Surprised? Local grads lead hoops scoring at AZ colleges

Is in-state recruiting paying off for Arizona’s major universities?  It certainly appears to be when it comes to basketball.

With just one exception, Arizona prep stars have stepped up to become the leading scorers on every men’s and women’s Division I basketball program in the state, from Phoenix to Tucson and up to Flagstaff.

Any discussion of major contributions to a college program would have to begin up in the high country of Flagstaff at Northern Arizona University, where Amy Patton, a senior from McClintock High School in Tempe, has led the women’s program in points, rebounds, assists, steals, and minutes played since her sophomore year.

Even in her first year of college ball, she played a big role in the Lumberjack program.  The 5’10” guard broke a 25-year-old school record for single-season scoring with 539 points and wrapped up her rookie season by being named the Big Sky Conference Freshman of the Year.

And she’s still producing.  Coming into December she was tied for second in the nation in scoring, averaging 25 points a game.

On the men’s side, DeWayne Russell is leading the offensive assault with 16.5 points a game.  Russell is just a freshman, but has been in the starting line-up for all but one of the Jacks’ 10 games.

The 5’11” guard was also a prolific scorer in high school.  As a senior at Peoria High School, he averaged 27 points a game and was named the Arizona Republic Big School Basketball Player of the Year.

Across the state in Tucson, the University of Arizona men’s and women’s teams are also led by Arizona prep stars.

On the men’s squad, Mark Lyons and Nick Johnson are less than a point apart in sharing the scoring lead for the Wildcats, on a team that is ranked No. 4 in the country.

Johnson is the local connection, a Gilbert product who started his prep career at Highland High School before transferring to Findlay Prep, a recognized basketball factory in Nevada.  He’s averaging 13.6 points a game, just a shade off the 13.9 posted by Lyons, a graduate transfer from Xavier.

But on the Wildcat girls’ team, Davellyn Whyte is the clear scoring leader, averaging 15.8 points a game – almost six points better than the next in line.

Whyte is a senior from St. Mary’s High School in Phoenix who closed out her junior year as the No. 2 scorer in the Pac-12.  She was the Gatorade Arizona Player of the Year in her last season at St. Mary’s and picked up where she left off when named the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year.

Back across the state  to Tempe, we find the only exception to the rule.  Janae Fulcher, a redshirt senior forward from California, leads the team in scoring average, with 11 points a game, and field-goal percentage with .586.

Arizona State has just three local products on this year’s roster, but all have made significant contributions this season.  Two are starters: Promise Amukamara, a sophomore guard from Apollo High School in Glendale, and Joy Burke, a 6’5″ post from Marcos de Niza High School in Tempe.

The third, Arnecia Hawkins, is a freshman guard from Mountain View High School in Mesa that is getting productive playing time in her role off the bench.

So you can’t discount the local contributions here.

On the men’s side, a freshman phenom named Jahii Carson is averaging just a tick shy of 18 points a game, which makes him the fourth-best scoring freshman in the nation.  He’s already posted five games of 20 points or better, including one performance of 30 points.

Carson graduated from Mesa High School, where he was one of the state’s most highly-sought recruits. He was a four-star guard who was ranked No. 10 nationally at his position.  An eligibility snafu kept him off the floor last year, but he’s in full flight this season and has been the difference in a rejuvenated Sun Devil team that is off to a 9-2 start.

Heck, even the football coaches are starting to appreciate the value of beating the local bushes for talent.  ASU’s first-year head coach Todd Graham just announced the signing of five new recruits – and three of them are local athletes.

“One thing we take great pride in is signing the best, the brightest, the toughest, and the hardest-working guys from right here in Arizona,” Graham said in unveiling his latest scholarship recipients.

That’s nothing new to the basketball coaches.  They’re already taking advantage of mining in their own back yards – and the rewards have been spread all over the state.

(Photo: ASU Athletics/ Jason Wise)