Inspire Courts brings out youth talent in Jump Into The New Year Tourney

by Justin Vargas | Posted on Monday, January 29th, 2018

The Spring Into The New Year basketball tournament was held this past weekend at Inspire Courts. The youth basketball tournament ranged in divisions 10U-14U in the boy’s event. In the girl’s tournament it was a 5th/6th grade field, as well as a 7th/8th grade field. The tournament put some really good talent on the floor across the board and was competitive, for the most part, all the way through. In particular, the 8th grade division showcased some very good incoming high school talent. Teams came in from all parts of the Valley, as well as some Native Reservation teams and from Northern Arizona. The atmosphere was great, with all the stands being packed for every game, late into the evening on both days. The seven-court facility catered to all skill levels and was pretty entertaining from a scouting perspective.

In the 7th/8th grade girl’s division, a very fast-paced and talented Native Sky team took it all with a dominating 51-33 win in the Championship game over the AZ Battle.

In the championship game of the 10U boys division, the AZ Best Select team routed the Flagstaff Blizzards 32-14. The GCS Knights would take care of the Blue Chip Nation Blue, 41-32 in the 12U Silver bracket, while Blue Chip Nation Black would get the better of the AZ Battle 38-29 in a very entertaining game with a great pace of play.

AEA would dominate in their Championship contest, beating Blue Chip Nation Gold 56-30.
The AZ Mustang’s would win the 14U Silver Championship in a hard-fought 57-53 win over Team 23. While a very talented AZ Wizards 2022 team bested a very disciplined and solid Ventura Vipers 2022 squad, 46-41.

Congratulations to all the teams that grinded out the tournament’s field over the weekend to take home a Championship and end the weekend on the best not possible. Also, congratulations to all the participants and coaches that were apart of this event. You all were a pleasure to watch. That was some of the hardest played basketball I have seen in a long time. You all could show some of these “elite-level” high school players a thing or two.

While I could not be on all seven courts at one time, these are some of the players and programs that caught my eye while observing the action:
The AZ Wizards 2022 team is stacked with some really good talent. Two of the top players I saw over there were forward Kokea Makaila and wing Damon Denny. Both play at Bogle Middle School and plan on attending Hamilton High next year to play for Head Coach Doug Harris’ program.

Makaila, a Hawaiian native, has a great combination of size and strength. He can put the ball on the deck with both hands and gets to the rim almost at will. Very active around the basket and a willing passer. On defense, he understands his assignment very well and does a good job and staying vertical and using his length. I would like to see him have more of a consistent motor and see him get a little lighter on his feet but he can definitely play at a high level. If I was making an All-Tournament team, he would definitely be on it, as he had a game-winning put-back at the buzzer to defeat a talented Inspire squad.

Denny is a stud in the open court. In transition, he waste’s no time or motions and drives straight to the rim and is agile in doing so. He finishes over defenders and through contact very well. Has some length on the perimeter and uses his long arms well in the passing lanes to create turn-overs. A great defender with a high understanding of the game.

Inspire had 4 guys that I have a feeling are going to be known in the basketball community for a long time. Point guard Raydon Thorson probably had the best feel for the game in the whole tournament. He also has a really nice jumper and can push the tempo and be a playmaker for either himself or his teammates. He seems to get a little lazy on defense at times, but when he is engaged, he can really go on that end as well. The kid just seems to be a basketball junky.

Tayan Thompson probably has the highest ceiling of anyone I saw over the weekend. He was, by far, the most athletic kid in the gym with a 3-piece combination of skill, size and athleticism. A great rebounder that plays long and looks like he could really become an elite shot blocker at the next level. In addition, he does not shy away from snatching a board off the rim and dribbling it up the court. He is going to be one to watch moving forward, no question.

Emarion Brady was the quickest player in the facility and it’s not even close. He is also the best on-ball defender I saw over the weekend, as he creates havoc and uses his speed to his advantage in the open court. He needs a lot of work on his outside shot because it is flat and could really use some next-level handles to maximize his speed on the offensive end. But boy, can he buzz around that court.

Nikko Pentelute out of South Valley Middle School was probably the best pure shooter there. He also has a very deceptive first step that allows him the ability to penetrate to the rack. He finishes well with both hands and has a very high basketball IQ. He is just good in all facets of the game. Will need to be able to move his feet a little quicker laterally when he has to guard quicker guards, but you just have a feeling he will figure out a way to do that as well.

TSBBC’s point-forward Dominic Capratti, an 8th grader at Connolly Middle School, is long with one of the nicest shooting touches in the tournament. He is always one of the tallest kids on the floor and plays on the perimeter offensively and usually brings the ball up the court for his team. While he does need to learn to be a little bit more aggressive with going to the rim and to play through contact better, he has some real tools.

Classic Elite’s Mason Taylor has great size and length. He plays big on the inside and crashes the glass well on both ends of the floor. He also has the ability to put the ball on the floor with both hands and get inside the paint off the bounce. While his feet still have to catch up to the rest of his body and his overall skillset, he is a young player to watch moving forward. His passing ability surprised me most in the second game I saw him in.

Classic Elite has another really good player in #12. While I was unable to get his name, he is a long, active lefty and athletic with good feet. He needs some work on using his length when defending vertically, but his lateral quickness on defense is pretty impressive.

The Ahwatukee Blaze have 2 kids who can really play. Devon Grubbs has good size with some decent perimeter skills. He shoots it well off the dribble but needs some work on his handle and using his opposite hand moving forward. But the southpaw plays hard and aggressive and finishes through contact like a man.

Their other guy is Kyle Daniel Shores. A forward with a little bulk and length. He is tough as nails inside and does a good job at keeping the ball high at all times. He is raw but definitely has a foundation to build off of.

Jonah Altamirano, an 8th-grader from Rodgers Ranch Middle School in Laveen, plays with Aim High and is a straight floor general. He is aggressive and vocal and very savvy. Has a nice outside shot and a great handle. A very confident player that plays with a chip on his shoulder. He was a pretty entertaining player to watch both times I got to see him. Jonah is deciding between Cesar Chavez or Betty Fairfax to suit up for next season.

The AZ Power has a real-deal backcourt with #21 and #12. While their roster was not retrievable, I could not write this without mentioning the entertaining duo. #21 has an extremely high basketball IQ for his age. He puts the ball on a string and his passes have some real zip to them, despite his size. While he is on the small side, he is very quick and tough as nails. A true floor leader and a good shooter, though it is a little unorthodox. His impressive ability to pass the ball with one hand with accuracy and see the floor makes him mature beyond his years.

The other little guy is #12, who helps form a nice 1-2 punch on the perimeter when they are in the game together. It seemed as if they fed off of each other very well. #12 is a really good left-handed shooter and is poised. He knows the game and understands his role on the defensive end very well.

The Tru Heat have some hogs over there. They have 3 guys in numbers 2, 4 and 13 that can all really play.#2 takes the ball to the rack with a purpose and is a strong finisher. He needs to work on using his left hand with a purpose and picking his head up when he is penetrating, but he is very effective, to say the least.

#13 is very strong and aggressive. A lefty with good footwork, good size and can finish through a traffic jam. Needs some work on his outside shot and using his opposite hand. The West Valley 8th grader is planning on attending Millennium High School to play for Head Coach Ty Amundsen.

#4 is intriguing. He is very long and can play inside and out. While he disrupts shots with his tall stature, he is most effective on the wing. You almost have to know he is going to his strong hand, his left, and he still seems to always get to his spot. Also has a nice touch from the outside. If he ever gets a legit handle, he could be a real problem moving into high school.

The Ventura Vipers #10 has good size and strength from the guard position. He pushes the tempo well and finishes strong. Also, a very good defender that can get into the passing lanes and take off in transition.

Paseo Verde Middle School’s Jake Lifgrem might not have the highest ceiling but he can really play. A real savvy player with a high basketball IQ and a textbook looking jump-shot. Moves his feet well on the perimeter on defense and likes the ball to be in his hands. The 8th-grader is planning on attending Centennial High in Peoria, AZ next year.

The Arizona Wizards 12U pure point guard, Kevin Li was a joy to watch. A savvy, undersized point guard who has a very advanced understanding of the game and terrific ball-handling skills. At 12-years old he can dribble fluently with both hands down the court at a high speed and does not back down from any match-up, despite his small physical stature.

While there were many more kids worth mentioning in this article, I could not get to all of them. However, I will be covering future tournaments and camps at the Inspire Courts so I will be able to see more of the one’s I might have missed.

Note to players and coaches, please make sure your roster is filled in with the correct names, jersey numbers and grade-levels so that I can more accurately report the action for your respected team. The provided information is key in the exposure of your team and player. Thank you.

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  1. Tom Pentelute says:

    Thanks Justin, on behalf of the kids listed above these articles mean a lot. FYI tomorrow night (2/1) Greenfield Jr vs South Valley Jr play for the Superstition Conference Final Championship. These same 2 teams went heads up last season with SVJH coming out on top.

    Several of the East Valleys top 2022 players will be represented in this Championship game including SVJH #23 Nicholas “Nikko” Pentelute, #15 Jace Patton, #35 Jayson Mercet and #11 Cole Pace / Greenfield #2 Elijah Johnson, #44 Reed Shuey, #10 Mason Knomiller.

    These boys battle week after week in Club on many different teams and now they Represent their Schools for Bragging Rights.

    Hope we see you there!

    P.S. Nikko says thanks for AF socks and he’ll be reppin them for you tomorrow

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