The West Valley has been exploding with growth, as residents continue to move in - driving for new homes to be built creating new subdivisions and neighborhoods. Out in Surprise, Arizona, there is a program that has been making noise over the last few seasons, the Wildcats of Willow Canyon. They are at the brink of being one of the top programs in the 5A Division. I was lucky to sit down with their Head Coach Joe Colletti, and we were able to talk about the great things going on at Willow Canyon. Here is our conversation:
Q: How long have you been coaching?
A: I have been coaching for (15) years. I was lucky to spend (5) years as Head Coach here at Willow Canyon. My other (10) years as an assistant were at various schools.
Q: What schools/programs?
A: I have been the Head Coach at Willow Canyon since 2017, with previous stints at Liberty (2013-2017), Centennial (2010-2013), and Cactus Shadows/Desert Arroyo (2006-2010).
Q: Why do you coach?
A: I coach to help create servant leaders. We use the game of basketball to build leadership skills that will lead to impactful moments on and off the court with developing student-athletes.
Q: What was your record last season?
A: We finished with a 14-2 record. It was the best winning percentage in school history. We went to the playoffs and finished in Elite 8 5A playoffs losing to the eventual state champion.
Q: Who are some of your top players to watch this season?
A: 2022 Pike Tancil
2022 David Bright
2022 Xavier Vaughn
2022 Bryce Hanson
2023 JayJuan Gould
2022 Tate DeBoer
Q: How did the kids respond to this past summer’s off-season?
A: We faced tremendous adversity this summer in the form of injury. We had many of our returning upperclassmen injured for a variety of reasons, which gave opportunity for our younger guys to compete against high-level Varsity teams. We will be better in the long run for this. We are a program of problem-solvers so we didn't waste time complaining - we simply got in the gym and worked.
Q: What are three goals for this upcoming season?
A: We push to pursue greatness daily by working to become our best selves. We compete at the highest level that we are capable of within the 5A AIA schedule. Last, but not least, we serve others daily.
Q: What were the keys to keeping your program competitive year in year out?
A: Our Culture is what makes our program unique. We are different here. We hold our players accountable to very high ambitions and call them up to achieve great things. Playing at Willow Canyon means buying into and working toward building something special. We have guys who work hard, work together and work on the details needed to be great. We have tremendous leadership within our program and that is what helps us compete daily.
I appreciate the time Coach Colletti took in sitting down with me to discuss the great things going on in his program. Besides these great things internally, Willow Canyon hosts the top Fall League in the state called the Best of the West Fall League. The Arizona Preps staff was privileged to provide media coverage of the league, which assisted in growing our database of discovering Arizona’s best student-athletes. We are excited to see what the Wildcats do on the hardwood this season.