Updated November 12, 2020 - 7:21 pm
Few programs in any sport have been as dominant as the Bishop Gorman boys basketball team and Centennial girls basketball team in the past decade.
Three of the top players from those programs signed to play college basketball Wednesday and Thursday. Gorman will send senior point guard Zaon Collins to UNLV and senior shooting guard Will McClendon to UCLA, and Centennial senior guard Taylor Bigby will head to Oregon.
Gorman coach Grant Rice said he remembers a young Collins going to Gaels’ games and wearing their colors. He’s seen the 6-foot Collins grow into a four-star recruit ranked No. 45 in the nation for the Class of 2021, according to Rivals.com.
Rice called Collins “the ultimate Las Vegas kid” during the signing ceremony Thursday at Bishop Gorman. It’s a title Collins doesn’t take lightly.
“They’ve always been one of my top choices because it’s home,” Collins said. “It just feels better. That played a lot into my decision. You get to stay at home. You get to play in front of the people who have been backing you up your whole life while you were playing AAU ball.”
Collins, who said UNLV offered him a scholarship in the eighth grade, and McClendon have combined to go 86-12 in three years with the Gaels. They’ve won three Class 4A state championships to help run the school’s streak to nine straight.
Collins has a knack of playing quickly but never seeming hurried, being strong with the ball and making decisions that allow the Gaels’ offense to run smoothly.
It doesn’t hurt having a teammate in the backcourt such as the 6-foot-4-inch McClendon, also a four-start recruit ranked No. 37 by Rivals.com. McClendon is comfortable attacking the basket and pulling up from 3-point range, and his quickness and length on the perimeter make it difficult for opposing guards.
He hopes to help build UCLA back into an elite program.
“It’s everybody’s dream to go to a blue blood (program), and UCLA, I feel like, is the original blue blood,” McClendon said. “Great academics, great athletics, great alumni, great coaches, hospitality — it’s a blessing to go to UCLA. It just felt like a no-brainer. I’d be stupid not to go there.”
Bigby comes full circle
For Bigby, signing Wednesday night at the Centennial Hills YMCA made everything come full circle. After all, that was where she played her first game in the third grade.
“I did play my first game here, and when I did, I was not good,” Bigby said. “I was pretty bad.”
Nobody would say that about Bigby now. The 6-foot standout, who can play nearly every position, is listed as a four-star recruit by ESPN.com and ranked No. 29 in the country. She’s won three state championships, helping Centennial run its streak to six straight.
She will join an Oregon program that won the Pac-12 regular-season and tournament titles last season and was one of the favorites for the national championship before the COVID-19 pandemic forced the season to shut down.
“It’s definitely a blessing,” Bigby said. “I never thought I would be going to one of the top schools in the county. It means a lot to be able to play against and play with some of the best of the best.”
High school signees
A list of athletes who signed or are expected to during the early signing period, which ends Nov. 18. Coaches are encouraged to add or correct information by emailing Jason Orts at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jesus Gonzalez, College of Southern Nevada
Hunter Katschke, UNLV
Gavin Mez, UNLV
Santino Panaro, UNLV
Tyler Whitaker, Arizona
Reed Schaefer, Arizona
Jake Walsh, Oregon
Irvin Weems, San Diego State
Shane Taylor, Dixie State
Ryan Towards, Loyola Marymount (Calif.)
Chase Gallegos, UNLV
Christopher Cortez, Arizona
Tanner McDougal, Oregon
Zaon Collins, UNLV
Will McClendon, UCLA
Azavier Johnson, Texas-San Antonio
Jake Johnson, Rock Mountain College (Mo.)
Blake Schaper, South Dakota State
Jackson Parrish, Colorado School of the Mines
Lake Baker, Penn State
Keegan Brooks, Linfield (Ore.)
Diesel Fiore, Eastern (Pa.)
Joe Purdy, Denver
Jaelin Gray, Alderson Broaddus (W.Va.)
Joe Mercado, Alderson Broaddus (W.Va.)
Isabella Westbrook, Adams State (Colo.)
Taylor Bigby, Oregon
Jordyn Stroud, Northwestern State (La.)
Laurel Rockwood, UC Santa Barbara
Jalen Tanuvasa, San Jose State
Taysia Tovia, Alaska-Anchorage
Joy Watkins, Delaware State
Garrisen Freeman, Cal State Bakersfield
Gianna Marretti, UNLV
Riana Mission, San Francisco
Karsyn Sadler, Queens (N.C.)
Emma Cook, Tabor (Kan.)
Jena Madrid, UNLV
Sammy Nieves, SMU
Allison Brockelman, Belmont (Tenn.)
Jacey Wood, Brigham Young (Utah)
Kennedy Lazenby, Robert Morris (Pa.)
Northwest Career and Technical Academy
Aleena Seales, Dartmouth (N.H.)
Kenna McAlister, Virginia Military Institute
Sarah Aguilar, Dakota College at Bottineau (N.D.)
Nycole Cootes, Marymount University (Calif.)
Katelyn Hunter, Canisius (N.Y.)
Jenna Thomason, William Penn
Rebecca Warren, William Penn
Lindsey Hofflander, Brown (R.I.)
Kamry Bailey, Utah
Sierra Orton, Arkansas Tech
Ava Wright (beach volleybal), Westcliff (Calif.)
Claudia Grepke, Concordia-Ann Arbor (Mich.)
VaiLin Tagaloa, UNLV