October 20, 2010
CARSON NAMED STATE PLAYER OF THE YEAR - By Kyle Odegard The Carl Hayden and Phoenix Alhambra boys basketball teams combined to go 14-36 this season.

When Mesa came to their gyms, though, the stands were packed and spectators had to be turned away.

“And they sure weren’t there to watch me,” Mesa coach Shane Burcar said.

All eyes were on Mesa point guard Jahii Carson this season, and he didn’t disappoint. The 5-foot-10 senior finished the season with an average of 32.2 points per game, taking the Jackrabbits to the 5A Division I semifinals before getting knocked off by Brophy.

Carson’s swan song may have been his most impressive high school game. He shot 25-of-38 from the field and scored 58 points against the Broncos. If he didn’t foul out with 1:35 remaining, Carson may have broken the 5A single-game scoring record of 62 points, set by North’s Dennis Dairman in 1960.

“It was bittersweet for me,” Carson said. “Fifty-eight points, that’s a good game. But losing to a team we beat twice in the regular season, that’s the bitter part.”

Despite the semifinal loss, it was an impressive final year for Carson, whose play earned him the Tribune’s Boys Basketball Player of the Year award.

Burcar has coached several top players at Mesa, including Lee Cummard, Aaron Fuller and Donte Medder. To him, though, Carson stands out. Burcar said Carson’s performance against Brophy was the best he’d ever seen, surpassing a display put on by Chris Webber when he was a sophomore in high school.

“When you walk into the gym, everyone knows who he is, whether it’s a six-year-old or a 56-year-old,” Burcar said. “They’re expecting something out of him. I asked him once, ‘Do you feel pressure?’ And he said, ‘I know I’m supposed to perform, but it’s still fun.’”

Carson was scrutinized heavily after he transferred from Mountain Pointe to Mesa following his sophomore year. He seemed to thrive under the spotlight, helping the Jackrabbits to 25 and 21 wins in his two years with the program.

Despite some outside concerns that the addition of Carson would cause chemistry problems, Burcar repeatedly said there were no such issues on the team.

Although he didn’t win a championship, Carson said he was happy to make a run at it with his Mesa teammates.

“To take that journey with guys you have a relationship with, that have your back on the court, that was a special moment for me,” Carson said. “Even though we didn’t win a state championship, the journey for me was great. I have no regrets.”