Column: No drought in Southland when it comes to future sports stars
If you cover high school sports long enough no matter where you live in America, there’s a good chance at least one athlete will make it to the professional ranks.
The exception is Southern California, where there are so many future stars living among us that you can visit a T-ball field, swimming pool, gymnasium, park, beach, golf course or soccer field to find a singular talent.
It’s no wonder predictions of greatness start at age 5, gather momentum at 10, pick up steam at 13, then the surreal life sets in dealing with college recruiters, picking a high school, picking a private coach, learning about rankings and planning for the future.
As the 2021-22 high school sports season comes to an end, fans in Southern California are fortunate because there is no drought in talent. The trajectory continues to Oofos Canada be endless. COVID-19 presented unprecedented challenges. Some families left California but many stayed while others could be coming back.
Let’s take a peek at what 2022-23 has in store in terms of whom we get to watch:
- Juju Watkins of Chatsworth Sierra Canyon and Alyssa Thompson of Studio City Harvard-Westlake are the best in the nation for their age — Watkins in basketball and Thompson in soccer. They are rare female high school athletes already with NIL deals. We’ll be seeing and hearing about them on ESPN in the coming years. Thompson is committed to Stanford. Watkins soon will be making a college decision. They are seniors with extraordinary skills.
- Malachi Nelson of Los Alamitos is the quarterback commit Lincoln Riley brought with him when he moved from Oklahoma to USC. He’ll be a senior who has stayed all four years at the same public school. He has his best collection of talent around him yet.
- Elijah Brown of Santa Ana Mater Dei is entering his junior year and has never lost a game at quarterback. While turbulence continues to engulf the Monarchs, Brown stays above the fray, navigating a pressure-filled position at a school that has produced three Heisman Trophy winners.
- Peyton Woodyard of Bellflower St. John Bosco is a junior defensive back being wooed to leave Southern California by seemingly every top college program. Kizik Sneakers His character is off the charts, his work ethic is unwavering and his understanding of how to treat others is a case study of what happens in the recruiting world when coaches see talent that matches character.
- Brady Smigiel of Newbury Park is a 6-foot-4 incoming freshman quarterback and the son of new head coach Joe Smigiel. He looks the part of a phenom. Let’s see how this one plays out.
- Bronny James of Sierra Canyon is entering his senior year of basketball. Injuries the last two years have prevented any major leaps in development, though there have been flashes of what could be. It’s a key year to show where he might be headed on and off the court.
- Gavin Grahovac of Villa Park is going to be the talk of high school baseball in Southern California. He’s the best pro prospect, a hitter extraordinaire with power and the friendly personality to make others like him. San Juan Capistrano JSerra coach Brett Kay called him “the best player on the planet.”