LAS VEGAS — She has yet to play her first high school basketball game, but 14-year-old Kiya Dorroh already has scholarship offers from Arizona and Arizona State.
And also from Texas Rio Grande Valley?
Texas RGV coach Larry Tidwell was the first to offer Dorroh a scholarship when she was in the sixth grade three years ago. Tidwell recruited Dorroh’s older sister Brianna Pitre out of Sabino High School at that same time.
Tidwell can’t comment on Dorroh, per NCAA rules, but he obviously must have known the future Tanque Verde High School star would blossom into something special on the court.
“It’s amazing. One scholarship offer is amazing. If she gets any more than what she has now, it’s just a true blessing,” Dorroh’s father Sherard told me last week in Las Vegas, where Dorroh’s Tucson Rattlers 17U team played in the Las Vegas Invitational.
“We’re just trying to keep working hard with her because we know she has to keep getting better. She is excited about the offers. She’s very thankful. If she doesn’t get any more, we’ll be blessed. If we get more, we’ll be blessed as well.”
More offers are bound to come. Dorroh’s talent is untapped, not close to reaching its potential.
What I observed in two games during the Las Vegas Invitational (in which she plays on a team that consists mostly of high school juniors and seniors):
— Dorroh has agility and strength to go with her already 6’0″ frame. She is not fragile like most players are at that age.
— She stays composed. She does not get too high or go too low with her emotions on the court. Something to be said for a ninth grader in which you can’t tell if her team is winning or losing by looking at her face.
— She has an air of confidence that enables her to play without trepidation.
— She has a smooth release on her jumper. She needs to work on making better reads, and penetration off screens rather than pass. She has good instincts defensively shutting off passing lanes. She prides herself on her defense on the ball.
“I have to work on everything,” Dorroh acknowledges. “Everyone has room for improvement in everything. I still have to work on the basketball IQ and the experience of playing more. I think my skill set is kind of there. Of course, I have to work on it, but just experience (is what she needs).”
One of the most important aspects about Dorroh considering the entitlement some kids have these days: she also is very coachable. Tucson Rattlers coach Chris Klassen does not hold back shouting constructive criticism toward Dorroh — and his other players — after an error in execution on the court.
“She’s far beyond her years,” said Klassen, who also coached Dorroh’s sister with the Rattlers. “She’s been playing for so long. When I had Bri in the program, Kiya would come to practices and shoot on the side. When she was in sixth grade she started practicing with our practice-only team and in the seventh grade she was on the 16U team.
“Her body, IQ and skill set is so far developed than anything I’ve seen at that age than all of the years I’ve been coaching (since 2003). She’s hungry to learn. She’s a total gym rat. She’s only going to get better and better. That’s so exciting for such a player like that.”
Exciting enough to label her as potentially the best female basketball player to come out of Tucson?
Can she challenge Santa Rita’s Paula Pyers, Catalina Foothills’ Julie Brase, Tucson’s Alexis Cortez, Marana’s Jamee Swan and Salpointe Catholic’s Sybil Dosty as the city’s best?
The potential is certainly there. Arizona coach Adia Barnes offering Dorroh a scholarship before her high school years start means a whole heck of a lot.
For one, Arizona’s program has overlooked worthy Tucson talent for years, so Barnes’ offer shows she is serious about keeping the best home. Dorroh will not be an afterthought. Pyers went to USC and Dosty went to Tennessee and ASU. Brase went to Arizona, but would she have done so if Lute Olson was not her grandfather?
Secondly, Barnes, who will be in her second season in 2017-18, is not about handouts. She is working diligently to bring in the best possible talent.
“(Barnes) is going to change the program around,” Dorroh said. “I have good feelings for what the program’s going to be like. I’m just going to have to watch and see how the program turns out.”
The fact she landed a commitment from Class of 2018 five-star forward Cate Reese from Cypress, Texas, is only one example of how Barnes is bent on loading up the roster with valuable talent.
“The sky is the limit for Kiya,” said Klassen, who coached Bryce Cotton at Palo Verde before Cotton went on to Providence and the NBA. “She’s got size and skills that are not common for an incoming ninth grader. It’s crazy.
“I’m excited for her. She got a lot of looks (from recruiters in the AAU games that started last week in Las Vegas). There were like 15 to 20 coaches watching this game. It’s good for Tucson especially. People coming and looking for Southern Arizona girls. We’re very proud of that fact.”
Kiya Dorroh makes one of two FTs to put Tucson Rattlers up 18-14 midway through second quarter. pic.twitter.com/s6nVdxJZFi
The overall talent level in Tucson, although decent judging from the exploits of the Rattlers and Spartans AAU programs, is something that weighs on the minds of Dorroh and her parents as she prepares for basketball at the college level.
The tournaments the Rattlers played in Las Vegas and Chicago in the last week exposed Dorroh and her teammates to an upgrade in talent — because of the national level of talent — they normally do not see week in and week out in Tucson. The Rattlers will end this month with another tournament in Atlanta.
“The experiences she’ll have in these (AAU) games, she will take to high school,” her mother Kristin Dorroh said. “We will continue to have her play against the best competition. She’s a perfectionist.
“She wants to do the best she possibly can. Nothing is going to be good enough for her.”
Dorroh practices often with members of the Rattlers, all of whom are bound to play in college.
Catalina Foothills senior post player Audrey Nicholson has committed to play at Boston University. Former Ironwood Ridge guard Natalie Bartle, who will play in her native Michigan as a senior this year, received a scholarship offer from Northern Michigan this week.
“It’s pretty hard to find a talented team (in Tucson),” Kiya said. “I’m on a talented team (with the Rattlers). This is a talented team. This is the best of Tucson combined.
“But compared to Phoenix and California, the high school ball isn’t as talented as everywhere else so it’s kind of hard playing at a high level when you’re playing against such lower levels, so just (I’m) learning just to stay at a high level.”
next step, highschool ❤️ pic.twitter.com/6UKEShOojs
All those days playing against her big sister and dad since she could dribble the ball at four are making dividends in Dorroh’s development against older competition in the 17U tournaments. Based on her age, she should be on the Rattlers’ 15U team, but she is too far advanced for that age group.
“My entire life, I’ve been playing up against older people so I learned just to play my game and not see what everybody else thinks of me because I belong there,” she said.
When asked what she will do when she plays against her Rattlers teammates during the regular season in high school, she did not bat an eye.
Her confidence, merited because of her skill level at only 14, came out.
“I’ll shut them down,” she said. “I’ll guard them and I’ll shut them down.”
Tucson’s girls high school hoops scene is on notice. It rarely if ever has featured a competitor like this at that age.
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.