Hansen’s best teams, No. 42: Jermaine Watts, Sunnyside had a perfect season in the historic 1993 title race | Subscriber

Dwight Rees was the Men’s Basketball Coach of the Year in 1977, 1987, 1989 and 1993 and he did so without the benefit of open enrollment, private school resources or financial support. ‘a suburban cadre flush with year-round economic power, travel-ball team development.

With the exception of a three-year stint in the early 1980s when he was head basketball coach at Pima College, Rees coached the Sunnyside Blue Devils to over 300 wins.

One season the talent was so thin that Rees’ Blue Devils went 0-24. Another year Sunnyside went perfect, 29-0, winning the Class 4A state championship in 1993.

“You picked up the neighborhood kids who walked through the door,” Rees told me. “Some years were obviously better than others. The challenge of coaching was to get the best out of your kids and make it a positive experience, no matter how many games you won.”

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No year was better than 1993. It was a year Jermaine Watts walked through the door.

Watts, a junior guard, averaged 25 points in the 1993 season. He would finish his career at Sunnyside with 2,055 points, then fourth in Tucson history, before signing to play DePaul.

“Jermaine is one step ahead of everyone,” Rees said after Sunnyside won their closest regular season game of the year, 77-72, in overtime against Tucson High, with Watts scoring 34 points. .

When Sunnyside beat Peoria 74-57 in the first round of the state playoffs, with Watts scoring 32, Peoria coach Lonnie Cavalier said, “Watts is the best player I’ve ever seen at this level.”

Watts had basketball genes like few in Tucson’s prep history. He is the nephew of Tucsonans Randall and Jeff Moore, key figures in back-to-back Pueblo High state championships in 1977 and 1978.


Document 1996

But that wasn’t all about Watts. All-city forward Anthony Figueroa was a defensive stopper. William Sims averaged 14 points per game. Hector Montano, Quinton Guarzo, Jason Holmes and David Miller were productive parts of what became a historic season, the last undefeated team in Tucson boys prep basketball.

Rees couldn’t have seen an undefeated season coming. The Blue Devils went 19-9 a year earlier but lost two of the team’s top three scorers, Gabe Moraga and Billy Felix. But Rees felt the 1993 Blue Devils had a chance to be very good.

In November 1992, Reese wrote a letter to his 12 college players. “We have the potential to win 20 games,” he wrote. “We have the potential to fight for the state championship.”

Rees knew the landscape as much as he knew how to coach basketball.

He grew up in Long Island, New York, and played college basketball at Cortland State, prompted to move to Tucson when he watched the PGA Tour’s Tucson Open on television one cold winter afternoon in New York.


Arizona Daily Star 1993

He moved to Tucson, enrolled in UA graduate school, and found work as a graduate assistant coach with Fred Snowden’s McKale Center first-team basketball team, prepared for his first head coaching job – at tiny Globe High School.

After two years at Globe, where he drove the team bus as well as practice, Rees didn’t intimidate much. He knew Sunnyside had 16 losing seasons in its first 18 years of men’s basketball, but accepted the Blue Devils job in 1977 and immediately went 23-5, reaching the State Championship game. major Arizona schools that year, losing to Pueblo, 42-37.

At Sunnyside, Rees was blessed with three once-a-decade type players: Greg Cook, who would go on to play at Arizona; Deron Johnson, the state’s leading scorer, who also played for Arizona; and Watts. Not bad for a period of 15 years.

He also saw the tough times between Cook, Johnson and Watts. Sunnyside went 7-15 in 1986 and 4-19 in 1990 before the 1993 state championship came into view.

Jermaine Watts scored 34 points in the championship game win over Sabino.

Arizona Daily Star 1993

After the Blue Devils beat Sabino High 60-53 in overtime at America West Arena to end their season 29-0, Sunnyside was treated to a pizza party in the same venue where the NBA Phoenix Suns were staying.

“We thought we were celebrities,” Montano said.

And in 1993, they were just that.

Contact sports columnist Greg Hansen at 520-573-4362 or [email protected] On Twitter: @ghansen711

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