A new basketball season is about to begin, but something has remained the same: East Valley teams should be in the running for state titles in most every conference.
Last season, area teams won titles in 5A, 3A and 2A. This year, several E.V. teams also should be in the mix for 4A state titles.
There are more titles to be had. Both the 5A and 4A conferences are split into two divisions, with each division having its own state tournament.
In 5A Division I, defending state champion Mountain View and runner-up St.
Mary’s look like the favorites. Mountain View has its star, Harper Kamp, back with a great supporting cast, while Jerryd Bayless, the best guard in the state, is back at the point for St. Mary’s. In 5A-II, the race looks more wide open. Paradise Valley should be a title contender along with Glendale Deer Valley, Phoenix South Mountain and Marcos de Niza.
Last season was not a banner year for area 4A teams. That should change this season. In 4A-I, defending champion Glendale Apollo is the team to beat and Phoenix Greenway is also top-notch, but Pinnacle figures in the equation. Saguaro has a young team but should be strong by tournament time and McClintock probably will be strong as usual. In 4A-II, Phoenix Sunnyslope looks best out of the gate, but Apache Junction, led by center Cody Anderson, is a strong contender. Cactus Shadows also is a force to be reckoned with.
Fountain Hills stands a good chance to successfully defend its title in 3A. In 2A, two-time defending champion Scottsdale Christian lost four starters to graduation, but with Northwestern-bound forward Kevin Coble still around, the Eagles could make it three in a row.
TOP 5 PLAYERS
Kevin Coble: The Northwestern-bound Coble is in his fourth season as a starter at Scottsdale Christian. At 6-8, Coble is smooth, can handle the ball and score inside and out.
Jerryd Bayless: Where do we start? The St. Mary’s point guard is a great scorer, ball-handler, passer and defender. Bayless is one of the top players in the country.
Cody Anderson: A burly 6-6 center, Anderson is so good he makes Apache Junction a state title contender almost by himself. He can score, play defense and rebound.
Harper Kamp: The 6-8 Mountain View forward can score inside and out and handles himself on the court. At least that is what he did in helping lead Mountain View to the state title.
Dan Thomas: The Fountain Hills 6-foot senior guard is one of the top defenders in the state, regardless of class. He is a steals machine who gets the Falcons’ fast break going.
OTHER PLAYERS TO WATCH
Mychael Broom, Marcos de Niza, 6-3, F, Sr.; Kal Bay, Marcos de Niza, 6-1, G, Sr.; Dion Jordan, Chandler, 6-5, F, So.; Garrett Lever, Desert Vista, 6-0, G, Jr.; Wilson Bibleheimer, Desert Vista, 6-1, G, Sr.; Erik Hagen, Dobson, 6-7, C, Sr.; Mickey McConnell, Dobson, 6-1, G, Jr.; Demetrius Crowell, Mesa, 6-7, F, Jr.; Zach Greenberg, Desert Mountain, 6-3, G, Sr.; Ricky Berry, Paradise Valley, 6-3, G, Sr.; David Schneider, Brophy, 6-2, G, Sr.; Sean Imadayi, Corona del Sol, 6-6, C, Sr.; Demetrius Earl, Corona del Sol, 5-11, G, Sr.; Eric Hipolito, Mountain Pointe, 6-4, F, Sr.; Stephen Rogers, Mtn. View, 6-8, C, Sr.; Kendall Wallace, Mtn. View, 6-3, G, Jr.; Seth Richins, Gilbert, 6-6, F, Sr.; Innocent Wells, Hamilton, 6-0, G, Sr.; Jimmy Casey, Horizon, 6-4, F, Sr.;
Aaron Quiroz, Apache Junction, 6-0, G, Sr.; Justin Higuera, Apache Junction, 6-1, F, Jr.; Alex Jones, Arcadia, 6-5, F., Sr.; Jesus Miranda, Arcadia, 6-2, C, Sr.; Terrance Ragains, Cactus Shadows, 5-11, G, Sr.; Phillip Aholt, Cactus Shadows, 6-3, F, Jr.; Nick Tooker, Chaparral, 6-1, G, Jr.; Donnell Gardner, Chaparral, 6-1, G, Sr.; Andy Klein, Coronado, 6-4, F, Sr.; J.P. Blakey, Coronado, 6-1, F, Sr.; Joe Williamsen, Higley, 6-5, C., Sr.; Andy Foster, Higley, 6-1, G., Sr.; Xavier Lucas, McClintock, 6-4, F, Sr.; Dahir Nasser, McClintock, 6-2, G, Sr.; Matt Coakley, Notre Dame, 5-10, G, Jr.; Tom Fow, Notre Dame, 6-4, F, Jr.; Brock Entner, Pinnacle, 6-0, G, Sr.; Taylor Rhode, Pinnacle, 6-8, C, So.; Jeff Ingram, Queen Creek, 6-0, F, Sr.; Nick Witherill, Saguaro, 6-3, G, So.; Matt Rhodes, Saguaro, 6-3, G/F, So.; Jonathan Hankins, Tempe, 6-3, F, Sr.; Martin Ort, Fountain Hills, 6-2, F, Sr.; Mike Hardy, Seton Catholic, 6-1, G, Sr.; Brett Urig, Valley Christian, 6-1, G, Sr.; Joe Sanchez, Maricopa, 6-1, F, Sr.
5A DIVISION I TOP 5
1. Mountain View: Even with junior standout center Harper Kamp hobbled the first couple of weeks with a broken foot, the Toros appear loaded.
2. St. Mary’s: The Knights lost several starters from last year’s runner-up squad, but the key returnee is multi-talented Jerryd Bayless, who has committed to play in college at Arizona. Bayless’ return from injury last February came close to netting the Knights a state title.
3. Desert Vista: The Thunder don’t have much size, but guards Wilson Bibleheimer and Garrett Lever are lightning quick and will be difficult to defend.
4. Buena: Roger Sharp returns this season and joins a senior-dominated starting lineup that could be the best in the Southern Region.
5. Corona del Sol: The Aztecs were young last season and played a brutal schedule and as a result should be the better for it this year.
5A DIVISION II TOP 5
1. Deer Valley: Christian Polk is the lone marquee returnee from a trio of standouts that led the Skyhawks to the 5A semifinals. In D-II, that may be enough.
2. Marcos de Niza: With Colorado signee Kal Bay and forward Mychael Broom leading the way, the Padres have as good a 1-2 punch as any team in 5A-II.
3. South Mountain: The Jaguars have new faces from several locations, including a couple from Chandler, and should be the top team from the Metro Region.
4. Paradise Valley: Led by three-year starter Ricky Berry, the Trojans will be a force with a mix of experienced returnees and newcomers.
5. Ironwood: The Eagles made a run to the 5A quarterfinals last season and have enough to reload to take a shot at the 5A-II title in the Desert West Region.
Local coaches: Four new coaches take over local programs. In 5A, Todd Fazio takes over at Desert Mountain and Michael Wirth (Skyline) and Shane Burcar (Westwood) begin their first year at the helm of those programs. At Florence, Shawn Hardt, father of Queen Creek star runner Kari Hardt, takes over a Gophers program making the jump from 2A to 3A.
Power points: For the first time, the 4A Conference will use power-points rankings. They will be used in two ways — for seeding the 16-team state tournament in both 4A-I and 4A-II and to pick the 16th playoff team. The other 15 will qualify through region tournaments.
Valley of the giant: Saguaro has a 7-foot center in senior Taylor Janowicz.
4A DIVISION I TOP 5
1. Apollo: The defending 4A state champions have enough back to be considered a strong candidate for a repeat.
2. Greenway: The Demons were 23-3 last season before slipping up in the playoffs.
3. Rincon: Three key players return from a 21-8 team that surprised a lot of schools last season.
4. Pinnacle: Four solid players return for coach Charlie Wilde, who quietly has something very nice brewing.
5. Agua Fria: After ending a 10-year playoff drought last season only to lose in the first round, the Owls want more. They have the talent to get it.
4A DIVISION II TOP 5
1. Sunnyslope: The Vikings have key components back from a team that made it to last season’s 4A playoff semifinals.
2. Apache Junction: Burly center Cody Anderson alone makes the Prospectors title contenders.
3. Santa Rita: With Alex Walker back, Santa Rita wants to go one step further
than making it to last season’s title game.
4. Cactus Shadows: Three good players back and a drop to Division II make the Falcons a dark horse for a state title run.
5. Glendale: A 4A semifinalist last season, Glendale should be formidable with D.J. Nicholas back.
Dec. 1-3: Valley Christian Invitational features a strong, small-school field that includes the Trojans, Seton Catholic, Thatcher, Florence and Yuma Catholic.
Dec. 27-30: McClintock Holiday Shootout has Mountain View, St. Mary’s, Corona del Sol, Marcos de Niza, Paradise Valley among others in the field.
Jan. 31: Saguaro is at Pinnacle for a regular season game that could decide the 4A-I Desert Sky Region title.
Feb. 21-March 4: 5A-I and 5A-II state tournaments finishing at Glendale Arena.
BY THE NUMBERS
1 Kevin Coble is the only returning starter for twotime defending 2A state champion Scottsdale Christian.
3 The five regions in 4A Division I and the five in 4A-II will send three teams each to the state tournament.
4 Straight 3A championships that have been won by a team from the South Region. Defending champ Fountain Hills moved from the South to the West this season.
6 Different schools that have won the 5A championship in the last six years.