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May 31, 2008

The Magic gains national attention

With the announcement this week by Anthony Ray that the Arizona Magic club program will be dissolving, let's take a look at how the Magic program changed the basketball culture in Arizona and aided in helping many of the state's top talent gain maximum exposure to college recruiting.

Arizona Magic is developed

In the spring of 2003 Anthony Ray formed the Arizona Magic organization with a group of very young top high school prospects in the state. Trevor Browne HS assistant coach David Grace helped Ray to organize the premier young travel team in the state at the time. Grace had coached previous teams for Ray while the two had organized the Arizona Pump N' Run team together, but Grace's ability to get high school kids to play hard and Ray's ability to promote student-athletes to college coaches helped to bring tremendous success to the Magic in their first year of operation.

The Magic were comprised of a very young team of sophomores in their first year and one junior. Led by the play of one junior, Ty Morrison and sophomores Lawrence Hill (Stanford), Joey Shaw (Nevada via Indiana transfer), Daren Jordan (Oral Roberts), Ray Murdock (San Diego) and Kaleo Kina (Navy), the Magic would finish among the final four teams in their first event of the spring, the Las Vegas Easter Classic held in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The young Magic continue to make noise

In the summer of 2003, the young group of student-athletes on the Magic continued to roll. After winning local tournaments in the spring, the Magic rolled through the month of July, winning numerous games on the AAU travel circuit. After winning each of their games at the Full Court Press All-West Camp in July and going undefeated against such top West Coast travel teams as The H-Squad (CA), the Compton Magic (CA) and Slam N' Jam (CA), the Magic, coached by David Grace and Anthony Ray rolled into the 2003 Adidas Big Time tournament held in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Magic win Open Division @ Big Time

Already having won their last fourteen AAU games in a row at the time, a young Magic team of rising juniors, without the services of Ty Morrison (injured foot), were given the opportunity to play in the Open Division in the Adidas Big Time tournament. Only two Arizona AAU teams before them had ever been given the opportunity to participate in the top division of the Big Time tournament. The Arizona Heat had been invited to play in the divison in 2001, and another newly formed travelling team in 2002 by the name of Do Right, had been given the opportunity to play in the division in the summer of 2002. Both Do Right and the Heat had gone 0-3 in consecutive years, and no AAU team from the state of Arizona had ever even won a game in the prestigious Open Division, that is until the summer of 2003.

Led by a high level of team play and hard work on both ends of the floor, the Magic steamrolled through their pool in the Open Division, winning their pool after big wins over Beach Ball Select (SC) and the Donyell Marshall All-Stars (NY). The Magic's young band of high risers and team players brought tremendous respect to the state of Arizona's high school basketball ranks once again, setting up a huge spring and summer for 2004.

Anthony Ray signs contract with Reebok

With the tremendous success of a young Magic team in 2003, and with everyone of the Magic's top players intact once again for 2004, the Magic organization was hot nationally. Already having received a Top 20 pre-season AAU team ranking nationally by national basketball scout Jeff Goodman, the Magic were ready for big things in the spring and summer of 2004.

In the fall of 2003, Anthony Ray signed Arizona's first ever contract with Reebok International and joined Sonny Vaccaro and his assistant Chris Rivers as a Reebok sponsored AAU program. The signing by Ray with Reebok gave the state of Arizona two shoe sponsored AAU teams in the Magic and the Arizona Stars. While Ray had received athletic apparrell annually for his teams before from Vaccaro and Rivers while the two worked for Adidas, Ray was not officially under contract until the deal was signed with Reebok in October of 2003.

ABCD Camp opened to Arizona

For years the state of Arizona had made great strides in creating exposure opportunities for Arizona's top boys high school basketball players with the previous success of the Stars and the Heat, and now the current success of the Cagers and the Magic. But only one person in the state of Arizona had the ability to send top Arizona high school peformers to an all-american shoe camp, Art Dye of the Arizona Stars.

The ABCD Camp was not an option for Arizona's youth in the late 1990's
While there were two camps held annually for the top 200 players in America, the Nike All-American Camp and the Reebok ABCD Camp, Arizona's top performers were only afforded the opportunity to attend the Nike All-American Camp. Since Art Dye had a long term shoe contract with Nike, he was able to make selections annually of the state's top performers, and provide names to Nike's George Raveling for invitations to the camp each year. While many of the state's top performers each year desired to attend one of the annual camps, Art Dye was the only individual in the state of Arizona with the ability to nominate players for the Nike Camp.

Since Vaccaro and Rivers had worked for Adidas until the fall of 2003, the ABCD Camp had always been operated under the Adidas name. Since no one officially held an Adidas contract in the state of Arizona, Arizona was not permitted to have players selected for the prestigious ABCD Camp. While Ray's teams had worn Adidas over the years, and Elliott Glabman's Arizona Heat teams had worn Adidas apparell over the years, neither of them actually had an official contract with the shoe company, therefore making it impossible to get Arizona's top student-athletes an invitation to the camp. Because of this lack of influence over the shoe companies, many deserving top performers in the state of Arizona over the years were not given the opportunity to attend an all-amercian camp, a great honor for the top performers across America.

Such top Arizona standouts as Nick Dewitz (Oregon State), Matt Haryasz (Stanford), Bryson Krueger (Arizona State), Lee Cummard (BYU) and Antonio Griffin (Florida State) all finished their high school careers having not attended an all-american camp.

With Vaccaro and Rivers signing a new deal with Reebok in the fall of 2003 and the signing of the Reebok contract by Ray in the same timeframe, Arizona now had an opportunity for the state's top performers to attend the annual ABCD Camp.

In the summer of 2004, then 6-7 senior Ty Morrison of Trevor Browne HS attended the ABCD All-American Camp through the Magic organization, an opportunity that very few top Arizona student-athletes before him had earned. Brett Collins (Saint Mary's College), Tyler McGinn (Cal-Poly SLO), and John Shumate (Princeton) were the only others to attend the camp from the state since the early 1990's.

Originally the ABCD All-American Camp had been under the Nike umbrella, while Vaccaro worked for Nike, but after Vaccaro left Nike and signed with Adidas in the late 1990's, no top Arizona high school student-athlete was given the opportunity to attend the camp, until now.

Many of Arizona's best attend shoe camps

The summer of 2004 marked the beginning of a new era in Arizona high school basketball, as the highest number of Arizona top high school boy's basketball student-athletes were given an opportunity to travel to Indiana and New Jersey for the annual Nike and ABCD All-American camps. With Jerryd Bayless and Christian Polk attending the Nike All-American Camp in Indianapolis, Indiana, in July, Lawrence Hill, Joey Shaw and Daren Jordan each were invited to attend the ABCD All-American Camp in Teaneck, New Jersey, at the same time.

Not since Brian Fair (South Mountain HS), Carlos Artis (Washington HS) and Jimmy Kolyszko (Scottsdale Saguaro HS) all attended the Nike ABCD Camp in the summer of 1990 at the same time, had the state of Arizona had such good representation in the all-american camps.

Arizona Magic finish among Elite Eight @ Big Time

After a very good spring in which the Magic faired well in several tournaments, inclduing winning their pool and advancing to the Sweet Sixteen teams in the Bob Gibbon's Tournament of Champions in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, something no Arizona AAU team has ever done before, the Magic rolled into the 2004 Reebok Big Time tournament primed and ready to capitalize on the previous year's team success.

The Magic did not disappoint as they again won their pool in the Open Divison, this time going undefeated (3-0), and then winning their next five games in the tournament's playoff round to advance to the tournament's elite eight teams.

While the Magic would eventually lose in the tournament's quarterfinals against Team Breakdown (FL), the Magic would finish among the tournament's final eight teams out of 338 teams in the tournament, a tremendous feat for an Arizona AAU team. No other Arizona AAU team had put together such a successful run, since Mike Bibby (NBA) and the Arizona Stars had done it in the mid 1990's.

The Magic knocked off many highly rated travelling teams from across America in their run to the tournament's final eight teams, once again, bringing a tremendous amount of respect nationally to the state of Arizona's high school basketball ranks.

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