Posted On: 12/14/18 12:18 PM

After a couple of weeks, a couple of teams have raced out to quick and solid starts whom many would not have projected. Below is a breakdown of some of the 5A Sleepers who are playing at a high level.

Sunrise Mountain

Sunrise Mountain might be one of the biggest surprises this year with a lot of the credit being due to their solid coaching and the emergence of Colin Carey.

Carey is sneaky athletic and can score the basketball from all three levels despite only being a sophomore. He is a more than capable shooter from deep. Further, he can put the ball on the floor and hit the mid-range jumper. He also moves well without the basketball and gets the opportunity to score around the rim.

In addition to Carey, Tanner Mayer has done a good job of being productive in the paint and on the glass. Despite being an undersized big, he has been successful due to his crafty style of play and soft touch around the rim.

The team also has knockdown shooters in Brandon Taylor and Jake Mattson.


Independence has had a couple of pieces in the past which has allowed them to be competitive. However, the group this year looks more than just competitive. They have raced to a 8-2 start and look poised to make some noise.

While their strength of schedule has not been outstanding, the team is winning games that they should win and playing solid basketball. We will learn a lot about the group as they start region play with the likes of Willow Canyon, who is much tougher than their record indicates, and Millennium, who is one of the top teams in 5A.

With that said, what we do know is that Emad Elniel can flat out play. He is averaging 21 points per game and 10 rebounds per game during this solid stretch for the team. He is a lengthy wing who can score the basketball from all three levels.

In addition to Elniel, the team has a balanced scoring attack with multiple others who can make plays. A couple of those prospects to watch are Diego Chavez-Martinez, Thomas Connor, and Jaydon Casimir.


Casteel is another team on this list who made the move up from a lower level. They are 8-3 and have played well early in the season. In fact, they collected a win last night against Cienega. 

The group is fundamentally sound and can shoot the basketball at a high level. Further, they execute the Princeton offense extremely well and make the basketball move side to side at a high level.

Defensively, they do a good job of switching and keeping the basketball in front. In addition to being well coached and executing at a high level, Casteel has next level talent in the program as well.

Chris York is one of the top shooters in 5A. Further, he is capable of putting the basketball on the floor and creating as well. Moreover, Austin Ponsness is crafty and smart. He is another capable shooter who can create off of the dribble and get on the glass.

Cooper Christiansen is paramount to the team’s success as well due to his ability to create for others and get the basketball up the floor in a hurry. This team has the potential to make a lot of noise in the 5A world.

Cactus Shadows

This truly is not a sleeper for those who have followed the squad. What isn’t there to like about this team? They play with high basketball IQs, share the rock, and they can all shoot the basketball at a high level. 

Cactus Shadows appears on this list because they moved up from 4A into the 5A world. Not only are the unphased by the move, they are looking like they could earn a first round bye. With that said, they have a solid region that will test them night in and night out. It will be intriguing to see if they are able to keep up their strong play on a nightly basis against one of the top regions in the state.

Shadows is led by multiple prospects as they can all contribute in a multitude of ways. With that said, Jake Benci is their primary scorer. In addition, CJ Nnorom is a capable playmaker who can shoot it from deep. He makes his teammates better and is a huge part of the success of the group. 


Photo Credit: Arianna Grainey