Southern California’s Catholic high schools have always provided a wealth of basketball talent to colleges and universities throughout the country, and the West Coast Conference — dominated by Catholic institutions of higher learning — is no exception.

In the 2018-19 season, the WCC’s men’s and women’s basketball teams feature plenty of players (and coaches) with ties to local Catholic high schools, starting with the two SoCal representatives.

On Loyola Marymount’s women’s team are sisters Andee and Bianca Velasco, both seniors and members of Mater Dei’s (Santa Ana) class of 2015, where they helped the Monarchs reach the CIF-Southern Section Open Division title game twice, and the state title game in 2015.

Up the road in Malibu, the Pepperdine Waves have an even stronger local Catholic school representation on both its men’s and women’s teams. The men’s team is led by head coach Lorenzo Romar, a 1978 grad of the former Pius X High School in Downey, and an assistant on UCLA’s 1995 national champions.

Pepperdine assistant coach Reggie Morris Jr. previously coached at nearby St. Bernard High School in Playa del Rey, leading the Vikings to the 2012 CIF 5AA championship. The men’s team also features two former All-CIF selections, senior Eric Cooper Jr. (from St. Anthony in Long Beach) and junior M.J. Cage (Mater Dei), the son of former NBA star Michael Cage.

On the women’s team, the Waves’ squad includes three former All-CIF players: senior Paige Fecske of Chaminade (West Hills), redshirt junior Megan House of J.Serra (San Juan Capistrano), and freshman Malia Bambrick of Bishop Alemany (Mission Hills).

One of Bambrick’s Alemany teammates, freshman Aminata Dosso, is on the roster at the University of San Diego, while another, sophomore Brooklyn McDavid, is among four local members of the University of the Pacific. The others are senior Chelsea Lidy, former All-CIF at Bishop Montgomery (Torrance), and a pair of Chaminade (West Hills) sophomores: Isabel Newman, from the Eagles’ 2017 state champions, and redshirt sophomore Valerie Higgins, All-CIF and Southern California Player of the Year in 2016.

On the men’s side, sophomore JoJo Walker, the 2016 All-CIF and 5-A MVP from St. Joseph (Santa Maria), plays for Portland. And on the sidelines as assistant coach for perennial WCC power Gonzaga is Donny Daniels, a 1972 grad of Verbum Dei (Watts).

Mike Nelson is the former editor of The Tidings (predecessor of Angelus News).

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