Top Basketball Talent in West?

Posted: April 2, 2017 in AVC Men's Basketball, AVC Men's BB 2016-17
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Gonzaga verses North Carolina in NCAA championship(Gonzaga beat South Carolina(77-73).  Oregon nearly knocked out North Carolina(77-76) in final Four with Coach Dana Altman who played JUCO ball and coached three JUCO teams.  How can that be?  The West was supposed to be weak

imageAntelope Valley College’s Lawrence White was being recruited by Gonzaga in his sophomore year at AVC and chose D-1 UC Davis who he led to their first NCAA national tournament. 

Here are some interesting thoughts from the Wall Street Journal on the West’s resurgent strength..

 


Oregon, Gonzaga Lead a West Coast Revival

The rise of prep-school powerhouses in the West is helping college teams there recruit more top talent

Dillon Brooks left his home in Canada to play for a Nevada prop school, opening his eyes to West Coast schools like Oregon. He is now the Ducks’ leading scorer.

Dillon Brooks left his home in Canada to play for a Nevada prop school, opening his eyes to West Coast schools like Oregon. He is now the Ducks’ leading scorer. Photo: Charlie Riedel/Associated Press By Jared Diamond The Wall Street Journal.

Glendale, Ariz.

On the surface, it doesn’t appear to make much sense that Dillon Brooks plays at Oregon. Growing up in Mississauga, Ontario, more than 2,000 miles away from the Ducks’ campus, he says he couldn’t even find Oregon on a map.

“I never knew what the Oregon Ducks were,” said Brooks, the Ducks’ leading scorer.

The fact that someone with Brooks’s abilities and background wound up in the Pacific Northwest exemplifies a growing trend that could permanently reshape the college basketball landscape. It illustrates why this year, for the first time in history, two schools located in the Pacific time zone will participate in the Final Four, with Gonzaga joining Oregon here in the desert.

In high school, Brooks left Canada for Findlay Prep, an elite program in Henderson, Nev., that has produced more than two dozen Division I prospects since its founding in 2006. Findlay’s success has led to the creation of more basketball-focused prep schools—long a staple on the East Coast—in the West, opening up a wealth of high-end talent to colleges in that part of the country.

“Geographically, it’s a huge advantage,” said Mike Peck, Findlay’s former head coach and currently the associate head coach at UT San Antonio. “If you can get on a 45-minute flight and see a kid and do it for two or three weeks in a row, that kid all of a sudden says, ‘Wow, I’m really important to them.’”

Before Findlay and its counterparts, top West Coast prospects looking for a more intensive high-school basketball experience had little choice but to head East to place like Virginia’s Oak Hill or Florida’s Montverde.

Some of those West Coast exiles return closer to home for college, but many are lured by the Eastern schools that recruit them intensively. Gonzaga star Nigel Williams-Goss, a Findlay product who hails from Oregon, said Findlay “was a big outlet” for West Coast kids to go to a place like that without “having to travel so far.”

And it isn’t just locals choosing to stay out West for college. DeAndre Ayton, the 7-foot Bahamian considered the nation’s top recruit in this year’s class, committed to Arizona after attending Phoenix’s Hillcrest Prep, another new basketball powerhouse. Josh Gershon, a Los Angeles-based national recruiting analyst for Scout.com, doesn’t think Ayton was particularly serious about Arizona until he arrived at Hillcrest and “realized he didn’t want to leave.”

“You see different schools you might not normally see,” said Rashad Vaughn, a Milwaukee Bucks guard who left his high school in Minnesota for Findlay before attending UNLV. “Me being out there made those West Coast schools stand out.”

Gonzaga coach Mark Few said he’s hesitant to read too much into this year’s Final Four as a sign that West Coast college basketball is now going to consistently rival the sport back East.

Yet three of Oregon’s top four scorers went to high school in Nevada (Brooks) or California (Tyler Dorsey and Jordan Bell). Three of Gonzaga’s top five scorers are from Nevada or further west, including Williams-Goss and Jordan Mathews.

Some coaches believe the rise of the West Coast prep school will ultimately help basketball across the entire region. Southern Utah head coach Todd Simon, another former Findlay coach, said because of places like Findlay, recruiters are coming to Nevada and checking out other local schools that might not previously have been on their radar.

Often, he says, they like what they see.

“The prep school has shifted that spotlight that was always focused on the East Coast to, ‘Hey, what else is there?’” Simon said. “If I am there to see a Findlay kid, I’ll make two other stops. Otherwise, those trips don’t happen.”

Write to Jared Diamond at jared.diamond@wsj.com

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