Will to Succeed: Catalina Foothills’ Menaugh preparing for Arizona experience


He runs up and down the floor with the intent to rebound, alter shots at the post, and score around the rim either by posting up or finishing a putback.

Will Menaugh, 6-foot-10 and 260 pounds, produced 21 points on Friday night against visiting Ironwood Ridge but did not attempt one 3-pointer in Catalina Foothills’ 69-39 win.

How many games end these days, at any level, with the leading scorer not attempting at least one shot from beyond the arc?

Catalina Foothills center Will Menaugh (33) tries to gain defensive positioning against Ironwood Ridge’s Teddy Clayton (Andy Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

He’s a throwback to the Tucson schoolboy days of post-up centers such as Dave Feitl of Santa Rita in the 1980’s and the Jung brothers (Brian and Mark) of CDO from the 1970’s.

“He brings a unique skillset; he’s a true five (center) … there’s not many of those left these days,” Catalina Foothills coach Doug D’Amore said. “He embraces that. He knows that’s who he is.”

Menaugh, only 17 years old, is a rare talent in Tucson for a variety of reasons.

— No other player in Southern Arizona matches his height and size, creating match up problems for all opponents.

Catalina Foothills’ Will Menaugh makes one of his 10 shots in vicinity of the basket against Ironwood Ridge (Andy Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

“I don’t think there’s too many in the state like him, to be honest,” D’Amore said with a laugh. “He’s a big kid. He’s 260 pounds and he’s never really dedicated himself to the weight room because he’s still growing and he’s still so young.”

— He can maneuver at the post with his back to the basket, which means defenses will collapse on him if he gets the ball and he has the instincts to feed an open shooter when that happens. If it’s a one-on-one situation, he can pivot and make a fundamentally sound move without forcing a bad shot.

“Positioning around the basket is the big one,” Menaugh said when asked about areas where he’s improved the most over his four years at Catalina Foothills. “A lot of post work comes before you get the ball and how you position yourself before you get the ball instead of after the pass.”

— Arizona is showing interest Menaugh, welcoming him as a preferred walk-on next season. The Wildcats generally do not pursue walk-ons, but in Menaugh’s case, Arizona’s director of on-campus recruiting and basketball analytics David Miller initiated the contact.

Menaugh announced last month he will attend Arizona and experience his childhood dream of playing for the Wildcats.

“I was super excited when they first reached out to me and obviously when I finalized it (with a commitment),” he said. “Obviously, I probably won’t play that much. I’ll probably redshirt my freshman year, and even after that, there is no guarantee, but it’s a great program to go work with.

“I’ll be playing against some of the best guys in the country. It’s a huge learning opportunity and I think I can take it to a lot of places.”

Menaugh’s mobility in the open court has improved from last season, but he’s the first to say he requires much more conditioning to handle the rigors of a Sean Miller practice.

Rarely was he at midcourt or away from the lane, however, when a teammate scored against Ironwood Ridge. He was a part of the action for a majority of Catalina Foothills’ possessions.

That translated into him making the most shots in the game, five each half.

“I think he is clearly the focal point of our team,” said senior guard Trace Comeau, who finished with 16 points and three made 3-pointers. “If you watch our offense, it is no question who we want to get the ball to.

“We want him to have that ball. We want him to score those buckets because he’s the most consistent person on the floor. He’s 6-foot-10. He’s really gifted at scoring. If he’s 3 feet, 4 feet from the basket, I’ll put all my money on the fact that he’s going to get us a basket.”

Will Menaugh with Catalina Foothills coach Doug D’Amore (Andy Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

Comeau and Menaugh are part of a returning nucleus as good as any locally, if not the state. Also returning from last year’s 25-3 team are veteran guards Carson Peabody (son of Pima College coach Brian Peabody), Cody Blumenthal and Dillon Hadley.

The perimeter foursome of Comeau, Peabody, Blumenthal and Hadley accounted for 29 points against Ironwood Ridge. The guard play with Menaugh and bruising, yet versatile power forward Ben Pickney (who had nine points with a 3-pointer), made the Falcons too difficult for Ironwood Ridge to handle in this game.

Only two games into the season, after the two-month delay to the start due to COVID-19, Catalina Foothills (2-0) has to work out some kinks. D’Amore likes the direction of his team after soundly beating a formidable Ironwood Ridge team led by established coach Jon Kimberlin, but he believes the room for improvement is vast.

“We have some chemistry — there’s definitely some rhythm problems and miscommunication — but given that we are only two-and-a-half weeks into our practice since last March, I’m okay … not happy, but I’m okay,” D’Amore said. “It’s been fun and it’s been frustrating because I know what we’re capable of and I see it in practice. Understanding the situation we’ve all been in for 10 months, I have to be respective to that and know that we are going to be a step or two behind. We are definitely much better than how we’ve played.”

Coming off a 25-win season with veterans returning and having one of the most unique talents in the state with Menaugh creates lofty expectations. D’Amore chuckled at the thought of expectations with the pandemic-ravaged season starting in February instead of last November.

“I don’t compare this season to any season played in the history of basketball,” he said. “Our main goal, and we talked about this when the season was canceled and then when it came on again, is that we’re having fun. That’s the bottom line.

“We’re just happy to be playing basketball. We’re measuring ourselves by every day, if we get better or not against ourselves. If we do what we have to do, we’re confident that we can do some things, but really, our main focus is enjoy what we have because we don’t know what tomorrow will bring.”


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.

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