REGION — From the first time Johnny McWilliams set foot on a court at San Marcos High School, teammates and coaches knew he was a special talent.
“We all knew he would be probably one of, if not the best player to don a San Marcos jersey,” Head Coach Dante Carey said. “He hasn’t disappointed.”
Four years later, McWilliams has lived up to the promise he showed as a lanky 6-3 freshman, willing his undermanned Knights team to a 22-8 record and to the cusp of a CIF Division 1 title and a state playoff appearance for the second straight year.
For these reasons, McWilliams is The Coast News Player of the Year.
The Fresno State signee averaged 23.1 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.4 steals per game for the co-champions of the Avocado East League. The son of former NFL tight end Johnny McWilliams Sr., was named the league Player of the Year as a senior, and is a two-time all-league first team selection and will likely finish his career as a three-time all-CIF selection when the teams are announced later this month. McWilliams led the Knights to the CIF Division 1 Semifinals, where he scored 36 points in his final game in San Diego, a loss to eventual Division 1 champions Kearny.
COACH OF THE YEAR:
Davion Famber, Mission Vista
In his first season at the helm of the downtrodden Timberwolves program, Famber led the team to a historic season, more than doubling the previous high for wins in a season (16), and winning the school’s first CIF basketball title with a 67-55 triumph over top-seed Brawley in the CIF Division 4 championship. The Timberwolves nearly pulled off another upset in the state Division 5 playoffs before losing 53-52 to Saddleback Valley Christian. Famber previously was an assistant coach at Horizon.
Aziz Seck, 6-7 Sr. F, Army-Navy Academy- The Northern Arizona-bound forward was the unquestioned leader of the Warriors, averaging 18.1 points and 7.8 rebounds for the 21-11 team. Was named to the All-Coastal League first team.
Sean Birk, 6-0 Sr. PG, El Camino- Birk averaged a team-high 19 points per game for the Wildcats, which were runners up in CIF Division 1 and are currently playing in the state Division 4 playoffs. Birk was named Avocado West Player of the Year and is a two-time all-league first team performer.
Taurus Samuels, 5-11 So. PG, Vista- The sophomore became the most prolific scorer in the region in his second varsity season, averaging 23.6 points and 4 assists per game, leading the diminutive Panthers to an 18-11 record and a CIF Division 1 quarterfinal appearance. Samuels was named to the All Avo West First Team for his exploits.
Michael Diaz, 6-2 Jr. PG, Orange Glen- The versatile point guard, whose game is reminiscent of a young Russell Westbrook, averaged 17 points, 8.4 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 4.1 steals per game and led the injury-plagued Patriots to a CIF Division 2 quarterfinal appearance. Diaz was named to the All-Valley League first team and was league player of the year as a sophomore.
Keegan Cummins, 6-9 Sr. C, Escondido- For a second straight season, Cummins averaged a double double for the Cougars and was named to the All Avocado East first team, all while leading the Cougars to a CIF Division 1 quarterfinal appearance.
Jackson Strong, 6-4 Sr. SG, Torrey Pines- The senior sniper averaged a team-high 16 points per game and contributed 5.4 rebounds per game, leading the Falcons to a third-place finish in the CIF Open Division and a state Division 1 playoff appearance. Strong was the Palomar League Player of the Year.
Burke Twyman, 6-7 Sr. PF, Mission Vista- The two-time All-Valley League first team selection put up a ridiculous statistical line: 22.7 points, 12.7 rebounds and 4 blocks per game, leading the Timberwolves to the school’s first CIF title and state playoff appearance in school history.
Warren Washington, 6-9 So. PF, Escondido- One of the region’s most promising big men, the versatile Washington averaged 13 points and 7 rebounds per game for the Cougars while starting at center, power forward and point guard for the team during the season. Washington was named to the All-Avocado East Second Team.
Jake Gilliam, 6-10 Jr. C, Torrey Pines- Gilliam was perhaps the breakout star of the region, going from a seldom-used player to an All-Palomar League First Team selection in a year, averaging 12.8 points, 8.7 rebounds and 2 blocks per game.
Richard Polanco, 6-7 Jr. F, Army Navy- The talented forward, a native of the Dominican Republic, averaged 14.1 points and 6 rebounds for the Warriors.
Luke Arvidson, 6-2 Sr. SG, El Camino- The All-Avocado West First Team selection averaged 16.4 points per game in his expanded role as a senior.
Jalen Flanagan, 6-2 So. G, El Camino- Sophomore averaged 15 points per game during Avocado West league play and made all-league second team.
Marcus Hentley, 6-1 Sr. G, Escondido- Missed time to start the year, but rebounded to lead Cougars to co-league title and was named to the all-league first team.
Jason Simmrin, 6-5 Sr. PF, San Marcos- All-Avocado East First team performer averaged 14.6 points and 7.1 rebounds.
Drew Mead, 6-3 Jr. SG, La Costa Canyon- All-Avocado West Second teamer was the Mavericks leading scorer.
Eric Pierce, 6-5 Sr. W, El Camino- Versatile senior forward was named to the All-Avocado West first team.
Jordan Hilstock, 6-2 Fr. G, Vista- The lone freshman to make the All-Avocado League first team, Hilstock averaged 13 points and 8 rebounds per game for the Panthers.
Xavier Allison, 5-10 Jr. PG, Sage Creek- the unquestioned leader for the Bobcats led them to a CIF Divsion 4 semifinal appearance in their first varsity season.
Ryan Michaels, 6-1 Jr. SG, Canyon Crest- The sharpshooter averaged 20 points per game for the Ravens and made the All-Palomar League First Team.
Honorable mention: Ed Fenzi, Army Navy; JC Canahuate, Army Navy; Connor McClurg, Army Navy; Taylor Padilla, Fallbrook; Emmanuel Grandison, Oceanside; Graham Cook, LCC; Matt DeRoos, Tri-City Christian; Connor Ramirez, RBV; Cameron Wager, Mission Hills; Josh Ramirez, San Marcos; Jack Heller, Torrey Pines; Garrett Stone, San Dieguito Academy; Luke Oldham, San Dieguito Academy; Jon Shetler, Escondido Adventist Academy; Cameron Henry, Vista; Isaiah Morris, Vista; Tristan Hixon, Mission Hills; Trevor Owens, Orange Glen; Noah Kuo, Pacific Ridge; Josh Brown, Escondido Charter; Kyle Grant, Guajome Park Academy