Utah club basketball teams win big in California tourneys

Two Utah club basketball teams won tournaments this past weekend, gaining momentum on the way to the biggest AAU events of the summer in Las Vegas. And it's not just fluff — they're beating some of the best teams in the West.

Utah Hoops, a 16U team featuring some of Davis County's top prospects, topped the Las Vegas Prospects, a group that was ranked No. 7 in their age group by Five Star Basketball. The 70-61 victory in the finals of the Pangos Sweet 16 in California showcased in particular 6-foot-9 post Brekkott Chapman from Roy and 6-foot-7 swingman Dalton Nixon from Orem, a duo of 2014 prospects who each have offers from Utah and Utah State.

If coach Lynn Lloyd's phone calls from Arizona State and BYU on Monday are omens, more offers could be coming in for those two in particular. Bountiful guard Sam Merrill also got his first Division I offer from Utah State on Monday, Lloyd says. Nixon tweeted that he had received an offer from the University of San Fransisco on Monday afternoon.

"The college coaches have all told me that our team is great because we have a lot of unselfish kids," Lloyd says. "I think we have as much talent and size as anybody, but our guys really can all shoot it, and they like each other."

Nixon typically plays with Utah Pump-N-Run but joined the team for the semifinals and finals. Lloyd describes him and Chapman as the likely top prospects of the class - both are athletic and versatile scorers and rebounders. But the team also features a number of young starters at local high schools: Abel Porter at Davis, Merrill and Zac Seljaas at Bountiful and Mike Hibbert at Layton.

The core of the group has been together for several years, but hadn't beaten a talented Las Vegas Prospects squad in two previous tries. But after winning three tournaments this year, Lloyd says his group had the right attitude to overcome one of the most respected 16U teams in the country.

"We were trying to get another shot at them," he says. "It meant a lot to finally get over that hump."

The team will take a week off before competing in the Fab 48 in Las Vegas.

Another younger group also made waves - the 15U Utah Pump-N-Run team won the Double Pump Three Stripes tournament in Anaheim, Calif. They claimed the top spot with a 60-50 win over Double Pump Elite based in Los Angeles, a team ranked No. 8 in the 15U age group by Five Star Basketball.

Led by coach Jason Long, the team's top players were 6-foot-3 guard Malek Hartwell from Idaho and Layton's Jarriesse Blackmon, a 6-foot-5 wing. Blackmon averaged 12 points, 6.6 rebounds and 2.3 blocks throughout the tournament.

The group only came together in April - it boast players sprinked everywhere from Draper to Heber City to Eklo, Nev., to Tooele. But Long says it's one of the more talented groups he's coached at that age.

"A lot of kids have to learn how to play hard - they think they do, but they don't know," Long says. "These kids are the exception. They're always the ones playing hardest on the court. We lost a couple tourneys by a few points, so we're finally getting past that mental block. No matter who we play we know we can beat them."

The team will be playing two Las Vegas tournaments each of the next two weekends.

Post was originally published by The Salt Lake Tribune on Jul 17, 2012 12:02AM