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WEST VALLEY PREPS

The 2024 All West Valley Preps boys basketball team

Posted 6/9/24

For the 11th year, West Valley Preps has announced honors for the best boys basketball players it covers in the West Valley. Once again, we saw so many quality players that a third team was …

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WEST VALLEY PREPS

The 2024 All West Valley Preps boys basketball team

Posted

For the 11th year, West Valley Preps has announced honors for the best boys basketball players it covers in the West Valley. Once again, we saw so many quality players that a third team was necessary. Here is the all-West Valley Preps boys basketball team:

First team

F — Ring Nyeri, senior, Liberty
C — Bradey Henige, senior, Cactus
W — Cameron Holmes, sophomore, Millennium
G — Noah Gifft, senior, Ironwood
G — Sabien Cain, senior, Millennium

Second team

F — Michael Simcoe, junior, O’Connor
F — Kingston Tosi, junior, Millennium
G — Kaleel Kelly, junior, Willow Canyon
G — Travis Vasquez, senior, Deer Valley
G — Denali McNeal, junior, Canyon View

Third team

F — AJ Ajawin, senior, Deer Valley
F — Gage Galbreath, senior, Centennial
G — Braylon Haman, senior, Willow Canyon
G — Nate Morales, senior, Dysart
G — Blake Carabio, senior, Ironwood

Underclassmen to watch

Daniel Anderson, G, (Soph.), Glendale Prep; Nicholas Appenzeller, F, (Fr.), Desert Edge; Brayden Barrett, W, (Soph.), Millennium; Brayden Chojnowski, F, (Fr.), Estrella Foothills; Josh Dillard, F, (Soph.), Ironwood; Daniel Garza, G, (Soph.), Willow Canyon; Sergio Gonzales, G, (Soph.), Deer Valley; Simon Gonzales, G, (Soph.), Deer Valley; Tarrell Green, F, (Soph.), Highland Prep; A’Sani Harris, F, (Soph.), Canyon View; T.J. Harris, PG, (Soph.), Paradise Honors; Tommy Henige, G, (Fr.), Cactus; Ryan Hitchcock, G, (Soph.), Estrella Foothills; Lincoln Hubbard F, (Soph.), Northwest Christian; Jacob Hunter, F, (Fr.), Liberty; Javani Jones, W, (Soph.), Valley Vista; David Leszczynski, G, (Soph.), Paradise Honors; Iziic Morales, G, (Soph.), ALA-West Foothills; Marcus Murray, PG, (Soph.), Sunrise Mountain; Johnny Rios, G, (Soph.), Centennial; Colton Watson, W, (Soph.), O’Connor.

Player of the year

Ring Nyeri - Nyeri did not single-handedly drag the Lions on its magical run to the 6A title as a No. 10 seed. Junior guard Jackson Hunter would be the marquee player on the fourth team, were there one. And junior guard Stephen Miller morphed into a dynamic third scoring threat in the playoffs. But for most of the year, the 6-8 Nyeri functioned as the primary scoring threat and point forward at times, leading the team with 20.4 points per game and adding 2.7 assists a contest. But Nyeri’s tireless work on the defensive end is what sets him apart from elite competition. His 3.2 blocks per game were sixth in the entire AIA and his .9 of a steal tied Miller for the team lead. His 11.7 rebounds included more than 8 defensive rebounds each night, so he finished off most opponent possessions with a board, if not a swat. His length and agility allowed Nyeri to cover a wide range of opponents lead scorers. And his joy and energy infused a rebuilding team with the belief that it could make an improbably run to the program’s first title.

Runner-up: Cameron Holmes - While Nyeri is the most valuable player in the West Valley, Holmes is — all things considered — the top baller, even as a sophomore. Voted the 5A player of the year by the conference coaches, Holmes matured, trusting his teammates more and attacking the rim more vigorously while picking his spots to shoot pull-up threes. The wing also grew defensively, taking on the challenge of Koa Peat in the Open Division final. Holmes’ knowledge of the game is catching up to his considerable gifts, and similar leap as a junior should bring that long-awaited gold ball back to Goodyear. Like his older brother, DaRon, the NBA is the likely apex of Cam’s career.

Second runner-up: Noah Gifft - If there was a most improved player award, Gifft would be the easy choice. To anyone watching Section 7 last summer had an inkling that his offensive eruption was on the way. Ironwood adjusted its offense, running Gifft’s defender through a maze of screens while he set up for the open three a la Reggie Miller. Carabio was also a beneficiary from long distance. Gifft’s long-range shooting — 62 percent of his field goal attempts were threes — set up the rest of his game. The threat of the deep ball and Gifft’s savvy to handle off it in tight spaces and square up quickly caused defenders to foul him often. His 146 attempts and 128 makes more than doubled any teammate. And other than Cain, no West Valley player responded as well on the big stage at Veterans Memorial Coliseum. He scored 27 points in the 5A final rout of Casteel, hitting five of 11 treys.

Coach of the year

Ty Amundsen, Millennium - It was a year full of great coaching jobs. In addition to the four coaches earning awards, Joseph Colletti of Willow Canyon, Josh Cole of O’Connor, interim coach David O’Dell of Canyon View and Jason Cook at Northwest Christian all elevated their programs considerably this year. The three runners up all won conference titles, So why Amundsen? Millennium was the top team in the state for the entire season and just missed the Open Division title against two-time defending champion Perry (the Tigers only loss to an Arizona team). Against a brutal schedule - an Open Division quarterfinal at Sunnyslope and a neutral site game with the VIkings, two games against Notre Dame Prep in Scottsdale and Desert Mountain, Brophy and Canyon View at home. Millennium won all of those games and the Tigers had elite talent. But Amundsen got this team to play more connected, team-oriented basketball on both ends of the court than any of his previous six teams at Millennium. This also may have been his toughest team, based on the difficult road geames where te Tigers came up big.

Runner-up: Mark Wood, Liberty - Of the three state champions, Wood's Lions had the furthest to go from the start of the season. Liberty lost four starters and five rotation players. Nyeri was the only sure thing and Jackson Hunter showed promise last summer as a second scoring threat.  Wood and Nyeri kept the team's head above water while Miller, Mark Dugid, Jacob Hunter and Ben Leber grew and Paradise Honors transfer Aidan Dunne got used to the team after transferring. Then in the last month of the season w]the Lions were ready and Wood made some key adjustments and substitution decisions to guide the Lions to their first title.

Second runner-up: Jordan Augustine, Ironwood and Jed Dunn, Deer Valley (tie) - Both teams were favorites to win their conferences if the expected 5A and 4A teams qualified for the Open Division top eight - which they did. But neither the Eagles nor Skyhawks had an overwhelming squad in terms of ability. Players like Gifft and Travis Vasquez didn't arive at their neighborhood school as stars, but Augustine and Dunn and their staffs developed them into players that could lead their teams to state titles. Ironwood junior I'Yar Shadowvine and Deer Valley sophomore Simon Gonzales took major leaps as point guards this year - again, the rings don't arrive if their coaches don't prepare them well for the expanded role and tweak the team schemes to fit their smaller size but impressive skill sets. And undersized and undeappreciated senior power forwards Jadden Jones (Ironwood) and Tyler Wenk (Deer Valley) played some of their best ball at Veterans Memorial after small roles until their senior year. Two exemplary jobs of coaching up what you have from feeder schools and, at most, the next neighborhood over.