Sunrise Mountain junior Colin Carey

Sunrise Mountain junior Colin Carey dribbles at the Southwest All-American Basketball Camp in Phoenix. 

Over 100 high school basketball players crowded into the PHHacility, a Phoenix-based basketball complex, for the third annual Southwest All-American Basketball Camp from July 23 through July 24 with a chance to show off their skills in front of over 40 confirmed college basketball coaches and scouts.

The event served as a chance for many of the best players in Arizona, and even a few players from nearby states, to come together in one event to try to woo college teams for their individual recruitment. With a series of drills, games made up of even-level teams and several all-star games selected by the tournament scouts, the players had plenty of chances to impress. And, several players left the event invigorated by college offers or expanded scouting and interest.

Many of the top performers believe club basketball tournaments in the high school off seasons are the best chances to have the most eyes on them. However, the club teams in the area often mesh most of the top-level players on the same teams, and leave everyone else without the same opportunities to get recruited. Millennium senior Michael Batchelor said an event like this allows every player to be on equal terms, regardless of reputation.

“There’s a lot of kids that go under the radar — and I think I’m one of them — that you don’t necessarily see until they all get out here and go at it,” he said.

The prospect of the event was admittedly nerve-wracking for some, including Desert Ridge senior Caleb Alonso, who recalls looking at recruiting highlight videos of several of the competitors in the days before the showcase started. He was a bit worried at first about how he might fit in skill-wise.

But, with the scoreboard reading 0-0 and nobody receiving extra hype or recognition until the conclusion of a game, the players who found success — Alonso was recognized as a Top-20 All-Star — felt a boost in confidence.

“It’s a little intimidating, looking at a lot of these guys on YouTube, but when you’re on the court, they’re just like everyone else, and none of that matters. You’re just people playing basketball,” Alonso said.

Each team was led by familiar coaches. Almost all of them coach clubs, high school teams or both, and it behooves them to raise the standard for local basketball.

As former Desert Vista and current Valley Christian senior Jackson Risi put it, the encouragement he noticed from all the adults in attendance was inspiring. They all wish the best for Arizona players.

“All the coaches want you to get better, so that when you’re playing here, and hopefully in college, you’re representing well,” he said.

The event, unlike many tournaments, did not have a playoff bracket, or a decided winning team to hoist a trophy after the final buzzer. However, competitiveness and love of the game was what drew most of the players to the Southwest Basketball Camp in the first place.

Thus, each game was fierce, and the players seemingly fought in the same manner they would with real stakes or season standings on the line. Winning, Moon Valley senior Trent Hudgens added, could not hurt in individual recruitment, as well.

“If you show out and you lose, it really doesn’t mean anything. If you do good and then you win, that just shows you can be great as a part of a team, and that looks extra good,” he said.

However, with the scores of games not necessarily mattering for anything other than pride, and the realistic chance that the players that performed the best could obtain scholarships and college offers, there were plenty of players looking for their own stats. They felt each basket or assist led them closer to the chance to play in a collegiate gym.

While still trying to play a smart game within the new coach’s scheme, those who focused on more than just scoring and making flashy plays were deemed impressive.

“Everybody wants to show off a little bit. But that gives you a chance to prove yourself if someone is trying to go at you, if you can defend them and still play your game,” Sunrise Mountain junior Colin Carey said.

Mountain Pointe senior TJ Tigler also added that each team loaded with talent and working to get to the next level was humbling in a positive way. It forced each player to find their role on the court, as they will have to do to be successful beyond the prep level.

“A lot of people here are a star on their high school or club team. But, so is everyone else on these teams, so if you want to win you have to slow down and kind of just do what you can when the ball comes to you and focus on making the right play.

Whether they ended the event’s two days with or without scholarships, scouting interest or even a nodding recognition from college coaches, players at the Southwest All-American Camp left with renewed passion for the game, not to mention several hours of training on skills and technique.

Each player learned valuable lessons and confidence that they can take into their high school and club seasons moving forward.

“It’s great every time to see how much good talent there is here in Arizona,” Batchelor said. “And, if you can keep up, that’s even more fun and gives you something to go off.”