Should Arizona Interscholastic Association let in prep teams like Hillcrest, Bella Vista?

Photo: Sean Logan/Arizona Republic

Should Arizona Interscholastic Association let in prep teams like Hillcrest, Bella Vista?

Boys Basketball

Should Arizona Interscholastic Association let in prep teams like Hillcrest, Bella Vista?

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It might be time for the Arizona Interscholastic Association to let in national prep basketball teams.

As only associate members.

And with one big stipulation: They can’t recruit Arizona players to play for their programs.

The national prep basketball landscape has not just popped up but exploded in Arizona. It started with Hillcrest Prep (Phoenix). There was Aspire, which turned into Bella Vista in Scottsdale. AZ Compass went from a charter playing in the Canyon Athletic Association. Now Dream City Christian is starting a new national prep team in Glendale.

Even Powerhouse (PHH Prep) has started a program.

Arizona needs to face it. They’re not going away.

We’ve seen Deandre Ayton come out of shoe-sponsored Hillcrest before becoming a one-and-done out of the University of Arizona and being the No. 1 NBA draft pick in 2018 by the Phoenix Suns.

We’ve seen Bella Vista win a national Grind Session championship.

We’ve seen Findlay Prep in Nevada shutting down at least for this year, while something is starting in Arizona, where the weather is enticing and the facilities are growing.

Powerhouse might be the only team that wouldn’t be considered for AIA associate membership, simply because it makes no bones about taking only Arizona players for its team to play a national grind schedules against prep teams.

All eyes will be watching to see how Powerhouse does this year.

If it works, there will probably be copycat programs popping up. And that could really impact AIA schools with players having more freedom to develop and get exposure in front of college coaches against elite competition.

What then will happen to the talent pool within the AIA?

HILLCREST PREP NEWS: Keon Edwards transfers | Dior Johnson leaves

In the past, the AIA has made a strong stance against national teams having any part of its association.

If Hillcrest, Bella, Dream City and AZ Compass become associate members, full AIA teams wouldn’t have those games counted in power points.

An association would allow the national teams to be eligible for the eight-team national high school tournament in April that is covered by ESPN.

In 2017 and 2018, Phoenix Shadow Mountain was the only public school in the eight-team national tournament in New York. It was the best team in Arizona.

But it had no chance against those national prep teams that qualified because they had state association affiliations. Predictably, Shadow Mountain lost in the first round both years.

What Hillcrest, AZ Compass, Bella and Dream City bring to a game against AIA teams are more college basketball eyes. And those AIA teams can use that as a chance to showcase what their players can do next to elite athletes. That will only help them get scholarships opportunities.

And if an AIA team beats one of those programs, it’s a win for the AIA.

During the Arizona State Team Camp last weekend, word spread fast on social media about AIA Surprise Paradise Honors’ 20-point win over AZ Compass Prep’s national team. That became a win for the AIA.

This is something for the AIA and its member schools and coaches to think about.

During changing times, it’s good to be open minded.

Let the AIA coaches have some input on this subject.

Not everybody has to schedule these national prep teams. But if they want to, if Marc Beasley wants to invite Hillcrest or AZ Compass into the Visit Mesa Invitational in late December, why not?

Those games aren’t counted in power points anyway.

To me, it’s a win-win for Arizona high school basketball across the board.

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