No. 3 Amir Johnson vs. No. 2 Trevor Ariza: Vote for the best SoCal high school boys basketball player of the 21st Century (Sweet 16)

Who is the best high school boys basketball player in Southern California over the past 20 years? Over the next five days we’ll give you a chance to decide.

Our 32-player bracket tipped off last week with first-round matchups in all four regions: the Ed Azzam region, the Gary McKnight region, the Harvey Kitani region and the NBA region.

We now move into the Sweet 16.

Circling back to the Ed Azzam region, we have an all-Westchester battle in the second Sweet 16 showdown: No. 3 Amir Johnson vs. No. 2 Trevor Ariza.

Here’s a look at the matchup:

(3) Amir Johnson, Verbum Dei and Westchester

Johnson didn’t begin playing high school basketball until his sophomore season when he attended Verbum Dei and he led his team to the Southern Section Division IV-A championship. He then transferred to Westchester, but had to sit out as a junior. As a senior, Johnson dominated leading Westchester to LA City and State championships in 2005. He averaged 21 points, 15 rebounds, and eight blocked shots a game that season and was named Mr. Basketball in California and a McDonald’s All American. He then went straight to the NBA, despite being committed to Louisville, where he was drafted by the Detroit Pistons.

(Photo by Keith Allison)

(2) Trevor Ariza, Westchester HS

In 2003, Ariza led Westchester to the CIF State Division I State title, a 32-3 overall record and a No. 5 USA Today national prep ranking (No. 2 in the West). In the 2002 state title game, a 73-63 Westchester victory over Oakland Tech, Ariza scored 21 of his 30 points in the final 16 minutes of the game, to go along with eight rebounds, four steals and three assists. As a senior, Ariza averaged 21.0 points, 14.0 rebounds, 9.0 assists and 3.0 blocked shots and steals per game. He was named the Cal-HiSports Mr. Basketball State Player of the Year, the Los Angeles Times Boys’ Basketball Player of the Year, Los Angeles City Player of the Year and first-team All-CIF in 2003. Ariza won four City titles in his four years at Westchester. He played one season at UCLA before going to the NBA. He won an NBA title with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2009.

(Photo by Keith Allison)

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