The best thing about promising Ahwatukee high school basketball players Hannah Robbins and Jaida Brooks is that they will be back next year.
And the next year.
And the one after that.
Through the first half of the season, Robbins, a freshman at Desert Vista, leads her team in scoring (13.2-point average).
Brooks, a freshman at Mountain Pointe, also is her team’s scoring leader (14.6).
It’s not a stretch to envision them in a budding rivalry for four years.
Though they have never met, they take motivation from each other in their upcoming Ahwatukee rivalry. Their first match up is Jan. 11 at Mountain Pointe.
“I think it’s good because I know that in all of my high school years I’ll have someone to compete with, and that’s cool because it helps me get better,” Robbins said. “I am a pretty competitive person so it drives me to push and become better, and I’m sure it will be the same for her.”
Brooks said, “I find it pretty cool, and it’s something that I can look forward to when we play them.”
Brooks grew up playing club basketball with many of her current teammates and was ready to step into a pivotal role for the Pride.
“First, I had to prove myself and I had to gain their trust,” Brooks said. “I’ve been playing with a lot of the girls since seventh grade. I was playing 17-U when I was 12, so I’ve always been playing with older girls and I knew if I worked as hard as I could I would have a place on this team.”
Robbins did not have that familiarity with her team. Her family moved to Arizona from New Mexico during the summer. She did not know how she would fit in but opened up to teammates during an off-season tournament at Grand Canyon University. From there, she felt accepted.
“I knew that I would be a good player but I didn’t know I’d be starting or be the leading scorer because people in Arizona are so good,” Robbins said. “It’s so much more competitive and serious here and there’s bigger tournaments. So I didn’t know how it would be to start.”
Both coaches say the girls not only are scorers but also fit into their systems and are successful without taking away possessions and statistics from teammates.
Desert Vista coach Raymond Parch II said Robbins has an “incredibly mature” understanding of the game for her age. She is a scorer on a team that Parch believes needs work on its half-court offense. She sparks the Thunder, who went 9-17 last season and missed the playoffs. They opened 7-6 this year.
“Her scoring and playmaking is obviously great but everybody on the court is being aggressive and buying in, so that’s been really important for us,” Parch said of Robbins.
Conversely, the Pride lost six seniors to graduation after last year’s 6A quarterfinal run. A retooled lineup, with several new players and some returnees in new roles, allowed Brooks to compete for a varsity roster spot.
Mountain Pointe coach Justin Hager said Brooks is not yet a vocal leader but her floor leadership, her ability to pass and make her teammates better as their point guard, is a big reason why they were 9-5 through 14 games.
“If you ask her, she really wants her teammates to succeed and always wants to make the right basketball play,” Hager said. “That’s what I think separates her because she knows she can’t do it all and still win. Her teammates have appreciated her for that.”
Desert Vista was to play in the Lady Titan Winter Hoops Classic at Arcadia High during winter break. The Pride were taking two weeks off. Both begin 6A Central section play on Jan. 8.