HAVE THE CHARTERS GOT GAME?

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Every year, more students make the transition from life in the public high schools to a seat in a charter school classroom. And the numbers appear to be growing.

“Alternative education is really growing here (in Arizona),” says Tim Eiden, league director for the Charter Athletic Association that governs athletic competition in these schools. “Our growth is almost entirely through word-of-mouth, but every year we pick up four or five new schools (in the CAA).”

The CAA in Arizona was begun seven years ago, explains Eiden, and includes teams of home-schooled high schoolers as well. This year, the league has 23 boys’ high school teams participating. In addition to the charter school students, Eiden points out that there are some 200,000 home schoolers in the state.

Dominic Himmons is one of those student-athletes who has successfully made the transition from public school sports to the charter school world.

Himmons left Mesquite High School, where he played point guard on the basketball team, after his sophomore year and enrolled in Desert Hills High School. This year, he averaged 16 points and 12 assists in the regular season and, as a result, his team went undefeated (22-0) and ranked No. 1 in the state among charter schools.

“The players (in the public schools) that transfer to smaller school are just like the players in our league; there’s really no difference to me,” he explains. He says he was scoring 12 to 14 points a game as a freshman at Mesquite, but fell off to eight points his sophomore year when he moved up to varsity and got less playing time. But he averaged 16.7 points his junior year at Desert Hills and added more assists this year to round out his game at the point.

Himmons, who has always played in the off-season as well and even finds time to serve as the Youth President at the Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church, wants to play basketball in college. But has his switch to charter league competition hurt his chances? “I’ve seen some guys in the Charter leagues that would make very good community college players; if a guy is good, the right people will find him,” offers Don Houston, Desert Hills assistant principle who has watched Himmons evolve through his years at the school.

“Yes, if a guy was scoring 40 points a game, and if I was a D-I coach, I’d have to ask what kind of competition is he playing against.

“We have student-athletes here. It’s that simple. I don’t get calls from Coach K or that guy down at Tucson…not even from Alton Lister at Mesa Community College. That’s not a knock on Dominic, just the way it is.”

At 6’0”, great height is not on Himmons’ side. But he thinks about pro ball when asked to compare his game to someone. “I like to move around like Richard Hamilton (Detroit Pistons), but I’m probably more like Mike Bibby (Sacramento Kings).”

But the young man realizes his goals need to be realistic and is hoping to find a roster spot on a D-III program, hopefully in New York or Wisconsin.

Even those frigid locales likely won’t cool off his game, since he’s already made a tough transition in life – and appears to be ready for the next journey.