Lifting of shutdown orders gave the Desert Vista basketball team an opportunity to officially cap off their championship season nearly three months later.
Saturday at Ganem Jewelers in Ahwatukee — one of the team sponsors — the Thunder players were all sized for their championship rings.
For many, it was the first time they had seen one another since schools were shut down in mid-March. But for Osasere Ighodaro, the only senior on the Desert Vista roster this past season, it was his chance to say his final goodbye.
“It was good to see my team all together again, it’s been awhile,” said Ighodaro, who will play basketball at Marquette University next year. “It’s a great feeling. I’m enjoying being around my guys again more than the ring. But I’m glad we got it. It was a great season.”
Ighodaro, a 6-foot-10 wing that quickly became one of the top recruits in the state this past season, played a pivotal role in Desert Vista’s run to the title.
He averaged 15.9 points, 10.6 rebounds and 4.4 blocks per game last season. In the playoffs, he averaged 21.8 points, 11.8 rebounds and 3.5 blocks, which includes a 32-point, 11-rebound and 6-block performance in the championship game against rival Mountain Pointe.
Desert Vista Coach Gino Crump said in December he wanted to do everything in his power to send Ighodaro off with a championship ring. And despite turmoil and uncertainty in the early stages of the season, he was able to help the team accomplish just that.
“It still hasn’t sunk in yet. I don’t know when it will,” Crump said of the championship. “It was a special year and with all the adversity, it has made it extra special. We had a great group of kids.”
The Thunder finished the season 15-1 with the 6A trophy in hand.
“At first, it didn’t even feel like we won,” sophomore guard Marcus Wady said. “I mean, I knew we won, but it didn’t really feel like the season came to an end because nothing was normal. So, once all of this starts coming in you really feel like we did something.”
Wady will be one of three returning starters for Desert Vista next season alongside junior forward John Soloman and sophomore guard Dasean Lecque, who led the Thunder in scoring this past season. Together, Wady and Lecque make up one of the most talented backcourts in the state despite having only played together for one season.
Lecque transferred to Desert Vista from New York before the start of the 2019-20 school year. His older brother, Jalen Lecque, signed with the Phoenix Suns and spent time this season in Phoenix and with the club’s G-League affiliate, Northern Arizona Suns, in Flagstaff before the season was suspended.
He leaned upon players such as Wady and Ighodaro to show him the ins and outs of the Desert Vista program. Now with Ighodaro gone and Soloman, who transferred from Florida last year, the go-to big man for the Thunder, they all aim to defend the 6A crown next year in what again will be one of the most talented teams in the state.
“I thought we had the best backcourt in the state in me and Marcus,” Lecque said. “I feel like there’s no doubt that we can go back-to-back. We are losing a few guys, but we have great chemistry now and everyone is closer.”
While unable to have an official ring ceremony, Crump said it was great to have the team back together.
The final design of the rings will be silver with the school logo in the center and the word “State” above it and “Champions” below. One side of the ring will have the player’s last name and number. The other will have a picture of the trophy and the Thunder’s season record, 28-3.
Crump anticipates the rings to be completed in six weeks.
“We can’t have a ring ceremony and Oso (Ighodaro) is going to be gone so it kind of changed everything for us,” Crump said. “We just wanted to do something special for the guys.”