In Alamo, where the population is 1,080, 6-foot-9-inch senior Culen Highbe is indeed the big man on Pahranagat Valley High School’s campus.
“I always kind of stick out in a crowd,” Highbe said. “People are always looking up to me.”
Fine by him.
Highbe is Pahranagat Valley’s star athlete — a dynamic tight end on the football field and a do-it-all forward on the basketball court.
He had a busy November, signing a national letter of intent to play basketball for Snow College, a junior college in Ephraim, Utah, and winning the Class 1A football state championship Saturday.
But now, he’s finally shifting his focus to basketball, where he hopes to help the Panthers win their first Class 1A title since 2013.
“It’s a small town. We don’t get a lot of size like that to come through,” Pahranagat Valley basketball coach Michael Strong said. “You can’t teach 6-9.”
Highbe moved from Tonopah to Alamo in the second grade. His father wanted to be closer to his job at the Nevada National Security Site, and Culen Highbe would be closer to Las Vegas to pursue basketball.
He played basketball and football throughout his childhood, and starting playing for an AAU basketball team before his freshman year, cementing his desire to play college basketball.
“I’ve always liked playing basketball more,” Highbe said. “It’s always been my dream to play college basketball.”
After two strong seasons with the Panthers, Highbe began playing with the Las Vegas Prospects, a top AAU program that competes on the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League, the nation’s top high school basketball summer circuit.
He shared the floor with local McDonald’s All-Americans Troy Brown and Chuck O’Bannon, traveled the country playing against the likes of future NBA lottery pick Marvin Bagley III and returned to Alamo a better, more confident player.
“(The kids) love him for that,” Panthers football coach Brett Hansen said. “They love hearing about his stories and his trips and how he did and all that kind of stuff. I think it raises everybody else’s level because they see what hard work can do when you put in the effort.”
Highbe played two summers for the Prospects and drew interest from college basketball programs in the Big Sky. He didn’t have any Division-I offers, though, and opted to sign with Snow, whose staff noticed him toward the end of the summer.
“I went up there and I felt really comfortable up there,” he said. “Going there for one or two years will really help my development, and I can get looked at by better schools.”
Highbe wants to play at the Division-I level, but he wants to represent Alamo first and foremost.
He had five touchdown catches for the Panthers’ state championship football team and is expected to dominant the Class 1A level this winter.
“There’s nobody that’s really been at this level coming from this town,” Highbe said. “I feel a little, small weight on my shoulders trying to make sure I represent my town well.”
Gorman lineman commits
Bishop Gorman senior defensive end Adam Plant committed to Arizona on Monday. He had picked the Wildcats in April before reopening his recruitment in June. His commitment is nonbinding and won’t be official until he signs a national letter of intent Feb. 7.
“I was just glad to see that they stuck with me, even when I decommitted,” Plant said. “They never bashed my name. They were always there when I needed them.”
Bol chooses Oregon
Findlay Prep senior Bol Bol is going to Oregon, he announced Monday on the Players Tribune. Bol, a 7-2 center and the son of late NBA player Manute Bol, one of the tallest players in league history, transferred from Mater Dei in California to play for the Pilots.
He is a consensus top-five recruit and picked the Ducks over Kentucky.
Contact reporter Sam Gordon at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @BySamGordon on Twitter.