HS Player of the Year picks favor guards this time around

Looks like this was the year of the guards in Arizona high school basketball.

The spotlight fell on the back court this season, as The Arizona Republic announced its picks for the boys’ and girls’ Player of the Year awards.

It was an all-guard selection in the big-school category, while the small-school picks included 1 1/2 guards, since the Phoenix Country Day player on the boys’ side can play anywhere on the floor, from point to post, according to his coach.

The selection of Dewayne Russell as the Big Schools Player of the Year wasn’t too difficult.  The 5’10” senior guard for Peoria High School was the top high school scorer in the state this year, averaging 27 points a game.  And just to round out his game, he also averaged 5.4 assists, 3.9 rebounds, and 3.8 steals.

Russell led Peoria to the Division II state title, topping off his prolific senior season with an assist on the last play of his prep career to beat Tucson’s Amphitheater High by two points for the championship.

Picking the girls’ Big Schools Player of the Year was made easier this year, too, since the field of choices could pretty much be narrowed to one team.  How can you not go right to the St. Mary’s High School roster after the Phoenix Catholic school went 30-0, won the state Division I championship, and was selected as the No. 1 team in the country?

And that’s just where the judges (aka sports writers) found Shilpa Tummala, this year’s choice.  The 5’11” junior guard averaged 13 points this season and led the Knights to the title in the Joe Smith Division of the prestigious Nike Tournament of Champions, which was the gathering point for some of the best teams in the country.  Tummala was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player.

Both Russell and Tummala are hard workers who have put in the hours to perfect their games, but there is one significant difference between the two.

Russell is still looking for a landing spot after he graduates in a couple of months; he had committed to play for the USC Trojans but is re-thinking his decision and considering new options.

Tummala, ranked the No. 68 prospect in the country, already knows where she’s going.  Harvard extended an invitation to play for the Crimson after she graduates in 2013, which she happily accepted.

Both of the Small Schools Player of the Year selections are also planning to play college ball, but probably at different levels.

A.J. Hess, the 6’9″ senior at Phoenix Country Day, has already turned down a couple of Division I offers, is still considering one from the University of Portland, and most recently has received some interest from Arizona State.

Hess, who plays post but also has the skills to play a perimeter position, averaged 19.5 points a game for the Eagles in leading them to a 31-win season and the Division IV school’s first-ever state title.

Jamie Roe, on the other hand, has decided to hone her skills for another year or two by playing at Central Arizona College, the national junior-college basketball powerhouse in nearby Coolidge.

At 5’11”, the senior guard contributed not only 17 points a game for her Tuba City High School team, but also averaged 11 rebounds and six blocked shots and was an intimidating force on the defensive end.

Roe had some of her best games during the playoffs, leading Tuba City to the Division III semi-finals.