When I first laid eyes on this year's version of the Arizona Magic Pump N' Run-2014 group of junior prospects at the recent Southwest Showcase Main Event, organized by Ron Coleman, I wondered just how competitive this group would be this spring and summer. Sporting very little size and marginal athleticism as a team, on paper, this group did not look like much to look at.
In the Southwest Showcase Main Event, the team would be led by the superb play of Westwind Prep star 6-foot-8 junior guard/forward Zylan Cheatham and 6-foot-3 junior guard Tate De Laveaga (Northern Arizona commit), and also Austin Nehls of Catalina Foothills HS, Trevor Johnson of Flagstaff HS and Romano Bottini of Brophy Prep HS.
The team would win the 17U Platinum Division of the tournament after finishing with a 3-0 record in the event.
This weekend, the team traveled to the Double Pump Hoop Fest event in Los Angeles, CA, where they would face stiff regional competition. Not only would the competition for the team increase significantly, the team would travel to the event without the services of Zylan Cheatham. Cheatham would elect to play for the Nike-sponsored California Supreme (CA) in the Nike EYBL event nearby in LA.
Without the services of Cheatham, it would become no problem for this Magic group as head coach Jeff De Laveaga would lead this team to a 6-0 record in the event, and another 17U Division Tournament Championship.
The state of Arizona had not had a club team win the 17U Division of a major club exposure event in California since current Desert Vista HS head coach Dave Williams led an Arizona Cagers group of players to the championship of a Full Court Press event in LA in the fall of 2005. Since then, no team has been as fortunate. Not even current UCLA assistant coach David Grace, who led a loaded team of Division-I prospects for the Arizona Magic in 2005 & 2006, could win it all.
Since Jeff De Laveaga advanced to the 17U level after having historic success at the youth levels in Arizona with the Arizona Gym Rats, he has taken club basketball success in the state of Arizona to new heights - winning a ridiculous amount of games and tournaments now at the 17U level between Arizona and abroad. De Laveaga has also now won 4 major 17U regional events - adding another 17U tournament victory from this weekend.
De Laveaga's Arizona Magic 16U team last spring won the 16U Division in the same Double Pump event, and two years ago, his 17U group led by Cameron Forte (Univ. of Georgia), Eric Jacobsen (Arizona State), Larry Lewis (Texas-San Antonio) and Tim Derksen (San Francisco) would win 28 games in a row on the club circuit, and also win two major 17U events - the Double Pump Spring Classic and also the Adidas Three Stripes Invitational in LA.
Say what you want to say about De Laveaga, like him or not, but this coach has it figured out in a major way. He does nothing but win and win at a high rate. Whether with blue chippers or lesser talent, it doesn't matter for De Laveaga - he simply gets it done. His system of sharing the basketball and playing selfless and together works, and he prepares players for the college level. He is very demanding, but he also really cares about the kids as well.
This weekend's performance by this group of Arizona players was monumental and still has me shaking my head. What a tremendous accomplishment for a team of selfless Arizona kids, that are now undefeated at 9-0 this spring and have won both tournaments they have played in.
Congratulations to Coach De Laveaga and Westwind's 6-foot-3 junior guard Tate De Laveaga (NAU commit), Westwind Prep 6-0 prep guard Everette Clemons, Flagstaff HS 6-foot-2 junior guard Trevor Johnson, Catalina Foothills HS 6-foot-4 junior guard Austin Nehls, Brophy Prep HS 6-foot-2 junior guard Romano Bottini, Glendale HS 6-foot-4 junior guard Lyrik Shreiner, Desert Vista HS 6-foot-4 junior Marshall Powell, Perry HS 6-foot-5 junior forward Jake Morensen and Pinnacle HS 6-foot-7 junior forward Ty Griffin on this truly amazing accomplishment and representing Arizona in fine fashion.
Notes: Congratulations to the Arizona Power Black-16U team for reaching the 16U championship game of the Double Pump Hoop Fest, and also to the Tucson Heat 15U team for reaching the 15U Division Championship game of the Double Pump Hoop Fest. Both teams would fall in the tournament's championship game and finish as runners-up, but would make the state proud with their play.
Chaparral High School's 6-foot-4 sophomore guard Kenzo Nudo, who competes with a talented Arizona Power Black 16U team, received a scholarship offer from Northern Arizona University this weekend, according to reports. The offer is Nudo's first of it's kind. The talented guard prospect is a nice rising talent in Arizona's 2015 class . . .
Westwind Prep 7-foot unsigned senior post Nambi Okonkwo has also received a scholarship offer from Northern Arizona University head coach Jack Murphy. Okonkwo has several other offers to his credit, but the Lumberjacks will look to reel in the developing post talent.