While many of the state's top prospects looked to the spring and summer for an opportunity to raise their level of college recruitment, this was not the case for former Westwind Prep 6-foot-3 senior guard Tate De Laveaga (Northern Arizona commit). As a member of Arizona's strong 2014 class of senior prospects, De Laveaga wrapped up his college recruitment very early in the process - giving an early verbal commitment to Northern Arizona University and head coach Jack Murphy and his basketball staff last fall.
After giving his commitment, Tate simply focused on getting better and continuing his strong development as a player. Very few prospects improved as much or more than De Laveaga from their sophomore to junior seasons, as he gained 15 pounds of muscle and, as a result, saw his overall game soar as a player. As a result of his rapid development as a player while playing against much stronger competition at Westwind Prep, De Laveaga earned several scholarship offers early.
De Laveaga utilized the recent spring and summer to continue this development, and also prove his ability to compete against the top competition in the West - something he has done since he was 9 years old consistently under the coaching of his father, Jeff De Laveaga.
For the first time, De Laveaga would also earn an invite to this summer's prestigious Reebok Breakout Camp in Philadelphia during the July evaluation period. In the event and while competing against the nation's top prospects, De Laveaga would hold his own and prove his superior toughness as a player. He would handle the ball from both guard positions, while seeing much of his time from the point position. When playing alongside one of the top point guards in the country, Romelo Trimble (University of Maryland commit), De Laveaga would also showcase his ability to shoot the basketball with unlimited range and a quick release on his shot.
The confidence and experience gained from playing in this year's Reebok event, would prove valuable for De Laveaga for the remainder of the summer, as he would then lead his club team, Arizona Magic Pump N Run-2014's, to a strong summer performance. While playing alongside other top-rated Arizona prospects as Zylan Cheatham, Rolando Rhymes, Chris Davis and Austin Nehls, De Laveaga would showcase his leadership and true ability to score the basketball in several strong tournament finishes.
Throughout the spring and summer, and while already committed to a division-I program before the club season, De Laveaga would lead his club program to two different exposure tournament championships, including the Double Pump Hoop Fest in California, and a semi-final tournament finish in the Double Pump Spring Classic in Nevada.
After all of the positive experiences gained by De Laveaga throughout the spring and summer, it all came to a screeching halt after the summer when the NCAA ruled that the classes taken by members of the basketball program at Westwind Prep were ineligible for course credit. As a result, many of the classes taken by student-athletes at Westwind were ruled ineligible, causing the year's school work to go to waste. As a result, each of this year's returning Westwind Prep athletes have moved on - some returning to their former high school programs, and, for De Laveaga, looking towards college.
While Westwind Prep worked very hard as a program to improve their academics and ensure that they were meeting NCAA academic standards, the NCAA's ruling would hurt the progress made by Westwind and also their student-athletes.
In an attempt to make up class work lost from his junior season, De Laveaga will now take online classes this year. A very good student and knowing that he will not be cleared by the Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA) to play this high school season, De Laveaga will instead focus on his academics and staying in shape for college basketball.
"They (NAU coaching staff) don't need to see him play anymore at this point," said former Westwind Prep Director of Operations Jeff De Laveaga. "He will be fine."
While it was thought that De Laveaga might attend classes at Pinnacle HS during his senior year, he will instead take online classes from home instead.
At this point, De Laveaga has done all he can to solidify himself among the state's top players amidst a loaded class of prospects. His hard work early in his high school career has put himself now in a situation where he is now preparing to play for one of the top rising college programs in the Big Sky Conference.
Tate has always focused on his goals and achieving them, but now he will have to remain focused for an entire year, while his friends and members of the 2014 class look to compete for state championships. While looking on and observing this season, Tate will have to focus on a greater prize for himself - playing for the NAU Lumberjacks.
"I'm excited to play for them," Tate De Laveaga told me this summer. "I could have waited to get recruited by bigger schools, but I really like what Coach Murphy and his staff are doing up there. It's a good fit for me."
While we will not get to see him play this season, the next four years in Flagstaff will more than make up for it for the De Laveaga family.
Tate will sign his scholarship with Northern Arizona University this November.