The Arizona Aces club basketball program is quickly becoming one of the elite club programs in the state, after a strong showing on the spring and summer AAU/club circuit this club season. The Aces have been one of the elite basketball programs in the Valley for the last five years. Austin Nelms and BJ Letcher have done an excellent job of player development and forming competitive teams from the 12u to 17u levels, on both the girls and the boys side.
The Aces operate a strong player development training program in the North Scottsdale area at there training facility 360 Hoops. The 360 Hoops training staff consists of Darcei Mcfrasier (stength and conditioning coach), Greg Gibson and BJ Letcher. They have done a great job of incorporating strength/conditioning/core/skill work in to a transformable product on the basketball court.
The Aces Basketball Club has also added Ray Arvizu as Director of Scouting and Recruiting, which has taken the Aces program to the next level.
One particular team in the club program, the Arizona Aces 17U, organized by Austin Nelms and coached by varsity high school basketball coach Aaron Windler, had tremendous success this club season - winning the Bigfoot Las Vegas Spring Spectacular, also winning the Silver Division at the Pangos Sweet 16 this summer and finishing undefeated (5-0) in this summer's Fullcourt Press Cream of the Crop event.
As a result, the Aces program, and especially this member team of the organization made Arizona proud this club season - performing at a high level against top-rated competition. In the process, the group defeated such top-rated club teams as the Compton Magic, and many others en route to a strong showing for their participants.
This group of prospects were not high-profile Arizona high school prospects either, but rather a number of very good basketball players that have worked diligently on their games to develop over time. Each of these prospects has developed and now each of them is generating college interest as well.
If their performances this club season were not enough, the team's participants have continued to work hard after the July evaluation period with head coach Aaron Windler. Windler is a terrific coach, and is the former head boy's varsity coach at Chaparral and Mountain Pointe HS. Windler is currently in the running for a local junior college coaching position, and is enjoying his time coaching club basketball in the interim.
Austin Nelms, the organizer of the team and also assistant coach, has overcome great adversity in his life - overcoming a near death tragedy that I have spoken of in the past that almost cost him his life. No longer able to work a corporate job, Nelms spends much of his time daily helping develop Arizona's youth in basketball, while providing a clear, concise message to his players regarding the opportunities that are afforded through hard work and dedication to the sport.
I had the opportunity on Tuesday evening to watch members from this team work out with Windler at a local gym. While many players currently are not working on their game and may be focusing on other things at this point in the year, this group of prospects is working hard individually to improve their craft - looking to maximize their potential on the basketball court.
Arcadia High School's talented tandem of 6-foot-5 senior forward Connor Nichols and 6-foot-4 senior forward Avonte Nelms, Brophy Prep's steady 6-foot-1 senior guard Mason Zwillinger and Dobson's 6-foot-6 senior forward Mike Mellinger. Each of these prospects worked hard on the night on their fundamental approach to the game - looking to develop their skills and continue their progress into the up-and-coming high school season.
Each of these prospects are very underrated performers with strong college potential for the future. Connor Nichols is a very versatile and skilled wing prospect with good fluidity as a player and a nice overall feel for the game. Avonte Nelms is a native of Colorado, and recently moved to the state. Nelms is a skilled small forward prospect with an ability to play inside and out. Mason Zwillinger is a steady guard prospect with a nice shooting stroke, a steady handle and an advanced understanding of the game. Mike Mellinger is a strong wing prospect that also can play inside and out, and has very good athleticism with good toughness as a player.
While for most prospects, the end of the club season triggered a halt in each player's progress, but this group of prospects seems to just be getting started - a joy to observe for any true basketball coach. Players in the gym working hard and getting better is the mission of any basketball coach on a daily basis, and this is definitely the mission of this group. None of these prospects are looking to make it to the NBA, but rather get a college education through the sport of basketball - a nice compliment and a reward from playing the game for many years.
I will be featuring each of these athletes in the near future, and will take a closer look at each Arizona prospect for you in detail. But for the time being, it is a breath of fresh air to see a group of prospects in the state that are doing it the right way.