The six days from December 26 through today, December 31, saw 117 high school boys from around the country assemble in Tempe, Ariz. for the annual end-of-year High School All Americans camp.
Head Coach Salty Thompson and his large and capable staff ran the players through nine training sessions and a series of games on Monday, splitting the squad into a varsity (mostly players born in 1994-1996) and junior varsity (mostly players born in 1997-1998).
The players arrived on December 26 and were put through a rigorous fitness testing. The next four days features two-a-days, with extra classroom sessions in the evening. RUGBYMag.com columnist Karen Fong spoke with the players about planning for college, while USA 7s team manager and scout Andy Katoa also attended.
“The college planning is something we want to get into more,” said Thompson. “We want to help them plan their futures, and not just in rugby. And to have Andy Katoa there is great. When we have national team coaches in camp or visiting with the team, that really is exciting for the players. It shows the players the pathway.”
Katoa was impressed, saying he attended expecting to see a few players with national team potential, and instead saw a much larger number.
“Salty is doing a great job and there are some really good athletes in camp,” Katoa told RUGBYMag.com.
Thompson said part of the reason the players looked so good was that they are experienced. The entire backline that played against the Argentina U18s in the summer is back for more. Meanwhile, younger talents such as Gonzaga’s Ben Cima are coming into their own.
Among those to look out for are two front-rowers who are getting a lot of attention both in rugby and football. Titi Lamositele from Chuckanut in northern Washington, and Kelepi Fifita from Tempe both are looking very good.
But more than that is the depth of the program, both in talent and in age.
“We’ve got freshmen here who are, at the very least, getting exposed to the program,” said Thompson. “This camp is really the culmination of the recruiting and scouting we’ve done in 2012, and we have a lot of good young players.”