Monday, Dec. 3, 2012 | 2 a.m.
Palo Verde High senior basketball player Eris Winder often changed his shoes in the middle of games last year. Battling back troubles, Winder was looking for ways to stay comfortable and limit the pain.
He clearly found the right pair of shoes during the playoffs.
In the three Sunset Regional playoff games over four days, the guard scored 28 or more points against arguably the state’s top three teams.
The performance elevated Winder to one of the top players in Southern Nevada. He’s one of seven on the Sun’s Super Seven preseason team, joining twins Malcolm and Marcus Allen from Centennial, Valley High power forward Daniel Young, Desert Pines guard Julian Jacobs, Clark guard Sir Washington and Bishop Gorman wing Rashad Muhammad.
“I was just looking to be more aggressive,” Winder said of his scoring spurt. “I thought during the playoffs would be a good time to turn it on and score.”
In the Sunset quarterfinals against Clark, he scored 11 points in the fourth quarter to finish with 28 points and help Palo Verde upset higher-seeded Clark. In the next round, Winder continued the hot play with 33 points and five assists in knocking off Centennial.
He saved his best for Palo Verde’s last game of the year.
Winder posted 39 points against eventual state champion Bishop Gorman, having his finest game against the Gaels’ starting lineup that features the national player of the year and three other top-150 overall recruits.
Palo Verde lost the game to end the season, but a star was born in Winder.
“Pressure really doesn’t bother him,” Palo Verde coach Paul Sanchez said. “He has total confidence when he has the ball in his hands. He’s in complete control. He sees the floor and has great control of his body.”
The 6-foot Winder might be even more impressive this year. His back problems are a thing of the past. Last year, he also suffered through an illness that caused him to lose weight, but now he’s bulked up to about 180 pounds with frequent workouts at Phase One Sports.
Despite the setbacks, he still averaged 15.9 points, 6.1 assists and 2.4 rebounds per game. That’s led to interest from colleges, with Drake, UNR and Portland State offering him scholarships.
“I’m a playmaker. I know how to make my teammates happy,” he said. “I know how to score. I have a gift to score and get my shot up, and to make my teammates better.”
Palo Verde is one of the favorites to win the Northwest League, especially with rival and defending league champion Centennial moving to the Southwest League with realignment. The teams, which are two of the area’s top rivals, won’t play this year. Well, at least the meet in the playoffs — which, of course, is Winder’s time to shine.
“He has the ability to score 30 points per game,” Sanchez said. “If team are going to allow him to score, he will take advantage of that.”
Here are the rest of the members of the team:
Malcolm Allen, senior guard, Centennial
About Malcolm: The 6-foot-1 Malcolm Allen and his twin brother, Marcus, both signed last month to play at Stanford. In the first week of the season, they backed up claims of being two of the area’s best. In the first game of the season, both scored nearly 30 points in a victory against Liberty. In the next game, when Centennial beat Silverado by 40 points, coach Todd Allen witnessed yet again why the twins make the Bulldogs state-championship contenders. “Malcolm finished with 11 assists and could have had 30 points if he wanted,” said coach Allen, no relation. “He doesn’t care who scores as long as we win. They are both great teammates. They are once-in-a-lifetime kids at Centennial.”
Malcolm on the upcoming season: He averaged 15.1 points and 3.8 assists per game last year in helping the Bulldogs win the Northwest League. But they lost to Palo Verde in the Sunset Regional semifinals, leaving a major void in the twins’ otherwise perfect resume. This year, some feel the twins can lead Centennial to victory against defending state champion Bishop Gorman. To do that, however, it will take more than just contributions from the Allens. “If we can get these guys rolling, get our team chemistry that much better, we have a good chance to win state,” Malcolm said. “Gorman is beatable. Any team is beatable. You just have to play good that one night and execute. If we do that, we’ll have a chance to beat them.”
Marcus Allen, senior guard, Centennial
About Marcus: The 6-foot-2 Marcus Allen, who is a three-star prospect on the Rivals.com scale of five recruiting stars, averaged 20 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists per game last year. Rated as the nation’s No. 38 shooting guard in the nation by Rivals, he signed with Stanford last month. Combining with twin brother, Malcolm Allen, they give Centennial a legitimate chance to win the state championship. “They are just winners,” Centennial coach Todd Allen said. “They make everyone around them better.”
Marcus on the upcoming season: The play of the Allen twins will dictate the type of season Centennial will have. That could be viewed as a pressure. Just not to Marcus Allen. “There is no pressure here,” he said. “I have a great coach and great teammates. Everyone has bought into their roles and is doing something they are good at. It’s a team effort. Not a one- or two-player team effort.”
Julian Jacobs, senior guard, Desert Pines High
About Julian: The 6-foot-3 Jacobs, who signed with USC in late November, averaged 12.6 points, 5.9 assists and 5.3 rebounds per game last year. He’s ranked as the nation’s No. 36 point guard by ESPN. He’s typically been the best player on the court the past two seasons. “He knows how to play. He just gets it,” Desert Pines coach Mike Uzan said. “He passes the ball well. He makes everyone better. He can just do it all.”
Julian on the upcoming season: With Jacobs and senior Donovan Wright leading the way, Desert Pines is the clear-cut favorite to win the Division I-A Sunrise Region and compete for a state title. The new league featured former 3A classification teams such as Boulder City and Moapa Valley, meaning the former 4A playoff-qualifier Desert Pines should thrive. That’s especially true with Jacobs guiding the offense at point guard. Jacobs partially redefined his game in the offseason to be a more aggressive scorer. As a pure point guard, his No. 1 priority has always been getting teammates involved first. That has to change for Desert Pines to be the state champions. “I will be forced to score more and show that side of my game,” Jacobs said. “I have take a more aggressive approach. I don’t feel anyone can stop me.”
Rashad Muhammad, senior wing, Bishop Gorman High
About Rashad: Muhammad, a 6-foot-4 shooting guard, has been a fixture in nationally respected Gorman’s rotation the past two seasons. Now, it’s his turn to shine as one of the Gaels’ top players. All five starters from last year’s team are playing in college — including Muhammad’s older brother, Shabazz — to leave a major void in the defending state champion’s lineup. “Rashad has played in a lot of big games on the high school and AAU basketball level,” Gorman coach Grant Rice said. “With a young team, his experience will definitely have to show up for us. He can score in a bunch of different ways. With us losing most of our scoring from last year, we need him to step in and do that for us this year.”
Rashad on the upcoming season: Muhammad, who has scholarship offers from Colorado, Maryland, Northwestern, San Diego State, SMU and others, averaged 9.4 points per game last year off the bench. This year, the output will likely have to double for Gorman to defend its title. It’s a responsibility Muhammad is more than willing to shoulder. After waiting his turn, it’s his time to shine. “There is definitely more pressure to do more,” Muhammad said. “We lost so many seniors. That is a lot of weight back on my shoulders because we are so young.”
Sir Washington, senior guard, Clark High
About Sir: Washington, who signed last month with Eastern Washington, is arguably the best player in the Sunset Region in Division I-A. Clark is one of the favorites to win the state championship because of how the 6-foot-3 guard can take over a game. “He is a really good scorer. He is a really good on-the-ball defender,” Clark coach Chad Beeten said. “He scores in a ton of different ways. He’s just not a shooter. He can score in all three phases.” Beeten raves about Washington’s work ethic and says that has been contagious with teammates. “I want to make my team better every time I am out there.”
Sir on the upcoming season: Washington averaged 14.5 points, five rebounds and four assists per game last year. This year, the only stat that matters is in the win column. Clark lost to state-champion Bishop Gorman by only nine points last year and, after this move to a lower classification, could be the last team standing. “I want to win state. That is what I have been working hard for,” Washington said.
Daniel Young, senior forward/center, Valley High
About Daniel: Young, a 6-foot-8 post player who last month signed with Cal-State Fullerton, provides a dominating presence on the interior for the Vikings. In their initial two games last week, Young averaged 16.5 points and 12 rebounds per game, and missed just two shots. More important was how he affected the game on the other end of the court. “Most of the time he is the tallest person on the court, and changes the game on defense with rebounding and blocked shots,” Valley coach Brian Farnsworth said. “He makes it tough to score when (the opposition) penetrates into the key or gets to the rim.”
Daniel on the upcoming season: Young averaged just 8 points and 8 rebounds per game last year but blossomed on the AAU circuit during the summer with the Compton Magic. And, he’s added 15 pounds of muscle to weigh a more intimidating 195 pounds. That’s changed his mentality with the ball. “Being a power forward, you have to attack the rim every time,” Young said. “Everything has to be a dunk or it’s not right for me.” Young is a big reason why Valley is one of the favorites to win the Sunrise Region title. Talk with Young, however, and he doesn’t hesitate mentioning a loftier goal. “Definitely state,” Young said.