Waves Ready to Welcome Newest Hoops Players in 2018

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Four of Southern California’s most talented high school basketball players signed letters of intent to play college hoops at Pepperdine last week. 

The group of seniors—forward Andre Ball of Chino Hills High, point guard Darryl Polk Jr. of Long Beach Poly High, and centers Jackson Stormo from San Marcos High in Santa Barbara and Victor Ohia Obioha of Hillcrest High in Riverside—form Waves basketball coach Lorenzo Romar’s first recruiting class, along with 6-foot-7 forward Keith Smith, a transfer from Oregon. 

Romar, Pepperdine’s coach since early March, said he is proud of how his coaching staff worked to get commitments from players that will serve as a foundation to a winning culture at the university.

“One of our main priorities in recruiting was to establish a solid base in Southern California,” he said, “and I think with this class, we were able to achieve that. A common denominator in this class is that they are all hard-working, good-character kids.”

The five student-athletes will join forward Kessler Edwards of Etiwanda High as new Waves. Edwards, the younger brother of Pepperdine leading scorer Kameron Edwards, signed with the school last fall. Pepperdine expected to sign one more player at press time; however, the team did lose one player. Guard Trae Berhow transferred to Northern Iowa last week. In his lone season at Pepperdine, Berhow averaged 10 points and 5.7 boards.

The 6-foot-7 Ball is the cousin of the famous basketball-playing Ball brothers—the Los Angeles Lakers’ Lonzo Ball and his younger siblings, LaMelo and LiAngelo. Pepperdine’s Ball averaged 15 points, four rebounds, three assists and one steal per game while leading Chino Hills to the 2018 CIF Division 1 title. He also won two CIF Southern Division 1 titles during his high school career. 

Ball said he chose Pepperdine because of the closeness of the coaching staff and incoming players.

“This felt like a good fit,” he said. “I bring versatility, some excitement, leaping ability. I want to help get Pepperdine back to the NCAA Tournament.”

Romar said Ball is a winner.

“He’s very athletic and has some really good offensive instincts,” Romar said. “We’re very excited to get him into our system.”

The 5-foot-10 Polk averaged 16 points, eight assists, five rebounds and four steals as a senior. He was a 2018 All-CIF Southern Section Division 1 first team selection, two-time Moore League MVP and a 2018 McDonald’s All-American nominee. 

The guard said his playing-style meshes with how Romar coaches. 

“I’m ready to start a new tradition here at Pepperdine and get the basketball rolling,” Polk said. “I’m not flashy, but I get the job done. I’m a winner and a leader. I pass first, but I can shoot, and I look to help my guys get better.”

Romar said Polk is a pure point guard.

“He understands how to run a team, he possesses great quickness and he’s also a good shooter,” Romar said. 

The 6-foot-9 Stormo averaged 17.8 points, 12.8 rebounds, 2.6 blocks and 2.3 assists his final high school season. He was the 2018 CIF Southern Section 2A Player of the Year and led San Marcos to its first-ever CIF Southern Section title. 

The new Wave praised Pepperdine’s players, coaches and Malibu’s location. 

“It felt like the right place to spend my next four years,” Stormo said. “Coach Romar seems like a fantastic guy and I’m looking forward to being coached by him.” 

Romar said Stormo is a skilled post player that can pass and hit jump shots. 

“He has really good footwork around the basket and is really skilled,” Romar said. 

Obioha, the 6-foot-9 recruit, won the Southern Section 4AA Player of the Year and MVP of the River Valley League this past season, despite only being a basketball player for a few years. The Nigerian native also averaged 14.5 points, 12.4 rebounds and 4.8 blocks a contest, and led his squad to the CIF Southern Section Division 4AA title. 

Obioha said he and Romar “really clicked.”

“Pepperdine is just two hours from home and has a really nice campus,” he added. 

Romar said Obioha is a hard worker that is eager to learn.

“Victor is a very long, athletic shot blocker,” he noted. “As he gets better and develops his skills on the offensive end, he can be a really outstanding player at this level.”

Smith will have to sit out next season due to NCAA transfer rules. He played two seasons at Oregon and was a contributor on the Ducks 2017 team that won a share of the Pac-12 regular-season championship and advanced to the Final Four. The Washington native said he has known Romar since he was a young hoopster, and added that he wants to help Pepperdine make the NCAA tourney. 

“I’m a very versatile player, I can play a lot of positions, I’m a good team player, I try to be exciting out there and try to do it all,” Smith said. 

Romar said Smith is a smart player that brings a winning culture to Pepperdine.

“We expect him to be a special player for us,” Romar said. 

The coach added that Edwards, whose brother has been a Wave for two seasons, is also a winner. 

“We’re really excited to have Kessler,” Romar said. “He has great length and really understands how to play basketball.”