SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — K.J. Hymes was hoping to make a strong impression on national television against a tough, physical New York team at the American Family Insurance Hoophall West showcase Friday night at Scottsdale Chaparral.
The Phoenix St. Mary’s 6-foot-10 junior nailed his first shot, a 3-pointer.
But on his first hard drive of the game, he turned his ankle and turned the ball over.
Christ the King (Middle Village, N.Y.) kept Hymes from doing any damage inside in the first half and rolled to a 60-45 victory.
It was St. Mary’s first loss in five games to open a season in which it has high hopes of contending with Phoenix Shadow Mountain in the 4A Conference in Arizona.
The Knights (4-1) looked nervous in the national spotlight, getting down 11-3 early and 34-16 by halftime, as senior guard Jose Alvarado got Christ the King’s transition game rolling. He had 11 points and junior guard Tyson Walker 10 in the first half. Alvarado finished with 19 points.
Hymes missed the last 2 1/2 minutes of the first quarter after the ankle injury but returned in the second half. He made 1 of 7 shots and had two rebounds and two fouls in the half.
Hymes, who weighs 200 pounds and still needs to increase his strength, projects to be an impact college player, which is mainly why he has offers from Nevada, St. John’s, Oklahoma, BYU, USC, Virginia, California, Arizona State and Washington, among others. There were coaches from UCLA and GCU at the game.
He showed glimpses of being that projected player against Christ the King in the third quarter when he went to the basket more, was more active defensively and had 10 of his 19 points. He picked up his fourth foul with 2:34 left and his team trailing by 10.
St. Mary’s got as close as nine with 1:53 left when Hymes made a free throw. But it got no closer as Christ the King kept pounding the ball inside for easy baskets.
More is being put on Hymes this season after athletic forward Deshawn Wilson returned to Las Vegas. Wilson led the Knights in scoring as a junior.
“I don’t feel we’re less of a team without him,” senior forward Odua Isibor said early in the week. “He was a tremendous player but I feel like we filled the gap. We’re getting good effort.”
Hymes is the go-to guy with role players, such as football players Isibor and Abel Navarrette, around him.
“I don’t necessarily have the skill and everything,” said the 6-5 Isibor, who will play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in January as a highly recruited defensive end. “For the school, it’s a chance to showcase our talent and show what we have as a team. For guys like K.J. Hymes and Jorden Blake, it’s a chance to showcase what they can do.”
St. Mary’s will have to face another strong team Saturday when it goes up against No. 5 Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) in Day 2 of the Hoophall West.
“What these games do is prepare us for the playoffs,” St. Mary’s coach Ty Amundsen said. “Our goal isn’t to win these games. We do want to win. But our overall goal is to win a state championship. They’ll prepare us for games like this.”