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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Lavender unphased by rankings

    Arizona recruit Brendon Lavender drives down the lane in a game that his Mesa Mountain View squad lost 54-47 to Tucson High in McKale Center Monday night. Lavender is not ranked in the Rivals.coms top 150 best players but feels that he can still make an impact with the Wildcats next season.
    Arizona recruit Brendon Lavender drives down the lane in a game that his Mesa Mountain View squad lost 54-47 to Tucson High in McKale Center Monday night. Lavender is not ranked in the Rivals.com’s top 150 best players but feels that he can still make an impact with the Wildcats next season.

    At first glance, Brendon Lavender is the afterthought in the Wildcats’ class of 2008 recruits, a quartet ranked No. 7 nationally by Rivals.com and Scout.com.

    There’s a superstar point guard in Brandon Jennings (ranked No. 8 by Rivals, five stars), a beast of a forward in Emmanuel Negedu (No. 31, four stars) a skilled center in Jeff Withey (No. 39, four stars) and then Lavender, the three-star instate kid not even ranked among Rivals.com’s 150 best players.

    But Lavender sees himself as the unheralded member of the class.

    “”People are (saying), I’m not ranked, so I guess I’m the weak link of the whole group,”” Lavender said. “”But to me that’s not even true.””

    Anybody who saw him Monday in McKale Center might agree with the rankings, as Lavender hardly impressed, scoring 17 points on 4-for-12 shooting, with all but one of his attempts coming from behind the arc against a Tucson High defense designed to stop him.

    “”You guys didn’t see Brendon tonight,”” Mountain View head coach Gary Ernst said after the game. “”Last game he played he had a 39-point game. I think just maybe (there was) a little bit of pressure being here, seeing the coaches and everyone expecting a lot from him.

    “”Brendon’s a great kid, and they’ll love him down here because he is really a quality kid, and one of the reasons he didn’t play as well tonight is he cares so much.””

    Lavender believes he’s not ranked because many of the people who come up with the rankings do not come out to see him playing Arizona so much, so he doesn’t get as many looks as, say, California players.

    To him, the Wildcats are getting a better player than the national rankings would indicate.

    “”Exactly, a lot of people go off the rankings, and they’re like, ‘Ah, man,'”” Lavender said. “”And so when they don’t see my ranking, they’re like, ‘Hmm, he might just be one of the kids to sit down. ‘ To me, I’m like, ‘I’m in a starting position for sure.'””

    Another reason for Lavender’s low ranking is that he had been the third option on his high school team the past two years, while Harper Kamp (now at California) and Kendall Wallace (now at Nevada-Las Vegas) played leading roles. Of course, with Lavender as the third option, Mesa Mountain View won two straight state titles.

    Now, Lavender is the star of a young Mesa Mountain View team.

    “”I’ve been waiting to do this for a long time, so I’ve been ready for it,”” Lavender said. “”It’s not like a new change to me, but it’s just good to be let out and do what I’ve got to do.””

    Added Ernst: “”He didn’t have any pressure on him the last two years, none at all. This year’s there’s definitely pressure on him to do some things.””

    When Lavender played as the third wheel to Kamp and Wallace, he was known for his passing.

    “”But now everybody’s kind of shocked,”” Lavender said. “”They’re like, ‘Oh, he can do other stuff, too,’ so I think I can shoot good, I can get to the hoop really easy. I do all-around stuff.””

    Lavender said he’s been working hard with his team to be the best influence and leader he can be as the Toros attempt to win a fourth straight Arizona state basketball championship, although Mountain View (15-6) has experienced some struggles of late losing four of five, something Lavender said has been real tough due to the program’s history of winning.

    Individually, Ernst said the future Wildcat expected to see time as a combo guard at the next level needs to work on his ball handling and on becoming a more consistent defensive player, but he expects Lavender to be successful as a spot-up shooter when he arrives in Tucson.

    Lavender said he enjoyed playing his high school game at Arizona, the school he grew up rooting for, but that it was tough to put on a show because of all the pressure involved with his homecoming.

    After being the main attraction in McKale on Monday, he expects to exceed his ranking when he returns for real to his dream school under the radar.

    “”I’ve always loved U of A and always been watching them and all the players that went to the NBA,”” Lavender said. “”It’s a dream come true to play here, but I just want to win another championship (at Arizona) and I’m just upset right now, real upset that (the Wildcats) keep on losing, but we’ll be all right. We’ll be all right. Everything will be all right.

    “”I can’t wait to play this year following up.””

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