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Arizona's Westwind Prep Academy Seeking To Become Next National High School Powerhouse

Gary Trousdale had one goal in mind when he took over Phoenix Westwind Prep Academy four years ago: 'We want to build Oak Hill West.'

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Arizona High School March Madness
Arizona High School March Madness

Gary Trousdale had one goal in mind when he took over Phoenix (Az.) Westwind Prep Academy four years ago. He wanted to turn the struggling program into a national basketball powerhouse.

"The idea was we want to build Oak Hill West," Trousdale, a former college coach, said in a phone interview.

Trousdale went so far as to spend a week visiting Oak Hill, the Mouth of Wilson, Va., school that has produced 26 McDonald's All-Americans and perennially challenges for the No. 1 national ranking under head coach Steve Smith.

"Our goal has been to develop and build the best basketball program in the country," Trousdale said. "It's Year 4 and we're headed in the right direction."

Yet in building Westwind Prep into a school that is 28-2 after a 102-33 victory over Greyhills Academy on Thursday in the Arizona 2A state tournament quarterfinals, Trousdale has raised some eyebrows.

The current team features four transfers and one foreign exchange player from Latvia.

Westwind has won games this year by the scores of 100-48, 114-41 and 153-33.

"There were a couple write-ups on the Internet saying that we need to stop doing what we're doing, basically just hating on us," said 6-foot-5, 190-pound junior wing Demarquise Johnson, who scored 28 points, with six first-quarter 3-pointers, in the win over Greyhills.

Trousdale compares Johnson, averaging a team-best 20.2 points entering the quarterfinal game, to a young Paul Pierce. He has drawn offers from Minnesota, Washington, Arizona, Arizona State, San Diego State, New Mexico, Oregon State, Providence and Louisville.

Some have questioned whether Westwind, a public charter school with 250 students that does not charge tuition to in-state residents, should compete against other schools in the Arizona Interscholastic Association.

"From the standpoint of these kids playing high school sports, if they meet the eligibility requirements there's nothing we can do," AIA chief operations officer Chuck Schmidt told The Arizona Republic in December.

Schmidt told the paper the school has been proactive in making sure it's in accordance with AIA policy, especially when it comes to recruiting.

"The program is recruiting the kids, but there is no actual recruiting," said Trousdale, who has compiled 100-23 record in four seasons.

Trousdale says the program's "academic environment draws non-traditional students" and he's in favor of bringing in transfers "as long as we are helping kids."

Still, Schmidt told the Arizona Republic: "There is a concern on the part of the AIA staff and executive board anytime kids are coming to a school from around the world or around the country and that provides the school with an immediate competitive advantage."

Westwind Prep is also affiliated with Westwind International, a fifth-year team that competes against college clubs and in regional and national tournaments.

Trousdale said between Westwind Prep and Westwind International, 16 players last year received college scholarships, including eight who went Division 1. Next year several players from the high school team will move onto the fifth-year team.

"It's kind of a feeder system," Trousdale said. "Last year we had no high school players go. This year we'll have quite a few."

Current Washington freshman Terrence Ross was reportedly headed to Westwind last February, but Trousdale said he wanted him to play for the fifth-year team. "I was recruiting to him to come to the post-grad team but not to our high school team," he said.

After losing in the state 2A final last year to Scottsdale Christian, Westwind is headed for a rematch with them in the semifinals on Friday. Westwind won the January matchup between the two teams, 52-49, after trailing 20-5 in the opening minutes.

The championship game is slated for Saturday at 6 p.m. at Tim's Toyota Center.

"It was hard," Johnson said of last year's loss. "I knew that we would come back and regroup and be in the same position that we are now."

Having come this far, Johnson said the team has one unequivocal goal. "We're going to win the state championship," he said.

Whether they win or not, Trousdale promises even bigger things down the road, as Westwind seeks to become Oak Hill West.

In a message that may sound ominous to Westwind's opponents, Trousdale added: "We're expecting some high-major players coming here next year that are going to shock a lot of people."