As we now prepare for another exciting season of high school basketball in the state of Arizona, let's take a look at some of the top teams and players to watch for this high school season. We have talked about the dominance that Valley Christian High School and Head Coach Greg Haagsma have had for many years, as I have marveled at the overall success of the Valley Christian program for a long time. Haagsma is a legend in the state and his heroics on the sideline for Valley Christian annually has been epic, as he has built a powerhouse in the Southeast Valley. This program competes every year for a state title, and after winning the 3A State Championship again last season, they return again this high school season to do it all again.
Haagsma has been coaching the Valley Christian program since 1997, and has had monumental success as a coach and Athletic Director for Valley Christian program. He has won more than (650) games in his coaching career and currently ranks fourth all-time in career wins among Arizona boys basketball coaches, and is the second-winningest active boys basketball coach in the state. He was inducted into the Chandler Sports Hall of Fame in February 2022. He continues to coach at a very high level - developing his players for life through his excellent ability to lead young men.
Every season, Haagsma's teams are in the hunt to win a state title, regardless of the players he has or the team he puts on the court. "Haags" will have his team ready annually to reach a high level of success, on and off the basketball court. There is not a better leader of young men in the state.
This year's Valley Christian team is coming off winning last year's 3A State title, after finishing with a 27-3 overall record last season - edging Coolidge High School in last season's 3A State Final. Last year's team was led heavily by the superb play of former senior forward Caleb Shaw (Grand Canyon), who was dominant in his play. This year's team will feature a more balanced attack, and will have a lot of experience returning, as last year's team did not lose much to graduation. 6-foot-5 junior forward Grant Woods (pictured left) will have a big breakout season for himself this year. The talented 2024 prospect was among the top overall individual performers at this year's Arizona Preps Fall Showcase, as he led his team to a big win over Desert Mountain HS in the event - proving that Valley Christian can play with anyone. Woods has a very good overall skill level and is a sharp-shooting wing prospect that is an excellent sleeper for a smaller college program.
6-foot-1 junior guard Luke Shaw (pictured right) returns as the program's leading scorer from last season. The younger brother of Caleb Shaw, the Shaw family has basketball in their bloodlines and Luke Shaw will have a big senior season for himself as well. This version of the Shaw family is a steady guard prospect with an excellent handle of the basketball, and strong leadership qualities. He is an excellent shooter of the basketball and makes the right decisions on the floor for his Head Coach and team. Luke is another excellent sleeper prospect for a smaller college program as well, and is coming off an excellent sophomore season. He will be big for this team again in 2023, and I look for him to raise his numbers considerably, while leading this team.
Valley Christian will also receive nice production this season from 6-foot-5 senior Jaylen Lee and 6-foot-4 senior Austin Wallace, as both prospects return to give Valley Christian a formidable lineup in the 3A Division.
Look for Valley Christian to win it all again in the 3A Division this season, as Haagsma continues to build on the amazing winning tradition he has built at this historic program.