WCE AZ High School Invitational Take-Aways
Anyone who knows me knows just how much pride and love I have for Arizona basketball. For our top talent and my goal and vision of building and/or creating a platform for our elite guys to not be overlooked or slighted.
Phoenix, Arizona was definitely a hot spot this past weekend with some major events going down in the city. One of those events was Ryan Silver bringing out his West Coast Elite Arizona High School Invitational to the PHHacility. With the tremendous help of event coordinator Jason Simon and his great staff in the building, it was a pleasure to be apart of something that brought out some of Arizona’s top dudes.
While I was extremely busy trying to assist with the operations of the event, I got a chance to sit down and catch some things during the event. Here is what I got…
This event started out with one of the better high school games I have seen in recent memory. With three potential future first-round draft picks on the floor at the same time as Nico Mannion and Pinnacle squared up against Terry Armstrong, Addison Patterson and Bella Vista Prep. All three of them were absolutely amazing and put on a show in front of a packed house with standing room only. The gym was rocking as Armstrong and Patterson made it so evident as to why they are so highly sought after for high-major college coaching staffs. And Arizona-commit, Mannion was incredible and almost single-handedly brought the Pioneers back to force overtime against a heavily favored BV squad.
Pinnacle’s other two Division-I prospects, 6-foot-6 senior wing Jordan Mains and 6-foot-2 senior guard Trent Brown had themselves some moments in this game that assisted them in keeping them in this game. Both are capable knock-down shooters, but missed a few that they normally make in this game. Had they had one of their usual shooting performances, I believe they may have pulled this one out. Also, I would love to see this game get played again with Pinnacle’s two-sport stand-out, 6-foot-10 junior big man Tosh Baker, on the floor.
Bella Vista is so talented and deep. They have legitimate high mid-major prospects that have a hard time even finding time on the floor. 6-foot-2 senior combo guard Nicholas Elame is an elite defender without a question. While his shot on the perimeter needs to get more consistent, his handle has come leaps and bounds and he is still very much the same freak athlete.
Millennium’s 6-foot-8 2021 forward DaRon Holmes is big time! If I had a dollar for every time I heard someone sing that kids praises in the gym, my car payment would be taken care of for the year. Holmes is a little different than most elite, nationally ranked guys that were in action this past weekend in the sense that there is nothing flashy about Holmes. He checks just about every box across the board on the floor but the best asset to his game is the simplicity of it. He rarely goes anywhere from sideline to sideline, instead he is usually making a move straight to the basket and improvising from there. Holmes was huge for Head Coach Ty Amundsen and the Tigers in what was a loaded schedule for the favorite to win the 5A state title. Holmes would come out of the weekend picking up an offer from Ole Miss.
Holmes’ boy and teammate, 5-foot-11 2021 point guard Justus Jackson is so important to this team. When he is clicking on all cylinders, they are dangerous on another level. The offense starts with him even when it runs thru Holmes and he has the ability to stretch a defense from the outside. He had some ups and downs over the weekends but had some moments where he looked like the best guard on the floor against a loaded talent pool.
The addition of 6-foot-9 senior forward/center Cameron Katal could be huge for them. Not only does it allow Holmes to slide out to the perimeter, where he is most effective, but Katal’s shot blocking ability down low and in transition allow the Millennium guards to take chances out there on the defensive end.
Paradise Honors is arguably the most athletic and longest team in the state. This weekend they were missing their 6-foot-2 sophomore floor general Jalen Scott (family vacation) and put out a starting line-up from 6’3-6’10. 6-foot-5 junior wing Jerry Iliya looks unreal and unstoppable at times, especially in the open court, where Head Coach Zach Hettel’s team flourishes. Their 6-foot-7 junior power forward Roy Eze’s strength and physicality down low is a game changer. The length and versatility of 6-foot-10 sophomore center Matur Dhal is a serious factor, as is the athleticism and defensive activity that 6-foot-3 senior guards Jon Jackson and Josh Hawkins. 6-foot-1 sophomore guard Wyatt Bell is the X-Factor on this team. If he gets going for this team on the offensive end, it’s lights out.
Deer Valley was impressive in their two games on Friday night, going 2-0 against the likes of Desert Vista and then completing an upset against Buckeye Union even without one of their most productive players as one half of the Allen twins was stuck in street clothes with a minor knee injury. Nevertheless, Coach Dunn’s squad did not miss a beat as 5-foot-10 senior point guard Johnny Diaz was a problem in both games. Despite a lack of size, Diaz is just effective in so many facets of the game. He pressures the ball on defense and applies pressure with the ball in his hands. He sets up teammates while also being a viable scoring option for the Skyhawks. 6-foot-7 senior forward Brandon Savage was impressive on both ends of the floor as well, blocking shots and owning the glass at times. He had some nice dunks that either set the tone for his team or swung momentum. He was a driving force in their comeback against Buckeye, alongside Diaz and the two formed a nice 1-2 punch in the second half of that game.
When you look at Buckeye’s 6-foot-5 senior shooting guard Otis Frazier III play for Head Coach Randy Bland and the Hawks, you are amazed at times. When he has the ball in his hands, things happen. He scores from all three levels and is unreal in the open floor. His athleticism and ability to get to anywhere he wants on the floor makes him a serious contender for 4A player of the year.
The Hawks’ 6-foot-1 junior point guard Tay Boothman has not missed a beat since the summer. The same rule holds true for the fire-filled sharp-shooter, the higher the competition level the more buckets you get out of him. He goes on stretches where you just shake your head at what he is able to do on the hardwood.
Buckeye’s new transfer, 6-foot-4 senior point guard Isaiah Marin has truly made his presence felt on this squad. While they were already talented before his arrival, their backcourt has reached another level with him on the floor. His ability to take advantage of smaller guards down low and score with ease, while setting up their pure scoring threats, has taken this team to another level. If the inside holds solid, this team will go crazy this season.
That responsibility will fall on the shoulders of 6-foot-8 senior forward Adam Hamilton and 6-foot-7 sophomore forward Andrew Yeahquo. Yeahquo has impressed me with his production down low.
Eduprize’s nationally ranked 6-foot-10 junior forward Shon Robinson just has the look of a player that can pay the bills thru the game of basketball one day. With his length and size mixed with good athleticism and a clip from the outside, he has the ability to dominate the game on the offensive end. Would still like to see more from him on the defensive end but it’s hard to not love the talented high-major prospect.
The Eagles from Eduprize got some great production out of 5-foot-11 junior guard Jordan Flowers. Flowers absolutely lit it up from the outside over the weekend for Head Coach Phil Lowe and the upstart Eagles.
Valley Vista is one tough squad. Their coach has some real passion on the sideline and holds those guys accountable. They are extremely undersized but have a great backcourt with high volume scoring guards in 5-foot-11 senior guard Josh Holloway and 5-foot-8 senior King Thurman. Both can rack up some points in a hurry.
Peoria is another west side team that is absolutely loaded with guard play. 5-foot-11 senior guard Kaleb Brown, 6-foot junior Isaac Monroe and 5-foot-10 sophomore Tre Bell are as tough of a trio as they come in AZ. They have a real fighting attitude and battle. Bell is the best creator of the three, Monroe is the sniper from deep that has a little something else in the bag as well and Brown is probably the most capable of dropping 30 on your head without an apology. They are a fun group to watch and very well coached.
Two of the better shooters I saw in the gym were Chaparral’s 6-foot-4 junior guard Alem Husenevich and Mesa’s 6-foot-4 senior Zach Hobbs. Both have a big time clip that make them D1 prospects with their ability to stretch a defense like a rubber band. Every time either one of them let it fly, it feels like its dropping.
Let’s keep this going Arizona. I am very much looking forward to this up and coming high school season with this being a preview of what we have to look forward to.
Big S/O to Syd Photography for the dope photos used in this article.