The annual Martin Luther King Jr. Basketball Classic at McKale Center (held every MLK Day) showcased some of the better talent in Tucson, some of whom are destined for careers beyond high school.
The following are interviews with some of the top boys basketball players.
Buena senior guard Kino Bellinger
Bellinger, the Colts’ career scoring leader with 1,410 points, talks about his future prospects after helping Buena defeat The Gregory School 69-61 in the opening game of the MLK Basketball Classic. Bellinger is a 6-foot senior guard who has some junior colleges interested in him, most notably Cochise College. He is looking first to close out this season strong with Buena 18-7 overall and one game behind Nogales in the 5A Southern with a 3-2 record.
The Gregory School senior guard Tomari Harris
The Hawks are now 19-4 overall but remain 7-0 in the 1A South. Behind the production of Harris and his twin brother Demari, The Gregory School is ranked No. 1 among 1A schools in the state. The Hawks held their own against Class 5A counterpart Buena in the MLK Basketball Classic game. They fell behind 12-0 in the first quarter and the game was even thereafter. In the video, Tomari, who averages 22.5 points and 4.0 assists per game, discusses the prospects of the team and he and his brother going forward.
The Gregory School senior guard Demari Harris
Demari, who averages 15.4 points and 3.9 rebounds a game, also talks about future beyond high school. He discusses the valuable experience of taking part in summer AAU tournaments last year that has impacted his season and what’s ahead.
Catalina senior guard Philippe Kijana
Kijana had one of the better performances of the day with 26 points, including a 3-pointer and go-ahead layup late in the Trojans’ 66-65 win over Sahuarita in a key 3A South game. Catalina is 12-9 overall and 2-3 in league play while the Mustangs are now 11-11 and 2-3. Pusch Ridge (4-0), Safford (3-1) and Sabino (2-2) are ahead of the Catalina and Sahuarita in the standings. The top two teams automatically advance to the state tournament. Kijana talks about the big win and what lies ahead for him.
Catalina senior post player Jose Lugo
Lugo is a burly 6-5, 250-pound senior post player whose future aspirations are in football. He’s also a legitimate hoops player, scoring 17 points in the win over Sahuarita with a key assist to Kijana for a 3-pointer with 40 seconds left. Lugo, a defensive end, took an unofficial visit to ASU during the weekend. The Sun Devils are recruiting him as a preferred walk-on. In the video, Lugo talks about his trip to Tempe and what his decision includes for his future in football at the college level.
Palo Verde senior guard Zionn Sandoval
Sandoval got a water shower instead of a Gatorade one after leading Palo Verde to pivotal 69-59 win over Amphi, evening the season series with the Panthers after losing at Amphi 70-59 two weeks ago. The teams are tied atop the 4A Gila standings with four region games remaining. Sandoval had 22 points against the Panthers playing with a relentless style. In the video, he talks about the Titans’ outlook with the season winding down and what might be in store for him at the next level.
Amphi senior guard Jackson Ruai
Ruai had 17 points, including an electrifying breakaway dunk, in Amphi’s loss to Palo Verde. Teammate Cohen Kimmel finished with 29 points. Ruai talks about the Panthers being in must-win mode after the loss to the Titans. In the video, he talks about his outlook and the wild things he does like wear different colored shoes during games.
Tucson High senior forward Joseph Shelby
Shelby is listed as a 6-5 senior power forward or center but he plays more like a wing or guard with his ability to play on the perimeter. Without any scholarship offers as of yet, his career-high 30 points in a thrilling 83-79 overtime win over Ironwood Ridge should open some eyes. In the video, Shelby talks about Tucson’s race down the stretch in the 6A Metro and what he hopes for personally in the future.