Alonzo Mourning, Magic Johnson, Kevin Garnett, LeBron James, Christina Deaton and Carmelo Anthony.
Christina Deaton? Why is the Payson High School senior listed along with those former and current NBA superstars?
It’s because the six have something in common — all were nominated McDonald’s All-Americans during their high school basketball careers.
Deaton’s nomination, which came as a total surprise to her, was made public midweek when local McDonald’s owner Abe Martinez announced she was one of only 1,000 high school basketball players nationwide to be nominated to the 2009 McDonald’s All-American High School Basketball Girls Team.
“On behalf of the Payson-area McDonald’s restaurants, I commend you on this achievement, as well as your contributions to the success of Payson High School and the sport of basketball,” he said.
Deaton, who was almost speechless when told of the nomination, said she was honored by the prestigious recognition, “It’s probably one of the greatest honors (a basketball player) can receive.”
Lady Longhorn coach Stacy Anderson presented Deaton with her McDonald’s award certificate on Jan. 27 just prior to the Lady Horns game against Show Low in Wilson Dome.
The final selections for the McDonald’s All-American High School Basketball Team will be named later in February.
From the field of nominees, 24 female athletes will be chosen to compete in the All-American Games.
Deaton could be one of those tapped to play.
“As a nominee who has displayed hard work, skill and teamwork on the basketball court and in the classroom, you will be considered for selection to this prestigious team,” Martinez said.
This year’s game will begin 3:30 p.m. April 1 at the BankUnited Center in Miami, Fla., and will be broadcast live on ESPNU.
An early start
Deaton remembers her basketball career began as a third-grader playing in Payson town youth leagues.
“It was a lot of fun and I loved the game,” she said.
She continued to play in youth leagues until reaching middle school when she became a budding star on the RCMS Maverick seventh- and eighth-grade teams.
“As eighth-graders, we lost only one game — by one point to Whiteriver — but we won the (White Mountain League) championship,” she said. “That really helped to build my confidence.”
The run to the junior high championship fueled a desire in her and teammates Kayla O’Donnell, Cydney Figueroa, Marquel Waterman and Jenna Robertson, to take their game to the next level.
That involved traveling to Oahu, Hawaii that summer to play in a Tourney Sport USA national championship basketball tournament.
“It was called the Hawaii Classic,” Deaton said.
All five girls who participated are now senior members of the Lady Longhorn team that appears to be a shoo-in to win the East Region championship.
At the time the team traveled to Hawaii, then-coach Rory Huff predicted, “two or three of those girls could battle for varsity positions next year.”
Just as the former coach anticipated, Deaton made the varsity as a freshman and quickly became one of the program’s finest players.
Because of her height, 6-feet, she has played mostly a low-post position where she can rebound, defend the basket and score from close range.
Her finest prep game might have occurred Jan. 16 in Lakeside against the Blue Ridge Yellow Jackets.
Deaton dominated the frustrated Jackets finishing with 25 points and 11 rebounds, prompting Anderson to say, “she had a great game.”
Deaton agrees, “I do think that was my best.”
This season, Deaton is the leading scorer on the well-balanced Lady Longhorn team averaging 11.6 ppg. The mark is also the fifth-best in the East.
She also is the second-leading rebounder on the team, with 146, and has blocked a region-high 45 shots.
Although she plays a position where she doesn’t have ample opportunities for assists, she has dished out 41, third best on the team.
Most importantly, she has led the Lady Horns to an 18-5 overall record, 5-0 in the East, and has the team on track to reach the state tournament’s final four — a feat never before accomplished.
Her efforts over the course of her career have also earned her all-region, all-state and all-tournament recognition.
Deaton attributes much of her and the team’s success to Anderson, “She has never given up on us and we will never give up on her.”
With just about a month remaining in her high school basketball career, she’s hoping to continue playing next year on the collegiate scene.
“That’s my goal, I don’t know where right now, but I’m not ready to give up playing,” she said. “It’s way too much fun.”