West Valley Preps’ 2018-19 Boys Basketball Preview

Deer Valley's Johnny Diaz (#2) drives to the basket against Paradise Valley in a 5A semifinal game on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018 at Wells Fargo Arena in Tempe. [Jacob Stanek/West Valley Preps]

Compiled by Richard Smith
West Valley Preps

Several local boys basketball teams began play this week during preseason tournaments, but the 2018-19 high school basketball season officially starts Monday. West Valley Preps asked the local coaches for their outlook on the season.

CACTUS COBRAS

4A West Valley Region
2017-18 Record: 6-15 overall, 5-5 in region play
Coach: Dirk Walker (sixth year at Cactus)
Top Returnees: Ben Seale, Jr. 6-1 SG (6.8 ppg, 2.6 rpg); T.J. Rucker, Jr. 6-2 F (4.4 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 5.2 apg)

How many years have you coached boys basketball? I’ve coached boy’s basketball for 14 years. 11 as a head coach and 3 as an assistant.

What is your team’s best attribute entering this season? We return a solid backcourt from last year’s team. We have three guards returning who started as sophomores. The kids work hard and play well together.

What will your team need to improve for the season to be a success? We need to get better defensively and rebound better to be the best team we can be. Offensively we need to be able to shoot it consistently.

Who are your team leaders? Ben Seale, T.J. Rucker, and Conner Cordts all return as Juniors. All three were starters as sophomores. They have set high expectations for the upcoming season.

Who are newcomers to the varsity squad who could make an impact? Luke Steffen, Eric Rick, and Bryce Ward will have an important role on this years team. Bryce dressed as a freshmen and Eric is coming back from a broken femur from his junior football season. Three transfers will have important roles and contribute second semester.

What needs to happen for your squad to reach the state tournament this season or reach the goals it has set? Consistency is the main thing for us to make the state tournament. We need to shoot consistently and rebound very well.

CENTENNIAL COYOTES

5A Northwest Region
2017-18 Record: 16-14 overall, 5-3 region (Reached 5A semifinals)
Coach: Randy Lavender (second year as Centennial coach)
Top Returnees: David Teibo, Jr. 6-4 F/C (6.9 ppg, 5.2 rpg); Dallin Dutry, Sr. 6-4 F (6.4 ppg, 2.4 rpg)

How many years have you coached boys basketball? This will be my fourth year coaching high school basketball on the varsity level. Two years at Agua Fria and second year at Centennial high school.

What is your team’s best attribute entering this season? Our best attribute will be that we will be young and quicker this year. We have time to grow and get better as the season starts.

What will your team need to improve for the season to be a success? We will need to be patient and be able to grow as a team. As I said, we will be a young team with only one returning starter.

Who are your team leaders? Our team leaders will be Malcolm Daniels, Jojo Rincon and Dallin Dutry as they know what it will take for our team to improve.

Who are newcomers to the varsity squad who could make an impact? We will have plenty newcomers but will see three freshman who can make an impact on the team, Abe Rangel, Trenten Lavender and Jake Lifgren.

What needs to happen for your squad to reach the state tournament this season or reach the goals it has set? Our team will need experience on the court and will need to grow up fast for us to make an impact. Time will tell if we will be a team that will make it in the playoffs.

DEER VALLEY SKYHAWKS

4A West Valley Region
2017-18 Record: 26-3 overall, 10-0 region (5A runner up)
Coach: Jed Dunn (11th year as Deer Valley coach)
Top Returnees: Jaret Allen W, 6-4 Sr.; Johnny Diaz PG, 5- Sr.

How many years have you coached boys basketball? This is my 27th year as a basketball coach…15th as a varsity head coach.

What is your team’s best attribute entering this season? We are a very deep team.

What will your team need to improve for the season to be a success? I evaluate success differently than most people i think. No suspensions, no technicals, no ineligible players and you have to play hard and have fun.

Who are your team leaders? All of my players are leaders.

Who are newcomers to the varsity squad who could make an impact? We return 11 seniors from last years team.

What needs to happen for your squad to reach the state tournament this season? Play hard and this team will go far

DYSART DEMONS

4A Black Canyon Region
2017-18 Record:
19-8 overall, 9-1 region (Reached first round of the 4A playoffs)
Coach: Keegan Cook (fourth season as head coach)
Top Returnees: Kobe Ganados G, 5-10 Sr. (2.5 ppg, 1.5 rpg), Dariyan Mathews F, 6-4 Soph., (3 ppg, 2.4 rpg)

How many years have you coached boys basketball? I have coached basketball for 10 years, fourth year as a head coach at Dysart.

What is your team’s best attribute entering this season? Our best attributes are our unselfishness and ability to play as a team. This group has a very high basketball IQ and they pick things up quickly. Our ability to shoot the ball as a team is better than it has been in the past.

What will your team need to improve for the season to be a success? We will need to improve defensively and continue to get tougher.

Who are your team leaders? Our Leaders this year will be three seniors. Kobe Ganados, Luke Fields, and Michael Camacho.

Who are newcomers to the varsity squad who could make an impact? Newcomers this year that can make an impact are sophomores Riley Fornerette, Daryian Mathews and Santos Sanchez. And a junior, Xavier Mendivil. And freshmen Nate Pickens and Damien Lua.

What needs to happen for your squad to reach the state tournament this season or achieve the goals you have set for the program? For us to reach our goals this year we will need to mature quickly and work to get better everyday. We need to play unselfish and believe in each other.

Ironwood junior guard Malik Smith goes up for a layup as teammate Tyrese Eugene looks on Tuesday night during a 5A basketball playoff game at Deer Valley High School in Glendale. [Donna Mundy/For West Valley Preps]
IRONWOOD EAGLES

5A Northwest Region
2017-18 Record: 15-12 overall, 5-5 region (Reached 5A first round)
Coach: Jordan Augustine (fourth year as head coach)
Top Returnees: Dominic Gonzalez, Jr. 6-3 SG (15.9 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 2.2 apg); Malik Smith, Sr. 6-3 SF (6.4 ppg, 2.8 rpg).

How many years have you coached boys basketball? 4 years

What is your team’s best attribute entering this season? They are extremely hard workers.

What will your team need to improve for the season to be a success? We need to continue to work on executing at a high level.

Who are your team leaders? Malik Smith, Dominic Gonzalez, Cassius Carmichael, JJ White, and Jordan Kafoa

Who are newcomers to the varsity squad who could make an impact? Bailon Black and Aaron Rice

What needs to happen for your squad to reach the state tournament this season? We have to be dedicated to getting better every day. We have pieces that will enable us to be successful, but need to continue to improve to reach our optimal potential.

KELLIS COUGARS

5A Northwest Region
2017-18 Record: 2-24 overall, 0-10 region
Coach: Duncan Thomason (second year as head coach)
Top Returnees: Daniel Lopez, Jr. 6-5 PF (9.3 ppg, 5.2 rpg); Nickolas De La Rosa, Jr. 6-3 SF (5.9 ppg, 2.3 rpg).

How many years have you coached boys basketball? 29 years. 11 college 18 HS

What is your team’s best attribute entering this season? They play hard

What will your team need to improve for the season to be a success? Confidence, chemistry, and changing their culture.

Who are your team leaders? Jonathan Nash and Daniel Lopez

Who are newcomers to the varsity squad who could make an impact? Soloman Nymeno, Jordan Hammes and Christian Escobar

What needs to happen for your squad to reach the state tournament this season? Develop chemistry that proves they can beat anyone they face. Our schedule is extremely tough and they need to bring it every night.

LIBERTY LIONS

6A Desert Valley Region
2017-18 Record: 15-12 overall, 6-2 region (Reached 5A play-in round)
Coach: Mark Wood (12th year as head coach)
Top Returnees: Josh Ursery, Sr., 6-1 G (20.1 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 1.4 spg), Jacob Edahl, Sr. 5-9 PG (12.3 ppg, 6.1 apg)

How many years have you coached boys basketball? Cactus for 6 years, and then I started the Liberty program in 2006 and heading into our 13th season here.

What is your team’s best attribute entering this season? Our team is a tough, veteran group who plays selfless.

What will your team need to improve for the season to be a success? We will continue to focus on the process of getting tougher, playing smarter, playing more together, and always having fun. This focus will help us improve daily

Who are your team leaders? All members of our team and program are leaders.

Who are newcomers to the varsity squad who could make an impact? Foune Doucoure and Trevor Owens are freshmen, sophomores Blake Johnson, Ike Obi, Jacob Ayars and Miles Guliford, and junior TJ Mand.

What needs to happen for your squad to reach the state tournament this season? We aren’t focused on a destination honestly. We are focused on the process of becoming our best. Daily we have seen improvements in our guys’ toughness, chemistry, and fundamental skill development. Our focus is getting to a point where we are at our best and we feel that the result of that will be a destination we will be pleased with.

MOUNTAIN RIDGE MOUNTAIN LIONS

6A Desert Valley Region
2017-18 Record: 3-23 overall, 0-10 region
Coach: Eli Lopez (eighth year as Mountain Ridge coach)
Top Returnees: Trask Morgan, Sr., PF 6-6; Joe Nunez, Jr., SG 5-10

How many years have you coached boys basketball? I’m going on my 8th season as varsity head coach at MtnRidge HS. I was an assistant at St.Mary’s for 10 years. I was Head varsity coach at Goldwater for 2 years. I was an assistant coach at ASU for 1 year.

What is your team’s best attribute entering this season?  Although our team is still young this season, most of the players had significant playing time on varsity last year. Therefore, experience is an attribute that we have this year as a young team.

What will your team need to improve for the season to be a success?We will need to become more aggressive as the season goes on.

Who are your team leaders? Our two team leaders are seniors Joe Nunez and Trask Morgan.

Who are newcomers to the varsity squad who could make an impact? Twin sophomores Austin & Aiden Clayton are not new to the team this year, however they had limited playing time last season & have the ability to have an impact in each game this season.

What needs to happen for your squad to reach the state tournament this season? As a team, we need to continue to get better as the season goes on.  We will need to play extremely hard and smart each game.

PARADISE HONORS PANTHERS

3A Metro West Region
2017-18 Record: 28-2 overall, 8-0 region (Reached 2A semifinals)
Coach: Zach Hettel (fourth season as head coach)
Top Returnees: Josh Hawkins F, 6-3 Sr. (12.1 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 2.3 spg); Jon Jackson SG, 6-5 Sr. (8.6 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 3 spg)

How many years have you coached boys basketball? Nine years now at the HS Level, six years in Arizona.

What is your team’s best attribute entering this season? We are long and athletic.

What will your team need to improve for the season to be a success? Consistent intensity. We have to bring it every night with everything we have. Our effort has to be consistent.

Who are your team leaders? Jalen Scott and Jerry Iliya both young but have shown consistency in the off season. The kids look to both of them to lead this team.

Who are newcomers to the varsity squad who could make an impact? Jerry Iliya 6’6 Junior, Roy Eze, 6’7 Junior, Matur Dhal 6’10 Sophomore, Wyatt Bell 6’1 Sophomore. Also two incoming freshman Blessing Nwotite 6’ and Logan Pohl 6’8 freshman.

What needs to happen for your squad to reach the state tournament this season or achieve the goals you have set for the program? Last year we lost in the state semi finals. To our guys returning we have some unfinished business. They have their sights set on competing for state championships and that’s the culture they have created. Do the right things in the classroom and compete for state championships. To do that we have to accept the roles each individual has and be there for one another. This is by far the closest group I’ve had. They truly do care for each other.

boys basketball
Peoria’s Issac Monroe (#30) makes a three-point shot against Sunrise Mountain on Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018 at Peoria High School in Peoria. [Jacob Stanek/West Valley Preps]
PEORIA PANTHERS

4A West Valley Region
2017-18 Record: 18-10 overall, 7-3 region (Reached first round of 4A playoffs)
Coach: William Roberts (Fourth year as head coach)
Top Returnees: Isaac Monroe, Jr. 5-11 G (11.1 ppg, 2.7 apg), Kaleb Brown, Jr., G (8.9 ppg, 3.4 apg)

How many years have you coached boys basketball? This is my fourth year as the head coach at Peoria High School.

What is your team’s best attribute entering this season? Our team’s best attribute is defense

What will your team need to improve for the season to be a success? Our team will need to improve on executing in big moments both defensively and offensively in order to reach our full potential this season.

Who are your team leaders? Kaleb Brown, Isaac Monroe, John Price, David Shol, and Nisaj Nickolis are our team leaders this year.

Who are newcomers to the varsity squad who could make an impact? Kevin Kogbara, Corey Perry, Tre Bell, and Awar Anyieth could make a big impact for us this year.

What needs to happen for your squad to reach the state tournament this season or reach the goals it has set? In order for us to reach our goals, our practices will need to be as intense or more intense than game environments and everyone needs to be poised, aggressive, and patient when things get hard.

SHADOW RIDGE STALLIONS

6A Southwest Region
2017-18 Record: 18-8 overall, 5-3 region
Coach: Robert Bohon (fourth year at Shadow Ridge, former Willow Canyon coach)
Top Returnee: Anthony Garza, Jr. 6-7 C (11.7 ppg, 9 rpg, 2.9 bpg); Caleb Greishaber, Sr. 6-1 G (6 ppg, 4 rpg).

How many years have you coached boys basketball? 28 years of coaching experience.

What is your team’s best attribute entering this season? Experienced group, 5 players return off an 18-8 team which qualified for state tournament.

What will your team need to improve for the season to be a success? Continue to work as a team and execute game plans.

Who is your team leader? Caleb Grieshaber, Anthony Garza, Carter Hall.

Who are newcomers to the varsity squad who could make an impact? Donovan Johnson, Kiran Oliver, Glory Nwotite.

What needs to happen for your squad to reach the state tournament this season? To get better each practice and game.

SUNRISE MOUNTAIN MUSTANGS

5A Northwest Region
2017-18 Record: 16-12 overall, 6-4 region (in 4A)
Coach: Gary Rath (Fourth year as head coach)
Top Returnees: Tanner Mayer, Sr., 6-5 F (10.2 ppg, 6.2 rpg); Brandon Taylor, Jr., 6-1 G (6.1 ppg, 2.9 rpg)

How many years have you coached boys basketball? Fourth year as varsity head coach, six years before that the varsity assistant, all years at SMHS.

What is your team’s best attribute entering this season? Experience, unselfishness and depth

What will your team need to improve for the season to be a success? Minimize turnovers and defensive rebounding

Who are your team leaders? Seniors (Jake Mattson, John Malamas, Grant Bell)

Who are newcomers to the varsity squad who could make an impact? All of them will contribute in one capacity or another, our depth is a strength

What needs to happen for your squad to reach the state tournament this season or reach the goals it has set? Win the close games, we lost a couple games last year we thought we should have won which in turn kept us from qualifying for the state tournament by 3/100 of point.

VALLEY VISTA MONSOON

6A Southwest Region
2017-18 Record: 11-15 overall, 6-4 region
Coach: Ben Isai (first year as Valley Vista head coach)
Top Returnee: Josh Holloway, Sr., W; Sidney Thomas, Sr., PG.

How many years have you coached boys basketball? I have been coaching in Arizona for over 15 years at the High School and club level. I Coached with Rachel Matakas on the girls side for two years, then helped out at Shadow Ridge with John Braden. Both great coaches in the West Valley. I was fortunate to be able to pick both of their brains and expand my knowledge of the game. The past 3 years I was the JV coach at Valley Vista and now I am the Varsity Coach.

What is your team’s best attribute entering this season? We are a fast and aggressive team, who don’t mind getting their hands dirty. Our boys work hard and are ready to learn, those two combination are a recipe for instant success. In my opinion we are already winning and we haven’t played a season game yet.

Who are your team leaders? Josh Holloway, Josiah Jackson and Sidney Thomas have been huge as  our leaders. They understand that it starts with them and then trickles down.  When asked about being leaders their comments “Coach we are ready and want it bad this year”.

Who are newcomers to the varsity squad who could make an impact? Curtis Nichols didn’t get a lot of minutes on varsity year last year, but is  determined more than ever this year. He will be a huge part of our success and will do whatever is needed of him. Dwight McKnight can be an offense and defensive presence  this year that can change the game. King Thurman did not play much last year, but is a changed man and has been big for us this year. He is a great player, teammate and is always positive.

What needs to happen for your squad to reach the state tournament this season, or achieve the goals you have set for the program? I am a very fortunate coach to have skillful players that are all bought in this year.  If we can come together, play as a team and bring it every night.  We have potential to be unstoppable  and make it far into the playoffs.

Willow Canyon’s Kelvin Patrick (#22) makes a layup against Dysart on Friday, Dec. 8, 2017 at Willow Canyon High School in Surprise. [Jacob Stanek/West Valley Preps]

WILLOW CANYON WILDCATS

5A Desert West Region
2017-18 Record: 13-13 overall, 4-4 region
Coach: Joseph Colletti (second year at Willow Canyon head coach)
Top Returnees: K.J. Patrick, Sr. 6-0 G (19.4 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 3.6 spg, 3.5 apg); Sunday John, Jr. 6-3 F (4.3ppg, 2 rpg).

How many years have you coached boys basketball? This is my 10th year coaching HS basketball and my second as Head Coach at Willow Canyon.

What is your team’s best attribute entering this season? Toughness. This team is growing in their ability to handle adversity every single day. They sacrifice for each other, play unselfishly, do the little things and are committed to playing with intensity. They embody our core values of trust, toughness and togetherness and they understand their commitment is being watched by our community and that they are part of building something special in west Surprise.

What will your team need to improve for the season to be a success? Our season will be a success if we focus on the process of incremental growth. The pace of play in the first few weeks of practice has been good. We must keep building. Our success will likely hinge on the development of individuals and our collective willingness to buy in to sacrificing for the benefit of all.

Who are your team leaders? Everyone in our program is a leader. We build servant leaders.

Who are newcomers to the varsity squad who could make an impact? We have 12 Varsity players. Each player has a unique role within our program and we are excited to see how they each impact our team’s growth throughout the season.

What needs to happen for your squad to reach the state tournament this season or achieve the goals you have set for the program? We are focused on executing winning habits daily. We believe if we continue to build and develop every day to be the best version of ourselves possible we will be in position to achieve our goal. These goals are simple: build servant leadership in all players, incrementally develop all players to be their best and to give a winning effort every game for all 32 minutes. If we do these things, we believe we will have a chance to play meaningful basketball late into the season. As a coaching staff, we believe there are many signs that the future is bright with Willow Canyon Men’s Basketball.



You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.