Observer: Not 25 ‘best’ national prep seniors Lobo recruits Dent

Corona Centennial’s Donovan Dent moves the ball downfield against Modesto Christian at Golden 1 Center on March 12, 2022 in Sacramento, California. Nick Koza/Los Angeles Times

With only about 3½ minutes remaining in the California Interscholastic Federation Open Division Championship Game on March 12, Corona Centennial found themselves in an uncharted location.

The program that dominated California State all season, had already won 32 wins and was ranked among the top high school basketball teams in the nation, tied 46-46 with Modesto Christian High School .

It was around this time that Donovan Dent, a 6-foot-2 future University of New Mexico point guard, delivered an emphatic message to his teammates and anyone who still doubted he was the best player in the state.

“We are in a draw. It’s the state championship. This is when you should be nervous, right? recalls centennial coach Josh Giles. “And in that little group, all the nerves are gone. And as we were breaking up huddle, one of my assistant coaches said something like, “Do you know what time it is?”

Dent, the undeniable leader of the nation’s No. 2-ranked prep team (according to, delivered a colorful response about what he’s set to do on the court.

In the final 3 minutes and 30 seconds of the game, Dent had six points, three assists, two rebounds and two steals – and his Huskies retired for a 59-50 win.

“When everyone should be nervous, he took over,” Giles said. “He was at his best when his best was needed. … But what I think sets Donnie apart is that he will do whatever it takes to win. He is possibly the most selfless player I have ever had. »

The praise and acclaim for Dent’s heroism has been rolling in ever since.

While the world of college basketball seems focused on the NCAA transfer portal, and the Lobos are no different, Richard Pitino and his team are relieved to know that Dent is leading a three-way prep recruiting class — with 6-6 forward Quinton Webb. of California and 6-6 shooter Braden Appelhans of Kansas City – all of whom signed in November and are highly trusted by this staff.

In Dent, the Pitino staff brings in one of the most decorated prep recruits the New Mexico program has ever had.

Dent averaged 16.2 points, 6.6 assists and 4.5 rebounds per game while shooting 53% from the field for the Huskies 33-1 in this recently ended season, in which he rarely played a much of the fourth quarter of games.

In recent weeks he has been named California’s Mr. Basketball, Los Angeles Times Player of the Year, CIF Open Division Player of the Year, John Wooden Open Division Player of the Year, Player of the Year MaxPreps and a third team. All-American, among many other honors.

Wooden’s list of winners alone boasts dozens of NBA stars and even a few former Lobos – like former national scoring champion Ruben Douglas in 1998, Marlon Parmer in 1999 and Tony Danridge, who won in 2004.

Not that Dent can relax and enjoy watching one of these recent awards.

“There’s a shelf in my downstairs living room that my dad makes me put them on for everyone to see,” Dent said. “He won’t let me take them to my room.”

But despite all the praise for his dominating performances, you won’t find Dent’s name at the top of many recruiting service lists or next to the same 4- or 5-star rated players – like many of the country’s top rookies as Dent and Centennial beat this past. season.

While this has certainly given Dent a run for his money, the whole recruiting ranking system doesn’t sit well with his coach.

“To me, the audacity of someone to make him a 3-star rookie – that further proves my point that these rankings don’t mean anything,” said Giles, who has had six previous playmakers. to play Division I basketball.

Giles calls Dent the best of the bunch.

“For me, I really wonder what you’re watching and your knowledge of basketball if you watch Donnie play a game and you’re like, ‘Oh, yeah, that’s a 3 star. “”

Frank Burlison, one of the nation’s most respected basketball journalists who knows the California and national basketball scene as well as anyone, agrees.

“Take it from someone who is the last of the ‘original’ McDonald’s All America voters (since 1977) to do this,” Burlison said in an email exchange with the Journal.

“There are no 25 ‘best’ class players of 2022 in the country than Dent.”

But UNM already has a crowded backcourt with 6-foot Jaelen House, 6-2 Jamal Mashburn Jr. and 6-2 KJ Jenkins expected to return.

Dent, who arrives on campus in June, doesn’t mind taking on the challenge.

“100%. My main goal is to come in and help right away – learn from these guys, get to the weight room, gain weight (he’s 170 pounds) and get into the mix as soon as possible,” said Dent said.

“I love everything about Coach Pitino’s offense and his defensive mindset. … They’re going to see a guy who’s hungry to come in and be successful. I was successful in high school, but that’s it (behind) me now – none of that means anything now. I just have to prove myself.”