Yuma, Arizona – May 16, 2013 — Arizona Western College is proud to announce that three members of the AWC Men’s Basketball team have signed their official letters of intent to attend four-year universities this fall, and play basketball this winter. Matadors’ forward/center Tanner Clayton has signed with Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas; fellow big man Carlos Perez is headed to Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction, Colorado; and shooting/point guard Marvin Whitt is bound for St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas. The announcements come two months after the three led the Matadors to the team’s third straight appearance in the Region I Finals, and one day before the three are expected to participate in commencement festivities on the AWC campus.
If you’d asked Tanner Clayton two years ago if his collegiate and career path included basketball, you would’ve likely received a drastically different answer than what he’d say now. A two-sport star at Rancho Bernardo High School in his native San Diego, it was volleyball that the University of Southern California coaches signed Clayton out of high school for. However, after spending his freshman year in a USC Volleyball uniform, Clayton’s love for basketball returned, and brought him to the AWC campus last summer. The ‘middle blocker mentality’ that Clayton used on the volleyball court served him just as well on the hardwood, placing him 3rd in the ACCAC in blocked shots 2.2 per game after leading that category much of the year. That same leaping ability and timing shot him over and past opposing players to grab rebounds to the tune of 10.5 per game, placing him among the top 20 in the nation in that category. Finally, Clayton’s deceivingly quick feet helped him get open for his baseline jumper, helping him score 9.8 points per game (4th-best on the team), and shoot well from everywhere (a team-beat 51.2% field goal percentage, team-leading 42.9% 3-point FG% & a 73.8% free throw percentage (3rd on the team), earning 2nd Team All-ACCAC & All-Region I honors in the process. Clayton now helps christen a new era at SFASU, being part of the first signing class of new head coach Brad Underwood, and joins a program that comes off an appearance this past spring at the National Invitational Tournament (NIT).
‘Continued maturation’ is a very accurate term to describe what Carlos Perez has accomplished in his two years in the paint for the Matadors. Perez went from a backup big man who worked his way up the ladder to be one of the first off the bench as a freshman; to a starting center role to begin his sophomore campaign; to playing the best basketball of his career during this year’s playoff stretch run. Because of the work that the Chula Vista, California, native put in last summer on his footwork and hook shot, Perez became the Matadors’ mainstay in the middle, starting every one of the their 32 games in 2012-13. And just about the time that opposing coaches thought they had Perez’s game figured out, he unveiled his own baseline jumper midway through last season that gave the Matadors an extra weapon. Perez wound up 2nd on the team in both rebounding (6.3 RPG) & field goal percentage (48.9%), and 5th in both scoring (8.9 PPG) & free throw percentage (72.2%), earning All-ACCAC Honorable Mention accolades. Awaiting Perez is an NCAA Division II program that finished an 18-win season with an appearance in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Semifinals.
Finally, Marvin Whitt got the chance to perfect just about everything a guard can do during his two years as a Matador, since his role changed several times before his two-year career was completed. Whether it was running the point, heading up the transition game, being the main perimeter shooter, or locking down on the opponents’ quickest player, Whitt used them all to become the team leader as a sophomore. The Birmingham, Alabama, native came into the program as a point guard, shifted to the two-guard spot as a freshman, moved back to the point to start his sophomore season, then really came into his own down the stretch last season when asked to move back to the shooting guard position, becoming one of the top guards in the conference and the nation in the process. Whitt led the team in scoring in 13 of their 32 games, finishing with a team-leading 15.5 points-per-game average. Whitt also led the team in assists (3.2 APG), and his quick hands led to a team-leading 1.5 steals-per-game average. ‘The Birmingham Flash’ also used all of his 5’10” frame to grab 5.4 rebounds per game (3rd-best on the team); and was 2nd on the team in free throw shooting (74.8%). After earning 1st Team All-ACCAC & 1st Team All-Region I honors at the conclusion of the regular season, Whitt became an NJCAA Honorable Mention All-American selection last month. Whitt won’t have to change his championship mindset as he heads to St. Mary’s, since the Rattlers just completed a 23-win season by making it to the Sweet 16 round of the South Central Region in the NCAA Division II Tournament.