MENIFEE – The 17th Annual Desert Valley All-Star game took place Saturday, March 25, at Santa Rosa Academy, and not only featured some of the top prep basketball talent from around Southwest Riverside County, but it had all the makings of an NBA style Fan Fest weekend, bottled up in one amazing day.
Todd Malecki, who started the all-star games circa 2006-2007, moved to Murrieta in 2005 and has been at the forefront of the prep basketball recruiting scene in Southern California since 2010. He also comes with a coaching resume that extends well beyond the youth scene.
Aside from his AAU coaching days (since 1991), Malecki has coached and succeeded at the high school and at the Juco level and was a Pro Coach (Summer Pro Free Agents), so he has a good idea about the skills players need to have in order to get recruited to play at the next level.
“With my experience, I have a good idea of where a young player can matriculate to,” Malecki, who has helped nearly 200 players get placed in colleges (most on scholarship), said. “I have run a recruiting service since 2010, and my events are a big part of the success in that process. I run events to see players in a structured format, who also need to have the grades to play, which helps them see which level fits for them.”
The game has changed with the Transfer Portal and COVID and Malecki feels that many players need to go prep or Juco their first two years after graduating before they even think about going to a 4-year school.
This year is the second year back for the Desert Valley All-Star game since he had to put a halt to things during the pandemic. Not only is there the main all-star game itself, but there is also a three-point contest, a slam dunk contest, and leading up to the final game of the evening, Malecki showcases a series of games featuring the rising stars from the CIF Southern Section area. Teams were named either Home or Visitors.
“I feel all three events went great,” Malecki said. “Having the coaches and staff from Santa Rosa Academy helped make my life easier. At the end of the day this is all about kids and making it a great experience.”
The “Rising Stars” Class of 2024-2025 game kicked things off and featured top players from the Inland Empire including local talents: Matt Mendias, Norco – 16 points, Liam Hodgkinson, TVHS – 2 points; Jacob Groves, Chaparral – 15 points; Malik Wethers, Murrieta Valley (defensive standout), Maurice Turner, Lakeside – 10 points, 6 rebounds; Jaden Ortega, Liberty – 5 points; Charles Knight, Valley View – 14 points; Augustine Youssef, Desert Christian – 16 points; Semaj Carter, Rancho Verde – 16 points. The game MVP was Jeremiah Davis of King High School who finished with 17 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists.
Game notes: The Visitors were down 14 points with 3 minutes to go and a furious rally (4 three-pointers in a row from Groves) from the home team helped them win the game, 95-94.
“The kids all competed hard,” Malecki said. “There is a very positive outlook ahead for the freshmen and sophomores from the area.”
According to Malecki, the 2023-2024 “Rising Stars” game was the game of the night with “inspiring talent and great team play, including 44 points from 6’5” guard, Brayden Burries of Roosevelt High School.” Burries, the MVP of the game, currently has multiple Division 1 offers and helped the Visitors team win 117-100.
Players highlights came from: Mathias Tinker (6’6” – 2024; MLK) – 9 points, 2 rebounds; Caelin Anderson (6’6” – 2024; Rancho Verde) 9 points, 4 rebounds; Aaron Glass (6’2” –2025; Rancho Cucamonga) 22 points (Multiple Division 1 offers); Isaiah Peters (6’3” – 2024; Norco) 5 points; Zach Buley (6’2” – 2024; Palm Springs) 11 points; Stephen Castleberry (6’0” – 2024; San Jacinto) 9 points; Jalen Tiggett (6’5” – 2024, Liberty) 5 points; Isaiah Tiggett (6’5” – 2024, Liberty) 16 points; Hunter Kennedy (6’3” – 2024, Murrieta Mesa) 10 points; Jory Valencia (6’4” – 2024, CSDR) 7 points.
Leading to the final all-star game of the night, the three-point contest was won by Jacob Lucas from Lakeside, who hit seventeen 3-pointers in one minute. The slam dunk contest was won by James Otieno of Aquinas as he brought the house down with a jam that had to be seen in person.
The 17th Annual Desert Valley All-Star game ended in a tie with both teams putting 109 points on the board and did not need a winner, as everyone involved succeeded on the day. The MVP (Kawhi Leonard Award) was Keismer Foster of Aquinas with a 25-point performance.
Other top performers were Prince Turner of Lakeside with 17 points, Walker Weir of Murrieta Valley with 9 points and Diego Saucedo of Norco with 10 points.
Full rosters for the game were:
Home Team. Head Coach: Eddie Algarin, Lakeside. Players: Austin Nassar, Rancho Christian – G; Jaitice Hayes, Moreno Valley – G; Gary Dotson, Vista Murrieta – PG; Prince Turner, Lakeside – G; Jacob Lucas, Lakeside – G; Keismer Foster, Aquinas – PG; Diego Saucedo, Norco – G; Walker Weir, Murrieta Valley – F; Mike McNair, Linfield – G; Shadale Knight, Rancho Cucamonga – PG; Bailey Chambers, Rancho Christian – G; James Otieno, Aquinas – F; Jordan Daniels, Ramona – G; Jarod Myer, Citrus Hill – F.
Visitors Team. Head Coach: Ed Thomas, Temescal Canyon. Players: James Di Miceli, Murrieta Mesa – F; Ruben Sevilla, Hillcrest – PG; Juan Martinez, Perris – G; DeWayne Patterson, Rancho Mirage – G; Cody Gorden – Palm Springs – G; Emmanuel Koahau, Canyon Springs – W; Trevor Clark, Temescal Canyon – C; Nasir Brown, Aquinas – W; Scot Davis, Patriot – G; Jerimiyah Smith, Rancho Cucamonga – F; Steve Shuffleton, Palm Desert – G; Nate Simon, Roosevelt – PG; BJ Knight, Valley View – G; Jayceon Smith, MLK – G; Martin Gumwell, Rancho Christian – C.
Coaches at event included Brian Wethers, Murrieta Valley; Respp Relatores, Jurupa Hills HS; Troy Holland, Rialto HS; Ed Thomas, Temescal Canyon; Eddie Algarin, Lakeside; John Romagnoli, Summit; Carlos Castillo, Norco (2024 game); and Rahmeel Greene, San Bernardino.
Malecki’s next event is Saturday, Aug. 26, at Life Pacific University in San Dimas, and San Dimas High School.
“Our events do sell out, so if you’re a 2023-2027 player, please reach out to me,” Malecki said.
For more information on these events and more, email Icemenbball@gmail.com for registration links, and follow Todd Malecki on Twitter at @toddmalecki.