There is no doubt that it is a point of distinction to be named to the San Diego Union Tribune’s Players to Watch preseason basketball list, complied by the venerable and highly respected prep writer John Maffei.
And three local hoopsters were deemed worthy of such recognition. To reiterate, you don’t qualify for that list without having demonstrated bona fide skills and established some genuine credentials.
The three players who made the grade were Escondido Charter’s Tristan Hernandez and two roundballers from neighboring Escondido High, Julian Hutchinson and Justin Fox.
The talented Hernandez is point guard who showed a legitimate all-around game while starting 29 games last season as a freshman for the White Tigers. He posted very promising numbers across the board in 2018-19, averaging 8.0 points, 3.6 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.2 steals per contest.
Expected to take his game to an even higher level, Hernandez is already demonstrating definite signs of progression through four games of the just christened season while averaging 9.7 points and shooting at a dramatically higher rate from both the field as well as the charity stripe.
Hoping to follow in the footsteps of his exciting and heralded brother Jacob Hutchinson who was Esco’s go-to player last season, Julian seems to have all the requisite tools needed to become a dynamic force at the point. Creative, quick and assertive, the 5-9 junior is not only a scoring threat with his penetration but he can also dish the rock with aplomb as his assist average (5.5) from last year will readily attest. Julian’s value to the Cougars was never more evident than last March when an injury prevented him from participating in Esco’s narrow playoff to Bonita Vista. In the opinion of his accomplished coach Paul Baldwin, had Hutchinson been able to compete in that memorable nail-biter, the outcome would have been decidedly different.
And while Hutchinson will be the Cougars’ igniter and orchestrator, look for him to get plenty of assistance from the versatile Fox, a 6-1, 165-pound swingman. Coming off a fine year in which he earned second-team all-league honors while putting up solid numbers (7.5 PPG, 6.5 RPG), the experienced Fox will certainly look to play an even more prominent offensive role while, at the very least, maintaining his laudable work on the boards. If the Cougs are to enjoy another notable season and successfully defend their Valley (League) crown, then Fox must be one of the major reasons why.