The start of the boys basketball season is set for Nov. 22. The Goodyear/Litchfield Park Independent and the Surprise Independent asked the local coaches for their outlook on the season.
4A Southwest Region
2021 Record: 10-7 overall, 6-4 region (reached first round of the 4A playoffs)
Coach: Keegan Cook (seventh season as head coach)
Top Returnees: G Eli Flemming, Sr., 6-4 (6.6 ppg, 2.4 rpg), PF Damian Lua,Sr., 6-4 (3 ppg, 1.3)
How many years have you coached boys basketball? I have coached basketball for 14 years. This year will be my 7th as head coach at Dysart for 13 years.
What is your team’s best attribute entering this season? Our best attribute as a team this year is our unselfishness as a team.
What will your team need to improve for the season to be a success? We will need to improve our ability to take care of the basketball offensively and communicating defensively for us to be successful this year
Who are your team leaders? We will rely on all of our players to be leaders within the program and rely on our two varsity returners Eli Fleming and Damian Lua to provide experienced leadership for our team.
Who are newcomers to the varsity squad who could make an impact? Junior Darius Anderson, sophomore Nigel Anderson, and junior Jayden Bolhar will be a few of the newcomers who can make a big impact for our team this year.
What needs to happen for your squad to reach the state tournament this season or achieve the goals you have set for the program? For our team to be successful we will need to continue to get better each day and focus on the process and not the outcome.
2021 Record: 2-6 overall in CAA
Coach: Trent Hill (first year at Highland Prep)
How many years have you coached boys basketball? I’ve been coaching for 15 years. I’ve coached at the junior college, high school, middle school and elementary school levels. I love the game of basketball and most importantly helping to develop our children for their future roles in society.
What is your team’s best attribute entering this season? We have kids that want to play together, they are very unselfish. They are very coachable and have a desire to get better. Gym rats
What will your team need to improve for the season to be a success? Learning to handle adversity when it hits us. The team struggled last year when they would get down in a game. They need to have the fight in them to push back.
Who are your team leaders? Kohen Hill is a returning starter from last year. Kohen is a sophomore, with a lot of drive and energy. Works very hard to get better at the game and is a great teammate. Also a leader in the class room. Omar Weathersby is a returning starter also. Omar is a junior, he has put in a lot of work in the offseason to work on his game. He has a lot of drive to get better and I believe this helps drive the other players to get better.
Who are newcomers to the varsity squad who could make an impact? Darius McKnight is a high IQ player that works really hard on the defensive end. He will be playing in a guard role for the team. His ability to not turn the ball over and his vision will really help us this year. Very unselfish player. Niko Bey will make his impact on the defensive side of the ball. He has a high motor and great energy when it comes to playing defense.
What needs to happen for your squad to reach the state tournament this season or achieve the goals you have set for the program? We have a young squad. We must be able to handle adversity and handle the physical part of the game when it comes to playing teams with older boys. If the kids embrace their roles on the team and stay disciplined when it comes to their job, it will help us have a better chance to win. Lastly, as long as we stay unselfish we can accomplish making the state tournament.
5A Desert West Region
2021 Record: 10-7 overall, 8-0 region (reached 5A first round)
Coach: Ty Amundsen (fifth year as Millennium head coach)
Top Returnees: F Isaac Hymes, Sr. 6-9 (15.7 ppg, 6.6 rpg), W Reggie Mickens-Orr, Sr., 6-2 (10.6 ppg, 5.2 rpg)
What is your team’s best attribute entering this season? We look to reload this year and build off of what our young core learned last year. We have added some key pieces to a team that only lost one senior last year.
Who are your team leaders? Sophomore Gabe Pickens, junior Isaac Hymes, senior Reggie Mickens-Orr, and sophomore Christian Holly. All four played a key role in last years team and got significantly better over the summer. Look for our senior leader Reggie Mickens-Orr to have a break out season.
Who are newcomers to the varsity squad who could make an impact? Quincy Everson, JT Amundsen and Kingston Tosi. All three are freshmen and will be key contributors to our loaded sophomore class.
What needs to happen for your squad to reach the state tournament this season? We have played all the best Arizona teams this off season and did very well against them all. Our growth and improvement has been tremendous. Our expectations are high and looking to get back to the finals in 5A.
4A Southwest Region
2021 Record: 20-3 overall, 10-0 region (4A state runner up)
Coach: Zach Hettel (sixth season as head coach)
Top Returnees: SG Blessing Nwotite, Sr., 6-3 (13.5 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 1.8 spg); PF Luke Light, Sr., 6-7 (8.8 ppg, 5.4 rpg)
How many years have you coached boys basketball? I have been coaching for close to 15 years. This will be my seventh season at Paradise Honors
What is your team’s best attribute entering this season? Depth. A little more inexperience than last year but we have a really good core of 9-10 guys that we feel really good about.
What will your team need to improve for the season to be a success? Leadership and Communication. Need some of our seniors to really step up and be leaders in everything they do. Lack of communication or the abundance of it will determine just how good we can be.
Who are your team leaders? We have six seniors and our team really looks to Blessing Nwotite, Luke Light, and Jayson Hunt to take control.
Who are newcomers to the varsity squad who could make an impact? Zander Kamai (junior), Aiden Dunne (sophomore), and Adam Hubbard (freshman) will be three new names you hear about that maybe no one knows about. But really expecting junior Matthew Henry-Harrison, who is taking on a larger role, to have a big 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? We have to keep getting better. It’s not just about reaching the playoffs, but this group wants to show that last years run was no coincidence. The culture they have become a part of has them hungry for more than just a state playoff appearance.
5A Central Region
2021 Record: 15-3 overall, 7-1 region (reached 5A quarterfinals)
Coach: Joseph Colletti (fifth year as Willow Canyon head coach)
Top Returnees: G Pike Tancil, Sr. 6-2 (21.2 ppg, 6 rpg, 6.3 apg, 2.6 spg), W David Bright, Sr., 6-3 (8.6 ppg, 8 rpg)
How many years have you coached boys basketball? 15 years. Five years at Willow as head coach, 10 as assistant coach at various schools
What is your team’s best attribute entering this season? Leadership and toughness. This group is committed, engaged and lead each other well.
What will your team need to improve for the season to be a success? Sustained consistent effort to details. They are focused and compete at a high level.
Who are your team leaders? We have 14 team leaders of which returning seniors Pike Tancil, David Bright, Bryce Hanson, Xavier Vaughn and Anthony Wheatley set the tone.
Who are newcomers to the varsity squad who could make an impact? Senior Tate DeBoer is going to be a force inside. Junior Connor Macdiamid will provide size and rebounding. Juniors Nick Walker and JayJuan Gould return but in larger roles and will help in many ways. Junior Aidan Carino returns but his role will expand as well as he will help with shooting. Junior Sam Swanson and freshman Kaleel Kelly will add shooting and playmaking. Junior Isaiah Kelly will help with our defensive energy and senior Monty Kiel will provide depth on perimeter.
What needs to happen for your squad to reach the state tournament this season? Willow Canyon has been playing a chaotic style of basketball that is fast paced, high scoring and competitive basketball since our coaching staff arrived in 2017. We expect to compete night in and night out and play an aggressive, exciting brand of basketball. We are excited for the season and look forward to competing to earn a chance to compete in the state tournament again this year.
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