The Del Norte Knights, who have played in the last two Class 4A boys state basketball championship games, are losing one half of their dynamic backcourt.
Senior-to-be Judah Casaus, a talented 6-foot-1 guard, is joining the local ABC Prep program, which will render him ineligible to compete at the high school level for the Knights for the 2022-23 season.
Casaus averaged almost 17 points and 3.3 assists last season for Del Norte, which won the state title in 2021 and fell to Highland in this year’s 4A final. He was a first-team All-State choice in 4A both seasons.
Casaus and another returning senior for the Knights, Shane Douma-Sanchez, had been comprising one of the top backcourts, in any classification, in the state.
But the New Mexico Activities Association has previously ruled that athletes who join ABC Prep — which is being operated by Brandon Mason, a former New Mexico State player and former Aggies and University of New Mexico assistant coach — will forfeit the right to play that season for their high school teams.
Mason set out to create a local basketball academy that would generate interest for its players from college programs.
ADDED DEPARTURE: The Highland High boys soccer program is also losing one of its top players, albeit for a different reason.
Goalkeeper Diego Ortega, who was a first-team Class 4A All-State selection last season for the Hornets, is leaving not just the Highland program, but also the city, the state and the country.
Ortega earlier this month announced that he is leaving to play for FC Odisea Academy in Spain for his senior year. His absence is going to leave a huge hole for Highland to fill next fall.
“He was exploring all his options,” Highland coach Nick Madrid said. “And the idea of going to Europe was really exciting to him.”
HILL/HIGHLANDS: New Mexico’s Gatorade Athlete of the Year in boys basketball has made his college choice as guard Ja’Kwon Hill, who spearheaded Volcano Vista’s run to a state title last March, has committed to New Mexico Highlands and coach Michael Dominguez.
Hill averaged 18.5 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists for the Hawks in their 29-0 season, and was Volcano Vista’s floor general.
MOVING ON: Albuquerque Academy held a ceremony last week for athletes who are headed to the next level.
A couple of baseball players from the Chargers team that has participated in the last two state championship games are bound for Division I programs, with pitcher Alex Gaeto going to Samford University in Alabama and Henry Mitchell headed to the U.S. Naval Academy. Mitchell was limited in his physical use for Academy this year due to an injury.
Golfer Neil Parasher, who helped Academy to the Class 4A state golf title earlier this month, is going to attend Stanford. Runner Jocelyn Garcia is going to Seattle University of the Western Athletic Conference for cross country and track. Joaquin Deprez, another standout Chargers runner, signed with Dartmouth of the Ivy League. Lauren Jorgensen, an equestrian athlete, will compete for Baylor.
Other athletes with sports and college: Caleb Lasher (baseball; Beloit College in Beloit, Wisconsin); Reagan Madonia (girls basketball; Milwaukee School of Engineering); Brennan Ghattas (jump rope; Miami University in Oxford, Ohio); Coralie Norenberg (swimming; UC Santa Cruz); Kane Demers (track and field; Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine); Elizabeth Pederson (volleyball; St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota); Emma Patton (track/cross country; Occidental College in Los Angeles); Devan Johnson (baseball; University of Chicago); Nico Fulgenzi (football; Willamette University in Oregon); Clark Hager (football; Catholic University in Washington, D.C.); Tay Hwang (men’s golf; Cal-State San Bernardino); and Dominic Siegele (baseball; Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington).