It has been a great start to the men's basketball season with six out nine Orange Empire Conference teams ending 2018 with a winning record. Two teams are ranked in the top 20 in state, and three are ranked in Southern California. With conference-play beginning this week, the teams of the OEC will have their work cut out for them as the conference is once again loaded with talent.
As of January 7th, Fullerton is ranked No. 1 in the state by the CCCMBCA with Riverside ranked at 16. Santiago Canyon is ranked 13th in Southern California.
Fullerton College has looked very strong this season sporting a 15-1 overall record while averaging 83.8 points a game. The Hornets have beaten three of the top 20 teams in the state in No. 3 Mt. San Jacinto, No. 4 Cerritos, and No. 12 Citrus. Citrus handed FC their lone loss in the third game of the season. The weapons for Fullerton are deep as there are many players that can shoot. Sophomore guard Lance Coleman II, is a pure shooter that transferred over from Irvine Valley. During the 2016-17 season Coleman II was second in the conference averaging 18.2 points a game for the Lasers. So far this season, he is third with 17.8. Sophomore point guard Ezekiel Alley is quick, agile, and smart with the ball. He is second on the team in scoring with 12.9 points a game. Alley is averaging 6.4 assists a game. Big man Ronne Readus stands at 6-9 and is averaging 12.4 ppg while bringing down 10.6 rebounds a per game. Sophomore point guard Jailen Moore is averaging 11.9 ppg, while sophomore guard Rodrick McCobb is averaging 10.4 ppg. Others to keep an eye on are sophomore Vaj Rice (7 ppg/3.5 rpg) and freshman Omajae Smith (6.9 ppg). This Hornet team has the makings of a state title contender if they stay focused and play to their potential.
Riverside City is one of three OEC teams with an 11-5 overall record and has come on strong as of late winning 5 straight games, including a nice win against No. 13 in state San Bernardino Valley. The Tigers spread the ball around very well and will be a challenge for most teams to stop. Leading the way is sophomore guard CJ Clark, who is averaging 15.7 ppg, with 3.6 rpg, and 3.5 assists a game. Sophomore guard Otto Taylor is averaging 13.6 points and freshman guard Tyree Winborn 11.8. Freshman guard Cam'Ron Wilson is putting up 9.2 ppg along with 3.7 rpg, while freshman guard Chris Harper is scoring 8.9 points a game. Bring down 6.4 rebounds and scoring 5.7 is sophomore forward Franky McQuay. RCC will be tough to beat this year and could possibly be a breakout team if they continue playing their brand of basketball.
In just their second year of existence, Santiago Canyon continues to keep their winning ways rolling. With an 11-5 record, the Hawks have beaten some quality teams this season (Chaffey, Saddleback, and Citrus) as they make their run for the OEC title. A pair of freshmen guards have been lighting it up for SCC in Paulo Araujo and Tyler Goodlow. Araujo is the team's leading scorer with 17 ppg. He is also bringing down 5.8 rebounds. Goodlow is scoring 14.2 ppg with 4.1 assists. Sophomore guard Jordan Holden is scoring 9.6 ppg, while sophomore forward Ajdin Toskic is scoring 8.7 ppg. The younger Holden in Lucas has been a nice addition to the team putting up 8.6 ppg with 5.7 rebounds.
With an 11-5 overall record, Cypress should be ranked, however they have not beaten any ranked teams. The Chargers have only two players scoring in double digits. Their main workhorse is as skilled as they come. Ranking second in scoring is sophomore guard/forward Mike Magee with 18 ppg. He also averages 5.8 rpg. Freshman forward Kae'jon Barnes is dropping in 11.2 points a game and is the team leader in rebounds with 7.2 a game.
The previous CCCMBCA poll had Copper Mountain (10-6 overall) ranked No. 20 in the state, but they have since dropped off losing four out of six games in the month of December. Do not let this fool you as second year coach Devin Aye will have his team well prepared going into conference-play. The Fighting Cati are currently ranked second in the OEC for team scoring at 80.5 ppg. Doing most of the damage for CMC is sophomore guard Anthony Rice, who is putting up 17.7 points a game (second in the OEC). He is also dishing out 6.2 assists a game. Three freshmen making an impact on the team are forward Dillon Voyles (10.1 ppg), guard D'Shaun Barrett (9.8 ppg), and forward Zack Kroker (9.6 ppg / 6.6 rpg). Sophomore Kenny Bates (9.6 ppg) is leading the way in rebounds with a 6.8 average.
Saddleback comes into 2019 with a 9-7 record, but do not let that fool you. Most of the Gaucho losses were at the hands of quality teams (Mt. San Jacinto, East LA, Snow, and Salt Lake). Saddleback has also beaten ranked teams (Citrus, Southwestern, and West LA). A trio of sophomores lead the team in forward Shawn Stith (15.4 ppg), guard/forward JJ Overton (14.5 ppg), and guard Ryan Beddeo (9.6 ppg). The Gauchos are a very well coached team that will capitalize on the mistakes of other teams.
Santa Ana is currently sitting at 6-10 overall. The Dons have the OEC's the leading scorer in freshman guard Ramon Lopez, who is putting up 20.1 points a game. Following is forward Chis Bailey with 16.3 ppg and 7.5 rebounds.
Irvine Valley (3-13) has two sophomores that can score in forward Geoff Salas (12.3 ppg) and guard Isaiah Mahmud (8.2 ppg).
Orange Coast, the 2017-18 darlings of the OEC are 2-14 so far this season. Last season's Orange Empire Conference champs have taken a hit after losing their "big three" (Joshua Davis, Lloyd Wright, and Kupaa Harrison) to four-year colleges. Leading the way for the Pirates in scoring is freshman guard Jonathan Ileleji with a 16.9 average. Doing their best to fill in the gaps are returners Malik Skillern (12.3 ppg) and Leonard Stallings (12.1 ppg). Both players helped the Pirates make it to the state semi-final game last season.