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Talent Moving Upward In The Valley Of The Sun

01/12/2019, 6:15am CST
By Ed Baur

There may not be any D1 prospects on the Gilbert roster, but there is plenty of basketball talent lead by Coach Jay Caserio.   (2019) Carson Towt 6’8” has an all-around game highlighted by his rebounding and court-sense.  When paired with (2019) Jake Ehmann 6’3”, a strong, tough undersized PF, the twosome provides a strong interior presence that puts numbers on the board.   Towt has an offer from Eastern Oregon (NAIA D2) which should be a nice fit while Ehmann is a transfer from Ohio who just may be a football prospect.  Pair those two with (2019) Doc Self 6’, (2020) Brycen Long 6’2” and (2021) Tampa Scott 5’9” and Gilbert will compete with almost any team in Arizona.  Self might be a D1 player in the right program as he is a solid floor player with great instincts who can shoot.  Long simply plays ‘hard’ and doesn’t back-down to anyone and knows how to score.  Scott appears to be a player to watch in future years.

Of course, when you discuss the best teams in Arizona you really should start with Pinnacle (6A) and (Phoenix) Shadow Mountain (4A).  Both are defending state champions in their respective divisions and both showcase a handful of exciting future D1 athletes.  Pinnacle and Shadow met in late November in what may turn-out to have been the best game of the season.  Playing before an over-capacity crowd in their home gym, Pinnacle came away with an 82-80 win when (2019) Nico Mannion 6’3” (U of ARIZONA SIGNEE) banked in the winning three-pointer at the buzzer. 

Mannion is one of the nation’s top PG’s and he was nothing short of spectacular while facing a number of quick, athletic and fresh Matador defenders.  He finished with 37 points including 27 in the second half!  (2019) Trent Brown 6’2” (multiple mid-D1 offers) appeared to be fully recovered from his back-issues.  Brown can really shoot the ball.  Unfortunately, (2019) Jordan Mains 6’6” (several D1 offers) has been lost of the season with a knee injury and (2019) Spencer Rattler 6’2” is no longer with the team (signed with Oklahoma as future QB).  However, (2020) Tosh Baker 6’10” has improved his game dramatically although his future is also on the football field as an offensive tackle (260 lbs) with big-time offers.  Pinnacle brings plenty of guys off the bench who understand their rolls and are not afraid to take the open shot for Coach Charlie Wilde.

Pinnacle is 14-3 on the season losing to California powerhouse programs Rancho Christian 89-79 and Mater Dei 88-78 as well as (Phoenix) Mountain Pointe 76-59 (which was the next game after the win over Shadow Mountain).  There’s a good chance Mountain Pointe and Pinnacle will see each other next month in the 6A State Finals.

Nationally ranked-Shadow Mountain (winner of the last 5 out of 6 4A State Championships) also is off to a great start with a 13-1 record including four victories in winning the highly regarded Torrey Pines Holiday Tournament plus defeating the always talent-loaded (Chicago) Simeon 80-67 in the Hoop-Hall West event in Phoenix in early December.   (2019) Jaelen House 6’1” (ASU SIGNEE) and (2019) Javon Blacksher 6’ 1” (GRAND CANYON SIGNEE) are do-everything, ultra-quick guards who have combined for 40+ points, 11 assists, 9 steals and 8 rebounds per game.  House averaged 30 in earning MVP of the Torrey Pines event.

But the Matadors are more than House and Blacksher.  (2020) Shemar Morrow 6’4” is an ultra-athletic, undersized interior player who is averaging 14 ppg and almost 10 rebounds; (2019) Jalen Williams 6’3” (NEVADA SIGNEE football) is an elite defender at all positions,  and Milwaukee (WI) transfer (2022) Devontes Cobbs 6’3” is the next ‘big thing’ at Coach Mike Bibby’s basketball factory called Shadow Mountain.  Cobbs is a long athlete who is not afraid to take the shot and is willing to stick his nose in the action.  He’ll need to work on his defensive skills but that won’t be a problem if he wants to continue to see the floor for Coach Bibby.

Shadow won’t have cake-walk to the title as (Tucson) Salpointe Catholic (14-1) had a strong showing at the Torrey Pines event, defeating three California teams while losing only to Santa Fe Christian 69-50 in the semi-finals.  They also led Shadow by 20 points after three quarters in last year’s championship game until House almost single-handedly ended their dreams.  I haven’t seen Salpointe play this year but they have (2019) Majok Deng 6’5” and (2020) Evan Nelson 6’2” returning and both certainly will be future D1 athletes.

Other bright lights…the top performers

(Note: I have not seen all of the top players in the Phoenix area --in particular (2019) Otis Frazier 6’6” and (2020) Tay Boothman 6’1” – both of Buckeye and (2021) DaRon Holmes 6’8” of Millennium -- and a number of featured players DNP at games I attended due to injuries – in particular (2020) Hunter Ruck 6’8” of Rancho Solano and (2019) Kyle Patterson 6’5” of Perry.   Also, several players considered as ‘top-tier’ prospects had bad games so I’ll hold off on judgement until I get a second look this season.)

(2022) Dylan Anderson 6’10” – (Gilbert) Perry: Now here’s the complete package, of course, not yet fully developed as a freshman (but he’s getting there).  Runs the floor, blocks shots, rebounds, handles the ball, shoots from all spots on the floor and defends.  Is there anything else?  Anderson already has plenty of high-level offers (some even before season started).  HE seems to be a sure high D1 recruit and future pro.

(2021) Paris Woods 6’5” - (Phoenix) Apollo:  Although Woods was on the losing side versus Gilbert, he certainly stood out as a player with a bright future.  Woods is a strong offensive threat from the perimeter but he can also get his points off the dribble.  A rather long athlete with some smoothness to his step. 

(2021) Ty Ty Washington 6’2” - (Laveen) Cesar Chavez: Smooth guard who can score any place on the court.  Washington has a great floor game but he and (2021) Ricardo Sarmiento 5’11” are basically the offense for the Champions and that means a lot of future double-teams.  Sarmiento could be a solid point guard but he looks to shoot more than pass.  Both will get their points but they’ll certainly have to earn them.   And, both are certainly worthy of some attention from D1 schools.

(2021) Owen Shaw 6’4” (Phoenix) - Arcadia: Although he didn’t see a lot of court time as a freshman, the minutes I saw him play last year indicated a potentially bright future, especially if he grows a couple of inches.  Although he has to play mostly in the paint, Shaw has a good looking stroke and if he’s open, it will go up.  He appears to have a good understand the game and leadership skills.

(2021) Carter Van Hammond 6’9” – (Gilbert) Perry: Van Hammond certainly isn’t the player Anderson is, but he is already a solid defender who seems to run the court well.  He’s developed quite a bit from sitting on the pines last year so who knows what level he can reach if he continues to develop at his current pace.

(2020) Osaere Ighodaro 6’8” - (Phoenix) Desert Vista: It looks like it will be a long year for the usually powerfully Desert Vista, however, Ighodaro certainly is worth a look.  Yes, he’s doesn’t carry much weight and he needs to get a lot stronger, but he can play a lot of positions with decent balls skills.  Not sure if he’s much on the perimeter and he seems to rush shots inside even against smaller players.  Saying that, however, he’s 6’8” and can rebound, run and facilitate.

(2020) Eric Blackwell 6’2” – (Tempe) Corona del Sol: Blackwell has good size, wonderful ball-handling skills, good instincts and a sweet stroke.  Unfortunately, CdS doesn’t have a lot to go with him.  He should certainly entertain mid-level D1 offers next year.

(2020) Ty Harper 6’3” – (Phoenix) Moon Valley: Harper is a bundle of quickness and muscle twitches.  He is rarely in the same spot for more than a moment.  Extremely quick with a pretty solid handle.  May not be the best basketball player now, but he has a great upside if he can get his game a little more under control.  Shot is questionable, but his motor and athleticism certainly isn’t.

(2020) Jason Harris 6’8” – (Gilbert) Higley: Another big-time football player who can hoop-it.  Harris has posted 20-10 numbers but he’s the whole show on a 3-13 team.  Nice looking stroke with decent success (32%) from behind the 3-point line who also can handle the ball.  No as athletic looking as you might assume but he can run the floor and has good bounce.  A number of mid to high major D1 offers with a year and a half to develop.  Could be something special.

(2020) Alem Huseinovic 6’3” – (Scottsdale) Chaparral: If you’re looking for a shooter, Huseinovic might be the guy you’re looking for.  He’s posted 41% from behind the arch and 81% at the line with a 17 ppg for a 13-3 team.  Don’t know if he’s a D1 level player, but with a little more overall game maturity he sure could be.

(2019)  Jalen Williams 6’3” – (Gilbert) Perry: Williams has great length and looks fluid with or without the ball.  He signed with Santa Clara this fall, and, Santa Clara got a great steal!  Williams can really shoot it, defend bigger players and rebound.  Coach Sam Duane gives Williams plenty of time at the PG which should help him develop for his future position at Santa Clara.  Certainly one of the best upper-class players in the Valley of the Sun.

(2019) Jalen Calvert 6’3” - (Tempe) McClintock: Unfortunately, two of the best Charger offensive weapons – (2019) Tosh Baker 6’3” and (2020) Armani Williams 6’2” – sat out the game I saw with leg injuries.  However, Calvert is a ‘show’ all by himself.  How about averaging almost 7 blocks per game!  He averages only 9 ppg along with 6 rpg and it’s doubtful any D1 offers will come, but certainly there are schools at some level that could use his athleticism.  Kind of a Dennis Rodman type player, only a few inches shorter.  I’ll certainly want to see McClintock play again soon as, when healthy, Baker has plenty of game and Williams is a load on the offensive end.

(2019) Carter Murphy 6’4” – (Phoenix) Arcadia: The future Air Force PG/SG has a strong body and shoots 40% from behind the line while posting 16ppg on a 10-7 team.  Nice ball handler but D1 quickness might be something he lacks.  A foot injury kept him out of Christmas Tournament action so we’ll see how he rebounds from that bump in the road. 

(2019) D’Muarian Williams 6’4” – (Avondale) Westview: Williams is a do-it-all PG who has size and quickness to play at the next level.  As the team’s tallest player, he’s forced to place inside a lot of defense but does an adequate job.  On offense, the entire half-court is his canvass and he uses it all.  A very creative, sometime too creative, player who has average 22/6/4 for a 9-6 team this season.

(2019) Trent Huggins 6’2” – (Phoenix) Moon Valley: Huggins is a skilled PG who has wonderful ball skills and can shoot it.  An extremely quick athlete with the ball but needs to work on finishing in the paint.  I understand he has an offer from Idaho State.

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