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Boys basketball: Guyer freshmen playing beyond their years

Profile image for By Adam Boedeker
By Adam Boedeker

Before the basketball season began, Zach Garza sent a group text message to two kids — people his peers might want nothing to do with other than some freshman hazing.

But De’Vion Harmon and Jalen Wilson are not typical freshmen, and they’ve proven as much by being key players in what is becoming a banner season for Guyer boys basketball with the playoffs approaching.

Garza, the Wildcats’ captain and lone senior starter, wanted Harmon and Wilson to know what they were about to be a part of — a long season he hoped would end with a deep playoff run against some of the state’s top teams and players.

Garza has followed Harmon on the court since his days as a middle school star and got to know Wilson after he moved from Mansfield in May. With that message, Garza basically anointed them as starters, even though his coaches hadn’t made any such decision.

“They know what’s expected,” Garza said. “I just told them in a group message before the season that there’d be some crazy-good players in our district and in the playoffs and we’d all have to step up.”

Fresh off an outright District 5-6A title, Guyer can look ahead to a possible playoff road that reads as a who’s who of the state’s best teams in what is arguably the toughest region in the state — Class 6A Region I. South Grand Prairie, Cedar Hill and Amarillo Tascosa could await before a possible berth in the state tournament.

Guyer’s players aren’t all as experienced as Garza and junior leader Jake Roberts — at least that’s what conventional wisdom might say.

Wilson has been starting all year for Guyer (29-2), and classmate Harmon has started for much of the year, only coming off the bench early in the season because he was still starting at wide receiver for Guyer’s football team.

As for that list of state powers in Guyer’s way, Wildcat coach Grant Long wants everyone to know just where they stand in the eyes of his two freshmen, who both just recently turned 15.

“I don’t think they care. I really don’t,” Long said. “They know when it’s a big game and when they’re playing talented players, but they’re not backing down from anybody and they aren’t scared of it. They invite it. Sitting here trying to make our schedule for next year, they call out the best teams in the state and whom they want to go up against. That’s pretty special.”

It’s not the only thing special about Harmon and Wilson, who have meshed nicely with Guyer’s returning talent and led the Wildcats to a banner season. A victory Tuesday night over Flower Mound in its playoff opener would give Guyer 30 wins.

Wilson, a 6-4 forward who can play on the perimeter but does most of his damage around the paint, is averaging 15.1 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. In 14 district games, he led the Wildcats with 18 points per game. Harmon, a do-it-all 6-1 guard, is averaging 13.8 points, 4.8 rebounds and 4.6 assists.

While they’re still a bit young to be hot names on the recruiting trail (Wilson turned 15 in November, and Harmon just a month ago), Harmon is the seventh-ranked player in Lonestar Prep Spotlight’s class of 2019 rankings. Wilson is No. 21.

“It’s just been awesome to see their growth over the year and see how much better they’ve gotten every game,” Long said. “They haven’t been in this [varsity] atmosphere before, and it’s awesome to see how they came in here with no fear and have really thrived.”

A big reason for their success, Harmon said, has been the guidance of the team’s older players, specifically Garza, who was the sixth man as a sophomore before breaking out last season as a junior. Garza is the team’s leading scorer with 15.5 points per game and assists leader at 4.9.

Garza’s preseason text message rang true, as both players immediately jelled with a team that shared a district title a year ago and had two top scorers returning in Garza and Roberts, who is averaging 13.3 points and 6.4 rebounds.

“He’s helped me a ton,” Harmon said of Garza. “Knowing Zach since fifth or sixth grade and knowing we’d have a chance to play together for one year in high school, he’s been telling me how they do things around here. Having him be there for me — there’s nothing better than that.”

Perhaps no game showed just how good the freshman duo has become more than a key road win Feb. 12 at Keller. That game completed a season sweep of the Indians, a team that features a Pepperdine-bound senior and a junior guard who can all but choose where he’ll play college basketball.

In that game, against those two players, Guyer was led by two freshmen.

Wilson scored 27 points and pulled down 11 rebounds, while Harmon filled the stat sheet to the tune of 19 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and three steals.

What would Long have thought in November if someone told him that result would play out?

“I would know we were going to be really good,” Long said with a wide smile. “I knew what we had coming back with Zach and Jake and Luke [Helgesen], and you add those two and what they do to the mix — I’d say we’re going to be really good. The road we have to take is one of the hardest there is, but I’m fully confident we can play with anyone.”

Long’s confidence is rubbing off on his young freshmen, or maybe it’s vice versa.

“I know we’ll have to play DeSoto and Cedar Hill and South Grand Prairie and teams like that,” Wilson said. “Those are some of the best teams in the state. We love that, though. I’ve always wanted a chance to play those types of teams.”

ADAM BOEDEKER can be reached at 940-566-6872 and via Twitter at @aboedeker.