Boys basketball programs face questions as season opens - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Sports

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Boys basketball programs face questions as season opens

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Posted: Wednesday, November 27, 2013 11:45 am

There are a lot of questions surrounding area boys basketball teams as the season begins and the answers will go a long way in determining just where it ends up.

The postseason is expected across the board, but considering the youth (Horizon Honors), the dependence on unproven players (Desert Vista) and the new direction of the program (Mountain Pointe) it might not be easy.

The Pride, coming off a 14-13 season, has its third coach in three years as Hosea Graham takes over for Aaron Windler.

Graham was the junior varsity coach for Mountain Pointe two years ago so he knows the players and they know him.

It’s a start.

“We are a work in progress,” Graham said. “We are expecting to make the playoffs and make some waves in the conference. We are working hard to get the kids to play harder on both ends of the floor.

“It’s been a challenge to make the cultural change of getting them to compete instead of participating.”

Mountain Pointe will be led by 6-foot-7 senior forward Chris Davis, a healthy 6-5 Danny Sullivan, and their best defender Khalil Salahuddin, while junior guard Isaiah Ledford will be counted on heavily as well.

Football player Tyree Shivers, a two guard, will be an impact player as well once he turns in his shoulder pads, while Emmanuel Butler’s status is unknown after committing to Northern Arizona.

A new piece is Louisiana move-in Cortez Johnson, who 6-foot-2 leaper and competitor.

“We will be athletic, with a balance inside and outside attack and we will have good chemistry,” Graham said. “To take the next step we have to be better in transition defense and our intensity has to grow.”

Desert Vista had trouble finding consistency last season and coach Dave Williams hopes it ends this year and the Thunder can better last year’s 14-13 record and the one-and-done showing in the postseason.

It starts with juniors Quincy Taylor, a 6-4 flyer, and Brandon Clarke, a versatile 6-6 forward. Both players saw little action on the varsity last year but will be counted on heavily this year.

The core of the team will be led by seniors Mason Ford, Marshall Powell and John Frost Dixon.

The big names may not fill out the starting lineup but the depth should keep the Thunder in line to make the postseason at the end.

“We will go as far as our bench can carry us,” Thunder coach Dave Williams said. “Our goal this year is to continue the tradition of making the playoffs.”

Horizon Honors is expecting a nice bounce back year after a bit of a struggle in 2012-13 at 10-18.

It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Eagles reverse that record and make a run at a 20-win season.

“We have a great opportunity this year to impact the landscape of DIII basketball,” Eagles coach Ernest Shand said. “We should finish in the top four of our section with a trip to the state tourney included.

“We are focused on winning our last game of the season at Jobing.com Arena.”

The confidence starts with their co-captains as senior Cameron Firth averaged 11.4 points and 4.1 assists, while sophomore Ryan Engelbrecth moves into a more prominent role after averaging 7.8 points and 2.5 steals as the sixth man.

Horizon Honors lost returning starter Jake Connell after the family moved out of state, but freshmen Connor Firth and Jacob Johnson, who is the nephew of former Suns great Eddie Johnson, will make an immediate impact.

What the team lacks in size, it makes up for it with shooting, chemistry, work ethic, and quickness.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or jskoda@ahwatukee.com. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.

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Jason P. Skoda
  • Jason P. Skoda
  • Sports writer
  • Resident sports writer at the Ahwatukee Foothills News

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