Takeaways from Las Vegas Border League: Time for ‘Run-DMC’ at Notre Dame

Notre Dame High players (from left) Mercy Miller, Caleb Foster and Dusty Stromer watch from the sideline.
Notre Dame High players (from left) Mercy Miller, Caleb Foster and Dusty Stromer watch from the sideline during a Border League tournament game in Las Vegas.
(Luca Evans / Los Angeles Times)

The vision was there. Slightly fuzzy. The picture came into focus in a few tantalizing minutes.

There was the golden-haired forward handling, hop-stepping, firing a lookaway pass to the sweet-shooting point guard for a corner three-pointer. There was the shooting guard pushing the pace on a fast break, levitating, windmilling, lighting up the gym. And there were all three on the sideline, grinning, sipping from Gatorade cups, amassing such a lead their night ended early.

When former five-star prospect Ziaire Williams — now with the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies — left Sherman Oaks Notre Dame for Chatsworth Sierra Canyon in 2019, the Knights had a “complete program reset,” boys’ basketball coach Matt Sargeant said. Gloom trickled in.

Would they ever get a player like that again?

Then Houston commit Mercy Miller strolled with father Master P into Notre Dame’s cafeteria in March to incredulous murmurs from Notre Dame players. Miller’s friend and Duke commit Caleb Foster followed. Now, along with senior Dusty Stromer, Notre Dame is looking at a triumvirate of talent largely unmatched in Southern California prep hoops.


“Run DMC,” Miller said, grinning and pointing first at the Stromer, then himself, then Foster. “Dusty. Mercy. Caleb.”

Stromer, the Gonzaga commit who’s transformed from a three-point specialist into a do-everything forward. Miller, the high-flying shooting guard from Oak Hill Academy in Virginia. And Foster, also from Oak Hill, the unassuming blue-chip floor general and now top-ranked senior recruit in California.

“I feel like we ain’t got no ceiling, man,” Miller said, with a nod and smile from Stromer.

The Border League preseason tournament in Las Vegas offered a chance for top Southern California programs like Notre Dame to tinker with new talent and get a glimpse into how offseason transfers will change the dynamic of Southern Section boys’ basketball.

The biggest takeaways:


Notre Dame could contend for an Open Division title — if it shares the wealth

Notre Dame junior Mercy Miller (left), senior Caleb Foster (middle) and senior Dusty Stromer pose for a photo.
Notre Dame junior Mercy Miller (left), senior Caleb Foster (middle) and senior Dusty Stromer are calling themselves “Run-DMC” as they look to make a splash in the Mission League.
(Luca Evans / Los Angeles Times)

For one brief stretch in their Border League game last Saturday, the Run DMC squad hummed in perfect harmony. Stromer assist. Foster three. Miller dunk. Each, in total, buried a three-pointer in the span of minutes.

Remember the franchise that birthed the nickname “Run TMC?” The Knights, Foster said, are trying to emulate the modern-day Golden State Warriors’ style of off-ball movement.


It led to flashes of brilliance over the weekend. And messiness. Notre Dame finished 2-2 in the Super 16 second-tier division of the Border League.

“If they play the right way, and they’re playing perfectly, and for whatever reason they take an L,” Sargeant said, “are they then going to take that to signal we should play more one-one-one?”

The key to harmony is Stromer, who Sargeant raved can dominate a game without the ball in his hands and has seemingly never wavered in his acceptance of Foster and Miller.

“Dusty, this was his team before me and Caleb came,” Miller said of Stromer, who poured in 20.1 points per game for the Knights last season. “He welcomed us with open arms. Not many top players want to do that.”


Price solidifies Centennial as the top dog in Southern Section

Mikey Price, a senior transfer from Sierra Canyon, poses for a photo.
Mikey Price, a senior transfer from Sierra Canyon, showcased his slashing ability in Corona Centennial’s game Friday at the Border League tournament.
(Luca Evans / Los Angeles Times)


One by one, they passed their former teammate, a grin spreading across Corona Centennial senior Mikey Price’s face as the Sierra Canyon boys’ team bounded into the locker room.

They dapped up their former teammate, razzing him, the guard who’d transferred out of Sierra Canyon after last season — part of the team that fell to Centennial in the CIF Southern California regional championship game.

Despite the Trailblazer ties, the three-star guard made it clear he felt more comfortable at Centennial. In their first game playing as Hoop Nation against Donda Academy on Friday night, he added a new dimension to the Huskies’ offense with knifing drives into the paint and a soft midrange touch.

“I can just be myself there,” Price said of Centennial. “I don’t have to be in a system.”


West Ranch is loaded, but the Jazz aren’t so smooth yet

At Los Altos High, 7-foot-1 center Jazz Gardner was “the guy,” he said. Confident. Aggressive as he pleased.

After transferring to Santa Clarita West Ranch in the summer, the four-star big man looked slightly unmoored at times in a Saturday game in Las Vegas. He drifted as a screener, looking tentative, airballing a hook shot and missing a point-blank layup.

“I feel like I’ve been in a slump every game I’ve played here,” Gardner said. “Tells me I haven’t been working hard enough. So I just need to get back in the gym, so I can be myself again.”


It’s a mental issue, Gardner said. Suddenly, he’s in a program with a handful of other NCAA Division I-caliber talents — senior point guard Jaqari Miles, senior forward Andrew Meadow, junior forward James Evans — and with three other transfers. Coach Jeff Bryant has his hands full.

“It’s a lot of new personalities, and we have some personalities here,” Bryant said. “So we’re trying to put it all together. It takes some time.”