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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Hoops’ 2011 targets leading Highland’s resurgence

    MESA – For the past three years Mesa Mountain View has ruled Arizona high school basketball.

    Just ask UA guard Jerryd Bayless, who lost to the Toros in two of those state championships games.

    But a new king could be on the horizon in Gilbert Highland, a team that features a pair of freshmen the Wildcats are targeting in the class of 2011, guards Matt Carlino and Nick Johnson.

    Highland, No. 1 in the Arizona Republic‘s 5A-I poll, won all four of its game at the inaugural Arizona Basketball Challenge Wednesday through Saturday in Mountain View’s gym, highlighted by the Hawks’ 64-61 win over the No. 2 Toros on Thursday.

    “”This is just a great program, Mountain View,”” said Mark Carlino, Matt’s dad and Highland’s head coach. “”Having an opportunity just to come in and play them in their place is just a great opportunity for a young up-and-coming program like ours.

    “”Anytime you get a chance to play Mountain View you’re kind of testing yourself against the standard. To play well and to actually win is just a great thing for us.””

    The younger Carlino scored 10 points and dished out four assists while Johnson chipped in eight points in 15 minutes. Afterward both spoke glowingly of the Mountain View program, with Carlino saying the Toros are the best team in the state and Johnson calling them a “”dynasty basically.””

    For the event, Carlino averaged 13.5 points and 4.3 assists per game to earn a spot on the All-Tournament Team, while Johnson added 8.3 ppg.

    Carlino, a point guard with an uncanny feel for the game for such a young player, was offered a scholarship to Arizona as a seventh grader, while Johnson, an athletic slasher, is a Wildcat target with a scholarship offer from ASU in hand already.

    UA interim head coach Kevin O’Neill watched the game from behind the baseline, taking a look at the Highland freshmen as well as Toros guard Brendon Lavender, a UA signee in the class of 2008.

    “”It’s great to see him here, it’s always fun. I think the kids always get a little more hyped up when they see a college coach in the building,”” said Mark Carlino, who experienced that as a Phoenix St. Mary’s assistant when UA head coach Lute Olson and assistant coach Josh Pastner would visit Bayless. “”When they’re in the building it’s a different kind of feeling, so it’s great.””

    During his minutes, Johnson mainly took the defensive assignment on Lavender, who often guarded Carlino.

    Lavender did not have his best game against Highland, scoring 24 points but missing 17 of 24 shots and four of 10 free throws. He also added five rebounds and four assists.

    For leading the Toros to wins in their other three games, Lavender earned tournament Outstanding Player honors, averaging 26.3 ppg and 5.8 apg while never scoring lower than the 24 against Highland.

    “”He’s a great player,”” Matt Carlino said. “”I respect his game a lot. He’s more physical, he’s a Pac-10 player.””

    After going into Lavender’s gym and winning a game against the future Wildcat, Carlino could see his young team gaining confidence and learning how to win together, a thought his dad echoed.

    “”So far in this tournament we’ve taken a couple of positive steps,”” coach Carlino said after the Mountain View game. “”Hopefully by the end of the year we’re in a place where we’ve got a shot to play for something. We’re a young team, and I think the one thing nice about us is we’ve got a lot of room to grow.””

    UA signee Withey doesn’t get much help, encounters first ASU battle

    San Diego Horizon center Jeff Withey, an Arizona class of 2008 signee, showed he’s a 7-footer with a great feel for the game at the tournament.

    But unfortunately for him, his teammates failed to hit many of the open jumpers Withey created, leading the Panthers to a 1-3 record in the event.

    Horizon’s offense consisted of dumping the ball down to Withey, who would either attack a defender as much as a foot smaller than him or kick it out for open looks. On defense he guarded the basket as much as possible, not a bad strategy for a player an opponent called the biggest human he’s ever seen.

    Withey also made the All-Tournament team after going for 19.3 ppg, 8.5 rebounds per game and 3.3 blocks per game while hitting 64 percent of his shots (32-for-50).

    His most interesting duel came Friday against Phoenix Pinnacle and ASU class of 2008 signee Taylor Rohde, a sweet-shooting 6-foot-8 forward. Although the players did not guard each other much likely in an effort to stay out of foul trouble, Withey said he could sense the rivalry already.

    Rohde played well, scoring 25 points and grabbing seven rebounds, but Withey enjoyed a better all-around game, putting up 24 points, 11 rebounds, five assists and six blocks, with at least two of them coming when the future Sun Devil challenged him.

    “”He’s a great player,”” Withey said of Rohde. “”He can shoot the ball really well, a little rivalry already. It was fun, it was fun.””

    2010 prospect Bejarano can’t find the basket in quartet of losses

    Phoenix North forward Daniel Bejarano, a UA target in the class of 2010, struggled badly in his school’s four losses in the tournament.

    Bejarano, the Metro Region Player of the Year last year as a freshman, averaged 19.3 ppg and 6.0 rpg but hit just 29 of 96 shots from the field (30.2 percent) and nine of 32 from 3-point range (28.1 percent).

    Often the most athletically gifted player on the floor, Bejarano frequently chose to shoot jumpers instead of taking the ball to the hole, with miserable results. He missed 23 shots in his first game, 16 in the second, 12 in his third and 16 again in the fourth for North, ranked No. 4 in 5A-II.

    Bejarano said he “”noticed a little bit”” that O’Neill stuck around to watch his 5-for-17 performance Thursday in a game that followed the Highland-Mountain View showdown before the UA coach left at halftime.

    Click here for more on the Wildcats’ recruiting targets from the Arizona Basketball Challenge.

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