Corona del Sol hoops continues summer streak
They’re the two-time defending champions and could field as talented a rotation as anyone this winter, but Corona del Sol’s first priority during summer basketball season isn’t winning summer scrimmages and tournaments.
Yet, here they are. The Aztecs just knocked off Gilbert and Mountain View (among others) to win the PrimeTime Summer Hoops Invitational last weekend. Actually, they beat those perennially good teams pretty handily, capped by a 58-41 win over the Toros which wasn’t even that close.
In the past couple appearances in this summer invitational, the Aztecs lost in the first round each time.
“I could care less about wins and losses,” Aztecs coach Sam Duane Jr. said. “I don’t put a lot of stock in it. We played well at ASU (summer tournament two weeks ago) and played well this past weekend, and the goal now is to learn each other and how to play together to get what we want done.”
Besides reigning Tribune Player of the Year in point guard Casey Benson, three others major pieces are junior-to-be forward Cassius Peat, along with transfers Connor MacDougall and Dane Kuiper. Kuiper moved to town from Alaska and is expected to be an immediate factor.
So, too, is MacDougall, who dominated at times during the tournament but awaits his fate (of sorts) this fall about his eligibility after playing with the Westwind Prep Academy’s national team last year. It’s possible that by moving into Corona del Sol’s boundaries he’ll be eligible right away as a regular transfer. Or perhaps he’ll have to sit out the first part of the season (as part of the “365 days” clause). That’s up the AIA executive board to eventually decide.
But even with the Aztecs’ success this summer (undefeated in June), there are moving parts waiting to be fitted. MacDougall is playing with the Aztecs this summer, as Duane Jr. wants the team to learn to play with a post player of which the Aztecs never really had last year (but did two years ago), even though there remains uncertainty as to how MacDougall’s eligibility status will unfold.
Duane Jr. also saw substantial progress in returning guys such as senior-to-be wing Russ Davis and Jarrett Givens.
Incoming freshman Alex Barcello, who’s sister, Julia, was a standout player at Seton Catholic, also drew high praise from Duane. The 6-foot-1 Borcello figures to see substantial minutes this winter, either playing behind Benson or perhaps alongside him in 2- and 3-guard rotations.
“He’s got a chance to be pretty good,” Duane said. “He’s in a good situation with no pressure on him and with Casey he can learn how to play and no pressure to come in right away and not have a lot of pressure.”
Duane believes this year’s team could be 10-deep in terms of nightly game contributors. If that’s the case (meaning MacDougall is eligible for all or at least the second half of the season), getting everyone to buy into roles and not worry about minutes or shots will be key, as it worked very well with Bryan Siefker and Adam Gleave last year, two huge components to the 2012-2013 championship team.
Following that lead behind arguably the best point guard in the state in Benson also helps, though neither Benson, MacDougall or Kuiper is expected to play next week in the Best in Basketball tournament at Highland High School this weekend.
“We’ve made good strides and it’s been a good summer,” Duane said. ” We’re nowhere near where we need to be, but we have a lot of work to do.”