Jaden Phillips sees a healthy mix of where he's been and where he hopes to go with the game of basketball at the University of the Pacific.
Phillips, a lengthy, 6-foot-4 guard who had nearly a dozen Division-I offers, announced his commitment to Pacific on Monday, saying the parallels to his time at Foothill High School played a role in his decision.
Over a decade removed from their last winning season, the Trojans bottomed out from 2012-15. Foothill went just 7-60 in that span, including an 0-23 finish in 2013-14.
But after they put together a 15-11 mark the year before he arrived, Phillips helped the Trojans complete a stunning turnaround his sophomore season in 2018-19.
An explosive scorer as soon as he got to the varsity level, Phillips put in a team-best 25 points in a 78-66 win over Mt. Shasta in the 2019 Division V state championship game, the first state title won by a Kern County team since 1994.
He's entering a similar situation at Pacific. After five straight losing seasons, the Tigers put together a 23-10 campaign a season ago and finished above .500 in the West Coast Conference (11-5) for the first time since 2013.
"That played into my decision, honestly," Phillips said. "Pacific's on the rise right now and I feel like I can come in and just help them as much as I can. (I hope to) win more games and hopefully bring a championship."
Phillips, who transferred to Modesto Christian High School after his sophomore year, is also excited to play for a man that's achieved levels of success he's aiming for. An aspiring pro himself, Phillips is eager to be molded by Tiger head coach Damon Stoudamire, a former Pac-10 Player of the Year who played 13 seasons in the NBA.
“I feel that to be a pro, you need to be coached by a pro," Phillips said. "He’s played in my shoes, he’s seen the game from both a coach’s standpoint and a player’s standpoint. Me and him can relate on different levels, talk on different things.”
The commitment was a nice win for Phillips, who admits he's struggled to deal with the events of the past year.
After not playing as much as he would have liked in his first year at Modesto Christian, he says he was hurt when "people I was really close with were talking down on me." The offseason brought little relief, as COVID-19 has not only put his senior season in doubt, but also prohibited him from playing travel ball this summer.
But he now feels like he's in a perfect spot to get himself back on track, and those who've overseen his development agree.
"Whenever you see the young people you've worked with begin to see some of their dreams come true, it makes you pleased because you understand how you and everybody else has had an important role in that child's growth," Foothill boys basketball coach Wes Davis said.
Several people in that support group are likely to provide Phillips with a vocal cheering section at home games, as Pacific is just 30 minutes from his family home in Modesto. With such pieces in place, he plans to enter his freshman season with a simple mindset.
"My main goal is to beat everybody that's not with us," he said. "I'm going to enjoy every little moment I get on that floor."