Justin Vargas Mid-Season Roundup

by Justin Vargas | Posted on Friday, December 22nd, 2017

We are officially going into the Christmas break with all the annual Holiday Tournaments starting up.  As the season takes it’s break, we are starting to learn what these teams really are.  These are some of my observations from the action I have taken in thus far this high school season . . .

Let’s start with what I believe in the best team this state has seen in the last 10 years, the Shadow Mountain Matadors.  Head Coach Mike Bibby has truly built something special in Northeast Phoenix that this whole state should be proud of.  I believe they have (2) high-major guards in Jovan Blacksher and Jaelen House (Arizona State commit).  The intensity and passion they play with is unmatched in this state.

As many around me know, I am a huge fan of their 6-foot-5 senior forward Immanuel Allen.  Yes, he will need to develop some more skill on the perimeter, since he is undersized for the position he plays for his team, but the tools and the athleticism is there.  Also, sometimes you will get a flash of something he will do in the flow of the game, and you start to think that he is the classic example of a kid that sacrifices to do what he has to do for his team.  Which I absolutely love, because it speaks volumes for the teammate and kid he is.

Shadow’s 6-foot-4 sophomore wing Shemar Morrow’s athleticism and body is high-major.  If he develops more of a passion for training and developing on the perimeter, he could easily end up somewhere in the Pac-12.  He has the time, now it’s about putting in the work.

Shadow Mountain is still undefeated at 12-0 despite (2) out-of-state tough tests at the HoopHall West Showcase, where they took care of two very challenging tests against Chino Hills (CA) and Sierra Canyon (CA).  Looking at their schedule, it’s hard to see who will stop them in the 4A Division.  The only team I can see giving them a real challenge is …

One of my favorite teams in the state, the Buckeye Hawks coached by Randy Bland.  This group is for real.  They are energetic, passionate, well coached, skilled and athletic.  Led by junior 6-foot-5 wing Otis Frazier (pictured), they are creating a real buzz in the West Valley.  Frazier is for real!  He has length, above average athleticism and a good looking outside shot that is streaky, but, when hot, he is unstoppable.  A lefty, he can put the ball in his right hand though he has a tendency to revert back to his strong had when finishing.  He has a decent handle and long strides when the ball is in his hands.  He is one of those rare talents that if you told me he is signing to a Pac-12 school, I would not be the least bit surprised.  However, if you told me he is signing at a bonafide mid-major, my response would be something like “oh, he’s about to do work over there!”

The player I can’t wait to see more of is their 6-foot-1 sophomore guard Tay Boothman.  The game I covered of theirs at Peoria, Boothman spent most of the game in foul trouble, and was limited on what he could do on the floor.  But from the buzz I have gotten from some people I trust, the kid can go.

Coach Bland is building a great culture in the far West Valley.  Them kids seem to play hard for him and respond well.  I definitely can not wait to see more of them.  They will get their chance to prove to the state and be spotlighted nationally when they travel to take on Shadow Mountain on February 1st.

Another team I have only got to see once and can’t wait to see more of is the Desert Vista Thunder coached by Gino Crump.  Their only losses have come to a national powerhouse in Findlay Prep (NV), and a nail-biting 2-point overtime loss to their arch rival, Mountain Pointe.  Nothing will stop me from being in attendance for the rematch at Desert Vista on January 23rd.

The Thunder’s backcourt is special with one of the more talented true point guards this state has to offer in Inglewood, CA native E.J Jackson and New York City native Tyrek Chambers.  Them two can flat out go!  And their 6-foot-6 senior forward Wesley Harris has some real bounce and big-time athleticism.  If Coach Crump can keep all the characters in line with each other, that group could do some special things during the playoffs.

While I am a West Valley based scout/publisher, two teams I can not wait to see in the opposite side of town is the Mountain Pointe Pride and the Brophy Broncos.  Both are doing some special things thus far this season in the state’s biggest and most competitive division.

One team I have seen 3 times now, and have fallen in love with a little bit more every time I see them is the Sunnyslope Vikings.  They are arguably the toughest team in the state.  They are grinders.  They dive for loose balls, they foul hard on contested lay-ups.  They rip out potential jump balls and they play as a TEAM!

Their most talented player, as many know, is 6-foot-4 senior wing Kyle Fischer.  He is one of my favorite players to watch. He plays hard and plays for his team.  He should plug in nicely to whatever college program he moves on to play for at the next level.

Sunnyslope also may be the best coached team I have seen thus far.  He gets the most out of every kid on that team.  He has a bonafide bruiser in 6-foot-5 senior forward Chris Orozco. Man, that kid just flat out plays hard every possession!  You will be hard pressed finding a player who plays harder than him.  Their 6-foot-1 senior guard Bryson MeWhinney can really play as well.  You will never see him rattled and when left open, he can really make you pay from the outside.  Sunnyslope is my favorite to repeat in the 5A Division.  Their last win against Deer Valley on the road was nothing short of an impressive performance.

I have been in attendance for (3) of Corona Del Sol’s performances, and while the team as a whole is not what they have been in the past, their 6-foot-4 sophomore point guard Dalen Terry is one of my favorite players to watch.  With elite talent around him where he can use his ability to always find the open man, and run an elite level offens.  He is going to be a special one if put into the right situation.  He is silky smooth and has a very high basketball IQ.  I am sure he is going to get some serious high major attention very soon!

I can not wait to be in attendance for the Desert Vista/Mountain Pointe rematch.  That one is going to be a instant classic.

Predictions (obviously contingent upon seeding):  Shadow Mountain over Buckeye; Sunnyslope over Deer Valley and Desert Vista over Mountain Pointe.

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