Posted On: 07/13/18 11:31 AM

Late last November, Etiwanda Coach Dave Kleckner was raving about one of his players before his team was about to play a Battle Zone Tournament game at Centennial High in Corona.

And he wasn’t even in the gym at the time.

That’s because 6-foot-3 Jahmai Mashack, then a freshman, was a member of his program’s junior varsity team.

“He has a chance to be one the best kids I’ve ever coached,” said the well-respected Kleckner, whose varsity squad was to go to finish 30-4 record after its loss to eventual state champion Sierra Canyon in the State Southern Regional Open Division title game at Long Beach State.

Even with as much as he thought of Mashack as a prospect, Kleckner’s squad was loaded with then-senior talent, including forward Kessler Edwards and guard Elijah Harkless, who will be freshmen then season at Pepperdine and Cal State Northridge, respectively.

“We think it would be better (for his development) if he was able to play pretty much the whole game each time out with the junior varsity,” Kleckner said, “instead of playing just a few minutes in some games with the varsity. And, fortunately, he and his family agree with me.”

The move proved fortuitous for all concerned, as the varsity went unbeaten in the Baseline League and finished as a Top 5 team in the state while the Mashack-led junior varsity went unbeaten.

Mashack also got some varsity time in the state playoffs.

And Mashack, while playing on the spring and club circuit with Prodigy Elite, has justified Kleckner’s early-winter evaluation.

He ventured into Phoenix a couple of weekends ago and was one of the half-dozen or so best players at the second Arizona Preps/Arizona Varsity Southwest All-American Camp.

HIs combination of power and skill helped make him nearly to contain on drives and pull-up jump shots, even while often pitted against defenders two or three years older.

Look for him, and many of those teammates from that oh-so-gifted JV squad, to help Etiwanda push for another Baseline title and deep playoff run in 2019.