They’d lost everybody, for a variety of reasons. Desert Vista’s basketball coaches knew they were going to be young, inexperienced, and, even though athletic, likely to take their lumps.
Coach Gino Crump had no choice but to start a young lineup, but he also used the season as an opportunity to develop even more young talent behind the starting five.
It has served the Thunder well. After three starters from the team that reached the 2018 6A state semifinals graduated and the remaining two transferred, the Thunder managed to play into the 6A state tourney as the No. 9 seed with their 16-9 record.
They open play Tuesday at No. 8 Brophy Prep at 7 p.m. The Thunder made the playoffs by defeating Mountain Ridge in a play-in game.
“We have really grown organically,” Thunder coach Gino Crump said. “We had a lot of guys leave the school so most of the kids playing right now would have probably been in a backup role.”
Isaiah Wilson and Mason Harbertson – among four seniors – became the leaders.
Three sophomores and three freshmen quickly found themselves in the rotation, getting significant minutes, and they made an impact. Some saw double duty, sometimes playing on DV’s lower-level teams earlier in the evening and then doubling off the bench for the varsity.
During the Thunder’s upset of rival Mountain Pointe on Jan. 11, Andrew King, one of those underclassmen, played a key role. King, a freshman guard, scored 18 points. Two weeks later, he improved that career high to 25 points against Desert Ridge.
King is the first freshman to start for the DV varsity since Caleb Simmons five years ago. King averaged 8.2 points and 1.8 rebounds.
“Never in a million years would I have a freshman starting at Desert Vista,” Crump said. “It’s rare to have that type of talent, but he has it.”
Initially a football player, King made the transition to basketball two years ago after watching his cousin play at the club level.
“All of the seniors really push us in practice,” King said. “They pushed me to get a starting spot and now I know how it feels to represent the team. I just like helping the team.”
The future of basketball at Desert Vista now appears to be bright once again.
“I don’t know how we will end up this year but I know we will debut pretty high next year with all of our talent coming up through the program,” Crump said. “Now it’s just about coaching and trying to get these young guys ready for the next step.”