If this was just the start, it's going to be tough to make it better.
The bar was raised very high by the Arizona Basketball Coaches Association for the inaugural Section 7 Team Camp that was held over the weekend at various high schools all over Phoenix and in Laveen.
More than 300 college coaches showed up to evaluate high school players from 152 teams from nine different states.
It was a chance for high school coaches to lead their own teams during an important recruiting process for players that had been lost with the AAU club circuit and club coaches mostly steering recruits in front of college coaches.>
Millennium's DaRon Holmes (23) dribbles up court during the Section 7 Basketball tournament at Brophy Prep High School in Phoenix, Friday, June 21, 2019. (Photo: Darryl Webb/Special for the Republic)
Coaches raved about how well-ran the 10 division brackets were.
Section 7 director Matt King, head of the ABCA, felt there was "great community support."
"We saw high school teams get a chance to compete against the best on a major stage," he added. "Going into the event, all we wanted to do as an association was set the table for high school coaches and players and then get out of their way. The event was and always will be about them because we know how good they are.
"Coaches coached their teams with passion, structure and discipline and kids that would have never gotten the opportunity otherwise are leaving the weekend with options to pay for their college education. We are thankful for all the teams that came this year and Section 7 will be even better next year."
– There was a buzz in the gyms and an intensity level you don't see that often in the summer with less one-on-one and coaches getting players hoping to stand out to play within their team and not trying to showcase themselves, while hurting their teams.
"It gave college coaches the opportunity to see players in a different environment and the chance to see players in roles they may not have seen otherwise," Scottsdale Rancho Solano coach Aaron Trigg said. "It also allowed for players that may not play on a top AAU program to have the opportunity to compete against high-level players in front of coaches that hasn’t been available in the past.
"It also benefits some younger players who are able to get on the radar of colleges earlier in their careers to put them in a better position for future recruitment."
Sunnyslope coach Ray Portela praised the efforts of King, Todd Fazio, Matt Gordon, Marc Beasley, and Ray Arvizu, who "all did a fantastic job organizing this and putting in tons of hours for our kids."
"I thought the Section 7 tournament was a huge success for Arizona and our high schools," Portela said. "It put a nationwide spotlight on Arizona, and the organizers hit the ball out of the park.
"The college coaches all thought it was very organized, well-ran, and easily accessible. I think it gave the athletes of Arizona an opportunity to showcase their talent in front of coaches that they normally don’t get a chance to play in front of."
– To get more than 300 colleges to come out for this event is huge. On the first day, in the toughest bracket that included Goodyear Millennium and Santa Ana (Calif) Mater Dei, Arizona State coach Bobby Hurley, Grand Canyon coach Dan Majerle, Northern Arizona interim coach Shane Burcar and Arizona coach Sean Miller were all in attendance.
Millennium hung in for a half against Mater Dei, before the Monarchs' depth helped them blow out the Tigers in the second half. Millennium was without starter Jalan Early, who was on a college football visit. Millennium ended up 3-1, winning the consolation championship of its bracket, beating Phoenix Desert Vista, Sophie B. Wright and Bishop Montgomery.
"I was very pleased with how we played," Millennium coach Ty Amundsen said. "We easily had over 50 D-I coaches at all of our games. ... Great atmosphere for our boys."
– Arizona Interscholastic Association Executive Director David Hines checked in on the action. The AIA granted permission for the Arizona teams to wear their high school uniforms.
– A lot of kids can't afford to play for a club team and may never get a chance to play in front of a college coach. This opened that opportunity.
– Will there be a drop-off of quality teams in Arizona next season? Seems like the talent is spreading thin with the proliferation of prep teams. Mater Dei, a national powerhouse from California, and Las Vegas Bishop Gorman had little trouble against the local teams.
Phoenix Pinnacle and Shadow Mountain both look like they're going to be down. Shadow Mountain didn't play in this event. It still doesn't have a coach. And All-Arizona guards Nico Mannion, Trent Brown of Pinnacle Jaelen House and Jovan Blacksher of Shadow Mountain have all graduated.
– There was a lack of small schools in the event. Chandler Arizona College Prep coach Clint Treadaway said he attended the event as an observer with his team not invited.
"Excited for this new process, however, it's unfortunate that most small schools are not invited to the event," Treadaway said. "I understand there is a lot of teams and most of the high-profile athletes were in the camp. But I think you are under-serving athletes who have D-II or D-III and NAIA potential.
"For example, I have two players right now being recruited by D-III schools but they could not be seen at this high school event so they now need to travel out of state or pay for an in-state showcase where there is hundreds of kids that scouts have to scour through.
"It's also disadvantageous to small schools in rural areas that don't have big club teams to compete with, so they are out of luck to be seen in most cases.I think it's a step in the right direction and now needs to find ways to create more opportunities for athletes, instead of one event and one weekend."
Whom did it help?
– Guys who already were being offered scholarships before this event were the main guys still getting offers during it. Tucson Salpointe senior guard Evan Nelson picked up offers from Harvard, Loyola Marymount and Cal Poly.
Nelson showed why he might be the best player in Arizona, or at least one of the top three. He's a great ball handler who can shoot the 3, lead the break, defend and get teammates involved.
– Millennium 2021 forward DaRon Holmes, who is 6-foot-9, had 19 points and two blocks against Mater Dei.He ended up with an offer from USC to go with the 11 he already had from various colleges, including ASU, UA and GCU.
– Millennium 2021 point guard Justus Jackson showed flashes of why Division I coaches are taking a long look at him during the Mater Dei game, especially in the first half, with strong moves to the basket. He picked up a North Carolina A&T offer.
– Way under the radar for Millennium was Michael Batchelor, a 6-2 senior guard who averaged seven points on last year's 5A state runner-up team. "He had a great weekend and will get more interest from D-II and lower D-I coaches," Amundsen said.
– Laveen Cesar Chavez junior guard TyTy Washington played well in every area, scoring with ease and making great passes. He picked up offers from GCU and Loyola Marymount over the weekend.
– Gilbert Perry 6-10 sophomore Dylan Anderson continued to show that he is an elite player. With Anderson drawing lots of college coaches, that allowed 6-9 junior Duke Brennan and 6-1 junior guard Christian Tucker to get looks. And they didn't disappoint.
Coach Sam Duane Jr. felt the play of Brennan and Tucker helped them.
– Desert Vista 6-8 junior swingman John Solomon, a move-in from Florida, wasn't overshadowed by 6-9 teammate Osasere Ighodaro, who is becoming a high major recruit. Solomon stood out both in the block and on the perimeter. He picked up offers from GCU, New Mexico, Nevada and South Dakota within an hour after his performance against Millennium on Saturday morning.
– Chandler junior guard Isaiah Broady picked up an offer from UC Santa Barbara, showing off vast improvement since his sophomore season. He plays the wing for Chandler, but that didn't prevent him from showing his versatility with his length, athleticism, ability to play above the rim and block shots.
– Phoenix Sunnyslope won its bracket, and Portela felt Grady Lewis (interest from NAU, UC Davis and San Francisco), Paul Hayden (Boise State, Air Force interest) and Xzavier Lino (Air Force interest) all benefited from the exposure. Carson Basham, a 6-10, 230-pound junior, got an offer Sunday from GCU.
– Surprise Valley Vista coach Ben Isai said he felt incoming freshman Aadem Isai, senior Curtis Nichols and junior Dwight McKnight gained interest from multiple colleges. McKnight averaged 14 points as he recorded 20 points, six assists and two steals in his best game against Queen Creek. Nichols had double-doubles in three of four games with six blocks against Santa Fe, N.M. Isai averaged 14 points and had 28 points and seven assists against Santa Fe.
- Chandler Basha went 4-0 to win its bracket, beating all California schools, with Trenton McLaughlin leading the way. He had an offer from NAU coming into the event, but his recruiting should take off more after this. C.J. Noder, the only senior on this year's Basha group, has steadily improved and turned himself into a college prospect, coach Mike Grothaus felt.
- Surprise Willow Canyon's Sunday John helped himself, averaging 22 points, seven rebounds and 3.5 assists. Pike Tancil and David Bright (2022) both played great, coach Joe Colletti, said, showing toughness, rebounding and scoring.
- Mesa Dobson's Juhlawnei Stone received an offer from Central Arkansas and garnered interest from NAU and Cal Baptist.
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