The annual exciting VisitMesa.com Basketball Challenge took place last week and weekend - December 26-31, 2013 on the campus of Mesa Mountain View High School in Mesa, Arizona. This year's event was filled with some of the top high school basketball programs in the West, and made for some very exciting basketball action for basketball enthusiasts across the state. Organized by hard-working and dedicated tournament organizers Marc Beasley and Dr. Steve Hogen, this annual event is a can't miss on my calendar and it seems to get better each year.
This year's tournament included many top basketball teams and programs from Arizona, and also from around the West Coast. The event included such teams as Chaparral/Scottsdale, AZ, Clark/Las Vegas, NV, Corona del Sol/Tempe, AZ, Desert Mountain/Scottsdale, AZ, Dobson/Mesa, AZ, Gilbert/Gilbert, AZ, Gilbert Christian/Gilbert, AZ, Highland/Gilbert, AZ, Houston Christian/Houston, TX, Jefferson/Brooklyn, NY, Mountain View/Mesa, AZ, Orem/Orem, UT, Pinnacle/Phoenix, AZ, Red Mountain/Mesa, AZ, Salpointe Catholic/Tucson, AZ and St. John Bosco/Bellflower, CA.
Over the course of 5 1/2 long days, this event does it a lot to help basketball enthusiasts explore just how good players and teams really are - up close and for a good amount of time. As a result of my observations and our staff as well, here is what we learned this week.
Corona Del Sol Rolls Through The Competition
Corona Del Sol (13-0) is not only the best team in the state of Arizona, this is the most dominant they have ever been. While the Aztecs have won the last two state championships in fine fashion, this year looks to be the Aztecs best year yet in terms of size, preparation and overall skill level. The Aztecs are blowing away their competition this season and are fresh off an undefeated, 5-0 record in this year's event. Corona's performance included a big win over St. John Bosco (CA) and a blowout win over Jefferson HS (NY).
Corona's 6-foot-3 stellar senior point guard Casey Benson (University of Oregon signee) has continued to prove why he is such a tremendous talent and a true leader. From the point guard position, Benson leads the Aztecs against any opponent and with superior confidence. Benson has raised his level of play this season and with better overall talent surrounding him. Benson's decision to play for the University of Oregon, currently a Top 20 nationally ranked NCAA team, is beginning to look much more impactful to his overall evaluation by regional scouts and media.
Corona Del Sol 6-foot-6 junior forward Dane Kuiper (University of New Mexico commit) is a tremendous talent that is worthy of his overall #1 player ranking in Arizona's 2015 class of prospects. While Kuiper is already committed, he has proven that he could have elected for a much bigger college program as a result of his tremendous ability to play the game. The athletic and gifted guard/forward prospect has come up big in big games, and plays to the level of his competition.
6-foot-9 senior post Connor MacDougall (Arizona State signee) has proven that he is a strong college prospect for the future, and that he is worthy of strong consideration for being an impact player for the Sun Devils next season. While he still needs to develop a great deal to be an impact player in the PAC-12 next season, he should be able to fill a nice void at the power forward position for Arizona State next season. MacDougall has overpowered opposing post players all season, while also dominating the paint in big games this season.
Head Coach Sam Duane Jr. has also quickly developed into one of the best high school coaches in Arizona history. On pace to win his third consecutive state title in the state's top division, Duane has proven to become as good a coach as his father was - Sam Duane Sr. While Duane has had to live in that great shadow throughout his coaching career, he has handled it nicely, while developing great teams along the way.
Corona will have their toughest test ever on Saturday evening at 6PM when they face the nation's top basketball program and nationally ranked, Findlay Prep (NV) on Saturday (1/4) at 6PM at Rancho Solano - the biggest game of the 2013-2014 high school basketball season.
Toolson Turns It Up During Senior Season
After giving an early verbal pledge to Brigham Young University early as a junior, versatile 6-foot-6 senior forward Jake Toolson has been on a rampage this season - scoring at an all-time clip and proving just how talented he really is. The skilled wing prospect is averaging better than 30 points per/game this season, and is coming off pouring in ridiculous overall numbers in this year's event. While many prospects often slow down during their senior seasons after signing with college programs, Toolson has been on an absolute tear.
Toolson poured in a game-high 39 points in his team's victory over Orem (UT), a game-high 33 points in his team's big win over Pinnacle HS, a game-high 38 points in a loss to Chaparral HS and a game-high 33 points in his team's win over a talented Desert Mountain team. Toolson led the tournament in scoring - averaging just over 35 points per/game in the tournament.
While Toolson is not currently ranked among the nation's top seniors, he is quickly proving that national and regional scouts and media need to take a much closer look in the next spring rankings. Toolson has quickly proven just how good he really is, and that BYU is getting an absolute steal for the future.
Payton Dastrup Playing His Best Leading Mesa Mountain View
Mesa Mountain View (8-2) this season is comprised of four guards playing in a motion style offense, and gifted 6-foot-10, 235-pound senior post Payton Dastrup (BYU Signee) holding down the paint. Dastrup has played some of his best basketball to date this high school season, and he is doing an excellent job of putting his team in a position to be successful - leading his team to wins over St. Johns Bosco (CA) and Houston Christian (TX) in the event.
Dastrup is scoring around the paint and also from the perimeter, which has opened things up for many of his other teammates to get going. As a result of Dastrup’s strong play, other senior players on the team have flourished. Such players as 6-foot-1 senior guard Andy Sessions, 6-foot-2 senior Colten Meo and 6-foot-2 senior guard Austin Denham.
Dastrup recently signed a national letter of intent with Brigham Young University, but only after first giving a verbal commitment to Ohio State and then changing his mind. taking care of his body and preparing for each contest. Dastrup recently lost weight and has trimmed his once thick frame, and now has become much more athletic and quicker off the floor.
Dastrup and this year’s version of the Mesa Mountain View Toros will be tough to beat all season, as there are very few players in the state that can match up with Dastrup. Also, the well-coached and well-balanced attack on the perimeter from Mountain View, combined with their ability to shoot the basketball make them a difficult team to defend.
Red Mountain High School (7-7) faced some stiff competition in this year's VisitMesa.com tournament, and reeled in a big win over Desert Mountain HS in the process - the former high school program of new Red Mountain head coach Todd Fazio. Red Mountain can be most excited about the early Christmas present their program received this year when they landed talented 6-foot-4 junior combo-guard prospect Jalen Jenkins - one of the state's premier prospects in the 2015 class. Jenkins transferred from Mesa HS this season, after first considering a move to the state of Florida . . .
6-foot-7 senior guard/forward Sam Jones (PENN commit) of Gilbert Christian High School is having another strong season during his senior year. While the smaller program, Gilbert Christian, moved up to the division-II ranks this season, they got all they could handle in this year's tournament dropping games to Clark HS (NV), Desert Mountain and Pinnacle HS. Jones was a bright spot for his team, showing a continued consistent ability to make shots and stretch the defense, while being able to get it done amidst good defensive pressure. I have always really liked this young man's ability to play the game. Jones is an excellent IVY League prospect.