Posted On: 10/19/18 1:19 PM
With the hiring of Alex Arias as the program director and head coach of the national team, Calusa Prep has an immediate chance to re-register its presence in what has evolved into a talent-rich SIAA.
The Miami-based high school/prep program, which has churned out talent such as highly prioritized Class of 2019 JUCO sharpshooter Nathanael Jack (who holds offers from Oklahoma, Florida State, South Florida, Hawaii, and several others) and electrifying French guard Nathan Mepandy, instantly restores credibility following a sustained period of uncertainty.
After coaching the Dominican national team to prominence, Arias was originally slated to be the post-graduate head coach at Superior Collegiate Academy in Tampa. The plan never took shape, however, causing Arias to wait in the wings until Calusa eventually presented him an offer sheet at the tail end of the summer.
“It was a tumultuous few months and long prayer from my family and friends,” said Arias, who passed up several other opportunities during the time in between.
“I honestly had my mind set on living in Tampa and making something special. That wasn’t up to me. Life took some unfortunate turns. It was a lesson learned. I vowed to be in control of my own destiny moving forward. I decided to move down to Miami and I will be helping Mr. Fowler and the rich tradition of Calusa Prep once again find its way to being a formidable South Florida program while making our student-athletes high character people.”
A player development ace who preaches accountability and emphasizes thorough defensive pressure, Arias has been instrumental in the development of in-state talent such as LJ Figueroa. Figueroa struggled to carve out his niche as a scorer during the embryonic stages of his career in Massachusetts.
In moving to Florida, the long and talented Dominican guard underwent a rapid transformation. Arias worked tirelessly in helping the high-rising and deftly skilled 6-foot-5 guard develop into a high major prospect and one of the country’s premiere scoring threats for consecutive years.
Figueroa is currently at St. John’s, after the high scoring guard became one of the highest efficiency scorers in the country at Odessa Junior College in Texas.
Arias’ teams at Oldsmar Christian and West Oaks, also of the SIAA conference, were widely recognized for every possession pressure and an up-tempo attack. With guys like Figueroa (who eventually transferred from Oldsmar to West Oaks), Elijah Weaver (now at USC) at Oldsmar Christian and the explosive Sylvain “Frenchy” Francisco and hard-edged Paul “PJ” Person at West Oaks Academy, Arias has had success with guard-centric programs.
Coaching on Team Breakdown has enabled Arias to establish a wealth of connections throughout the Division-I coaching circles. While serving as the head coach of the 17U Dominican national team this summer, Arias helped assemble the highest ever world ranked team (no.9), beating Team Africa in Mali and scoring other signature wins.
“Once I realized there was an opportunity for me to coach high school, I dove in head first,” said Arias, who is also a teacher at the school.
“This is the only independent school in all of Miami. I’m surrounded by the right people. We’re going to be playing national powers.”
If there is a challenge for Arias, this is it. With West Oaks attaining national visibility and The Rock, DME Academy, SCA and Potter’s House revamping their rosters with off-season recruiting hauls, the SIAA conference has the look of one of the nation’s best—if not the nation’s best conference.
“Our program will be one that can compete nationally while contending to win the state’s best trophy in the SIAA conference,” Arias explained.
“It’s a great honor to represent the conference and become the flagship school for the SIAA in South Florida. I also can’t lie, after almost venturing to the post graduate realm, I noticed I was missing high school ball. I’m pretty excited about that. It’s time to wear a hard had and get to it.”