First group at Westwind will set tone - East Valley Tribune: Ahwatukee Foothills

First group at Westwind will set tone

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Jason P. Skoda is the sports writer at the Ahwatukee Foothills News. Contact him at (480) 898-7915 or jskoda@ahwatukee.com

Posted: Tuesday, June 5, 2012 1:45 pm | Updated: 3:42 pm, Sat Dec 22, 2012.

Westwind Prep is hardly the first ever national program to start up and it won’t be the last.

Findlay Prep (Nev.) has been the best in the west and Oak Hill Academy (Va.) has a stranglehold on the east.

It isn’t limited to basketball, either.

Blair Academy (N.J.) has been an elite wrestling program that has athletes on its roster from Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Florida, New Jersey, Georgia, Virginia and California.

Florida has the IMG academies for tennis, golf, basketball, football, baseball, soccer and lacrosse.

I am sure there are plenty more, but this is about the Westwind Prep startup in Phoenix, which is causing quite a stir.

I assume the other academies mentioned above weren’t well received at the start as the programs started taking local players away from their local schools.

It is understandable.

The coaches and players left behind — like those at Desert Vista with the news that Connor MacDougall and John Marshall are headed for Westwind — feel betrayal.

They’ve put in tons of hours with these players expecting the payoff to be wins when the high school season rolls around.

Desert Vista will recover, but it has to be disheartening. I am sure coach Dave Williams will address the team about it before the Thunder play in the PrimeTime summer tournament at Red Mountain.

The Thunder’s chances of matching last year’s performance (22 wins, state semifinals) was dependent on having the 6-foot-8 MacDougall and the feisty Marshall providing leadership and growing from the experience of playing the eventual champion — Corona del Sol — to the last second before losing a heartbreaker.

Those kinds of defeats can be a driving force the following season and now a good portion of that desire walked out the door.

On the day the news broke Desert Vista coach Dave Williams showed his competitiveness and his faith in the rest of his roster. He said Thunder’s expectations won’t change. They had some of the best talent coming back with sights on the state title.

Real or not, it was what they believed.

Now Williams, who benefited the last two years from having a transfer (Danny Powell) of his own, has to keep the in-house players focused and ready to move on.

As far as MacDougall and Marshall go, it is hard to condemn anyone trying to better themselves.

I am sure Westwind coach Jeff de Laveaga promises these guys — along with Boulder Creek’s Josh Braun and de Laveaga’s two sons — Kye and Tate, who played at Horizon — the world.

Traveling, hotels, playing in front of college scouts, working skill development six days a week, nutritional help and just about everything else.

No offense to anyone, but his first efforts didn’t bring in any of the state’s top players. While the idea of playing a national schedule (more than 40 total games) is alluring to some, winning a state title (something Westwind can’t do as they will not fall under the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s jurisdiction) is more important to others.

The players who head to Westwind give that up while chasing the high school athlete’s ultimate prize these days — scholarship.

It is pretty clear in recent years that the chase of a free college education far outweighs getting fitted for a championship ring.

This first group heading to Westwind will go a long way in determining the success in the years to come. If all of these players improve — Marshall will be a senior and MacDougall a junior — and find their way to top college programs then clearly others will follow.

I’ll take a wait-and-see approach.

Right now, it is tough to watch a team like Desert Vista get torn apart because a couple of individuals moved on to a different program that they believe will put them a better position to succeed at the next level.

In reality it happens all of the time in Arizona (Torren Jones and Jaron Hopkins left Basha for Dobson on Thursday), but this has a different feel.

Something is off about it.

Maybe it is the unknown. Maybe it is the fact that de Laveaga can approach these kids and their families and openly recruit without any blowback.

There is no way to deter it, leaving the coaches and players at their former school to pick up the pieces.

Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or jskoda@ahwatukee.com. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.

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