Summer PrimeTime tourney showcases state’s top boys hoops teams
Eight of the best boys basketball teams in Arizona will convene at Highland on Friday and Saturday for the Summer PrimeTime tournament. Each team will have one exhibition game before the single-elimination tournament begins. The semifinals are Saturday at 11 a.m., followed by the championship game at 1 p.m. Phoenix Pinnacle defeated Mesa for last year’s title. Here is the bracket: PrimeTime bracket 2013 (I).
Below is a look at the teams competing, with their accompanying seeds. I was part of the seeding committee, so I’ll put my seeds in parentheses after each school’s name:
1. Corona del Sol (1)
2012-13 record: 29-4, won second consecutive state championship
Key players: Casey Benson, Sr., PG; Connor MacDougall, Sr., PF; Dane Kuiper, Jr., SF; Cassius Peat, Jr., PF; Tyrell Henderson, So., SG; Alex Barcello, Fr., PG
Outlook: The Aztecs are the two-time defending champions and the early favorite for next year. MacDougall must still appeal for eligibility after transferring from Westwind Prep midway through last season, but he is playing with the team in the summer. Benson might be the most valuable player in the state at the high school level, while Alaska-transfer Kuiper is a sharpshooter and one of the most heavily-recruited juniors in the state. Corona del Sol is deep and talented. It was an easy choice as the top seed and will be the team to beat.
2. Pinnacle (2)
2012-13 record: 26-7, lost to Aztecs in Division I state championship game
Key players: Dorian Pickens, Sr., SF; Cameron Gilbert, Sr., PF; Trey Ingram, Sr., PG
Outlook: By the end of last season the Pioneers were the best team in the state, but couldn’t hold on to a late lead in the championship game loss to Corona del Sol. Pinnacle should be right in the mix once again behind star Dorian Pickens, arguably the best pure shooter in Arizona. The Pioneers have added big man Cameron Gilbert from Prescott, and he will be an inside presence the team lacked a season ago. Pinnacle has great coaching and a bona-fide star in Pickens, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them make a run at another Primetime title.
3. Mesa (5)
2012-13 record: 25-6, lost to Desert Mountain in Division I quarterfinals
Key players: Isaac Allen, Sr., PF; Christian Harris, Sr., SG; Felipe Velazco, Sr., SF
Outlook: Star point guard Jalen Jenkins has not played with the Jackrabbits this summer, and if he has indeed moved out of state, it drastically hurts the team’s potential. Isaac Allen is a shot-blocking specialist but will now need to play a bigger role on offense. Christian Harris, Felipe Velazco and Kale Abbott are solid players, but the loss of Jenkins is a big one as he was the team’s best creator off the dribble. Mesa had good success at the lower levels, and will need to find some scoring punch from its younger players to fill in for Jenkins and graduated seniors Dan Richards and D.J. Henderson, three of the team’s four leading scorers from a year ago.
4. Desert Mountain (3)
2012-13 record: 25-6, lost to Corona del Sol in the Division I semifinals
Key players: Rolando Rhymes, Sr., PG; Mark Andrews, Sr., PF; Will Goff, Sr., SG, Remy Smith, Sr., SG
Outlook: The Wolves were one of the three best teams in the state last season alongside Corona del Sol and Pinnacle, and return much of their core. Point guard Rolando Rhymes can get into the lane at will, which works out perfectly with sharp-shooters Will Goff and Remy Smith waiting for passes at the 3-point line. Michigan coaching legend Kurt Keener has taken over the program after Todd Fazio left for Red Mountain after the season. Desert Mountain is going to be good, we know that, but it will be intriguing to see how much has changed with Keener in charge.
5. Gilbert (4)
2012-13 record: 24-8, lost in the Division I quarterfinals to Pinnacle
Key players: Truman Moore, Jr., PF; Anthony Bryant, Sr., PG; Wyatt Lowell, So., SF; Spencer Nicolds, Sr., PF
Outlook: The Tigers have one of the top frontcourts in the state with Moore, Nicolds and Lowell. Point guard Bryant is a good passer and ball-handler, but not a shooter. With the graduation of Conner Helvig, the biggest concern is perimeter scoring. Gilbert should be good defensively and scoring down low, but a player like shooting guard Eric Mosley is essential in the halfcourt sets. Nicolds was in a boot last week so his status for the PrimeTime could be in question. Lowell and Moore are both intriguing college prospects.
6. Chaparral (8)
2012-13 record: 22-8 , lost in the second round of the Division I state tournament to Gilbert
Key players: Kenzo Nudo, Jr. SG; Brandon Hoffer, Jr., PG
Outlook: With the graduations of Joe Boyd and Eric Conklin, Chaparral’s emphasis will switch from the interior to the backcourt. Nudo is getting initial low-major scholarship interest and will likely lead the team in scoring this season. Hoffer is also a young star who will become one of the team’s focal points. I seeded the Firebirds eighth because they lost a lot of talent and will need contributions from young players, but they were also placed as high as third on a ballot, so this might be the biggest wild card team in the tournament.
7. Mountain View (7)
2012-13 record: 18-11, lost in the first round of the Division I tournament to Mountain Ridge
Key players: Payton Dastrup, Sr., PF; Andy Sessions, Sr., SG
Outlook: The Toros return arguably the best big man in Arizona in Dastrup, but again the supporting cast is the biggest question mark. The transfer of Sessions over from Red Mountain is a big boost, as he averaged in double figures last year. Sessions’ eligibility is in question for the regular season as he must file a hardship waiver with the AIA, but he is playing with Mountain View in the summer. Dastrup is going to put up big numbers, but the rest of the starters must give him some help if the Toros can elevate themselves to contender status.
8. Highland (6)
2012-13 record: 18-10, lost in the first round of the Division I tournament to Dobson
Key players: Jake Toolson, Sr., SF; Austin Witherill, Sr., SG
Outlook: The Hawks return their top two scorers from a year ago in Toolson and Witherill, but the depth behind them is the question. Toolson is committed to Brigham Young and can take over games in stretches, but he gets the defense’s full attention at all times and needs help. Witherill is a worthy complement, but the graduation of Bryce Farabee leaves a void in the lineup. Point guard and interior defense are the biggest questions for Highland. This tournament should help show if the team has some talent in the lower ranks that is ready to step up and make an impact on varsity.