Wednesday, July 25, 2012 | 2 a.m.
Thousands of high school basketball players have arrived in town this week with hopes of impressing hundreds of college coaches at various AAU tournaments.
There’s one opponent in particular that all of them should want to avoid — the Las Vegas Prospects’ Darryl Gaynor. The 15-year-old rising junior at Palo Verde High has transformed into a lockdown defender and rising recruit over the course of the summer.
“He has the ability to guard three different positions at the next level,” said Anthony Brown, coach of the Prospects. “There are not many people who can say that; it opens up your recruitment.”
Gaynor, who last winter at Palo Verde averaged 9.6 points, 3.1 assists and 2.8 rebounds per game, can attest to that firsthand. The 6-foot-2, 170-pound guard, who’s confident he’ll hit another growth spurt, had received little interest from colleges as recently as June.
Everything changed at a tournament in Long Beach, Calif., two weeks ago. The Prospects advanced to the championship game, in large part because Brown assigned Gaynor to guard the other team’s best player in every game.
Gaynor thrived in the role and garnered his first offer, from Northern Arizona, by the end of the weekend. Oklahoma, Utah, Saint Mary’s and a handful of other schools also contacted Gaynor in the aftermath of what can only be described as his breakout.
“It’s made me feel alright, but I think I can get more attention,” Gaynor said. “I’ve got to work hard to make sure I get more attention.”
This week will provide the perfect opportunity. The Prospects 16-and-under team, which features seven other Division-I recruits, including highly touted Shaquille Carr, competes in the prestigious Las Vegas Fab 48 tournament with their first game scheduled for 6 tonight at Bishop Gorman.
Brown has no doubts that Gaynor’s profile will continue to rise through the end of the summer. As the coach of the Prospects for the last 10 years — producing numerous standouts, including UNLV’s Anthony Marshall, UNR’s Luke Babbitt and Iowa State’s Craig Brackins — Brown has seen multiple players explode onto the recruiting scene like Gaynor.
“For Las Vegas, it’s always all of a sudden,” Brown said. “Because if college coaches put an extra 35 minutes onto their flight, they can go straight to L.A. and see 10,000 more kids. We’re always playing second-fiddle to the L.A. market, but when they come out and you get matched up against that L.A. kid who is ‘the guy,’ then they realize the Vegas kid.”
When Brown started working with Gaynor three years ago, he wasn’t nearly as proficient on the defensive end. He was a pure scorer, equally as likely to light up from 3-point range as he was to take the ball to the rim.
It took Brown’s guidance for Gaynor to realize that defense was his ticket to landing a scholarship. Once he dedicated himself to guarding better, Gaynor said it came naturally.
He partly credits his older sister, Darriel Gaynor, who plays for Mississippi State and won three state championships at Gorman in high school. Many of Darryl’s earliest lessons in basketball came from his sister.
“She’s a great defender,” he said. “She guards the other team’s best player all the time, so I think I picked up a lot of the defensive end from her.”
Despite her influence, don’t expect to see Darryl Gaynor follow suit and head to the South for college. For now, he thinks he’d like to stay near home and go somewhere on the West Coast.
“I want my family to come see me, and I want to go to a school with good education and a good campus,” he said. “I want it to be somewhere I love and maybe somewhere I can live after college.”
In case he changes his mind, he’ll have no shortage of options. Gaynor projects as one of Las Vegas’ most coveted basketball commodities over the next year-and-a-half.
“There’s so much more he has left in him,” Brown said. “I think, at this time next year, he’s probably going to have to make a commitment because he’s going to be getting it so hard. It’s going to become too much. This is just the beginning.”