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Guards dominate All-Metro hoops choices

If we were to disperse the first-and second-teamers from this year’s Journal All-Metro boys and girls basketball squads into an intrasquad scrimmage, one thing would be abundantly clear:

We’d have a whole lot of five-guard lineups.

As I unveil our 2018-19 teams, a staggering 18 of the 20 choices – first-team selections highlighted here in my column, second-team choices also on this page – were guards.

No need for shot clocks with this year’s banner crop.

Boys

I’m often asked if these All-Metro teams are driven purely by statistics. Truth is, an athlete’s numbers from a particular season of course are part of the overall picture as I try to hash all of this out.

Cleveland’s Aamer Muhammad exemplifies why stats are not the one overriding component during this process. The senior guard is one of my first-team choices, but if you were to look purely at his scoring average (a solid 16.2 ppg), it is less than three of the other four first-teamers and everyone on our second team.

But there are intangibles here that strongly finagle the conversation.

Over the final few weeks of the regular season, I’m not sure another guard in Class 5A was performing at a higher overall level and doing as much at both ends of the floor as Muhammad. And that’s saying something, considering the incredible stable of guards we were privileged to watch this season.

Forget that little crossover step Muhammad employs when he drives to the basket, a move that was practically indefensible. It was his defense, often against elite scorers like Rio Rancho’s David Patterson and Atrisco Heritage’s Joziah Ramos, that also merits one of my five first-team slots.

Patterson, the state’s Gatorade Player of the Year, and Ramos, the junior who sparked the Jaguars to a second straight state title eight days ago, are also first-team selections.

Although he missed the final quarter of the season with a knee injury, Eldorado forward Kameron Valencia, the only repeat first-teamer from 2018, absolutely warrants a first-team mention. This extremely athletic player, with prowess in the paint and beyond the arc, was very near the top of the list of my favorite players to watch.

The final slot, and the only non-5A player on either the first team or second team, goes to the quintessential coach’s kid, Los Lunas senior guard Zanen Zeller. He was the least offensive-minded (in terms of his own scoring) of any player in my top 10, but was possibly the most valuable piece within the confines of an individual offense.

Zeller and Ramos both were second-team choices last year.

Girls

There is more familiarity on this side of the ledger, with three girls – Cailee Crawford of Highland, Kaya Ingram of La Cueva and Maiah Rivas of 5A state champ West Mesa – back on the first team for the second consecutive season.

Rivas’ steady hand had her fingerprints all over this blue trophy season for the Mustangs. She scored 23 in the title game against Hobbs. And she is the only senior among the first team this season.

Even now, three months later, I remember a pre-Christmas road game Ingram and the Bears played at Rio Rancho, where her crossover dribble was destroying the Rams. I remember thinking, she is going to wreck some poor girl’s ACL before her career is over.

Crawford, at 6-foot-1, looks less like a high school guard – but more like a potential Division I college guard – than any of the girls on the first or second team.

There was no way to omit Volcano Vista guard Jaelyn Bates from the first team, not after her sensational freshman season that saw her average almost 19 points a game for the Hawks. Viane Cumber of Sandia rounds out the top five as she got her prep career going with an outstanding sophomore campaign after missing all of her freshman season.

My congratulations to all of this year’s selections. For three months, y’all made sure we were an attentive audience.

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