Alemany's Marqueze Coleman has played a vital role in propelling… (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles…)
When the state basketball championships are held this weekend in Sacramento, it once again will look like a party for private schools, with eight of the 10 boys' teams being from private schools.
But the real intrigue comes with a closer look at what binds the five Southern California Regional champions together: Each team's roster has at least one top transfer student.
Transfers have become the most important ingredient to propel a school to Sacramento.
In Division I, Santa Ana Mater Dei has senior Xavier Johnson, who came from Temecula Chaparral after his sophomore year, along with junior Elijah Brown, who arrived this season when his father, Mike Brown, became Lakers coach.
In Division III, Mission Hills Alemany got a lot better with the arrival of the Coleman twins, seniors Marqueze and Michael, from Los Angeles Dorsey after their sophomore season. In Division IV, Los Angeles Price picked up senior starters Khalil Johnson from Palisades and Trey Dickerson from Van Nuys Montclair Prep.
In Division V, Sun Valley Village Christian became a powerhouse with the arrival from Chatsworth Sierra Canyon of sophomore starters Bryan Alberts and Marsalis Johnson. In Division II, La Costa Canyon senior starter David Travers came from the Bishop's School in San Diego after his freshman season.
Even the teams that were beaten last weekend in Ontario had big-time transfer students, such as Bellflower St. John Bosco, which was led by the Hamilton brothers, Isaac and Daniel, who came from Crenshaw. Fresno Bullard's top player, Aaric Armstead, came from Chicago.
And transfers are also influencing the girls' divisions. Mater Dei's standout player, Nirra Fields, the Gatorade state player of the year, came from Virginia for her senior year. Riverside North's Simone De Coud moved from Riverside King when her father, Leonard, became North's coach.
What does it say about high school basketball when so much depends on transfers?
"That's the norm and the way it's going to be, and it's going to get worse," longtime Sylmar Coach Bort Escoto said. "The days of neighborhood kids are over. You can't win with just neighborhood kids because neighborhood kids don't stay anymore."
A state rule that gives section commissioners the power to declare a student ineligible for one year if they transfer for athletic reasons was never invoked on any of the transfers.
It means that schools are building all-star teams, and with the CIF on the verge of revising its transfer rules and making the penalty for switching schools without moving just 30 days instead of one year, the transfer game figures to pick up steam like a runaway locomotive.