Greg Haagsma saw the talent in Jeff Reinhart but wondered if his future point guard would ever grow enough to be truly effective.
"Jeff has always been a gym rat, and his knowledge of the game is tremendous. It was a matter if he was going to get the size to be really effective. He came in at 5-foot-9, 105 pounds (as a freshman) and you had to wonder."
The Ahwatukee Foothills resident eventually got his growth spurt to become Valley Christian's senior point guard and leading scorer.
"He is still not a real big guy but has gained enough strength to be very effective," Haagsma said. "He is exceptionally quick and the thing about Jeff is he loves every challenge."
Reinhart and his teammates have evolved this season, especially after a few talented transfers made it hard to keep everyone happy, as the Trojans were the second seed in the Class 2A state semifinals before losing 72-67 to No. 3 Thatcher on Saturday.
"At the beginning of the year it took awhile to mold together," Reinhart said. "It was kind of struggle early because everyone wanted the ball. Each one of us was trying to get our own baskets. Coach told us, ‘I guarantee you won't remember your personal gains if you win a championship.'
"That kind of stuck in my mind, and we really do a better job of playing as a team instead of as individuals."
Haagsma said that Reinhart has been the force behind the team's turnaround that led to a 20-4 regular season record.
"Our motto is we are going to be a better we than me," the coach said. "Once we started doing that we have done really well, and Jeff is a big part of that."
Reinhart reflected on his decision to attend Valley Christian instead of going to Desert Vista without a hint of regret.
"It was hard when I first got here because I came from a small middle school and didn't know a lot of people," he said. "It was clear, though, that this where I belonged. I'd make the same decision all over again if I had to."
A similar decision probably looms as he has received interest from three NAIA programs as Vanguard University, Biola University and Westmont College are possible destinations in the fall.
"I am honored to get to the point where I have a choice to make," he said. "I just want a chance to play, and hopefully it all works out."
Reinhart definitely has flashed the ability to play in college after leading the Trojans in scoring (14.0), assists (3.0) and steals (2.4) through 25 games.
"The thing about Jeff is he loves every challenge," Haagsma said. "We played in the Tempe summer league against some of the best 5A teams, and he never backed down or looked out of place. If he is on the court, he is going to compete as hard as he can."