O.C. family knows its way around court


This might be the first family of Orange County basketball.

The Ballestero bunch has four players at two county high schools. Brothers Anthony and Jojo Ballestero are on the Canyon boys basketball team, and sister Michelle is on the Canyon girls team. Their cousin, Connie, is on the Villa Park girls team.

They all are good players, too.

Jojo, a junior shooting guard, is fifth in Orange County in 3-point shots made, with 50. Anthony, a sophomore point guard, is averaging four assists a game. Michelle made the Canyon varsity this season as a freshman and is getting some playing time already. They have six siblings, some of whom played high school basketball here and graduated, some who are a couple years away from starting their high school basketball lives.

Connie, a senior guard, is the leading scorer in county girls basketball at 24.4 points a game. Her older sister Nicole was an All-Orange County point guard at Villa Park two seasons ago and now is playing at University of San Diego.

Many of the county's top basketball players' fathers were outstanding basketball players. For example, the father of the Samuelson sisters at Edison, Jon, was a great player at Sonora.

But the Ballestero parents, well, not a baller among them. They did coach their kids. Connie's dad Carlos organized and ran the Orange County Rhythm travel-ball team on which Connie and Nicole played for years.

When the Ballestero clan gathers for holidays and weekends, of course, basketball is played.

"We played a lot of H-O-R-S-E when we were all younger," Connie said. "There's been a lot of one-on-one and two-on-two. It's a lot of fun."

So, who is the family's best player currently in high school basketball? Connie votes for cousin Anthony.

"Jojo's older and more experienced," Connie said. "But I like Anthony. I like how he plays, his passing and his shooting."

Perhaps there is another Ballestero on the way, who will be the best of the bunch.

Taking a look around Orange County high school sports:

•Mission Viejo's boys basketball team is 18-2, and its two losses were to teams that are No. 1 in their CIF-SS divisions: Mater Dei, No. 1 in Division 1-AA; and Capistrano Valley, No. 1 in 1-A. Mater Dei also is No. 1 in Cal-Hi sports state rankings.

•The top four teams in the county girls basketball rankings are all in CIF-SS Division 1-AA: No. 1 Mater Dei; No. 2 Brea Olinda; No. 3 Edison and No. 4 Troy. Mater Dei is No. 1 in the division, and Long Beach Poly is No. 2.

•In Cal-Hi Sports' girls basketball state rankings, Mater Dei is No. 2 behind Windward of Los Angeles (a Division 4-AA school because of its smallish enrollment of 480 students and because it has not yet accumulated the points required for further movement up the divisional ladder through the CIF-SS points-profile system). Edison is No. 7 and Brea Olinda is No. 8 in California.

•Jeff Sink, in his first season coaching boys basketball at Brea Olinda after coaching the school's girls basketball team to 10 CIF-SS and four CIF State championships in 17 seasons, was asked if he is having a good time coaching Brea's boys team. "Occasionally," said Sink, smiling and referring to the team's growing-pains season that has the Wildcats at 12-7 overall and tied for fourth place in the seven-team Century League. One of those good occasions came Wednesday, when Brea beat Villa Park for the Wildcats' most important victory so far this season.

•Villa Park's boys basketball program will have a jersey retirement ceremony on Jan. 28 before the Spartans' home game against El Modena. Nine numbers will be retired, including that of 7-foot-1 center Eric Chenowith who was the best player to come out of the school.

•Recruiting interest is growing in Orange Lutheran junior guard Payton Banks, who has scored 110 points over the Lancers' past four games, including 20 in an 80-73 road loss to St. John Bosco of Bellflower in a Trinity League game Wednesday. So far, colleges that have been most active are Arizona State, Oregon State, Penn State, USC, UTEP, Washington and Washington State.

•San Clemente offensive lineman Kyle Murphy, ranked as the nation's top prospect at his position by Superprep magazine, makes a recruiting visit this weekend to USC. He visited Stanford last weekend. Recruiting news on other members of the Tritons' 2011 Pac-5 finalists: defensive back/receiver/special teams star Christian Tober got a scholarship offer from Sacramento State during his visit there this past weekend; quarterback Travis Wilson made his official visit to Utah, and confirmed his commitment to the Utes; and running back Mike Elespuru visits Brown this weekend.

•Troy promoted Kevin Hastin from football assistant coach to head coach, to replace Jim Burton who is retiring. Hastin has been the Warriors' offensive coordinator the past seven seasons.

•Proof, again, that one does not have to play at a Pac-5 school to get recruited: Woodbridge defensive lineman Kyle Kelley committed to Arizona. Kelley, a super-quick 6-3, 215-pound player who probably will be converted to linebacker with the Wildcats, was All-Orange County in 2011. Tustin had five alums that were on NFL rosters this season.

•The CIF-Southern Section Council, made up of representatives of all of the section's 86 leagues, has one of its thrice-yearly meetings on Feb. 2. Council meetings are where proposed changes, additions and deletions to the CIF-SS constitution are approved or denied by council members. A proposal up for vote Feb. 2: as proposed by the Trinity League, the deletion of the "athletically motivated" phrase that has been part of transfer rules and has been implemented to deny athletic eligibility for student-athletes who have transferred.

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