By its nature, the Section 7 Team Camp is the textbook business trip for more than 200 high school basketball teams and thousands of players.
But one game on the State Fam Stadium floor Friday night was personal, particularly to the returning players on one team.
The last time Centennial boys basketball and coach Randy Lavender shared a court, the Coyotes won the 5A state title. But in the Arizona's Family bracket quarterfinal July 17, Lavender led his first Canyon View team against the Coyotes.
"We really wanted to win this game, because that's our old coach," senior guard Donquel Yancy said. "It was weird. I usually want to save this for the season, but everyone took it personal."
Canyon View is a rising program in 5A and the Jaguars tried to meet the Coyotes uncommon intensity for June. The result was a far more defensive and intense game then most of the others at Section 7, full of fouls, loose balls and rushed missed layups.
Two rising seniors with bit roles on the championship team secured a 48-47 Coyotes victory. Wing Victor Fabujule tipped a Canyon View inbound pass under the Jaguars' basket and Yancy grabbed it.
Centennial hired Grace at the beginning of the month and thrust him immediately into a summer tournament. After leading South Mountain to the 5A-II state title in 2006, Grace embarked on an assistant coaching career at some of the top college basketball programs - including UCLA, Cal and Vanderbilt.
The 10 or so days between the first tourney and Section 7 served as a crash course. The team did not have spring workouts, and while the starting frontcourt of seniors Emery Young and Dallan Lilly and junior Gage Galbreath is back but Young is now the point guard and just starting to learn Grace's system.
"I talked to them a lot about the fact that I'm coming into their culture. I'm not bringing my culture to them," Grace said. "I'm learning them and they're learning me. We did two a days the last week. It was a crash course and probably a little too much information for them to retain. And I don't expect them to."
Both teams also were undefeated in summer play coming in. Canyon View was the #16 seed in the 5A and is ready to move up the ranks with Lavender arriving and senior twins Cohen and Conner Aldridge and sophomore guard Denali McNeal returning.
Lavender accepted the job at the gleaming young school in Waddell in early May and is enjoying his stint at Canyon View.
"The administration has been good and supportive. They're pushing all the sports," Lavender said.
He admitted he wasn't thrilled with the way this bracket was set up for an early reunion, particularly with hims former team in the same bracket.
""I didn't want to play them this early. I thought it was unnecessary and I'm irritated. We should have been in a different bracket or at least playing them in the third round," Lavender said. "We tried to take it from that approach. But we really didn't respond too well. We got sped up and Centennial did a good job."
Beyond Young, Yancy, and Fabujule, Grace said he was impressed with junior forward Keyan Murray.
Brandon Polocoser transferred in from Greenway and also impressed Grace Friday night.
But the new coach said his best discovery at Centennial has been the returning players' commitment to intense, intelligent team defense.
"I love it because that's what I preach. They have a strong will to win and they like each other. We did a good job of challenging their shots and stopping the ball," Grace said.
No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here