs offering. A bit closer to home, USC and Washington had scholarships waiting.
STARTING FIVE FOR NORTHERN CALIFORNIA
D'Erryl Williams, PG, Sacramento (CA) Sheldon: Seniors Kendall Smith of Antioch (CA) Deer Valley and Mario Dunn of Richmond (CA) Salesian gave Williams a run for his money. He proved, however, to be the best fit for this makeshift all-star team based on his willingness to sacrifice personal stats to make players around him better. San Diego State received a commitment from Williams back in mid-October and the 6-4 point could make an immediate impact.
Jabari Bird, SG, Richmond (CA) Salesian: When it comes to shooters, he is one of the best in business and would likely give Southern California counterparts Hamilton and Matthews fits if a match-up such as this actually materialized. In the 247Sports Composite Rankings, Bird is the country's No. 4 player at his spot on the floor and No. 18 overall. The 6-6 senior committed to Cal in mid-November and the Golden Bears will be pleased once he steps foot on campus.
Aaron Gordon, SF, San Jose (CA) Archbishop Mitty: The high-profile prospect has not committed, and accordingly, the 6-8 senior is as one of the nation's most sought-after players. In terms of potential, he compares favorably with peers Andrew Wiggins from Huntington (WV) Huntington Prep and Julius Randle from Plano (TX) Prestonwood Academy. Gordon recently named his final list schools and Kentucky, Arizona, Oregon and Washington made the cut.
Marcus Lee, PF, Antioch (CA) Deer Valley: The 6-9 senior made headlines in mid-November when he committed to Kentucky despite having offers from close to 30 schools, including several powerhouse programs. Duke, Indiana, Louisville, Kansas and UConn each had a scholarship on the table for Lee. Apparently, playing for the Wildcats turned out to be the best opportunity. It will be interesting to see if the transition goes especially well for the California kid.
Ivan Rabb, PF, Oakland (CA) Bishop O'Dowd: At this stage of the game, we've talked plenty about the here and now. In terms of the future, it appears as if no one from the Class of 2015 possesses as much upside Rabb. Sky's the limit for the 6-9 and 200-pound post and most agree. Arizona and Cal are in a good position with him as we speak. The Pac-12 Conference schools, however, are already competing with the likes of of major players UConn, Kansas and North Carolina.
Sean Ceglinsky has covered prep and college sports on the West Coast for the better part of the past 15-plus years. Follow him on twitter: @SeanCeglinsky
Already have an account? Sign In