Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2011 | 2:05 a.m.
Beyond the Sun
Las Vegas High basketball coach Jason Wilson couldn’t have asked for a better nonleague game for his team to play in.
The Wildcats are one of three Southern Nevada public schools scheduled to play national power Findlay Prep, facing off against the Henderson-based team Dec. 17 at the South Point Arena.
Findlay, which takes players from around the country for its top-caliber team of blue-chip recruits, is in its sixth year of existence at Henderson International School. The Pilots have twice won the ESPN RISE national championship and are regulars in virtually every national ranking.
For the players at Las Vegas High, which took fourth last year in the Northeast Division, it’s a chance of a lifetime.
“One of the cool things about it is the kids won’t get a chance to play in a venue like that very often,” Wilson said. “Plus, it’s going to be an eye-opener for our kids. A lot of kids in town have the notion they are Division I athletes. Our kids are going to find out what a Division I player plays like.”
In addition to Las Vegas High, Findlay on Dec. 8 will host Eldorado and Feb. 3 will host Foothill at its home gym at Henderson International. Also, Findlay will play its annual game with Bishop Gorman, the perennial Nevada power and private school, which is also nationally ranked.
Accepting the game, which Findlay will likely win in lopsided fashion, was a no-brainer for Pilots coach Mike Peck. Findlay’s national schedule includes games in Lexington, Ky.; Sioux Falls, S.D.; Dayton, Ohio; Springfield, Mass.; and Lubbock, Texas, making the option of playing a local opponent attractive.
“I don’t know that we are doing anyone a favor by giving them a game,” Peck said. “It helps us, too. It keep us from traveling for a game. It keeps us local and it is good for our guys to do it in the community here from a fan standpoint.”
While Findlay doesn’t play in a local league and its players are all from out of state, Peck takes pride in helping Southern Nevada basketball grow. The Findlay program has never recruited local athletes and is part of the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association — the governing body of high school sports in Nevada.
“No. 1, Mike is a good guy. He has been really good (to the local coaches),” Foothill coach Kevin Soares said. “He doesn’t have to play us local guys. He knows it might not be competitive, but he still gives us the opportunity to play against his team.”
Findlay, which has had a McDonald’s All-American the past three years, only played Bishop Gorman locally last year. Previously, it scheduled a handful of games against local public schools, including Foothill twice. Foothill, which last played Findlay two years ago, is using this year’s game as a warm-up for the playoffs that begin two weeks after their meeting.
“It is just a great opportunity to play a very high-quality team,” Soares said. “It puts us back to reality as far as what high school basketball players look like.”
The public schools might have one player with Division I potential, but nobody being heavily recruited. The game is a great stage for the players to showcase their ability.
“Ever since we came into this thing one of my main objectives and goals was for this to be a positive thing for everyone, where people in the community can be proud of it,” Peck said. “I’m happy for teams that do well and have good players in the Vegas area.”