Midseason boys basketball MVP Watch List

The three front runners for Shasta County Sports MVP are (listed left to right, not ranked) Redding Christian’s Austin Larson, Foothill’s Josiah Hutt, Shasta’s JT Beasley. (Photos by Mike Daly, illustration by Aaron Williams/Shasta County Sports)

There’s still a ton of basketball still to be played between now and the section finals in late February. But the start of league, it’s time to take a look at those players that have stepped up their game over the preseason and enter league as legitimate MVP candidates.

We offer 16 players who’ve shown they can come night in, night out and give their team an opportunity to win. Making the list doesn’t ensure postseason honors (just as not making this list doesn’t exclude from a possible MVP run). This is purely based on T.J. and Aaron’s observations over the course of the holiday tournament season and talking to coaches about players, and the list is sponsored by Weaver Lumber & Milgard Windows.

Note: Each section of contenders is listed alphabetically.

Let the discussion begin.

Front runners

JT Beasley, Shasta, Jr.
The Wolves junior has been a big (read: Pleasant) surprise this season after averaging five points per game as a sophomore. We knew Beasley could ball, but the 5-foot-10 shooting guard has upped his game and, at times, carried the west side boys through the preseason. Averaging 17.3 points per night (second among large-school players in the section), Beasley has scored in double figures in all but one of his team’s 18 games.

He’s shooting 47 percent on the year (and nearly 80 percent from the line) and is a multi-faceted scorer. He can drain shots from distance as well as slash and beat defenders off the dribble. In addition, Beasley is a lockdown defender who is smart, quick and a high basketball IQ.

Josiah Hutt, Foothill, Sr.
For Hutt, it wasn’t a matter of if, but when. The uber-talented 6-4 guard trapped in a post’s frame can flat out take over. He’s deadly from range, can finish around the basket and has upped his game from playground legend to legit on-floor leader. Hutt is averaging 19.3 points per game (tops among large-school players in the section) and fills up the rest of the stat sheet with rebounds, steals, assist and blocks.

But the thing that puts Hutt among the Front Runners is how he’s stepped up into the leadership role with Foothill. The Cougars lost a lot of veteran leadership last season and Hutt has become the guy coach Bill Elliott and the players look to for on-court guidance. And he’s been up to the challenge, leading Foothill to a 13-5 mark thus far after playing an ambitious preseason schedule that included many upper-division squads.

Austin Larson, Redding Christian, Sr.
If you like numbers, Larson will make your jaw drop. Sitting around 31 points and 14 rebounds per game, toss in 6.4 assists per game and you’ll find one of the more all-around talented basketball players in not only Shasta County but the Northern Section. He has a 12 games 30-plus points, 20 double-doubles and four triple-doubles with a season low scoring of 21 points.

If stats aren’t your thing, here’s one number we’ll leave for you: 21-0. That’s right, Larson has led the Lions to a perfect 21-0 mark on the year, which has them as the No. 5 ranked team in Division VI in all of California. He might be playing in the lower division but he’s always the best player when he steps on the court and he’s doing everything in his power to make a strong case for the MVP.

Contenders

Khristian Clements, Enterprise, Sr.
The senior is a true 5, a true post in an era of the 3-ball. He’s big, physical, has great footwork and has upped his game, averaging 13.1 points per contest this season for the 7-10 Hornets. Clements’ game is well-rounded as he can bang inside as well as step out and hit from not just the elbow, but from 3-point land. He exploded for a 42-point night against McKinleyville at the Jamie Angley Hornet Classic and went for 16 and 11 in an overtime loss to Foothill last week in the Eastern Athletic League opener.

Sean Proscher, West Valley, Sr.
There might not be a better shooter in the section. And when he heats up … look out. The lanky West Valley 6-2 wing is averaging 11.3 points per night for Dub-V Nation and he’s hit nearly twice as many 3-pointers than he has two-pointers. He’s notched double-digit point totals in 12 of the Eagles’ 17 contests as West Valley has compiled a 13-4 mark thus far and looks to be one of the front runners in Division IV. And the added bonus of Proscher’s hot-shooting propensity is that keying on him too much leads to openings for a cadre of other guys to step up and beat you.

Adam Shoff, Enterprise, Sr.
A kid that could fly under the radar due to his quiet, workmanlike demeanor, Shoff is all business between the lines. He’s averaging 11.5 points per contest for the 7-11 Hornets, but the 6-foot guard isn’t all about scoring. He fills the stat sheet – nearly two assists and steals per game to go along with a 3.8 rebound-per-night average – and does a lot more of the little things that don’t show up in the box score. He’s a tenacious defender with laser focus on his man. He can get out and run in transition and is an exceptional passer on the break.

Tanner Stephens, U-Prep, So.
The future might be now for the Panthers with the sophomore Stephens, a big body who can play in the low block or out on the perimeter. The coach’s son is leading the 14-4 Panthers averaging 13.1 points per night, while adding nearly six boards per game. He’s dropped double-digit points in 12 of the Panthers’ games and shoots 40 percent from the field. When he gets an opening from range, he’s hitting at a 35 percent clip. U-Prep has pieces around Stephens that have allowed him to step into a role, but he’s thus far upped his game.

Caden Turner, Shasta, Sr.
The Wolves’ three-year varsity standout brings a lot to the table – nearly 14 points per night, in addition to 5.5 assists, 5.3 rebounds and 3.2 steals per night. But in addition to all the stats Turner logs, he’s the guy the Wolves look toward to hit a big shot or lock down an opponent’s top scoring threat. He’s got a pure touch from beyond the arc , his defensive footwork is second to none and his court sense is otherworldly.

Dark Horses

Nawoj Cawker, Central Valley, Jr.
The CV legacy — his sister, Lala Forest-Cawker, was a standout for the Falcons in her time — and the junior is picking up the mantle while leading a youth movement in Shasta Lake City. He’s averaging 11.3 points per night, leading the team, and leads a talented cast of juniors Kyle Seaman, Dojah Alido and senior Andres Munoz-Nieves.

Robbie Davis, Anderson, Sr.
The Cubs’ post can dominate. A big body with a passion for banging down low, Davis is grabs nearly eight boards per night for Big Blue. while tossing in just over 12 points per game. Davis is one of the players to make giant leaps from last year to this one and when he’s active and energized, the Cubs are a tough out.

Bekdoo Lewis, Foothill, Jr.
Like many on this list, Lewis has multiple ways of sending you home a loser. He can shoot from distance, plays an in-your-face brand of defense, can run the break and is long enough to be a big threat on the glass. He played sparingly last year for a veteran Foothill team, but has upped his game this season. The trajectory of his improvement should keep opposing coaches up at night.

Demarreya Lewis-Cooper, Enterprise, Fr.
Yes, he’s a freshman. But, man, can he play. A strong, confident shooter already, Lewis-Cooper is averaging 7.4 per night while leading the Hornets’ offense. He’s a heady player with an incredible ceiling who’s already showing that he’s ready for the big stage.

Luke Lindsey, Foothill, Jr.
Instant energy. That’s what you’re going to get from¬† the Cougars’ junior. He’s scoring at nearly a 13-point-per night clip and does a lot of the little things … and does them well. Lindsey never takes a play off and is as skilled at shooting from anywhere on the floor as he is locking up an opponent on defense. The Cougars’ might be Hutt’s team, but Lindsey is an assassin if you pay too much attention elsewhere.

Jordan Miller, U-Prep, Sr.
The Panthers’ senior post is dropping 11.3 points per night and adding nearly six boards per contest as the Panthers are battling West Valley for Division IV supremacy. Miller put up 17 and 11 on Saturday against reigning Division III state champion Pleasant Valley. He’s got the game to dominate and his supporting cast can help share the scoring load or feed the big fella the ball.

Dilraj Sahota, Shasta, Jr.
The Wolves’ junior would probably be among the contenders if not for having to sit out the 30-day transfer period. In his third varsity season, Sahota has made an immediate impact for Jordan Freilich’s bunch, easing the load on Turner, Beasley & Co. Sahota has a scorer’s mentality and can shoot from anywhere on the floor. His defense, early in his season, has upped its game and as the year progresses, the Wolves could be dangerous with its addition of Sahota and Armal Dhinsa.

Lambert Salvatierra, West Valley, Sr.
We’d like to strap a pedometer to the Eagles’ point guard, just to be amazed at how much distance Salvatierra travels during a game. Always active, the slashing point is the engine that runs coach James O’Brien’s offense. Proscher and others can fill the bucket from distance, but it starts with the 5-10 guard. He’s at his best when he’s dribble-driving and kicking to shooters, but will beat you off the dribble if you don’t lock him up and play soft while defending the 3.