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March 29, 2009

Movin up the national rankings

Rivals.com and other national recruiting network's player rankings have evolved to becoming so vital in a player's college recruitment and national recognition. While the state of Arizona has not been nearly as popular as some other states in these lists, we are no complete stranger to them neither.

The class of 2007 saw our highest ranked player in history as 6-foot-3, 195-pound point guard Jerryd Bayless (St. Mary's HS/Arizona/Portland Trail Blazers) clocked in as the #13 ranked player in the nation. Thunderbird High School's 6-foot-6, 200-pound shooting guard Zane Johnson also put himself on the elite list of ball players, as he finished his high school career as the #143 ranked prospect in the nation. Johnson joined his buddy Bayless in Tucson, as now is currently the starting shooting guard for the Wildcats - since Jerryd left for the NBA draft after his freshman season.

While no Arizona native finished in the Rivals.com list of top 150 players in the country, two California transfers did. 6-foot-4, 200-pound guard Demetrius Walker, who transferred to St. Mary's High School from JSerra HS (San Juan Capistrano, CA) is ranked #112 in the nation. Walker had a change of heart in his NCAA reservations, as he de-committed from USC to sign at ASU. He will likely be a scoring replacement next year for ASU's James Harden, considering he bolts out early for the NBA.

The other before-mentioned California transfer came as 6-foot-9, 230-pound center Greg Smith, a transfer from Edison HS (Fresno, CA) to Westwind Academy Prep (Phoenix, Arizona). Smith is ranked as the #87 prospect in the country. It is noted that Smith transferred to improve his academics, while Walker transferred after his mother accepted a job in the Phoenix area.

While Walker's move to Phoenix brought a new college star on the horizon in the valley of the sun, prior to Smith's move he was committed to the University of Arizona. Smith withdrew his commitment and signed a letter of intent to the Fresno State Bulldogs.

Another nationally ranked player with Arizona ties came in Brewster Academy Prep's (Wolfeboro, NH) 6-foot-7, 210-pound guard/wing Givon Crump, who played for Anthony Ray's former Arizona Magic AAU/club program for the last two spring and summer's of his high school career. Crump is currently ranked as the #142 player in the country, and has signed at Baylor.

Crump's decision to leave his hometown DC Assault AAU/club program for an AAU program in the valley of the sun, came as his father, Gino Crump, made the move from Washington DC to Glendale, Arizona. Furthermore, Crump participated in numerous local events, even while attending school 3,000 miles away.

The only true-Arizona native who saw any action in these lists in the 2009 class was 6-foot-9, 200-pound forward Colin Borchert (Mountain Ridge HS), who was removed from the list he had consistently been apart of when the rankings were re-evaluated in the spring of last year. Borchert is still considered a three-star prospect by Rivals and has numerous high major offers on the table, considering he academically.

While the class of 2008 failed to sneak any players in the national ranks, we did see a number of our student-athletes move on to high-major schools. Players such as Brendon Lavender (Mountain View HS/Arizona), Darnell Shumpert (Santa Rita HS/Arizona), Nick Witherill (Highland HS/Washington State), Taylor Rohde (Pinnacle HS/ASU), Aaron Fuller (Mesa HS/Iowa), and Ryan Evans (Hamilton HS/Wisconsin), among other players, signed with division-I schools.

The class of 2010 is currently represented very well as Arizona is responsible for three spots in the national rankings.

North High School's 6-foot-5, 205-pound guard/wing Daniel Bejarano (Texas commit) headlines the elite class, as the #16 player in the nation, giving Bayless a run for his money as the all-time highest ranked Arizona native.

Rounding out that list of three is Sunnyslope High School's and ArizonaPreps.com's Player of the Year, 6-foot-4, 180-pound shooting guard Royce Woolridge (Kansas commit) and Santa Rita High School's 6-foot, 170-pound point guard Terrell Stoglin. Woolridge is ranked at #88, and Stoglin comes in at #114. Stoglin is currently the only one from that list who has yet to make his mind up on a college, though he has his fair share of high major offers on the table.

A few other players in the 2010 class who could possibly still sneak into the national rankings before the end of the evaluation period this summer includes Arizona State commit, 6-foot-3, 180-pound guard Corey Hawkins (Estrella Foothills HS) and 6-foot-6, 200-pound wing George Matthews (St. Mary's HS).

While the class of 2010 has given the state a little more spice in the national rankings, it doesn't seem as if we will be letting our foot off the gas peddle any time soon, as the class of 2011 should be well represented.

Three players automatically come to mind in Highland High School's backcourt duo in 6-foot-3, 175-pound point guard Matt Carlino (Indiana commit) and 6-foot-3, 175-pound combo guard Nick Johnson, as well as 6-foot, 165-pound Mountain Pointe High School's point guard Jahii Carson. While Carlino has already made up his mind to attend the University of Indiana to continue his basketball career at the next level, Johnson and Carson are enjoying the national attention, as they are both welcoming a number of high major offers.

Carson has been offered by UNLV, California, UCONN, Arizona, Oregon, and Oregon State already, while Johnson has generated offers from Arizona State, Oregon State, Virginia Tech, Gonzaga and Pepperdine.

All three of these dynamic players are no-brainers for the national rankings when they are revised during the spring of this year.

A few other names that might pop up in the national rankings are players such as Central High School's 6-foot-4, 180-pound guard Robert Selmon and Shadow Mountain High School's 6-foot-2, 170-pound point guard DeMarco Martyre. Both have the skill-set, but will need the big stage to help boost them into the limelight - along with Carlino, Johnson, and Carson.

Slowly, but surely, Arizona is beginning to get national recognition and can now be considered as the "George Jefferson" of high school basketball, as we're "Movin' On Up."

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