Two teams from Illinois held a memorable conclusion to a tournament that organizers hope won't be forgotten on the AAU circuit.
Club basketball team Mac (Chicago) Irvin beat the Illinois (Downer's Grove) Wolves 64-63 in double overtime to wrap up the inaugural Desert Duel Summer Prep Memorial, a tournament featuring some of the best high school talent in the country.
Thirty-two teams packed three basketball courts at Gilbert Mesquite High from Sunday through Tuesday, giving college coaches another showcase between tournaments in Las Vegas and Los Angeles.
Illinois coach Bruce Weber was on hand, as was former Arizona State coach Rob Evans, who is an assistant at Arkansas. Coaches from Indiana, Arizona, Arizona State, Kansas, UCLA, UConn and Syracuse, among others, attended to evaluate the talent.
"It's become a premier event in just its first year," said Jeff Scheider, who helped organize the tournament and plans to bring it back.
Arizona State assistant coach Scott Pera kept a close eye on a pair of Arizona club teams throughout the afternoon, and said the setup couldn't be beat. Tucson has the Cactus Classic, but there hasn't been a big-time club basketball tournament in the Phoenix area since the 1990s.
"It's always great to have events in your city," Pera said. "If (the teams) get here a day early, leave a day late, and they want to (see Arizona State) on their own, of course it's an advantage to have kids close to you and your school at any time."
Arizona Premier had the best showing of the six Arizona club squads. With local stars such as Nick and Chris Johnson (Gilbert Highland), Josh Lowery (Phoenix Desert Vista) and Tyler Miller (Chandler Basha), Arizona Premier advanced to the semifinals, falling to the Illinois Wolves 66-56.
Chris Johnson scored 19 points, Nick Johnson added 14 and Miller had eight in the loss.
The state's top prospect, Phoenix North junior Daniel Bejarano, led the Arizona Stars to the quarterfinals and a 5-1 record.
After two impressive days on Sunday and Monday, Bejarano - who is strongly considering Arizona State - finished with a 22-point, eight-rebound, five-assist performance in a win over the Texas Ambassadors.
Count Bejarano as a proponent for an annual tournament in the East Valley after several cross-country trips.
"Oh, yes," he said. "I was in Kansas and South Carolina for 11 days, bored."