Evan Mobley, right, stands with his father, Eric, at a recent game at the University of Southern California, the school where his brother, Isaiah plays, his father coaches and where Evan will attend in the fall. Evan is the No. 1-ranked high school basketball player in the United States, according to many outlets. Valley News/Courtesy photo

Jeff Pack
Staff Writer

Evan Mobley is the best high school basketball player to ever come out of the Temecula Valley. That much is undeniable. 

On Monday, April 1, was awarded the Morgan Wootten National Player of the Year, the annual award is given to the best high school basketball player in the country.

All that remains to be seen from the 7-foot senior from Rancho Christian High School in Temecula is how good he can be. 

His coach at Rancho Christian, Ray Barefield, has said, “He is as perfect a basketball player that I’ve ever seen. We all know he’s going to be in the NBA. When he picks up weight and if he’s on the right team, he could be an all-star with a big-time career.”

His Compton Magic club coach Etop Udo-Ema told The Undefeated, “I’ve been coaching for 30 years and I’ve seen pretty much every top player that has been through Southern California, and if he develops, he can be better than any of them.”

ESPN has projected him to go as high as the No. 2 pick in the 2021 NBA draft. 

“Has all the qualities of a big-time post prospect,” according to a 247Sports scouting report by Jerry Meyer. “Length, athleticism, mobility, skill and basketball IQ are all in abundance. Finishes with touch and has nice footwork in the post. Threat to score out to 17-feet at this point. Expected to extend range. Rebounds outside his area. Conscientious defender. Expected to be a high lottery pick and possible No. 1 overall pick in draft.”

Evan Mobley is projected to be a lottery pick in the NBA draft as early as 2021. Valley News/Andrez Imaging

Evan was last year’s California Gatorade Player of the Year as a junior, this year he’s certainly in the running. He is a finalist for the Cal-Hi Sports Mr. Basketball California 2020, which called him, “One of most impressive big men in state history.”

He is a Naismith Player of the year finalist and first-team All-American, was named to the Nike Hoop Summit USA Team and the Jordan Brand Game, and, like his brother before him, was named a McDonald’s All-American this season. Unfortunately, those events and games have been canceled due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Mobley played for the United States at the 2018 FIBA Under-17 World Cup in Argentina and played in the 2019 FIBA Under-19 World Cup in Heraklion, Greece.

Find any list of the best high school basketball players in the nation and Evan Mobley’s name is at the top of the list. He even has his own Wikipedia page (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evan_Mobley).

In the fall, he will join his brother, Isaiah, himself a five-star recruit and freshman power forward, and his father, Eric, an assistant coach, at the University of Southern California. 

Not bad for a kid from Murrieta who wasn’t exactly sure he loved the game while growing up. It has been widely reported that it wasn’t until around the eighth grade that he finally fell in love. 

That fact, along with his ability to make the game look easy and being the top dog in high school basketball also means scrutiny and criticism on a national level. 

His critics question his motor, his love of the game, whether those things will keep him from fulfilling his seemingly unending potential. When Eric was hired at USC and Isaiah announced he would follow him, many wondered if the Trojans doing anything unethical at the time. 

When Evan also committed early to USC, those whispers intensified. 

But none of that matters to Evan or the Mobleys. 

Rancho Christian’s Evan Mobley dunks on an opponent during a game earlier in the season. Valley News/Andrez Imaging

The kid with a 7-foot-5-inch wingspan and 40-inch vertical is quiet and thoughtful, the product of a tight-knit family soaked in basketball and committed to education. 

Eric played college basketball Portland and Cal Poly Pomona and his mother, Nicol, an elementary school teacher, is 6-feet-tall, and formerly was a post player who won a state championship at Mt. Carmel High School in San Diego.

The two boys grew up playing with Eric’s club basketball team, Triple Threat, based out of Murrieta. Their dad was there when they played in the Murrieta Youth Basketball League and TYBL Middle School Leagues. 

Watching them play even then, you knew the potential was there. But there are a lot of kids that have potential, the Mobley’s have coached and known a lot of them over the years. 

That’s why the Mobleys have always been about putting in the work required to realize their potential. From hundreds, if not thousands of games all over the state and nation, to private coaches and workouts, to fitness and speed trainers. They have put in the work. 

And yet, Eric said it is more than that. 

“It took a village,” Eric said. “The city of Murrieta and Temecula welcomed us with open arms since we started with Triple Threat and all the leagues that we had here locally all contributed to his success.

“Being around their families, good people in the community, good coaches, and high school coaches as well, they all contributed to his success.”

“All the work was worth it,” Evan said. “I am excited to play with my brother again at USC, that’s going to be special.”

Mobley, who said he will study business in college (“though that could change), credits a strong family foundation for his success. 

For a young man to shoulder the weight of being “the best” could be burdensome heading into college as the top recruit in the nation. But Evan insists he will take it “day by day.”

“Personally we talk about having discipline, discipline is key, I think to anything,” Eric said. “Just being patient with things and having poise and taking everything as you go. 

“The main thing is your education. That’s why we chose USC as they were ranked proudly in the top 20 universities in the county. It’s just a matter of going in and learning and just playing your game.”

The family hasn’t really discussed, at length, the thought of Evan having to face the pressure of coming out early to enter the NBA draft, where he is expected to be a lottery pick as early as a little more than a year from now.
Eric said “first things first” for Evan who is also a great student. 

“You have to get into college first, you have to do the application and then you write the essay,” he laughed. “We haven’t had a chance to sit down and talk about the NBA because it’s a good eight, nine months away — if that happens. So first up is to worry about getting into college, about learning the things you need to learn. Just being prepared, basically, working out every day and just trying to get through high school with all this going down with coronavirus.”

Rancho Christan was eliminated in the CIF State Open Division basketball playoffs by Etiwanda, the No. 3-seeded team in the Southern California regional, by a score of 67-61. It capped a season that saw Evan average nearly 20 points, 12 rebounds and 5 assists per game. 

Lots of kids score points, but few are as consistently high statistically throughout the scorebook as Evan — that’s what makes him special. 

When asked what he would tell young basketball players in the area if they want to make it in the world of basketball, Evan was clear. 

“Don’t take anything for granted, everything can change at any time,” he said. “Train hard, work hard and play hard all of the time.” 

Jeff Pack can be reached by email at jpack@reedermedia.com