The most-coveted high school baseball player in Tucson this year is Sahuaro's Jake Cole, a pitcher-infielder who last week made a commitment to play for the North Carolina Tar Heels.
As recently as 10 years ago, maybe five, it would've been unthinkable that a top Tucson ballplayer would choose to play anywhere but Arizona or ASU.
But Cole, who had a breakout performance before college scouts at the Area Code Games in August, took visits only to national powers Baylor and North Carolina before selecting UNC.
"The facilities there were fantastic," he said. "I really wanted to go to a school where baseball was on the rise."
UNC has played in the last four College World Series.
UNC's Boshamer Stadium, redone this year, overwhelms Arizona's plain Kindall/Sancet Stadium.
At North Carolina, Cole will play at a stadium that has a 2,450-square foot clubhouse, plus its own weight room, a study hall and a player's lounge that includes two 52-inch flat-screen televisions.
In addition, 4,100-seat Boshamer Stadium has skyboxes that include 35 flat-screen televisions for boosters to view.
UA coach Andy Lopez has none of those amenities with which to impress recruits such as Cole.
Athletic director Jim Livengood's wide-ranging master plan for facilities improvements includes a $16.6 million baseball upgrade, one that would provide shade for all seats and construct a long-needed team clubhouse down the third base line, among many other upgrades.
However, those projects aren't likely to be completed by 2014, if then. Thus, hot prospects such as Cole look elsewhere.
"The whole baseball atmosphere at North Carolina is fantastic," said Cole. "You have everything you need at the stadium."
CDO's RUN BEGAN IN '06
Demolition of Saguaro was Dorado exclamation point
Canyon del Oro's thundering 44-0 victory over No. 1-ranked Scottsdale Saguaro on Friday night had its origin in the 2006 season opener, when Saguaro humbled Pat Nugent's Dorados 26-0.
That was the trigger for a sizzling CDO run. The Dorados won eight straight after losing to Saguaro in '06, then posted 12-2 and 11-2 regular seasons.
First-year head coach Dustin Peace continued to set the foundation last year when his Dorado defense pitched four shutouts and allowed just 10.6 points per game.
True, tailback Ka'Deem Carey gets much of the attention, and why not? He has rushed for 1,286 yards (that's 214 per game). That's Mario Bates-Freddie Sims territory.
But Peace's defense has been similarly impressive. The Dorados' top six tacklers, Ryan Petersen, Jared Tevis, Kelton Beattie, Bobby Henkel, Garrett Henderson and Jesse Caldwell, and their defensive mates have limited opponents to a bare 8.5 points per game.
Peace's job now is to maintain focus and build momentum down the stretch against Catalina Foothills, Flowing Wells, Pueblo and Jay Campos' tough Sabino Sabercats. The playoffs are a month away and the 4A-I state title game two months away. Much work remains, but Friday's victory, shattering Saguaro's 37-game winning streak, will be remembered as one of the top performances in Tucson prep football history.
Ex-Ranger Solot made mark for UTEP in game at Texas
Rincon/University grad Alex Solot, a junior offensive tackle, has worked his way into the starting lineup for Mike Price at UTEP. Even in a lopsided loss at Texas last week, Solot played well. You can view some of his highlights on YouTube.com. Solot had five knockdowns against the Longhorns and was named the Miners' offensive lineman of the game. … Released last week by the Tennessee Titans, ex-UA tailback Chris Henry proved to be a bust after bypassing his final year of eligibility at Arizona. Tennessee's second-round draft pick in 2007 is unlikely to be claimed on waivers by another team because his base salary of $412,000 is guaranteed. … A year after leading Salpointe Catholic to a productive football season, quarterback Trevor Eggleston had a breakout performance for Adams State of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference. In his first start last week, Eggleston passed for two touchdowns in a 27-7 victory over New Mexico Highlands. He also had a 49-yard run. Ex-Lancer teammate Oscar Villa helped the Colorado team with six tackles.
Former Wildcat Radenovic packs sneakers for Moscow
Ivan Radenovic returned to Tucson this summer to visit friends and prepare for his third EuroLeague basketball season. Last week he signed with Russian powerhouse CSKA Moscow, the Yankees of Russian hoops. It's likely Radenovic is being paid in excess of $750,000 on a team that includes ex-Duke guard Trajan Langdon. Couldn't happen to a better guy. Radenovic averaged 11 points a game in Greece last season. ... Tucsonan Sara Brown's bid to return to the final stage of LPGA Qualifying School failed last week in California. The Salpointe grad shot rounds of 73-74-73-74, which was four strokes shy of advancing. … Washington State's latest starting quarterback, Jeff Tuel, grew up as a baseball standout in the Sabino Canyon Little League and playing for the Cowboys of Tucson's Pop Warner football league. After he played his freshman season at Salpointe, Tuel's family moved to Fresno, Calif. … In his NFL debut last week, ex-UA standout "Money" Mike Thomas gained 35 yards on two reverses. He is a weapon at any level, and is now being utilized by an old foe, Dirk Koetter, who is Jacksonville's offensive coordinator and the former ASU head coach.
Stoops is a clear winner in first month of season
In the final minutes of Arizona's victory at Oregon State last week, I rode the press box elevator to the field and listened to the Beaver radio network. The play-by-play man complained that Mike Stoops spent as much time riding the referees as Lute Olson used to. "I remember a game that Lute Olson stomped on the court all night and never sat down," the voice said. Everyone in the press elevator had a good laugh. Stoops had a tough and emotional few hours on the field during a night so many plays were reviewed or reversed. He, however, is the real winner in the first month of the season. He has reconciled and is back together with his wife, Nicole. … Arizona's stars at Oregon State — quarterback Nick Foles, tailback Greg Nwoko and cornerback Trevin Wade — have known one another for years. Their central Texas high school teams play in the same region/district in the Interstate 35 corridor. Foles' Westlake Chaparrals and Nwoko's Pflugerville Panthers met in 2005, and Wade's Stony Point Tigers lost to Nwoko's team in 2006. … Add Foles: After viewing game films, OSU coach Mike Riley told Oregon reporters: "Arizona played fast. They threw the bubble screen real well. It was like a slow death when they execute like that." Foles' ability to throw accurately on those screen passes doesn't get enough attention. They are difficult throws, sometimes 30 yards in length, that must be thrown quickly or the entire system fizzles.
Prouty finishes well, gains momentum for Q-School
Tucsonan Brian Prouty completed a superb year on the Gateway Tour on Saturday, finishing fifth overall in the 2009 Tour Championship in Des Moines, Iowa. Prouty led entering Saturday's final round but shot a 73 to finish three strokes back. He earned $4,800. Prouty's first full year on a pro tour was productive: He earned $75,428, won two events and had nine top-10 finishes. Now the Arizona and Salpointe Catholic grad prepares for the PGA Tour Qualifying School later this month. Fellow UA grad Nate Tyler of Sabino also tied for fifth Saturday, receiving $4,800. … Former Canyon del Oro football and soccer player Nick Marshall is off to a terrific start in college soccer. He scored eight goals in his first six games for UNLV, and twice was chosen Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Player of the Week. … Since he won the WGC-Accenture Match Play seven months ago at the Ritz-Carlton Club, Geoff Ogilvy virtually disappeared from the PGA Tour. He left Tucson as the tour's No. 1 money winner, with two early victories. Since then, Ogilvy didn't contend for a title and had just two top- 10 finishes (a sixth and a seventh). … Canyon del Oro grad Ian Kinsler, 27 years young, became the third second baseman in major-league history to hit 30 homers and steal 30 bases in a season. The Sporting News last week named him No. 24 on the list of baseball's 50 greatest active players. Kinsler was paid $3 million this year, and will get $4 million next year, then $6 million in 2011. If he continues to produce, he is in line to get a contract double or triple in numbers after the 2011 season.
MY TWO CENTS
Competition likely to fuel Miller-Sendek relationship
In their first notable public showdown, a recruiting battle over Phoenix North High School shooting guard Daniel Bejarano, Arizona coach Sean Miller and Arizona State's Herb Sendek will not be able to have a chummy relationship.
They may pretend to be buddies, linked from years together at North Carolina State, but that has been trumped by the competitive nature of two competitive men.
Sendek will not play Bill Frieder to Miller's Lute Olson. And I like it better that way. There is respect between Miller and Sendek and their respective staffs — Archie Miller also coached for Sendek — but that is where it begins and ends.