Welcome to the unofficial start of the high school basketball season, with the year’s Thanksgiving week preseason tournaments kicking things off.
Here on the northwest side of town, there’s a litany of talent on the hardwood, with Catalina Foothills returning much of its playoff squad from a year ago.
There’s also the glut of talent at Mountain View, where Corey Duck’s squad will look to make the playoffs for the third-straight season.
It will be interesting to see if first-year Marana coach Sean Roebuck can continue last year’s late-season run that Dr. Kevin Corner put together, getting the Tigers to the play-in game in 5A for the first time in more than a decade.
Fellow first-year coaches Kevin Apodaca of Canyon del Oro and Le’Sean Marks of Ironwood Ridge are tasked with trying to resurrect their programs this season.
Each squad has the talent to do so, but it will depend on whether their teams receive the lucky bounces enabling yearly success at the high school level.
Without further ado, here are the five players that stand out the most in the boys game in northwest Tucson:
5. Elijah Elmer (Mountain View senior center)
Elmer is a beast in the paint, measuring in at 6 feet 5 inches tall, and coming off a junior season averaging 6.9 points and 5.2 rebounds per game for the Lions. Elmer should slide into the center position well for coach Corey Duck’s squad this year, after pulling down 8 or more rebounds in five different games last season. His combination of height and speed should provide the Lions with an excellent inside threat to counter the deep shooting skills of teammates Julian Molina and Cameron Cotton, giving the Lions the type of balance playoff teams are made of.
4. Lucas Elliott (senior center, Pusch Ridge Christian Academy)
Elliott has to be one of the tallest players in the region, measuring in at a whopping 6 feet 10 inches for the Lions. The lofty senior is coming off a year where he averaged 9.8 points and 9.2 rebounds per game for Pusch Ridge, giving coach Erik Michaud unmatched size and talent in the paint this season. Elliott, who is the nephew of former University of Arizona legend Sean Elliott, should receive a lot of attention from major college programs this year, given the success he’s had with the Lions to-date. Expect the senior to average a double-double this year, given his incredible size, speed and strength in the paint for the Lions. It should be a fun year to keep tabs on Michaud’s program, given the glut of talent that’s at his disposal.
3. Jared Clark (senior guard, Pusch Ridge Christian Academy)
Clark was the leading scorer on last year’s Lions squad, averaging 15.9 points per game in 24 contests for a team that went 10-16 in 3A last year. He should do more of the same this season, with 6-foot-10-inch center Lucas Elliot returning to help shepherd the Lions’ offense into a make-or-break year. Expect Clark to push his yearlong stats closer to 20 points per game this season, with the Lions threatening for a playoff spot in the 3A tournament this year.
2. Carson James (Senior guard, Catalina Foothills)
James played a major role in Doug D’Amore’s squad yearlong success at Catalina Foothills, guiding the Falcons to the semifinals of the 4A playoffs. The 6’2 guard scored 19 points in the team’s season-ending loss to the Salpointe Catholic Lancers in last year’s semis, nailing a clutch three-pointer to send the game to a second overtime period. James should be counted on even more this year, with last year’s leading scorer, Sam Beskind, now playing for the Stanford Cardinal of the Pac-12. Expect the senior to pick up where he left off a year ago, guiding the Falcons to new heights this season.
1. Julian Molina (Senior guard, Mountain View High School)
Molina is the best pure scorer in the city, coming off a junior campaign where he averaged a team-high 18.2 points per game. Molina was incredibly consistent, scoring 20 or more points in 12 of his 26 starts as a junior, including 27 points in the team’s games against Shadow Ridge and CDO, respectively. Expect Molina to pick up where he left off this year, with a deadly touch from deep and a vertical leap that allows him to drive to the rack and throw down dunks that give opponents nightmares. Don’t be surprised if Molina finds a way to average more than 20 points per game this year, given the Lions’ lack of experience in the backcourt this year, with Drew Cotton’s graduation. Molina and Drew’s younger brother, Cameron, should do enough to carry Duck’s team forward in a brutally tough 5A Sonoran region this season.
Editor’s Note: Pick up next week’s issue to see the top-five girls basketball players in northwest Tucson.