Posted On: 09/11/17 11:13 AM
The 5A state championship game was outstanding. There was little surprise last year as Sunnyslope and Apollo were projected to be the top two teams in the state for this classification. Sure enough, that played out in the state championship game. This year should be a little different, but Sunnyslope still finds themselves at the top of 5A in our Way Too Early Rankings.
Sunnyslope is the easy choice to be the top team in the state for 5A at this point. They return their entire team from last year and had a couple of stud Freshman, Chance Garland and Paul Hayden who were extremely tough on the JV level. Sunnyslope is tough to beat due to the way that they play tough defense and control the basketball. Some of their key contributors to keep an eye on are Kyle Fischer, Bryson Mewhinney, Allan Abayev, and Chris Orozco.
Despite losing earlier than they anticipated in the 5A state tournament last season, they bring back two of their biggest playmakers from last season. Dominic Mooney is one of the best passers in the state. He brings toughness and a high IQ to the team. Further, 2019 Kino Bellinger played a huge role last year despite his youth. With a year of varsity basketball under his belt, he showed be prepared to have an even bigger season.
Liberty made a great run to the final four last season. Although they lost two key players from that team, Quentin Guliford has emerged as the real deal. He has NCAA Division-I potential. In addition to Guliford, they bring back a gritty and tough team that plays extremely hard. Also worth noting, Liberty received one of the top transfers in the state in Josh Ursery. It is yet to be determined if Ursery will have to sit half of the season due to the AIA rules. However, he is an impact guard who will make a big time splash for Liberty in 5A.
Deer Valley brings back a lot of depth and experience. Further, they bring back a chip on their shoulder due to exiting the tournament much earlier than expected last year. Deven Breckner sets the tone with this group with his work ethic, IQ, and toughness. Breckner might not have the most strength, but he often has the most heart out of anyone on the court. In addition to Breckner, look for a healthier and meanier Bryce Davis to be manning the middle. Lastly, two of the most improved players that I saw in that state this off-season are Jaret Allen and Brandon Savage. This team could easily make a run for the state title.
Despite losing 3 of their 4 leading scorers from last year, Ironwood looks poised to potentially have an even better season this year. They bring a lot of length to the court. In addition, they will most likely have a 3 year starter in Tyrese Eugene who was the team’s leading scorer last year. In addition, they have emerging Ajang Aguek. Aguek, a 6’7 SF/PF, received a lot of attention this past off-season due to his work ethic, length, and versatility. Lastly, look for underclassmen Dominic Gonzalez to step up big time. He led the team in scoring often this summer and can fill it up in an array of ways.
Arcadia will have to learn how to live life without stud point guard Max Moses. With that said, they will be returning Jaylin Fleming who gets into the paint as well as anyone in the state. Moreover, they have one of the most under-rated posts in the state in Aiden Weber. Weber is a walking double-double. He has good athleticism and will have to play an even bigger role as a means of making up for the departure of Moses.
Paradise Valley returns the vast majority of their team from last year. Most importantly, Kendyl Watson has improved and looks more prepared to make an impact this season. Between Watson and do it all point guard, Tashon Brown, this group should be in a good position to have a lot of success this upcoming season.
Chaparral returns sharpshooting Blaise Threatt as well as big man Jordan Nacim. Almost as importantly will be the transfer of one of the top 2020 prospects in the state in Xavier Dusel. Like Ursery, we do not know if he will have to sit out for half of the season. Either way, he will provide a lot of the scoring that Colten Kresl was responsible for last season.
Anyone who saw Josh Baker this off-season knows exactly why they are in this position. Baker was a monster all summer with AZ Power and McClintock. He is one of the best shooters in the entire state and will have a break out season. In addition to Baker, Armani Williams had a solid freshman season. He is a strong player who can get into the paint at will.
Losing Bryce Fowler will be hard to overcome. However, they bring back one of the best backcourts in the state. DJ McNeal had a monster off-season. He is one of the most productive and efficient scorers in the state. In addition to McNeal, Daniel Foster is one of the top shooters in the state and can fill it up in a hurry. Agua Fria will have to adjust to their new coach, but they have the pieces to be successful.