Posted On: 11/26/18 9:54 AM

Basketball is officially here as many teams played their first games this past weekend. The Sunnyslope Hoopsgiving Tournament is always one of the more competitive tournaments. This year was no different. Below are four takeaways from a great week of basketball.

1. Apollo is the top team in 5A

Other than the 1st round, Apollo had anything except for the easy route in winning the Sunnyslope Hoopsgiving Tournament. In fact, the group beat Sandra Day, who finished 3-1; Deer Valley, who finished 3-1; and Sunnyslope, who also finished 3-1.

While it is early in the season, they have already been battled tested and demonstrated that they can find a way to win games. Top to bottom, this team is one of the deepest teams in the state as they have plenty of guys who are capable of being high level role players.

Further, as far as top tier talent is concerned, they have two NCAA Division-I caliber prospects in Paris Woods and Emmanuel Taban. This group is going to be fun to watch and has the potential to win the 5A state title.

2. Sunnyslope is as good as ever

Anyone who was thinking that Sunnyslope was going to take a huge step back this season is far from accurate. In fact, the group looked just as solid as ever this past week. While they still have room to improve, length and talent are far from an issue for this team.

This team has one of the best on ball defenders and a point guard who rarely makes mistakes in Zach Paloma. Further, they have plenty of size with Carson Basham and Grady Lewis. On the wings, Ivan Palomar and Paul Hayden will make big impacts for the team.

This group is well built and has all of the pieces needed to win a potential 3rd state championship in a row.

3. Deer Valley will compete for the 4A state title

Shadow Mountain is the only thing that keeps the headline from reading: Deer Valley will win the 4A state title. While there are other solid teams in 4A, this Deer Valley team is better than last year’s 5A runner up.

They have just as much length as last year while having a point guard that no one can find a way to stay in front of. Johnny Diaz is the real deal. He is able to get into the paint at will as he is tasked with creating for himself and for others.

In addition, this team is physical and plays hard for the entire 32 minutes. Despite only being a sophomore, Jackson Leyba plays a huge role in the teams identity. He never takes a play off and brings toughness as well as energy throughout the game. His style of play is contagious and others quickly follow suit.

The Allen twins bring the team plenty of length while Brandon Savage continues to get better and better. Be on the lookout as this Deer Valley team is one of the top teams in the state, regardless of classification.

4. Be Solid; not Cute: Estrella Foothills and Sandra Day


Early in the year, many coaches are trying to figure out how to get their teams to execute at a high level. That is not the case for Estrella Foothills and Sandra Day O’Connor.

Despite one day turnarounds, both teams were prepared for their opponents and did a great job of executing their game plans. Foothills has a culture built and established. These young men are bought in and their best player, Shaun Wahlstrom, leads from the top. Even the littlest of details are stressed as the team runs to the locker room at half time and is engaged during timeouts.

College coaches looking to recruit program and culture kids: Look no further. This team has high IQ and does the little things.

Sandra Day, on the other hand, is impressive as Coach Rodgers is in his first year with the group. However, the team is extremely well prepared, and he definitely has command of the locker room. Their ability to execute throughout the weekend led to them finishing the tournament with a 3-1 record, with their only loss coming to the eventual champs in Apollo.

Sandra Day was led all weekend by solid guard play from Chase Morley and Elijah Trice. Further, they have shooters who space the court and a versatile big man who can play 3-5 in Keaton Rodgers.