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LAS VEGAS, Nev. — During one sequence of Thursday’s game involving Tucson’s Just Hoops U17 team here, Class of 2018 prospect Sam Beskind fearlessly attacked the lane and out-muscled two defenders on the way to an emphatic two-handed jam.
The strong move from the native Tucsonan is symbolic for how Beskind (pronounced Bes-kin) is aggressively trying to take his game to esteemed places of higher learning at Yale and Harvard. The Catalina Foothills High School junior-to-be made it a point to attend elite camps on the East coast during the spring with the desire to get noticed by the coaching staffs of the Ivy League schools.
“I really want to get a good education,” Beskind, a 6’3″ guard, told me after leading Just Hoops to a victory in the Bigfoot Hoops Las Vegas Classic at Cimarron High School. “This summer, I went to Yale and Harvard. That’s honestly my goal is to play basketball and get the highest education I can get because I know you can’t play basketball forever.
Keep eye on Class of '18 G/F Sam Beskind of Cat Foothills. Led Just Hoops to 2 wins today. Yale&Harvard interested pic.twitter.com/UrkwLFN10U
“I went up to Yale talked to the coaching staff a bunch and they said I definitely have a chance. Of course, I need to keep working on stuff, putting in the time.”
A couple plays from earlier 😊🏀 pic.twitter.com/ZTKug5rYBq
Although the AAU season is drawing to a close this weekend, Beskind’s basketball odyssey will continue with an appearance at Seattle University’s elite basketball camp Aug. 13. The Redhawks, coached by former UCLA player Cameron Dollar, are actively pursuing Beskind and Walden Grove Class of 2018 guard Connor Verdugo, who also plays for Just Hoops.
Verdugo, a sharp-shooting guard, is the nephew of former Canyon del Oro and ASU baseball pitcher Jason Verdugo.
The Just Hoops AAU team is a combination of Tucson-area youths organized by Pima Community College’s basketball program with the coach being Aztecs assistant Tommy Romano.
“A lot these kids are handpicked,” Romano said. “I do a lot of personal training in the area so I’ve gotten to know some of the better kids. Selfishly, a lot of these guys, we think we’re going to recruit at Pima.
“A lot of these guys, we bring together for our own marketing ability. At the same time, too, this is how I recruit for Pima so I’ll coach these guys.”
The AAU experience for Beskind and Verdugo, and the other local talent with Just Hoops, is paying dividends with their development. Romano and Pima coach Brian Peabody are providing that opportunity to play against strong competition in Las Vegas with the possibility of getting noticed by college coaches.
“Seattle University is recruiting Connor pretty good,” Romano said. “Their assistant has been to several of our games this summer.
“What I tell these guys though, now that I am a college coach, is that everything will take care of itself. If you’re a good player, you can’t worry about rankings and all of that kind of stuff. That’s why I really like this group. We do have guys who are getting recruited but you would never know that talking to them.”
Beskind understands that although he has shown promise to the coaches at Harvard and Yale, he still has much to work on to land a spot in either program.
“My jump shot needs to develop more and stuff like that, but I think I am getting there,” Beskind said.
In terms of his style of play, Beskind said, “I’m definitely an attacker. I like to get my teammates involved by attacking and kicking out. I can get to the rim. I also try to focus on defense first because often times that can create easy buckets on offense.”
Beskind often went to the free throw line, finishing with 16 points and seven rebounds in a 51-41 win over the HD Phenoms. Another player who played assertive in the paint — 6’6″ forward Phoenix Katz of Catalina Foothills, finished with six points and 10 rebounds.
Beskind has the body build of a tailback if he played football and he would be a good one because of his athleticism and aggressive style.
“He’s got a good build for a kid that’s going to be a junior in high school,” Romano said. “He’s fearless. He’s tough. He’s not afraid to get in there. For college prospects coming out of Tucson, that’s what college coaches want to see.
“For whatever reason, right or wrong, Tucson has a soft label for high school basketball. To coach a throwback like him is refreshing because that’s how I was taught to play the game, too.”
ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.