For complete Day 2 results from the MaxPreps Holiday Classic, click here.
PALM SPRINGS, Calif. – Pleasant Grove (Elk Grove)
post Arik Armstead
snatched a defensive rebound above the rim and instinctively didn't bother to look for an outlet.
The court was spread and players dispersed in this up-and-down sequence, so the 6-foot-8, 285-pound senior played Magic Johnson and dribbled speedily, gracefully and no doubt powerfully straight past midcourt and toward the Simi Valley free throw line.
None of the Pioneers looked to take a charge.
"I wouldn't," Pleasant Grove point guard Malik Thames
said. "That's almost 300 pounds of beef chugging at full speed."
Armstead stopped on a dime at the line, dished left to Thames and the slight 6-2 junior made a contested layup while being fouled. He converted the 3-point play.
It was a textbook fastbreak hoop. … without an outlet pass. … and King Kong leading the break.
"I have some skills," Armstead said with a twinkle following his team's 73-45 victory in pool play of the MaxPreps Holiday Classic at Cathedral City High School. "I don't get to show them much but I have them."
Armstead hasn't flashed them much over the past season because he's one of the nation's top football recruits, a two-way interior lineman ranked No. 28 by CBS/MaxPreps recruiting expert Tom Lemming.
But his first love, he said, was always hoops. His dad Guss trained professional athletes for a living, many of them college and NBA players.
"I grew up in the gym and around the game," Armstead said. "I loved it. I still do."
His first recruiting letter, in fact, was when he was a freshman. It was from Cal to play basketball. Despite his massive size and growing muscles, he's agile, nimble and quick.
He possesses soft hands, a nice touch around the hoop, and with a simple shift of his powerful hips, he can easily clear space.
Like in the third quarter against 6-7, 180-pound senior Jordan Ladd, a typically-sized high school post. Armstead decided to assert himself. Ladd wound up on the ground. The Simi Valley coaching staff understandably pleaded to the referees for mercy.
Or at least a foul.
"That's probably how I should play," said the soft-spoken Armstead. "It's hard in high school. I have to do a lot of soft stuff to avoid people. It's going to be different in college. I'll be playing against more physical guys and I can show my game."
But many people – football folks of course – think that Armstead should give up his basketball dream.
Those in the know see him as a sure-fire NFL lineman. Some say an offensive tackle. He prefers defense.
His ultimate dream though is to do it all. And we mean all.
"I want to be the first to play in the NFL and the NBA," he told Sacramento Bee staff writer and MaxPreps contributor Joe Davidson in August. "I really want to try. I think the only thing that would hold me back would be injuries, but if I'm healthy, and I really put my mind to it, why not?"
Pleasant Grove basketball coach John DePonte wouldn't put it past him. But DePonte said it would be nice for Armstead to enjoy being a kid first before thinking of making history.
"Never seen a kid pulled in so many directions," DePonte said. "Football recruiters. Basketball recruiters. Writers. Colleges. People on the street. It's amazing that he holds it together."
It helps, of course, that he has such strong family ties. His older brother Armond played football at USC, where Arik originally committed to play football.
He decommitted in September and his football and basketball recruiting is wide open. On top of that, he's considering graduating Pleasant Grove early and enrolling next month in whatever college he picks.
He said his finalists – Oregon, Auburn, Cal, Notre Dame and Texas – have all said he could play basketball also.
That's a lot to chew over. But at least he's got options. More than an 18-year-old should be faced with perhaps.
"I do a pretty good job of blocking everything out and enjoying my time in the here and now," he said.
Of course, if he leaves, DePonte and the Eagles will have a huge hole to fill in the middle. They just got Armstead along with other football players, 6-4, 185-pound quarterback Cody Demps
and 6-3, 220-pound tight end Haji "DJ" Dunn
, a pair of key reserves, back to the hardwood from the gridiron.
The Eagles are 10-1, extremely talented and a legitimate Division I Northern California state basketball contender.
Thames, whose brother Xavier plays at San Diego State, is a top Division I player. He had 16 against Simi Valley. Matthew Hayes
, another lighting quick 6-foot guard, had 15.
Armstead had 10 points and eight rebounds in just over 16 minutes. Colfax Nordquist
, a 6-3 junior, might be the team's best all-around player right now.
They are all in wait-and-see mode with Armstead's decision, to see if he actually finishes out the season. He averages about a double-double per game and those numbers could grow exponentially as his basketball legs get underneath him.
"I know it's tough on them," Armstead said. "Again, I try not to think about it. I'm here now, I'll be here tomorrow. We're a team."
Thames, one of his best friends on the team, and a top Division I basketball prospect, said whatever Armstead decides he'll support.
"We just want what's best for big Arik," he said. "Of course we'll miss him if he goes. He's a huge part of our team. But it's totally his decision and we'll all be good with it.
"I'll be really interested how he does (in basketball) in college. He's such a nice kid he sometimes takes it easy on the high school (players). And the refs call him for everything because he's so much bigger and stronger than everyone. But when he gets mad, he absolutely dominates and I can see him doing that in college."
DePonte would prefer he stay at Pleasant Grove for his last semester even if he didn't play basketball.
Just so he could enjoy his peers. Attend senior ball. Relax.
And hey, if he wants to help Pleasant Grove win a Sac-Joaquin Section basketball title – or more – all the better.
Armstead would love all those things also. He'll announce his college plans likely at the U.S. All-American Bowl Jan. 7 in San Antonio. If not, then shortly after, he said.
"Colleges start up January 17, so I'll have to make my decision before then," he said with a wide grin. "I've got big things planned for my life. If I leave high school early then I'll start moving to the next chapter then."
Judging how he moves on the break, he's ready to take off.