Day three of Las Vegas is much different than day one and two, as many teams have already began checking out of hotels and heading back home. On Saturday, if you lose, you are out of any one of the "Big 3" exposure events in Vegas. So the competition and the level of intensity were fierce in each of the events on Saturday.
The big game for Arizona basketball enthusiasts on Saturday, featured a game that we should have been able to watch back in Arizona, between the Arizona Power Black and the Arizona Warriors. But since the Arizona Warriors club program does not participate in events in Arizona, and does not even play in many events on the West Coast, I had to wait to see them play another Arizona team in Vegas. It was a great one too, as the Power and the Warriors matched up very nicely - making for a very intense battle.
The court was filled with top-rated Arizona prospects between these two teams - proving that the state of Arizona has really improved in our level of basketball talent. There was also a lot of coaching talent on the sideline as well, as Power head coach John Ortega and former St. Mary's HS girls head coach Curtis Ekmark battled it out with one another in an exciting coaching match-up as well. While club basketball seems to always get labeled by those that have very little experience observing it, as a level of coachless basketball with very little structure; show me two better coaches in the state of Arizona than Ortega and Ekmark right now. Ortega wears his heart and emotions on his sleeve and is a tactical magician on the sidelines, while also being an assistant coach at South Mountain CC. Ekmark is a legenday high school coach in Arizona that led the St. Mary's girls to a national championship, and is also a powerful attorney in the state.
The battle was intense on the sidelines and on the basketball court, as the Arizona Power would lead by two-points at halftime, then would finally defeat the Arizona Warriors by single digits, despite an excellent game from Tri-City Christian HS 6-foot-6 senior forward Brock Gardner. Gardner would knock down numerous three-point attempts and also score off dribble drives and mid range shots in the loss. Gardner is a very nice looking prospect that really helped himself this week and proved just how good he can become. Gardner really impressed many college coaches this week with his play . . .
The game's tempo was controlled again by the play of Corona Del Sol HS 6-foot-1 junior guard Saben Lee. Lee has been terrific this week in Vegas, now possessing an amazing (8) different division-I offers. Lee showed superb athleticism in the win by the Power and got to the basket almost when he wanted to. While he did not shoot it particularly well from the perimeter, Lee penetrated the lane and finished strong at the basket. He also surveyed the floor and found the open man for his team - creating problems for the Warriors' team. Lee was the difference in his team's victory . . .
Highland HS 6-foot-9 senior post Tim Fuller was a very nice find for the Arizona Power Black team and is coming off an excellent showing last season as a junior. Fuller is a big, wide-body post talent that rebounds strong on both ends of the floor and finished strong at the basket. He has good toughness and a nice looking body for a post player. Fuller played very well on Saturday for his Arizona Power team and really impressed me with his play. Fuller has received offers lately from Portland State, Weber State and San Francisco - all great fits for this budding post talent . . .
Phoenix Country Day HS 6-foot-2 senior point guard Andrew Ekmark was also very impressive in the game for the Arizona Warriors. Ekmark had his best performance this week in his team's loss to the Power - finishing with close to 20 points in the game and making strong drives to the basket, while knocking down the open shot from the perimeter. Ekmark is of slight build physically, but he is a sheer competitor and plays to win. Ekmark is a coach's son and it shows in his play. He is a nice guard prospect for a smaller college program . . .
Apollo HS 6-foot junior point guard De Marin (pictured) had another excellent performance on Saturday. After a big 39-point performance on Friday evening, Marin would again turn in strong performances on Saturday as well - leading his Arizona Magic Elite 16U squad to two more big wins on Saturday and advancing them to the late stage of the playoffs in the Fab 48 tournament. With opposing teams organizing a box-and-one defensive maneuver against him, and looking to slow him down offensively, Marin would continue to get it done. Marin would connect on a barrage of three-pointers from almost everywhere on the floor, and would also score off the dribble on drives to the basket or from mid-range. Marin is a handful for opposing guards as he can do almost what he wants to, when he wants to with the basketball in his hands. He also is a big-time competitor on both ends of the floor. His sheer toughness as a player is what drives his competitive force.
While many Arizona teams have already headed home, Marin will lead his team on Sunday in the playoffs for the Fab 48 tournament. Marin currently has offers from Idaho State and Texas Pan America. Marin will look to make a serious move up the player rankings for the 2017 class . . .
The Arizona Magic Elite 17U team would get two big wins on Saturday - advancing to the late stages of the Fab 48 tournament in Vegas. After a big 30-point win, the team would come from behind to defeat a tough Salt Lake Rebels (UT) team in triple overtime on a last second shot from Gilbert HS 6-foot-7 senior forward Chris Bowling. While Bowling would struggle in the game to find his shot, but his driving basket would seal a win for his team, after his team trailed by 7-points late in regulation . . .
The Arizona Magic Elite would be led in the game by the play of Harvard Westlake (CA) 6-foot-2 senior point guard Wolfgang Novogratz. Novogratz is one of the toughest prospects I have ever seen, from any position on the court. His amazing leadership qualities, superior confidence in himself and toughnes on both ends of the floor, makes him a factor in any game he plays. He always looks to take the best shot for his team, whether he is taking it or looking for an open teammate on the floor to take it. Novogratz made many key steals and applied serious defensive pressure on the opposing team's guards, while also making strong drives to the basket and finishes for his team on the other end of the floor - sealing the late win for his team.
Novogratz previously played for the L.A. Rockfish (CA) club program, but decided to play for the Magic Elite after he received several invites to play in shoe company exposure showcases. After it was thought that he might miss a lot of practice time with his club program while attending these events, his Rockfish coaches declined to allow him to play in the events and miss their scheduled practices - causing him t look for another team for the month of July.