It’s viewed as a rarity in high school sports.
But for Desert Vista High’s Basketball team, it happens to be reality. The Thunder, widely regarded as a favorite to contend for the 6A title this season, has just one senior on this year’s roster.
Lucky for them, he also happens to be one of the best players in the country.
“He is a leader on and off the court,” Desert Vista coach Gino Crump said of Osasere Ighodaro. “He’s our anchor. He’s our shot blocker, he creates offensive opportunities for us. He’s what we do. As he goes, we go.”
Ighodaro is a 6-foot-10, 180-pound power forward committed to play Basketball at Marquette University next year. He’s quickly risen the ranks as one of the top players in the country and had offers from nearly every major Division I college basketball program in the nation.
He is quiet and reserved off the court, spending the little free time he has tutoring his fellow classmates. On the court, however, he uses his long frame to overpower defenders. He’s one of the key reasons Desert Vista has jumped out to a 7-0 start this season.
Especially being the only senior, he’s made it his goal to become more of a leader than ever before.
“I’ve learned from all the seniors we’ve had in the past,” Ighodaro said. “It’s just about taking every practice, every rep seriously to get to where we want to get to.”
Crump and Ighodaro have looked to some of the younger players for help leading the team this season, in particular, those with varsity experience. Andrew King, a 6-foot-2 sophomore guard found himself thrust into this role this year after he played a considerable number of minutes on the Thunder’s varsity team last year.
King, who was recently offered by Grand Canyon University, has averaged 12.9 points and 2.1 assists per game so far this season. His highest point total came against Brophy on Tuesday, in which he scored 21 points in Desert Vista’s 84-76 win. While he’s helped other players on varsity for the first time this season, he’s also lent a hand to those who have transferred into the program this season.
“I have to show a lot of the new guys in practice how things will be in the game,” King said. “Practice gets competitive because we are trying to push them to do their best.”
Junior forward John Soloman missed several of Desert Vista’s first games this season as he battled pneumonia. He saw his first action against Mesa in the Fear the Hop Tournament on Nov. 26, Desert Vista’s second game of the season. At 6-foot-8, 190 pounds, he compliments Ighodaro to give the Thunder a major size advantage inside.
But even if the Thunder are unable to get the ball to their two big men in the paint, they have the ability to kick it out to King, junior guard Marcus Wady or sophomore guard Desean Lecque, who is in his first year with the program after transferring from New Jersey when his older brother, Jalen, was signed by the Phoenix Suns.
“I really didn’t want to move because I’ve been in Jersey my whole life,” Lecque said. “But once we moved, I heard Desert Vista was a good school academically and for the athletics. Coach Gino is a great coach, he’s helped me get comfortable.
“Now I just want to show what I can do in a different state.”
Lecque has been a force so far this season for Desert Vista. He averages a team-high 22.4 points per game to go along with 3.3 assists and 2.9 rebounds. He saw varsity action last year while playing for Teaneck High School in New Jersey.
He brings an added boost of both speed and ball-handling ability to the Thunder lineup, two characteristics Crump is excited to see in full swing throughout the season.
“Thank God for the Phoenix Suns because we landed him,” Crump said of Lecque. “When he and Marcus are on the floor together it could be really special. He can really do it all for us.”
Desert Vista’s dominant start to the season isn’t a surprise to any players on the team. They expected it to be much improved over last year’s team - who ended with the season 17-10. They also realized the type of expectations for them from those outside of the program.
But the Thunder aren’t letting any of the pressure get to them. They just plan to play their game and see how far it takes them.
“Since I’ve been at Desert Vista, we’ve always had good teams,” Crump said. “I think this is the best shot they have at winning the whole thing because not only are they good, they play as a team. We have the personnel to play fast but the right way.
“This could be a very special group, we’ll see.”