Transition is a vital part of basketball and the area teams better be good at it this year because there sure is a lot of it.
There are two new coaches and a plethora of new players getting a chance to make an impact because others have transferred or put their concentration elsewhere.
What it leads to is hard to tell, but there are no uncontested layups in the high school basketball landscape.
The teams will be challenged from the start. Some will finish strong and others will be denied. Either way it began in earnest this week.
Here is a look at each team.
Coach: Dave Williams, third year at DV
Last year’s record: 22-9
The positive: Williams has restored the program to its winning ways in his first two seasons with back-to-back 20-win seasons. The Thunder play a style that is defensive at its heart and it leads to a running transition game. Desert Vista was the only team to really push eventual champion Corona del Sol last season and the third year under Williams’ system should fall right in line with the previous two.
The negative: The loss of two seniors — John Marshall and Connor MacDougal transferred to Westwind Prep — who were expected to be heavily counted on to keep the Thunder rolling after last year’s semifinal appearance are gone.
What’s next: The loss of Marshall and MacDougal was lessened with the addition of Avery Brunson, who led Marcos de Niza in scoring (15.5) last season, but questions still remain how the team will do without two hardnosed leaders. Deonte Harrington, Kyle Pitman and Greg Carter are holdovers who will be counted on heavily. Lack of size is a concern and so it is a difficult schedule that includes Pinnacle and Corona in the first six games, but Williams will put them through their paces and be ready come the postseason.
Coach: Ernest Shand, third year at HH
Last year’s record: 19-10
The positive: The Eagles tied a school record for wins last year and had back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in school history so confidence is brimming. The roster is filled with seven contributors, including two starters in Jake Connell and Zack Taylor, from last season. One thing is for sure, Horizon Honors will not be fun to play with its pesky, quick and tenacious set of guards.
The negative: The loss of a 1,000-point scorer — Taylor Hudzinski — is never easy and forces the offense to find new identity and a go-to player. When the Eagles are desperate for a basket in crunch time who are they going to turn to? Roles will be defined in due time until someone steps up consistently it can make things difficult.
What’s next: A third straight winning season should be in the offing as Shand’s style is a proven winner. Connell has a great shooting touch while Taylor is a good rebounder for a guard. Cam Firth will make it tough on the opposition’s top guard to score and if captain Will McKenna develops into a post threat the Eagles should make a run at a sectional berth.
Coach: Aaron Windler, first year at MP
Last year’s record: 15-13
The positive: Windler is a proven winner after winning 85 games in five years at two previous stops (Coronado and Chaparral) and has shown the ability to get teams to the Final Four. He will have one of the state’s top playmakers at his disposal with Khari Holloway (18.2 points, 4.8 assists, 3.9 rebounds) and has some help in move-in Chris Davis from Desert Mountain if his YouTube videos translate to the basketball court. Tre Campbell can play all five positions and they might need him to because of defections.
The negative: The Pride had a chance to be one of the state’s top teams if Austin Witherill (11.0 points, 3 assists and 3.8 rebounds) didn’t transfer to Highland and if Jalen Brown (8.0 points, top defender) didn’t decide to concentrate on football, but that is the reality. It opens the floor for other athletes who are talented but don’t have the varsity experience the others would have.
What’s next: The Pride will be fine without Witherill and Brown. Not as good as they could have been, but fine. Windler took the job expecting to have those two pieces in place, but he is a good coach who will have Mountain Pointe playing hard. If Holloway reaches the next level and Davis is as impressive as the Internet makes him out to be the Pride will be sectional contenders with an eye on the state tournament.
Coach: Jaysie Sheppard Chambers, first year at DV
Last year’s record: 25-7
The positive: This team brings a good portion of last year’s rotation back, led by Kylie Butler, Emily Wolph and Kristine Anigwe, with the idea of reaching the next level pushing them all offseason. Wolph and Butler can both take over games and there is plenty of depth to keep the expectations high.
The negative: The unexpected loss of coach Rachel Proudfoot, who stepped down to help an ailing loved one, was hard on the players, but Sheppard Chambers has gone out of her way to create a positive atmosphere. The transition year can go one way or the other, but with the talent in place this team should be able to cruise a fifth season since 2006-07 with at least 18 wins.
What’s next: Good things. Many wondered about the hiring of Chambers because she was outside of the usual candidates, but the former international and WNBA player was a late bloomer in her career so she knows just about every role on the team. The Thunder has two very good guards in Wolph (14.6) and Vermont recruit Butler (13.5) and if Anigwe can come close to the presence Jaymee Brugman had in the past the Thunder will be tough to handle.
Coach: Nate Agostini
Last year’s record: 11-16, ninth year at HH
The positive: This team is going to be fun to watch and will hoist up a shot from just about anywhere on the court. The Eagles will push the tempo and hope the open 3-pointers fall more often than Facebook stock. Senior Gina Garvey already holds the school record for career 3-pointers (122).
The negative: No one over 5-foot-7 will cause problems when the Eagles face anyone with size. Teams who rely on the 3-pointer have cold stretches and getting through them as fast as possible will be the key to getting back to Horizon Honors’ winning ways.
What’s next: Garvey will have help on the perimeter with Rachel Irons, GraceMarie Schian, Rachel VanGorp and defensive specialist Samantha Weeman. Will it be enough to earn a spot in a tough sectional tournament? It will be tough, especially when a team relies on outside shooting, to stay hot all year, but don’t be surprised if the Eagles approach the 15-win mark.
Coach: Trevor Neider, fourth season at MP
Last year’s record: 22-10
The positive: The Pride’s schedule wasn’t the toughest around, but eclipsing the 20-win barrier for the third straight season is impressive no matter who is on the ledger and just about everyone returns other than point guard Myesha McGee and post Hannah Sharpe. Caitlin Hetrick provides a toughness, Kaylah Lupoe can be a devastating presence inside and Maddy Sulka has an all-around game that fills many voids.
The negative: The Pride has several good players who can do different things, but not sure if there is a true score among them. Someone who can be a flat out, knock down, 15-footer when they get an open look. Hetrick and Sulka can get to the rim, but it would be nice to have someone they could kick it out to and drain it.
What’s next: Another 20-win season is in the making, but the soft schedule doesn’t prepare them for the rigors of the postseason. The Pride will get into the sectional tournament, but with the talent on this roster that should be a given. Getting to the state tournament is the goal, not getting there would be a major disappointment.
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