Mark Carlino has heard all the water-cooler talk, whispers, rumors, bad-mouthing, one-liners and scolding. It’s no surprise given what’s transpired at Gilbert Highland in the past eight months.
Carlino, the Hawks’ new boys basketball coach, was hired after being an assistant at Phoenix St. Mary’s. He’s also a popular coach in AAU circles.
So when Nick Witherill transferred from Scottsdale Saguaro and Chris Johnson transferred from Phoenix Desert Vista, jaws dropped and heads shook.
“Most of the stuff I hear is people stating their opinions and don’t know the full facts about the new kids who’ve arrived,” said Carlino, whose son, Matt is a freshman already being pursued by Pac-10 colleges. “It’s not for me to judge and it’s human nature for people to assume the negative with things.
“All we can worry about is doing the right thing and that’s what we’ve been doing and continue to do.”
Even with Highland’s additions, there are no obvious choices in the boys ranks this season at any level.
With parity prevalent, Highland has drawn the headlines in its quest to unseat three-time defending champ Mesa Mountain View. But the real madness is slated for March.
“It’s wide open and I’ve told people how exciting a year this should be because of the number of schools who really have a chance,” Carlino
PRESEASON TOP 5
5A DIVISION I
1. Desert Vista: Lost a boatload, but Michael Proctor could become East Valley’s best all-around forward.
2. Mesa: Aaron Fuller and Donte Medder are good inside-outside combo.
3. Mountain View: Most parts of the title teams are gone, but until they’re beaten...
4. Highland: Could be scary good, if all the new players can co-exist.
5. Cesar Chavez: Young, but as talented and deep as any in 5A-I.
5A DIVISION II
1. North: Lost to Paradise Valley in 2007 semifinals with eight freshmen and five sophomores.
2. Sandra Day O’Connor: Ethan Esch (22 points per game), Tyler Kolstedt (10.8) and Skyler Johnson (10.4) should advance Eagles beyond quarterfinals.
3. Pinnacle: ASU-bound Taylor Rohde and junior Nuno Muandumba return after falling one basket short of the championship game.
4. Horizon: New coach Paul Long has Matt Lincoln, Eric McGaffin and Nick Streff to lean on in toughest 5A-II region (Pima).
5. Centennial: Lost a chunk of talent from last year’s state semifinal team, but can still contend.
4A DIVISION I
1. Saguaro: Sharp-shooter Nick Witherill is gone; three starters from last year’s semifinal team remain.
2. Agua Fria: Return two double-digit scorers from a 19-win squad.
3. Cactus: The Cobras faltered down the stretch last season, but return plenty of talent.
4. Millennium: Forward Carrick Felix could be a real force.
5. Paradise Valley: Reached 2007 5A-II championship game, but lost their three best players.
4A DIVISION II
1. Santa Rita: Point guard Terrell Stoglin might be 4A-II’s best player, and the smooth lefty is only a sophomore.
2. Desert Edge: Last year’s top seed was upset by Santa Rita in the semifinals.
3. Arcadia: The Titans will go as far as Charles Ward takes them.
4. Coconino: Matt Dennett returns for his senior year after averaging 19.3 points per game last season.
5. Notre Dame: Defending champs lost entire starting lineup. Brandon Hirneise and Austin Briehl will carry the load.
3A, 2A and 1A rankings will be published beginning Dec. 10
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Nick Markovich, Basha, 6-4, G, Jr.; Tyler Miller, Basha, 6-6, F, Jr.; Blake Nash, Casa Grande, 6-0, G, Jr.; Dominique Keeton, Casa Grande, 6-4, F, Sr.; Michael Proctor, Desert Vista, 6-8, F, Sr.; Barret Robbins, Desert Vista, 6-8, F, Sr.; Byron Fulton, St. Mary’s, 6-7, F, Jr.; Kyle Smith, Desert Mtn., 6-4, F, Jr.; Colby Wagner, Desert Mtn., 6-1, G, Jr.; Ian Wallace, Dobson, 6-0, G, Sr.; Deonte Roberts, Red Mtn., 6-3, F, Sr.; J.C. Hall, Skyline, 6-3, F, Jr.; Eli Godinez, Chandler, 6-0, G, Sr.; Marty Armstrong, Mesquite, 5-11, G, Sr.; Matt Lincoln, Horizon, 6-2, G, Sr.; Jackson John, Hamilton, 6-2, G, Sr.; Daniel Carter, Gilbert, 6-1, G, Sr.; Matt Carlino, Highland, 6-0, G, Fr.; Daniel Johnson, Marcos de Niza, 6-6, F, Sr.; Jahii Carson, Mountain Pointe, 5-7, G, Fr.
Charles Ward, Arcadia, 6-2, G, Sr.; Mike Cummings, Chaparral, 6-2, F, Sr.; Mason Rauch, Fountain Hills, 6-6, C, Jr.; Elgin Caldwell, McClintock, 6-0, G, Sr.; Brandon Hirneise, Notre Dame, 6-2, G, Sr.; Chris McFaul, Paradise Valley, 6-1, G, Sr.; Dominick Ruth, Saguaro, 5-9, G, Sr.; Tyler Tompkins, Saguaro, 6-4, F, Sr.; Bo Barnes, Scottsdale Christian, 6-2, G, Jr.; Houston Friend, Scottsdale Christian, 5-10, G, Sr.; Manny Sandoval, Tempe Prep, 5-7, G, Jr.; Nate Van Weelden, Valley Christian, 6-1, G, Sr.
OTHER PLAYERS TO WATCH
1. Brendon Lavender, Mtn. View, G, 6-4, Sr.: High-flying senior guard will play at Arizona
2. Nick Witherill, Highland, G, 6-3, Sr.: Transferred from Saguaro, can score at will
3. Matt Rhodes, Saguaro, G, 6-4, Sr.: Becomes new go-to guy at small forward
4. Aaron Fuller, Mesa, C, 6-6, Sr.: Averaged a double-double and nearly two blocks
5. Taylor Rohde, Pinnacle, F, 6-8, Sr.: 6-foot-9 ASU commitment should dominate inside
Nov. 20, 21 and 24: Mesa hosts the Jackrabbit Invitational, a strong field which includes Mesquite, Corona del Sol, North Canyon, Dobson, Gilbert, Desert Vista and Desert Mountain.
Nov. 29: Highland’s large influx of talent travels to 5A-I state tournament semifinalist Desert Vista.
Dec. 7: Three-time defending state champion Mountain View faces Basha’s duo of Nick Markovich and Tyler Miller.
Dec. 26-29: Mountain View hosts a new tournament, the Arizona Basketball Challenge, featuring Hamilton, Cesar Chavez, Dobson, Saguaro, Pinnacle, Red Mountain, Highland, Valley Christian, and Tucson, as well as teams from Cincinnati, San Diego and Cleveland.
Jan. 21: The annual Martin Luther King Classic at ASU’s Wells Fargo Arena features five games in one day, three of which are on the boys side. Basha faces North, Mesa takes on Pinnacle and Dobson challenges Cesar Chavez.
Feb. 11-Feb. 23: Division 2A and 3A state tournaments.
Feb. 18-Feb. 23: 4A-I and 4A-II state tournaments are squeezed into five days with the semifinals and finals slated for Jobing.com Arena in Glendale.
Feb. 18-March 1: 5A-I and 5A-II state tournaments take place with the semis and finals set for Jobing.com Arena.