June 23, 2008

Bejarano guides North to perfect ASU camp

The second session of Arizona State's Team Camp concluded on Sunday with Phoenix North High School outlasting all others as the only team to finish with a perfect 8-0 record over the four day grind, due in large part to the team's rising junior sensation, Daniel Bejarano.

The 6-foot-5 guard put forth a scoring barrage throughout the event, or at least until its final day, when fatigue set in and opposing defensive schemes revolved primarily around trying to stop him.

No matter, as North went 2-for-2 on Sunday, surviving its final game when a Cesar Chavez player missed a wide open, potential game-typing 3-pointer from the corner as time expired.

"I got a little tired but I kept playing through it," Bejarano said. "It was hard, they were trying to hold me, hit me, stop me. They were doing everything they could but I had to just fight through it, hit the open guys and let my game speak for itself."

Coming off a sophomore campaign in which he averaged 22.8 points and 9.1 rebounds and helped North to a 20-10 record and 5A-II state semi-final berth, Bejarano's exploits are relatively well known to just about anyone who follows prep hoops in the Valley.

Until this spring, however, when his coaches turned him loose for the first time at several high-profile events such as the Kingwood Classic, Memorial Day Classic and Nike Hoop Jamboree, he was not receiving much in the way of national publicity.

Now, analysts such as Rivals.com's Jerry Meyer are saying Bejarano might be the top prospect in Arizona.

After watching the majority of his games over the weekend, it's easy to understand why Meyer and others like him might feel that way.

Bejarano has great length and size for a wing guard his age, and he is an impressive run and jump athlete who also happens to have range on his jumper well beyond the NBA 3-point line, with very good shot mechanics and great ball rotation. He sees the floor very well and is an impressive passer, even going as far as to regularly pass up good looks at the basket to get his teammates the ball for even better looks. It's a rare trait for young scoring guards. Defensively, he's extremely active both on the ball and in passing lanes.

Though he could use some tightening up of his ball skills, especially with his off-hand, and hit ability to make plays moving laterally with the ball in his hands is not yet as advanced as the rest of his game, that's getting rather nit-picky. The bottom line is Bejarano is a clear-cut Top-100 level talent in any class and a potential Top-50 recruit in the 2010 cycle should he continue to develop at a reasonable pace.

The best overall recruit in Arizona regardless class? Based on what we've seen, it's certainly a reasonable claim.

Bejarano has helped North to consecutive Final Four appearances at the state 5A-II level, and most of its key players return from a squad that was the No. 1 seed before being upset by a Marcos de Niza team that entered the game with a losing record.

"The team is shaping up good for next year," Bejarano said, a statement seemingly confirmed by the impressive camp showing. "Everyone is just coming hard. We're really doing good. I think we could even go undefeated. It's the same starters we've had since freshmen year so no reason we can't win a championship with what we've already done in the last two years.

"We have to not get in foul trouble. I have to just play my game and not worry about the refs which maybe was a problem when I was younger just being frustrated by the way calls were going or whatever."

Playing in front of ASU coaches during the camp is something that Bejarano relished because the Sun Devils have been recruiting him longest and hardest, are way out in front in the race for the guard's future services. Herb Sendek's program was the first major school to offer a scholarship, with Indiana and Tennessee State following suit, according to Bejarano.

"It's going terrific actually," Bejarano said, when asked about the Sun Devils' recruitment. "I'm getting to know them, talking to them, having fun, joking around. You can't get anything better than that.

"It's really impressive how much they've done this fast. The coaching is really good you know. To miss the tournament, I think they should have made it but they can use that to keep them really motivated and they have like everybody back so they should only get better."

Arizona, Kansas State, SMU, UCLA and Virginia Tech are among the other schools actively recruiting Bejarano. As yet, he has no timetable for how he will approach the process.

"To tell you the truth I just want to keep living life, keep enjoying myself and that time will come," he said. "My goal is just to do the best I can, and be successful in life. I'd like to go to a good school, keep working hard to improve and hopefully make it to the NBA."

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