Malik Thomas (Damien, La Verne)
Two years ago, when Onyeka Okongwu earned this honor, he essentially got it in a close call over his Chino Hills’ teammate, La’Melo Ball. This also was a tough choice basically between two players last year, Kyree Walker (Hayward Moreau) and Jalen Green (Fresno SJ Memorial). This year, there were more than two who were seriously considered, as many as five. We won’t list them all only because we don’t want to give away most of our upcoming all-state freshman team.
Thomas, a 6-foot-3 power guard, gained the nod and just happens to be from the same Baseline League as Chino Hills as well as state No. 3 Etiwanda. He was one of the top players all season for a team that was 24-7, ended in the top 25 of the final Cal-Hi Sports state rankings and he was the only freshman on the All-Baseline League first or second team.
Some of the key games that stood out for Malik were 23 points in a loss to Etiwanda, 13 points in the second half of a loss to Etiwanda, 20 points and 10 rebounds in a win over Taft of Woodland Hills, 18 points in a CIFSS D1 playoff loss to Pasadena and 10 points in one quarter of a CIFSS D1 playoff win vs. Cantwell-Sacred Heart. Last summer, Thomas erupted for 32 points and was MVP of the Under Armour Next Combine held in Baltimore.
Some of the various Class of 2021 player rankings have Thomas among the best in the nation, while others have other California players higher. This isn’t a recruiting-based honor, but Thomas was a more than solid freshman standout on a team that was in the State Top 20 for a good portion of the season. He has offers from Washington and Pepperdine.
Last 10 State Freshman Players of the Year: 2017 Kyree Walker (Moreau Catholic, Hayward); 2016 Onyeka Okongwu (Chino Hills); 2015 Jordan Brown (Roseville Woodcreek); 2014 Cody Riley (Chatsworth Sierra Canyon); 2013 Trevor Stanback (West Hills Chaminade); 2012 Marcus LoVett Jr. (Burbank Providence); 2011 Parker Jackson-Cartwright (Los Angeles Loyola); 2010 Roschon Prince (Long Beach Poly); 2009 Gabe York (Orange Lutheran).