WEST VALLEY PREPS

West Valley Preps' 2019-20 Boys Basketball Preview

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Several local boys basketball teams began play this week during preseason tournaments, but the 2019-20 high school basketball season officially starts Monday. West Valley Preps asked the local coaches for their outlook on the season.

CACTUS COBRAS

4A West Valley Region
2018-19 Record: 9-15 overall, 1-7 in region play
Coach: Dirk Walker (eighth year at Cactus)
Top Returnees: Ben Seale, Sr. 6-2 SG (15.7 ppg, 3.8 apg); T.J. Rucker, Sr. 6-3 F (15.2 ppg, 2.6 spg, 4.6 apg)

How many years have you coached boys basketball? This is my 12th year as a head coach, eighth as a head coach at Cactus.

What is your team’s best attribute entering this season? Coming into this season we should have good athleticism. When we get everyone back from football we should have a good amount of experience returning as three- or four-year starters. 

What will your team need to improve for the season to be a success? We need to develop depth behind our returners. We have a lot of youth coming off the bench but they have been working very hard and come along ways over the past two weeks. Overall we just need to continue to improve every day.

Who are your team leaders? Ben Seale returns as a three-year starter. He averaged 18 points a game as a junior and 4 steals per game. He is a great athlete and has improved his game even more since last season. T.J. Rucker is a four-year starter who averaged 17 points as a junior and 4 assists. He joined football for the first time in his high school career this year and has been very successful on the field so we are excited to get him back on the court when their season finishes. Conner Cordts is also a three-year starter for us. He averaged 10 points and 5 rebounds as a junior. He has worked very hard this off season and has become a great athlete not only on the football field but the basketball court as well. He has had a tremendous football season and we look forward to his leadership and ability on the court.

Who are newcomers to the varsity squad who could make an impact? Senior Nate Orick and junior Thomas Camilli will get a full season with us this year after having to sit out half of the season last year. They have had a great early season and bring us more talent to the backcourt.

What needs to happen for your squad to reach the state tournament this season or reach the goals it has set? We need to play to the level we’re capable of every night and we will have a chance to make the state tournament. We have a very difficult schedule so the opportunities will be there but we need to make the most of them. It’s a goal our returners have had since they were freshmen so their leadership is what will carry us.

CENTENNIAL COYOTES

5A Northwest Region
2018-19 Record: 17-11 overall, 4-6 region (Reached 5A first round)
Coach: Randy Lavender (third year as Centennial coach)
Top Returnees: Malcolm Daniels, Sr. 6-2 F (11.1 ppg, 4 rpg); Trenten Lavender, Soph. 6-0 G (9.4 ppg, 2.8 apg)

How many years have you coached boys basketball? Going on my fifth year for high school basketball.

What is your team’s best attribute entering this season? Our team will be young once again and we have a lot of guards with speed that will make us a tough match up at times.  We will be ableto run with anytime and play at a face pace.

What will your team need to improve for the season to be a success?   Our team will need to rebound, play tough defense and rebound more.  We are small so we need to fight on the boards every night.

Who are your team leaders? Our team leaders are Malcolm Daniels and Trent Lavender, Jojo (Rincon) is also our main vocal leader who will be back some time in Janurary.

Who are newcomers to the varsity squad who could make an impact?   The newcomers to our team that will make an impact are sophomore Jayson Petty who coming over from Nevada and will play a big role with our team playing multiple positions, and Emery Young who is a freshman who is still learning the game but will be effective for us coming off the bench.

What needs to happen for your squad to reach the state tournament this season or reach the goals it has set?  We need to just play together as a team and stay together because it will be rough since we are a young team.  As long as we win the games we are suppose to winand take care of home court we will be in the playoffs and accomplish our team goals.

DEER VALLEY SKYHAWKS

4A West Valley Region
Coach: Jed Dunn (11th year as Deer Valley coach)
2018-19 Record: 24-5 overall, 8-0 region (4A runners up)
Top Returnee: Jackson Leyba G, 6-0 Jr.

How many years have you coached boys basketball? This is my 27th year as a head basketball coach and my 11th year at Deer Valley.

What is your team’s best attribute entering this season? Probably our speed and depth.

What will your team need to improve for the season to be a success? Our success is mainly determined by how my players behave in and off of the floor — when they meet our expectations with their proper behavior we typically find ourselves being successful in multiple areas..

Who are your team leaders? All of my players are expected to be leaders.

Who are newcomers to the varsity squad who could make an impact? Every player with exception of junior Jackson Leyba is considered a newcomer - we graduated 11 seniors from last years state runner ups team.

What needs to happen for your squad to reach the state tournament, or achieve the goals you have set this season? Our goals are to play hard, act right, serve others and make sacrifices - when those things happen I consider them successful.

DYSART DEMONS

4A Black Canyon Region
2018-19 Record: 20-7 overall, 9-1 region  (Reached first round of the 4A playoffs)
Coach: Keegan Cook (fifth season as head coach)
Top Returnees: Riley Fornerette 5-11 G, Jr. (14.3 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 3.3 apg), Daryian Matthews PF, Jr., 12.2 ppg, 13.6 rps, 3 bpg)

How many years have you coached boys basketball? This is my 11th year coaching basketball and my fifth at Dysart.

What is your team’s best attribute entering this season? Our best attribute this year will be our experience. We return a core group of players who played a lot for us last year.

What will your team need to improve for the season to be a success? Our team will need to improve our ability to communicate defensively. If we buy into each other and trust each other we can become a very good defensive team.

Who are your team leaders?  Our team returns three junior starters who will be leaders for us this year. Riley Fornerette, Santos Sanchez and Daryian Matthews (Jr).

Who are newcomers to the varsity squad who could make an impact? Newcomers to our team could make an impact are Raul Montoya (Jr) and Damian Lua (So)

What needs to happen for your squad to reach the state tournament this season or achieve the goals you have set for the program? Our ability to play together and continue to work to get better everyday will dictate how far we go this year.

ESTRELLA FOOTHILLS WOLVES

4A Southwest Region
Coach: Rich Gutwein (eighth year as Estrella Foothills coach)
2018-19 Record: 17-10 overall, 6-2 region (Reached first round of 4A playoffs)
Top returning players? Julian Estil, Sr., PG 6-2 (6.4 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 2.2 apg); Quinlan Popham, Jr., SG 6-2 (2.3 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 1.5 apg)

How many years have you coached boys basketball? We have made the state tournament for eight consecutive years.  Won four region championships in seven seasons.  Played in the state championship game.  Continued to be a top 10 team after moving up to 4A as one of the smallest enrollments in 4A.

What is your team’s best attribute entering this season? Depth. Effort
What needs to happen for your squad to reach the state tournament, or achieve the goals you have set this season? Really will need to improve in all areas to reach our goals.

IRONWOOD EAGLES

5A Northwest Region
2018-19 Record: 23-5 overall, 8-2 region (Reached 5A quarterfinals)
Coach: Jordan Augustine (fifth  year as head coach)
Top Returnees: Dominic Gonzalez, Sr. 6-3 SG (15.9 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 2.6 apg); Bailon Black, Jr. 6-4 PG (11.9 ppg, 3.9 apg, 3.4 rpg).

How many years have you coached boys basketball? This is my fifth year as the varsity coach at Ironwood. Prior to that, I was an assistant coach at Arizona Christian University for two years. 

What is your team’s best attribute entering this season? This group is extremely deep, and they play for each other. 

What will your team need to improve for the season to be a success? We will need to continue to enjoy the process and be committed to doing whatever is best for the team. 

Who are your team leaders? Dominic Gonzalez, JJ White, and David Teibo were voted as team captains. However, we have many leaders in our program who take pride in doing what is best for the team. 

Who are newcomers to the varsity squad who could make an impact? Senior G Trent Hudgens (Moon Valley transfer), Senior PF David Teibo (Centennial transfer), Senior center Jaden Glass (Agua Fria transfer), and freshman Jamaal Dean Jr.

What needs to happen for your squad to reach the state tournament this
season, or achieve the goals the team has set?  They need to be committed to getting better daily. 

KELLIS COUGARS

5A Northwest Region
2018-19 Record: 2-23 overall, 0-10 region
Coach: Duncan Thomson (first  year as Kellis coach)
Top Returnees: Daniel Lopez, Sr. 6-5 PF (15.8 ppg, 9.6 rpg); Souleymane Nyema, Sr. 6-2 SF (7 ppg, 5.9 rpg).

How many years have you coached boys basketball? I have coached basketball for 30 years. seven at California State-Chico, four years JC (1 year at GCC) six years in Bay Area HS and 13 years in Peoria District. Third year at Kellis

What is your team’s best attribute entering this season? 7 varsity kids from last years team

What will your team need to improve for the season to be a success? Our team will need to believe in themselves. Belief that they can win. And we have to get tougher on both ends of the floor

Who are your team leaders? Daniel Lopez, Souleymane Nyema and Carl Bouanga

Who are newcomers to the varsity squad who could make an impact? New this year is Chris Ruiz a freshman wing player who had 16 in his first varsity game

What needs to happen for your squad to reach the state tournament this season?To make state they have to out work and out play every opponent in every game with the belief in themselves, their teammates, and their coach

LIBERTY LIONS

6A Desert Valley Region
2018-19 Record: 9-16 overall, 2-8 region
Coach: Mark Wood (14th year as head coach)
Top Returnees: Sartaj (T.J.) Mand, Sr., 6-3 SG (7.3 ppg, 4.3 rpg), Jacob Patterson, Sr. 6-7 F (10.1 ppg, 4.8 rpg)

How many years have you coached boys basketball? I’ve coached for 23 years, heading into my 14th year at Liberty.

What is your team’s best attribute entering this season? We are an exceptionally close team with very high character men who come to practice every day with a willingness to learn and get better. All are coachable and all are great teammates.

What will your team need to improve for the season to be a success? We don’t have very many seniors (only three with experience) and will need to learn the speed of strong varsity teams that comes with maturity and experience. They have been put in the best summer tournaments and fall leagues to prepare them for this moment and they’re prepared going into this season.

Who are your team leaders? All of our young men are leaders. Jacob Patterson has really emerged though as an exceptional servant leader who has modeled the toughness and willingness to help his teammates that we expect from each of our players.

Who are newcomers to the varsity squad who could make an impact? We are excited about all of our players coming in. AJ Snow, Brigham Montez, Ike Obi, Sebastian Clancy, Patrick Steitz, and Isaac Santana have done a great job acclimating themselves to the team and have brought a toughness to our team that has made a major impact.

What needs to happen for your squad to reach the state tournament this season or reach the goals it has set? Our program is about toughness (which we define as doing the next right thing). We believe if we are the toughest we can be that this year has a chance to be very special. We are excited to go on this journey together.

MOUNTAIN RIDGE MOUNTAIN LIONS

6A Desert Valley Region
Coach: Eli Lopez (ninth year as Mountain Ridge coach)
2018-19 Record: 11-14 overall, 3-7 region (reached 6A play-in)

Top Returnees: Gino Ciccaglione, Sr., PG 5-8; Matthew Jensen, Sr., G 5-11

How many years have you coached boys basketball? 11 years of coaching as an assistant at ASU and St. Mary’s High School and 11th year of head coaching (two years at Barry Goldwater and ninth season at Mountain Ridge).

What is your team’s best attribute entering this season? We have smart players who have been in the program for three or four seasons and know the system and our philosophy much better than our previous teams. We also have great senior leadership who know and understand their strengths and weaknesses.

NORTHWEST CHRISTIAN CRUSADERS

3A West Region
2018-19 Record: 19-10 overall, 8-2 region (Reached 3A quarterfinals)
Coach: Jason Cook (eighth year as head coach)
Top Returnees: Cameron Adams, Sr, PG 5-10, Jonathan Metzger, Sr. PF 6-3.

How many years have you coached boys basketball? 8 years at NCS

Who are your team leaders? Eddie Van Sant, Cameron Adams and Jonathan Metzger

Who are newcomers to the varsity squad who could make an impact? Logan Moser, Elijah Hamstra, and Andrew Best

What needs to happen for your squad to reach the state tournament this season? Our younger guys need to adjust to the varsity level and we need to come together as a team.

PARADISE HONORS PANTHERS

2018-19 Record: 22-6 overall, 9-1 region (Reached 3A semifinals)
Coach: Zach Hettel (fifth season as head coach)
Top Returnees: Jerry Iliya F, 6-6 Sr. (16.3 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 2.3 spg); Jalen Scott PG, 6-2 Jr. (7.8 ppg, 6.1 apg)
Note: Nathaniel Pickens, 15.6 points per game at Dysart as a freshman, transferred to Paradise Honors and will play the second half of this season. Meanwhile Matur Dhal and Roy Eze left for PHH Prep
)

How many years have you coached boys basketball? Fifth season at Paradise, coaching for over 10 years.

What is your team’s best attribute entering this season? Depth and speed. This team loves to compete.

What will your team need to improve for the season to be a success? Continue to gel and push each other every day.
Our goal every day is to be better than yesterday.

Who are your team leaders? Jalen Scott and Jerry Iliya. Austin Golash is our other senior that comes in every day and sets the right example.

Who are newcomers to the varsity squad who could make an impact? Nate Pickens will be a huge addition to our guard rotation. Really good shooter and just a kid whose IQ is off the charts. Jayson Hunt and Logan Pohl will be two sophomores that will have to step up in a big way. Both very capable. River Bell, a 6’5 freshman will also be fun to see his growth over the season.

What needs to happen for your squad to reach the state tournament this season or achieve the goals you have set for the program? Just come in and get better every day. Learn from our mistakes and grow together. Our goal is always competing for a state championship and that’s not changing this year.

PEORIA PANTHERS

4A West Valley Region
2018-19 Record: 18-8 overall, 6-2 region (Reached first round of 4A playoffs)
Coach: William Roberts (Fifth year as head coach)
Top Returnees: Isaac Monroe, Sr. 5-11 G (17.7 ppg, 2.9 spg), Kevin Kogbara, Jr., 6-5 F (5.2 ppg, 4 rpg)

How many years have you coached boys basketball? This is my fifth year as the head coach at Peoria High School.

What is your team’s best attribute entering this season? I believe our defense and the way we share the ball are our strengths.

What will your team need to improve for the season to be a success? We will need to improve our rebounding and trusting one another in important moments.

Who are your team leaders? We have a lot of leaders, but if I had to name a few it would be Isaac Monroe, Deandre Petty and Kevin Kogbara. 

Who are newcomers to the varsity squad who could make an impact? Andrew Camacho is a freshman who will make an immediate impact for us this year and is quickly becoming one of our leaders.

What needs to happen for your squad to reach the state tournament this season or reach the goals it has set? We all must play for one another, our school, and our city, and we all must go after our collective goals regardless of individual goals.

SHADOW RIDGE STALLIONS

6A Southwest Region
2018-19 Record: 21-8 overall, 8-2 region (reached 6A first round)
Coach: Robert Bohon (fifth year at Shadow Ridge, former Willow Canyon coach)
Top Returnee: JaQuan Moore, Sr. 6-0 PG (4.5 ppg); Donovan Johnson, Sr. 5-10 G (4.7 ppg).
Note: Anthony Garza and Kiran Oliver left for PHH Prep

How many years have you coached boys basketball? 28 years of coaching experience.

What is your team’s best attribute entering this season? We have a hard-working group that is predominantly four year program kids.  It is a pretty experienced team that has played together the past four years.

What will your team need to improve for the season to be a success? Continue to be coachable and work hard.  We have some core kids returning from last year and some guys that have improved.  We have to get better every practice and every game

Who are your team leaders?  Donovan Johnson (Sr) returning letterman, JaQuan Moore (Sr) returning letterman, Glory Nwotite (Sr) returning letterman

Who are newcomers to the varsity squad who could make an impact? Luke Arrington (Soph), Austin Smalley (Sr), Cody Mackert (Sr)

What needs to happen for your squad to reach the state tournament this season or achieve the goals you have set for the program? To make it to state, we have to get better everyday and learn compete every moment.

SUNRISE MOUNTAIN MUSTANGS

5A Northwest Region
2018-19 Record: 15-13 overall, 3-7 region
Coach: Gary Rath (Fifth year as head coach)
Top Returnees: Tanner Mayer, Sr., 6-5 C (15.8 ppg, 8.3 rpg); Colin Carey, Jr., 6-5 F (11.8 ppg, 4.5 apg)

What is your team’s best attribute entering this season? Top three scorers returning: Tanner Mayer, Brandon Taylor and Colin Carey

What will your team need to improve for the season to be a success? We have a chance to be good this year if we can minimize our turnovers, defend better and shoot free throws better than we did last season.

Who are your team leaders? We have a lot of experience and have some younger players joining our senior seniors that compliment us well. 

What needs to happen for your squad to reach the state tournament this season? Looking forward to competing for a region championship in the toughest region in Arizona.

WILLOW CANYON WILDCATS

5A Desert West Region
2018-19 Record: 13-14 overall, 7-3 region
Coach: Joseph Colletti (second year at Willow Canyon head coach)
Top Returnees: Sunday John, Sr. 6-3 F (12.1 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 3.6 spg), Jason Hayes, Sr. 6-3 F (3.5 ppg, 7.7 rpg)

How many years have you coached boys basketball? 13 years as a high school coach. Third year as WC head coach

What is your team’s best attribute entering this season? Toughness.  We have a collective group of tough minded, physical players who work well together.  We have leaders throughout the program and are excited to see how our new additions mix with the seasoned veterans.

What will your team need to improve for the season to be a success? We will need to learn to close.  We have been building our skills and tempo.  We will play fast and will be tough defensively.  If we can learn to finish quarters and games... we will be able to achieve success on the court. 

Who are your team leaders? Every member of our team is a leader.   We have two seniors, Sunday John and Jayson Hayes, who have been three-year varsity players. 

Who are newcomers to the varsity squad who could make an impact? Pike Tancil will take a much larger role as a sophomore.
David Bright, Nasiah Wilson and Xavier Vaughn are also sophomores who will likely see a lot of opportunity early. 
Julian Taylor is a junior who will turn heads as he continues to play with toughness and intensity.

What needs to happen for your squad to reach the state tournament this season? We are focused on winning everyday in and out of the gym.  We must remain focused on how each individual role build something great collectively... We have the chance to be special as we continue to build our program upon our core values of toughness, trust and togetherness. 

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