Lost in the glow of a trip to the national championship game and the flurry of the spring transfer portal is the reality that high school recruiting doesn’t stop — and it hasn’t for San Diego State.
The Aztecs got a commitment Sunday from Taj Degourville, a high school junior from Las Vegas who led Durango High School to the Nevada Class 5A state title.
He is either 6-foot-3, 6-4, 6-5 or 6-6, depending on which source you consult, but his skillset is less debatable — a committed defender able to score from all parts of the floor with an athletic, aggressive game. The idea, he says, is to play anywhere from 1 to 4 in SDSU’s system of interchangeable parts.
“All the college coaches are on me because I’m versatile, able to do a lot of things,” Degourville said in a video interview with the Las Vegas Sun during his junior season. “The game of basketball is starting to become positionless. They see me as a positionless basketball player. I can just hoop.”
Degourville is rated a three- or four-star prospect by the major recruiting services. He was an all-Southern Nevada first team selection as both a sophomore and junior.
He received more than a dozen offers, most from mid-majors but also reportedly from USC, UNLV, Oklahoma and Iowa. He visited SDSU in December, and the Aztecs coaches have been working to close the deal ever since.
“If I could describe my journey in one word, it would be adversity,” Degourville said in a video posted on his Instagram page Sunday afternoon. “Adversity, because I’ve had to overcome so much to get to where I am today. I came from scratch, came from nothing. People said I wasn’t good enough, people said I couldn’t do it.
“When people told me I couldn’t do it, I just put my head down and I worked. I told myself I can every day, and I worked hard.”
The adversity continued this season, when Durango coach Chad Beeten suddenly resigned in early February despite a 14-5 record and No. 1 ranking in Southern Nevada. It later emerged that Beeten had filed a series of complaints claiming racist mistreatment of his players, including one unidentified administrator who allegedly called his predominantly Black roster “gutter rats.”
In a letter to school district officials obtained by the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Beeten said “administrators refused to conduct any investigation into it or take any serious actions to remedy the situation.”
Beeten said he resigned after being suspended on Feb. 1 because, players and parents told him, he was being investigated for allegations of “harassment, bullying and intimidation” against his own team.
Michael Lee was named interim coach and led the Trailblazers to their first state title in 27 years, closing the season 7-1 and beating Liberty High 57-47 in the championship at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center behind a game-high 16 points from Degourville. Liberty features point guard Dedan Thomas Jr., who last month committed to UNLV over Arizona, Gonzaga, Houston and UCLA.
Degourville becomes the first SDSU commit from the class of 2024. The Aztecs are expected to have at least five available scholarships and likely six, assuming Lamont Butler turns pro next year and does not exercise his extra “COVID” season in 2024-25.
The timing of Sunday’s announcement was largely unexpected. It is the earliest the Aztecs have received a prep commitment in years. The two incoming freshmen for 2023-24, BJ Davis and Miles Heide, committed on Sept. 23 and Oct. 1. The year before, Elijah Saunders committed on Sept. 24 and Miles Byrd on Oct. 2.
Degourville can’t sign a national letter of intent until November.
“Welcome to the Aztec family,” Butler’s mother, Carmicha, tweeted Sunday. “You will love it here.”