After a year of hardly seeing his father following a job transfer to Phoenix, Mitchell Lightfoot solved the problem: The former Ironwood Ridge standout and his family moved to Gilbert.
“It was unfair to him,” Lightfoot said. “So we thought we’d move up there so he wouldn’t have to make that drive.”
The move means Tucson loses one of its best high school basketball players, though Lightfoot could gain personally at home and on the court.
The 6-foot-8-inch forward, who has been playing with the Arizona Power Black’s U16 elite team, said he has enrolled at Gilbert Christian High School and looks forward to facing Phoenix prospects.
“The (Phoenix) competition is way up there,” he said. “It’s something I had to do, but I’ll also get better as a player.”
As a sophomore last season, Lightfoot was named a third-team all-star by the Star. He said he already has scholarship offers from ASU, Creighton, New Mexico, UNLV, TCU and Portland, and that UA has been watching him.
A year ago, incoming UA freshman Stanley Johnson pulled double duty in Las Vegas, playing for both Mater Dei’s entry in the Fab 48 (the “Big Red” team) and for the Oakland Soldiers in the Las Vegas Classic.
“It’s pretty tiring,” Johnson said then.
His former Mater Dei (Calif.) teammate, 2016 forward M.J. Cage, took note. Cage opted to play for only the Big Red this week, leaving behind his usual California Supreme team, which is coached by former UA standout Miles Simon.
“I don’t want my legs to get like that,” Cage said.
There’s plenty of work for Big Red to do: notably, figuring out how to cope without Johnson, who played multiple starring roles for Mater Dei’s state championship team.
Cage, the son of former San Diego State and NBA big man Michael Cage, has split his youth living in Southern California and Arizona.
A four-star prospect, he’s gotten offers from UA and several high-major schools.
Not your everyday start-up
There probably won’t be any growing pains when Balboa City School, a tiny private institution in San Diego, launches its basketball team this season.
Not when the building block is none other than DeAndre Ayton, the slender, athletic big man from the Bahamas that ESPN rates the No. 1 overall player in the class of 2017.
“The sky’s the limit for him,” said Ollie Goulston, Balboa City’s coach, who is taking a club team starring Ayton into the Las Vegas Classic. “He’s got it all. The whole package.”
Ayton is already attracting a swarm of college attention, including from Arizona. But it might be noted that Goulston has been a coach and mentor for former UA forward Angelo Chol, who transferred to San Diego State after he was lightly used for two seasons with the Wildcats.
Still, Goulston said he is taking the Wildcats’ calls.
“Everything’s wide-open. We’re fine,” he said. “I don’t have hard feelings. I thought it was the right decision for Angelo at the time, and Sean did a great job with him. It was just one of those things.”
“The history of this team is that in any game before 10 a.m., we’re going to struggle. We’ve got a bunch of 18-year-olds.”
— David Thomas, coach of the Arizona Power Black Tucson club, which went 1-2 through pool play while playing all morning games
The big number
9.0 Average rebounds over four Adidas Super 64 games for onetime UA recruit Chase Jeter, who says he will announce his college choice soon, and is expected to pick Duke.