Dave Williams would love a do-over.
Forward Connor MacDougall and guard John Marshall were supposed to be two of the main cogs for next year’s Desert Vista boys basketball team, taking center stage following the graduations of Jeff Lowery and Danny Powell.
The Thunder made the Division I state semifinals a season ago and had enough talent back to make a run at the state title. However, MacDougall (8.2 points, 5.6 rebounds) and Marshall (6.0 points, 3.1 assists) transferred this spring to the Westwind Prep national team and now Desert Vista is more of an unknown.
“If the good lord would let us turn it back like Superman, I’d convince them to stay,” said Williams, the Thunder coach. “But apparently it doesn’t work that way, so we have to move on.”
If the Mesa Summer PrimeTime tournament was any indication, the Thunder might be better than expected.
Desert Vista finished just 1-3, but was still impressive. The team lost by just two points to Pinnacle — one of the expected favorites for next year’s title — and then beat Corona del Sol, the defending champions and team that knocked it out of last year’s playoffs.
The Thunder will be more perimeter-oriented without MacDougall down low, but Williams believes the team won’t be taking as much of a step back as others expect.
“People think we’re going to be kind of weak, but we’re not,” he said. “We’re going to be pretty good. I’m excited about my team this year. I really am.”
Guards Greg Carter and Kyle Pitman are set to return, and Desert Vista picked up transfer Avery Brunson from Marcos de Niza shortly after the defections of MacDougall and Marshall.
Brunson led the Padres in scoring with 15.5 points last year as a junior and will become an immediate focal point.
The PrimeTime tournament was the first chance for Desert Vista’s varsity team to play together, and it may take some time to jell with so many changes. However, the early returns seem encouraging against some of the state’s better teams.
“It helps playing these top teams in the summer,” Carter said. “When we go to battle in the playoffs we know what we’ll be facing.”
Williams was the recipient of a key transfer when Powell came from Mesa as a junior, and he’s already dealt with the losses of MacDougall and Marshall as well as the addition of Brunson this offseason.
He knows it’s par for the course in high school basketball nowadays.
“If it was just my school, I’d be pretty upset,” he said. “But a lot of guys are leaving different schools and a lot of guys are going everywhere. I can’t take it personally. All I can do is say good luck to you, I love you, any time I can help you, come on back. I have nothing negative to say about those guys. For me and my program? We’re going to new heights. We’re going to a higher level no matter who stays or goes.”