Thursday, Nov. 12, 2009 | 2:10 a.m.
Chalk one up for the little guy.
For years, high school coaches and athletic directors of programs in the state’s lower classifications have tried to convince promising athletes they could reach their dreams of receiving a college scholarship without playing in the large-school division.
Looks like those coaches are right.
Just ask two of the top high school basketball players in Nevada — Landon Littlefield and De’Quan Thompson from Lake Mead Christian Academy in Henderson.
The duo, who have led the Eagles to the last two 1A classification state crowns, won’t receive the same recognition during this week’s early college signing period as Palo Verde’s Moses Morgan (DePaul), Bishop Gorman’s Anson Winder (BYU) or Centennial’s Ben Vozzola (San Diego).
But when the guards sign on Thursday with Division II Dixie State College of St. George, Utah, it will reaffirm what Lake Mead coach Jeff Newton and other small-school coaches have said for years — if you can play, the recruiters will find you.
“It doesn’t matter what school you go to nowadays,” Newton said. “Some feel the grass in greener on the other side. But small schools have more to offer, like being on the varsity team for four years instead of two.”
More importantly, the high school season doesn’t hold much significance in the world of basketball recruiting. Coaches do the heavy lifting on their evaluating during the summer when players are traveling the nation playing on the AAU circuit.
“I have always thought that it doesn’t matter how big of a (high) school you go to,” Newton said. “It’s more about the individuals involved in the young person’s life and how hard the athletes are willing to work.”
And Littlefield and Thompson are two of the hardest workers Newton has been around in nearly two decades of coaching. They are constantly in the gym looking for ways to improve their game, and that dedication has paid off in the form of a scholarship.
It’s the kind of dedication that leads to good things — regardless of the league you compete in.
“I don’t want to sound arrogant, but I feel they are two of the best guards in the state,” Newton said. “De’Quan is the best on-ball defender I have had. When you match his speed, jumping ability and strength, he is as good as any guard in the state.
“Landon is just like another coach on the floor. His basketball IQ is off the chart.”
Littlefield has 1,587 career points and is projected to graduate as Lake Mead’s all-time leading scorer. He is also on track to break an 11-year state record for career 3-pointers, only needing 16 to surpass the mark of 215. Thompson is super athletic, winning four different dunk contests at various showcases throughout his career and being named the 1A Southern League’s Most Valuable Player last winter.
They are the closest of friends and have been terrorizing the opposition together as teammates since middle school. They long dreamed of having the same success together in college.
Lake Mead attends Dixie State’s camp each summer and the boys instantly fell in love with the school and its basketball program.
Now, they will get that chance live their dream — not bad for two under-rated players from a school of fewer than 100 students.
“We thought (Dixie) was the right fit for us,” said Littlefield, a 6-foot-1 guard. “We had interest from other schools but never really considered it. We’ve wanted to go to Dixie since we were in the eighth grade. We really love the school and environment.”