Salpointe Catholic senior guard-forward Majok Deng was missing from the starting lineup in a significant early-season game against visiting Buena on Tuesday night at Lancer Gym.
He did not sulk because of Salpointe coach Jim Reynolds’ decision after the Lancers began the season with six wins with Deng as a starter.
Deng did not create a negative vibe with his teammates while sitting on the bench.
He is too smart for that. He is too good for that.
The reason for his benching?
“Majok was on a college visit last weekend and wasn’t at practice for a couple of days,” Reynolds reasoned. “It was good for him to go on a visit … it was to Pepperdine. So we just went with the guys we had at practice.”
“That’s the special thing about this coaching staff — they’re not going to cut you slack,” Deng said after he had 15 points, five rebounds and two steals in the Lancers’ 82-50 win over Buena to improve to 7-0.
“When I accepted the visit they told me there would be consequences. I understand that. When I missed two practices another senior (Luc Rosenblatt) had to pop up and go out there and start us off.”
Salpointe junior guard Evan Nelson, who has 10 scholarship offers himself, and has drawn interest from Ivy League schools, is intelligent enough to realize he had to provide the Lancers instant offense to make up for Deng’s absence in the first five minutes of the opening quarter.
Buena (5-2) was a good opponent, but Nelson matched the Colts’ scoring in the first quarter — 11 points — as the Lancers built a 27-11 lead.
“I just took it upon myself to start the game off strong and try to get to the basket, if not create for myself than create for my teammates,” said Nelson, who finished with 23 points on 9-of-12 shooting from the field, including 3 of 5 from 3-point range.
Reserve guard Jordan Gainey, son of Arizona assistant coach Justin Gainey, had 12 points, four of which came after layups following consecutive steals.
Jordan Gainey and fellow junior guard Jake Cioe each had three of Salpointe’s nine steals. The Lancers had 18 assists on their 34 field goals made, led by Cioe’s eight. Cioe also had six rebounds.
“I believe we’ve played at a high level,” said Reynolds, in his second year with Salpointe after coaching 25 years in Cincinnati. “We basically have 10 guys, so we are able to wear some people down. We shoot it pretty well. I’m really happy where we are at this point but there is a long way to go. We have to continue to improve and practice hard, all those things.”
Reynolds, the father of Arizona’s director of basketball operations Ryan Reynolds, has what appears to be a team of future coaches. Basketball IQ is a strength for the Lancers. They won’t beat themselves.
Arizona basketball coach Sean Miller’s son Braden is a junior guard for the Lancers.
“You just look at our makeup with guys who have played a lot of basketball,” Jim Reynolds said. “We have Coach Miller’s son and Coach Gainey’s son. We’re definitely basketball-oriented guys.”
And sports-oriented guys in general.
Senior forward Ryan Grabosch, who will play catcher for Central Arizona College, is the son of former Arizona standout baseball player Jason Grabosch. His grandfather Gary Grabosch was a legendary baseball coach at Rincon for 22 years.
Junior guard Grant Weitman, who had 10 points against Buena, is the grandson of prominent Arizona booster Paul Weitman — a longstanding close friend of Lute Olson who owned the 2010 Kentucky Derby favorite Lookin at Lucky.
“We’ve got a lot of guys who play defense and get in the lanes, stuff that others guys don’t comprehend as easily,” Nelson said. “Talking-wise, we switch really easily. Offensively, it can be anybody’s night, so it’s good to play on a team that is as good as we are.”