AZ Compass Prep, an Arizona prep team with a deep roster of ranked talent, took down CIBA, the basketball program of Pacific Academy (Irvine, California) led by Makur Maker on Saturday night.
Through the early minutes CIBA held it close despite playing zone defense for the first time — something head coach Edward Smith decided to do that day to help his players’ stamina for the second game of the weekend — but AZ Compass Prep began raining 3-pointers and raced to a 24-point halftime lead.
In the end, AZ Compass Prep won 102-66.
Maker finished with a game-high 29 points while Frankie Collins and Max Lewis both had 14 for Arizona Compass Prep, whose scoring was spread between players.
AZ Compass Prep
AZ Compass Prep thrived playing up-tempo to help get out of the trap defense, and moved the ball well to find the open man and take advantage of the CIBA zone. At times, though, the frenetic pace of the offense could toe the line of recklessness.
Head coach Ed Gipson said that playing games against tough teams will help his athletes be more patient and avoid some of those mistakes.
“You got guys that you feel like they can make plays, sometimes they might not let (the set) develop and then break the play too early,” Gipson said. “You can’t do that.”
More often than not, though, the Dragons found an open look.
On defense, they were aggressive, swiping for steals and hitting the outlet man quickly after a rebound. They got more effective from that end as the game went on, and soon enough the 3-pointers turned into easy fast break dunks.
The team pressed often. Gipson is fine with his players getting tired, because that allows him to make more substitutions and avoid hurting egos.
It’s a deep team with eight players ranked three or four stars. The scoring was pretty equally spread as players off the bench got solid playing time.
However, 10 of the 11 players on the team are new to the program. It looks like they’re adjusting quickly, but the true tests will come later against teams like Prolific Prep (Napa, California) and Brewster Academy (Wolfeboro, New Hampshire).
The brand new basketball team struggled to keep up with AZ Compass Prep’s pace and depth. Smith said the team decided to play the zone today with tired legs after playing the Friday game, so the defense wasn’t as structured as it could have been.
On offense, Smith said, the players need to continue learning to stick in the system and not bail out of plays. Maker is an adept passer but it looked like he had some trouble playmaking; he doesn’t yet excel at driving to the rim, and he had some turnovers. But Smith attributed the turnovers to teammates not going to the spots where they needed to be and breaking out of the system.
“Sometimes we run certain things and we’re good when we run our stuff,” Smith said. “But sometimes, young guys, they get sped up with the moment, and they need more games to get calm.”
Maker often got the ball at the top of the key and made a move to either pass it or hand it off to a player and then set a pick. Maker would sometimes roll, but the pass never came to him. CIBA can improve if they get him the ball when he’s already been established in a scoring position instead of relying on him to create one for himself. While he can do that, his handles aren’t quite to the level to consistently split double teams and his shot, which is good — particularly for a 6-foot-11 center — doesn’t yet inspire fear of a sharpshooter.
There was one sequence with just a few minutes left in the game in which AZ Compass Prep got about four offensive rebounds in one possession, missed 3-pointers after each, and Maker finally snared the defensive board. He dribbled down, barreled into the lane and did a euro-step before getting fouled. Taking over himself might be key for CIBA.
“This is a lesson that he learns — ‘Hey look. Sometimes, I got to break off the play and I got to go. If guys are not where they’re supposed to be,'” Smith said.