Desert Pines junior Anthony Swift passes the basketball like a baseball. If only occasionally.
“Coach (Derek Thomas) still yells as me (for it),” Swift said with a grin.
He swears he’s working on it — along with the rest of his skillset.
Swift sat out the high school season after transferring from Durango to Desert Pines, but returned to competitive basketball during the club season with the Las Vegas Knicks, with whom he reached the under-16 championship game Sunday in the Fantastic 40 at Tarkanian Basketball Academy.
The 6-foot-7-inch forward averaged 11 points during the spring and summer, and earned scholarship offers from UNLV, UNR, Fresno State, Texas-El Paso and Southern Utah.
He believes he’s just begun tapping into his potential.
Those who know him tend to agree.
“He’s starting to develop his skillset for a bigger kid. Usually they go slower than guards,” said Thomas, who coaches the Knicks under-16 teams. “You can just see he’s got a lot more potential. … He’s a guy we try to go to when the game is on the line. That’s the kind of player I think he can be.”
Swift actually grew up playing baseball — hence, the baseball passes — and didn’t start competitive basketball until seventh grade, citing a desire to try something new. He mushroomed rather quickly into a long, athletic wing with a shooting touch and defensive versatility — and transferred from Durango to Desert Pines after his freshman year.
But he had to sit out the high school season, per NIAA rules, and watched from the sideline as the Jaguars advanced to the state tournament in their first year at the Class 4A level.
He debuted with the Knicks in the spring and made an immediate impact upon his return to organized basketball.
“The perception with the Knicks has been we get most of the kids that people don’t want,” Thomas said. “When you have a kid that has that kind of talent that other people can see, he brings credibility to what you’re trying to do because he has that kind of potential that coaches see.”
Swift made strides during the club season as a ballhandler and a shooter, with range well beyond the 3-point line. He’s effective as as screener, too, and can attack the basket or post up against smaller defenders.
He says he wants to play more exclusively on the perimeter in college, and intends to focus on continuing the development out of his outside game. Knicks program director Lamar Bigby says, “He can be as good as he wants to be.
“He just has to be committed to the work,” Bigby added. “He’s learning what work ethic is right now.”