Valley of the Sun Swish Tournament Top Performers

by Justin Vargas | Posted on Sunday, February 25th, 2018

This past weekend Inspire Courts hosted the Valley of the Sun Swish Tournament in Gilbert, AZ.  The tournament was the first weekend where the local high school talent was able to participate with the end of their season coming to a stop.

While I was in the gym I spotted some of the top performers that were out doing their thing and competing. Some teams showcased in the event might not have had some of the best individual talent, but played so much better as a team then some of them that had the more talented roster on paper. Most of that probably has to due with the start of the AAU season and some of these squads being brand new to each other, while some have been playing together for years.

The most high profile story of the weekend was seeing two freshman girls, Taty Clayborne and Madison Conner. Both are two of the top freshman in the girls’ game, both playing at Perry High School. But it wasn’t just the fact that both females were playing with the boys. The story to me was the fact that they were two of the better and more aggressive players. They trapped on defense and both defended at a high level while pushing the ball and trying to create for their teammates. I can not imagine the level at what Conner rebounds the basketball at the girls level, because she definitely held her own with the boys in the 2 games I saw them compete in. Clayborne plays more of a combo guard role, with a nice handle and the ability to put the ball in either hand. She drives to the rack with a purpose and is good at collapsing a defense and swinging it out to open shooters. Both were a joy to watch and I will have my eye out for them moving forward.

Tanner Poeschel was a sophomore this year for Head Coach Gary Ernst and the Mountain View Toros. In this event, he played for FMD and played on their JV and Varsity level team. You can see the affects of a product that comes through Gary Ernst’s system. It has been the type of player he grooms since you used to watch guys like Stephen Rodgers, Harper Kamp and Brendon Lavender. They are just a little more refined than most you will see at this point in their basketball careers. Poeschel falls into that mold. He is a very young sophomore that started school a year early, so it’s even more than what meets the eye. He is long at about 6-foot-5 and is athletic. A player that can get up and grab a board off the rim and push it down the gut of the defense. Needs to get a little bit stronger so he is better able to finish through contact, but he has the mold of a scorer already. His shot needs a little more work when taking it off the bounce, but spotting up he is a very capable outside shooter. He should be in the Mountain View rotation for the next 2 years.

Also playing on that team was another Mountain View product, 6-foot guard Kaleb Doka. He was a starter on this year’s Toros team as a senior. His game is strong. I don’t know how it would translate at a higher level, but in this tournament he very might well have been the most effective player I saw in the gym. His ability to finish through contact is nothing short of impressive. If you know anything about Native basketball, or “Rez-Ball” as most Native’s call it, you will know an event like this is right up their ally. Doka is native and grew up playing in a style conducive to what I saw over the weekend. Run and gun and get to the rack. Though taking the ball to the rim is what he excels in, his outside shot is just as impressive. I would’ve liked to see him move his feet a little better when squaring up in on-ball defense, but it is not for lack of effort on that end. He hustles and really gets after it.

Raydon Thorson is one of the top 8th grade players in the State. His game just looks more refined every time I see him. His ability to make his teammates better with the ball in his hand, but also have the ability to knock down shots on the perimeter off the ball makes him one of the elite up-and-coming guards. His work will need to come on the defensive end, where he lacks at times. Sometimes it seems like his game is so much more advanced than some of the talent he plays that he simply just falls asleep and gets bored on the defensive end.  However, in their first game he seemed to get engaged when his team came out in a full-court press and Thorson was responsible for at least 8 steals. He will be one of the top players to watch moving forward.

Another one of those guys that I have been in attendance to watch prior to this past weekends event was 6-foot-3 8th grade prospect Tayan Thompson. Tayan has a rare combination of size and strength while still possessing some skills on the perimeter. Like Thorson, his deficiencies are on the defensive end of the ball, where he allows his feet to get stuck to the court at times. But his physicality and knowledge of the game allows you to think that he will correct that with time. His jump shot was the thing that stuck out over the weekend. In one game, he couldn’t have thrown a penny into the ocean. However, in the other I saw, he probably could have drop-kicked the ball into the hoop. He will be playing for Head Coach Gino Crump and the Desert Vista Thunder moving into the high school ranks.

Desert Vista’s 5-foot-10 freshman Malik Mack had one of the highest upsides I saw all weekend. He plays so much longer than his 5’10” frame and plays the game like a Slinky bouncing off steps. He is springy and his body control is amazing. While he is on the thin side to say the least, his body control and his ability to absorb contact allows him to finish at a high level inside. He does possess an arsenal of hesitation moves on the perimeter that allows him to penetrate, but he needs to work on his ability to shoot it from the outside. He is a lefty that seems somewhat predictable that he is taking it to his strong hand but his ability to keep defenders on skates allows him to get to his spot. Defensively, he might have been the best player out there. His on-ball defense was impressive and his length allows him the ability to poke at the ball and get his team out into the open court. He played on a loaded Desert Vista program this year, but it will be interesting to see what level he plays at for the Thunder next season.

Hamilton’s 5-foot-9 junior guard, Evan Watkins, took part in the festivities over the weekend as well and played a solid tournament. He played behind a loaded backcourt at Hamilton this past season, but from what I saw over the weekend, he should be clocking some minutes next season for Head Coach Doug Harris.  He is an undersized, but solid, left-handed guard that can really get after it defensively and plays hard the entire time. A strong upper body and quick lateral movement makes him able to guard longer and more athletic defenders. He also possesses a nice looking shot from the outside when he is able to set his feet and get the ball up.

Paradise Valley’s 6-foot-2 senior guard Jordan Morris was the best shooter in the gym, and it wasn’t even close. This kid can flat out stroke it from the outside. His ability to get the shot out of his hand at a high release point and with one motion make him almost unstoppable, especially when he gets in the corners. I watched him torch defenders from deep in the 3 games I saw him at PV during the season, and nothing changed over the weekend. He should find a home to play at somewhere while he goes to school next year off of his ability to shoot alone.

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