High-profile Wildcats, Sun Devils show out at Hoophall West
Dec 4, 2023, 6:34 PM | Updated: Dec 5, 2023, 11:39 am
SCOTTSDALE — All five combined blue-chip prospects signed to join Arizona State or Arizona basketball in 2024 played at Hoophall West, a landmark event on the prep hoops calendar.
Held at Chaparral High School in Scottsdale each December, the invitational gives premier teams and players a chance to showcase what they can do against high-level competition.
Each of the 2024 signees for Arizona’s soon-to-be-Big 12 universities were on display and spoke about their commitments.
Jamari Phillips (ESPN No. 26) and Emmanuel Stephen (No. 95) re-joined forces with Phillips’ transfer last month from No. 11 AZ Compass to No. 18 Dream City Christian. The two played together over the summer for Paul George Elite along with fellow Arizona signee Carter Bryant (No. 10).
Phillips told Arizona Sports after a 66-44 win over Bella Vista Prep that the reunion with Stephen was the driving force behind the transfer.
“Mainly getting back with E-Man, trying to bond with him before we go to college,” Phillips said.
Stephen was named MVP of the win over Bella Vista behind his 11 points, 12 rebounds and six blocks in 22 minutes.
Bryant played later in the week for Corona Centennial (California) in a hotly contested loss to Archbishop Stepinac (New York) and collected 10 rebounds. He commanded double teams but showed an ability to shoot over them with soft touch.
“I just enjoy the way (the Wildcats) play basketball. They’re unselfish, we like to get out and run,” Bryant told Arizona Sports when asked why Tucson was the choice.
He talked about how Arizona is near the top in the country in points, assists and pace.
“It just screams my kind of play style,” Bryant said.
“I think it was just a fit for all of us … you don’t see a lot of AAU teammates or even high school teammates end up at the same school,” he added of the trio’s decision. “I feel like (guys like Oumar Ballo, Pelle Larsson, Caleb Love and Keshad Johnson) resemble us three and we’ve seen that system over the past three years … just the way we play basketball is gonna fit in that system.”
Both players talked about their excitement for leading Arizona into the Big 12 era.
Phillips wants to prove doubters wrong who think he can’t be a Big 12 player, while Bryant is sad having grown up on Pac-10 and Pac-12 basketball but looks forward to the “better competition” that the new conference will offer.
ASU Sun Devils
Amier Ali (No. 46) displayed his shooting upside for Canyon International over two games against national-level competition in losses to Veritas (California) and No. 10 Wasatch (Utah). The 6-foot-7 Ali shot 5-for-11 from deep (45.5%) and dished six assists over both games.
Ali told Arizona Sports that shooting is his “best skill, so I just do it in the gym every day and transition it into games.”
He chose ASU in part because of head coach Bobby Hurley, who he calls “a loving, honest coach … and he gets the best out of you.”
Ali is excited about the role he could play for the Sun Devils, which may include some offensive initiation.
“Playmaking is very important,” Ali said. “I like to drive and kick to my teammates, but also create for myself.”
Sammie Yeanay (No. 91) lived up to his high-octane billing, averaging 14 points, four offensive rebounds and one steal per game for AZ Compass Prep in a loss to Wasatch and a win over Veritas.
Ali and Yeanay have a connection of their own that dates back to Ali’s time at IMG Academy (Florida).
“The way he plays and the way I play just goes together,” Yeanay told Arizona Sports. “Him as a wing and me as a power forward.”
Yeanay is looking forward to bringing his game to the Big 12 as well, bringing playmaking, intensity, rebounding, defense and “really just whatever the coaching staff needs me to do.”
Beyond the 2024 signees, there are some of the most impressive local prospects in Arizona history on the horizon.
Even aside from the prep schools which usually feature out-of-state transfers, there are many players native to the Valley showing star upside. Vicious recruiting wars for their services could be coming between the two Arizona schools.
Perry 6-foot-8 junior Koa Peat (No. 4) was named USA Basketball’s Male Athlete of the Year after leading the U16 squad to a gold medal at the Americas Championship over the summer, Peat’s second gold medal. He’s already taken multiple unofficial visits to ASU, and his brother, Keona, is a walk-on for Kenny Dillingham’s football team.
Millennium 6-foot-6 sophomore Cameron Holmes (No. 22) has already taken an unofficial visit to ASU along with his teammate, junior Kingston Tosi.
“I would love (to play in the Big 12) … That’s it right there,” Holmes told Arizona Sports.
Basha 6-foot-7 sophomore Elijah Summers-Livingston also was intrigued by the idea of playing in the Big 12.
“We’ll see as I start to grow and get older,” he said. “But yeah, I think it’s pretty interesting.”
It’s clear that the move helped bring such solid classes to Tempe and Tucson ahead of each school’s first season in the Big 12, and it will likely be a solid recruiting tool going forward as well.