Section 7: A Columbus Coronation

Columbus (Miami, Fla.) captured the championship of the top division of the 2023 Section 7 Team Camp and stamped itself as a major FAB 50 national title contender for 2023-24. The play of the Boozer brothers for Columbus, Cameron and Cayden Boozer, stands out to no surprise, but a countless number of prospects help their recruiting value over the weekend at State Farm Arena in Glendale, Ariz.

The Section 7 Team Camp is a staple on the NCAA's June Scholastic Live Period and for all intents and purposes is the standard for June live events. When it comes to individual players, rising junior (2025) power forward Cameron Boozer of Columbus (Miami, Fla.) in the standard when it comes to production and talent at the high school level. The must stop in the West Region for national scouts, college coaches and high school teams in June put on by the Arizona Basketball Coaches Association, Section 7 featured 162 teams from 14 states and well over 450 prospects who could garner some NCAA or NAIA interest.

Not only was Boozer the cream of the recruiting crop as the returning Mr. Basketball USA, his team was the class of the field at Section 7 after it knocked off defending California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) champ Harvard-Westlake (North Hollywood, Calif.), 75-60, in the title game of the NFHS Powerade Bracket on Sunday morning at State Farm Arena, the home of the NFL's Arizona Cardinals. Just as it did in its first three games, Columbus put it stamp on the game from the very onset and made its opponent feel its physical prowess and have to constantly play from behind. Columbus, which finished the 2022-23 season ranked No. 6 in the FAB 50 National Team Rankings powered by Ballislife, led 8-0 before Harvard-Westlake (which finished No. 11) settled into the game.

Prior to Boozer, the national high school player of the year has returned to the high school scene for an encore only three other times dating back to the mid 1950s, so it's obviously pretty special when a talent such as the 6-foot-9, 240-pound dynamo is around to impose his will on opponents. Even for college coaches that don't have a shot in the Boozer sweepstakes, it's a good gauge to see where their targets stand in terms of being able to compete with such a talent. Despite the early foul trouble to Cayden Boozer, the twin brother of Cameron, the Explorers led Harvard-Westlake, 21-10, after one quarter and 43-26 at halftime in a contest marred by a plethora of officials' whistles.

Even though the dominance of Cam Boozer is evident even to the most novice observer, the improvement of Cayden Boozer, a 6-foot-4, 190-pound point guard who is also a rising junior, was the difference in Columbus' dominant run to the tourney title. He is noticeably stronger, more explosive and purposeful in his offensive attack, and most importantly, is taking better care of the ball than a year ago. Whatever lucky college gets the Boozer twins is getting quite a point guard alongside one of the better college prospects to come dome the pike in the last decade.

Cam's foul trouble vs. Harvard-Westlake didn't turn the tide, as he and his teammates adjusted just enough to the tightly-officiated atmosphere. Harvard-Westlake fought back and cut its 17-point halftime deficit to 48-42 on a 3-pointer by Harvard-bound rising senior (2024) guard Robert Hinton with 3:15 to go in the third period, but the Explorers went on a quick 9-0 run after that field goal to put the game out of reach.

Cayden Boozer finished with 22 points, five rebounds and four assists, while brother Cam finished with 22 points, 12 rebounds and four assists of his own.

Hinton finished with 17 points, while rising junior (2025) wing Nikolas Khamenia led the Wolverines with 19 points. Rising senior point guard Trent Perry added 12 points and six rebounds.

"This was our first time (event) playing together (as a team)," Cayden Boozer said. "We wanted to come out here and get the win. With Cam, he's just a great player and it's easy to play with him."

Cayden's comments were made in the context of putting aside the fact Cameron is his brother and commenting on his play. The same can be said if Cameron was asked the same question, as Cayden's impact on this tourney title run was one of the main taking points of the entire event. Cayden Boozer averaged 18.8 ppg in the four victories in the NFHS Powerade division, including a 23-point, six-rebound, four-assist performance in the 71-41 victory over Centennial (Corona, Calif.), the champion of the 2022 Section 7 top division title.

Even with the 15-point victory over Harvard-Westlake, Columbus had a 29-point average margin of victory in its four wins. Cayden Boozer had 20 points in the 87-55 quarterfinal win over Park Center (Brooklyn Park, Minn.) and 10 in the 70-31 opening round victory over De La Salle (Concord, Calif.), which played the game without star player Alec Blair, a 6-foot-6 2025 wing who doubles as a terrific baseball prospect and played well after he arrived to the event on Saturday.

As for Cameron Boozer, he averaged 22.3 ppg and double-digit rebounds in four games. He had 23 points, 12 rebounds and four assists vs. Centennial, finished with 20 points vs. Park Center and with 24 points vs. De La Salle.

For Harvard-Westlake, its big victory came in the quarterfinals, as it downed Salesian (Richmond, Calif.), 62-49. Salesian, if you recall, defeated the Wolverines in the championship game of the top division at California Live 2023, which was the first ever June Scholastic live period event held in California for CIF clubs exclusively. California Live took place the weekend prior in Orange County, while 64 teams (including a few who didn't play in California) made the trek to Arizona for Section 7.

Two teams that played at Cali Live '23 last weekend met in the title game of the NFHS Slam Bracket and both figure to be major contenders for berths in the CIF Southern Section open division playoffs in 2023-24. Those two teams were St. John Bosco (Bellflower, Calif.), which lost in the semifinals to Montgomery (San Diego, Calif.) in its bracket at Cali Live '23, and Roosevelt (Eastvale, Calif.), which lost to Salesian in its semifinal in the top division. It was a back and fourth battle and an individual matchup of two of the top guards in the 2025 class, both in the West Region and nationally: 6-foot-4 Brayden Burries of Roosevelt and 6-foot-5 Elzie Harrington of St. John Bosco.

St. John Bosco came out with the 63-60 victory as Harrington made the key plays down the stretch. His pull up jumper was on, he made good decisions, and also had a powerful driving one-foot slam dunk that turned plenty of heads. Harrington finished with 23 points, while Burries had 21 points for Roosevelt, which had a chance to tie the game on a 3-pointer attempt on its final possession. Bosco also got a key 15 points on five 3-pointers from 6-foot-7 2025 forward Jaison Joyce.

"I felt healthy and strong and trusted the work that I put in, along with my teammates trusting me and each other," Harrington said. "As far as my own game and the matchup with Brayden, I know the biggest thing I have to work for the next level is my body. Brayden already has that, as he does great work around the basket. But I feel than I am more quicker than him going to the basket and I wanted to use that to my advantage."

Aside from players such as Khamenia, Harrington and Burries, there were plenty of other prospects who used winning basketball to bolster their recruiting visibility and profile at Section 7. One of them was 6-foot-7 rising senior (2024) Gavin Ripp, who led Archbishop Mitty (San Jose, Calif.) to a second consecutive June scholastic live period championship. It just so happened the Monarchs defeated the same team they did at last week's Cali Live '23 event: Montgomery (San Diego, Calif.). The game at Cali Live was close, but Mitty won the NFHS Arizona Sports Commission division championship game going away, 56-35.

Ripp drew the attention of college coaches with his passing, precise offensive movements and activity level around the basket, as he didn't need to score to make a positive impact for his team. Ripp's recruitment is bolstered by his terrific academic profile (4.5 GPA) and he's still wide open as far as narrowing down his school of choice. Ripp is considering the Ivy League and is also hearing plenty from Montana and Cal-St. East Bay.

Ripp got plenty of offensive help from his backcourt mates vs. Montgomery in Sunday's title game, as rising seniors Nathan Noronha (6-2) and Tyler Jones (6-3), netted 17 and 16 points, respectively.

Another California club captured one of the top four divisional titles at Section 7 as Windward (Los Angeles) downed St. Mary's (Pheonix, Ariz.), 90-69, in the title game of the NFHS Legacy Foundation bracket. Windward defeated two talent-laden clubs from Northern California on its way to a blowout victory over St. Mary's. Windward defeated Branson (Ross, Calif.), 57-54, in an attractive quarterfinal matchup that a plethora of college coaches witnessed, and downed Capital Christian (Sacramento, Calif.), 73-65, in the semifinals.

Gavin Hightower, a 6-foot-1 2025 scoring dynamo, Jeremiah Hampton, a 6-foot-4 southpaw combo guard, Louis Bond, a 6-foot-5 wing guard with excellent grades, and Jayden Harris, a 6-foot-6 small forward with oozing potential, all had terrific moments during the event for Windward and each saw an uptick in their recruiting profile.

For St. Mary's, undecided 6-foot-3 rising senior point guard Styles Phipps scored 29 points in a losing effort and averaged 20.0 ppg in the four-game set. St. Mary's also has an excellent long term prospect that caught the eye of college coaches and scouts alike in Cameron Williams, a 6-foot-9 rising sophomore (2026) forward.

Ronnie Flores is the national Grassroots editor of Ballislife.com. He can be reached at [email protected]. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter: @RonMFlores

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