Takeaways from Sierra Canyon Basketball media day

Bronny James, Isaiah Elohim, and Juju Watkins will lead the Trailblazers in the 2022-23 season.

CHATSWORTH, Calif. — It might be surprising to learn that Chatsworth is no stranger to A-listers. 

About an hour northwest of downtown Los Angeles, this suburban getaway is a nice, quiet area. It’s affluent, but a far shout from the glitz and glamor commonly associated with LA.

The scene is no different to many other parts of the country.

Parents just decorated their homes for Halloween. Fast food chains and body shops line the streets. Really, it doesn’t seem like there’s much getting excited about.

Body shops, supermarkets, and chain restaurants are plentiful here, no different to many other parts of the country. It doesn’t seem like there’s much getting excited about

But it was no shock when Drake and Michael B. Jordan dropped by, and basketball royalty is commonly seen in this part of town. 

All of that is because of Sierra Canyon hoops.

The high school basketball powerhouse hosted its annual media day on Wednesday.

You’d be right in thinking that most school teams don’t have media days, but Sierra Canyon isn’t like most schools. 

Most recently, its basketball program has produced the likes of Marvin Bagley III (the second pick in the 2018 draft), Kenyon Martin Jr. (52nd in 2020), Ziaire Williams (10th in 2021), and BJ Boston (51st in 2021). Other alum include Cassius Stanley or new Lakers signing Scotty Pippen Jr. 

The Sierra Canyon Trailblazers will count with four sons of NBA players this season: Bronny and Bryce James, Ashton Hardaway (whose father is Penny Hardaway), and Justin Pippen (who is following in his brother’s footsteps and whose father is Scottie Pippen).

It will also be the team’s first time in the Mission League, which will see them compete against local powerhouses like Harvard-Westlake, Notre Dame or Chaminade. Coach Andre Chevalier explained the move is part of the goal to “make the Valley the mecca of high school basketball.”

“Us moving into this league is the foundation of that,” he said, specifically pointing out the coaches in the league. “That’s only going to make us better.”

Ahead of the season’s start, here are four takeaways from Sierra Canyon’s media day. 

Bronny James in for “positionless” senior year

Bronny James’ final high school year is here and the spotlight was once again on the Sierra Canyon guard Wednesday night. 

James was expected to speak to the media after originally being listed as Sierra Canyon’s last speaker, but he was replaced without explanation last minute by his coach Andre Chevalier. Chevalier apologized, offered to take more questions, and shed some light on a new role for Bronny.

“I think Bronny is a positionless player, capable of playing every position for us,” he said. “His IQ is very high, so he knows every position on the court and allows us to be small [and] big.”

“I do think that he’s capable of a triple-double, so we’ll definitely be pushing him to do that as much as we can this year,” Chevalier added. “Bronny is the type of player — whether he scores eight or 28 — if we get a win, I think he’ll be happy with that.”

James, who turned 18 last week, was in great spirits throughout the night. He joked and laughed with his teammates while posing for photos, handled and shot the ball between takes, and casually conversed with a few in attendance despite not formally sitting down for questions. 

For all the hype and speculation, it’s easy to forget that Bronny is still a high school senior — he was one of five high schoolers to sign an NIL deal with Nike last week.

His last year at Sierra Canyon will also be his first year playing with his younger brother Bryce, a lanky 6-foot-4 sophomore making his varsity basketball debut.

The James brothers were actually on the same team for a three-game European tour this summer, but under the California Basketball Club (CBC) travel team banner rather than Sierra Canyon. The team finished the trip 1-2.

Bronny’s college recruitment is another storyline to monitor. He took an unofficial visit to Ohio State in September. Locally, the USC Trojans remain in the mix for the 6-foot-3 playmaker.

Five-star prospect Isaiah Elohim stands out

A lot of eyes are on Bronny James, but the highest-ranked player on Sierra Canyon’s squad is actually junior Isaiah Elohim. Chevalier mentioned him as one of the players he expects to “lead the way.”

Elohim, a five-star prospect from California, is widely considered among the standouts in 2024. He’s a silky and mature scorer who is very comfortable operating in the midrange, and patterns his game after DeMar DeRozan. 

At 17, Elohim has already flashed the craft to create his own shot out of stepbacks or side steps. He’s also a creative finisher at the basket with his long arms and body control.

Both UCLA and USC remain involved in Elohim’s recruitment. Away from Los Angeles, the 6-foot-5 guard holds offers from powerhouse schools like Kentucky, Kansas, Texas, Michigan, Florida State, and others.

Technically, this will be Elohim’s first full season with the team. He transferred to Sierra Canyon last summer — fresh off leading the prestigious under-15 Nike Peach Jam tournament in scoring — but CIF rules meant he sat out the early stretch of his sophomore season.

Sierra Canyon’s new transfers

I’ll be closely watching the Trailblazers’ transfers this season. 

Ashton Hardaway, pictured left above, arrived at Sierra Canyon from Duncanville (TX). He averaged 10 points last season as his team finished with a 35-1 record and won a third consecutive state title. 

Class of 2025 guard Bryce Cofield transferred from West Ranch (CA) this summer and already created some buzz during CBC’s Europe tour. He’s tall for his age and can get up above the rim with ease.

Bouncy forward Jimmy Oladokun joined Sierra Canyon from Damien (CA). He is expected to provide offensive rebounding and inside scoring, Chevalier said, along with with shotblocking center Majok Choul.

Junior Noah Williams, a 6-foot-9 wiry forward who plays on the same travel team as Isaiah Elohim, is a potential sleeper. He won a CIF Southern Section Division 2AA championship with his former school Village Christian (CA) in February. Williams’ sole Division I offer right now is from the UT Rio Grande Valley Vaqueros.

Sierra Canyon’s transfers are expected to play important roles this season.

Guards Amari Bailey (UCLA) and Ramel Lloyd Jr. (Nebraska), as well as bigs Kijani Wright (USC) and Shy Odom (Howard), all left for college. Five-star 2024 wing Trentyn Flowers also moved to Combine Academy in North Carolina, but he played scarcely for the Trailblazers last year.

Girls basketball and the Juju Watkins senior year tour

After a state title last season, Sierra Canyon girls basketball is in store for another demanding year. Juju Watkins, ranked the second best player in the country, will head the charge.

Watkins, like her head coach Alicia Komaki, pointed to the team’s motto of going from good to great. Komaki later flat-out stated that Watkins’ goal is to “dominate.”

Sierra Canyon girls basketball will start its season on November 18 and 19, hosting Duncanville (TX) and South Grand Prairie (TX) at home for a pair of games that will be broadcast on ESPN.

The team will visit five states this year, with Louisiana over Thanksgiving already being confirmed. Komaki jokingly dubbed this the ‘Juju Watkins senior year tour’ but quickly added that Sierra Canyon will face the “nation’s toughest playoff run.”

“This group’s still pretty hungry,” she said. “They want to do even better than they did last year.”

Watkins, like Bronny James, was also one of five high schoolers to sign an NIL deal with Nike earlier this week.

“At the end of the day, I’m just a kid from Watts and to have this opportunity is surreal,” the 6-foot-1 senior said.

Someone to keep an eye on for the future is Leia Edwards (class of 2025). At just 16, she represented Great Britain at the FIBA Under-18 European Championships this summer and averaged about 13 points and eight rebounds.

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