Photo credit: S. Carter Action Images

2019 Zillah (Wash.) guard Cesar Diaz is a player that’s largely flown under the radar throughout his high school career. That’s through no fault of his own however.

The 5-10 prospect is a multi-year starter for powerhouse Zillah, he has two All-League awards to his name, and there’s an array of colleges knocking on his door.

Yet when a casual follower thinks Zillah Hoops, Diaz probably isn’t the first name that comes to mind.

They might be more inclined to name the backcourt duo of Antonio Salinas and Brock Ellis, or the charismatic big men combo of Weston Ide and Sebastian Godina.

“I kind of wish I was that mainstream name,” Diaz said with a big chuckle. “But I just want to play, and i’m very happy for my teammates.”

Cesar Diaz might not have any cool youtube mixtapes, or a signature headband look, but what he does have is one of the most consistent playing styles in the state.

He’s been on Zillah’s varsity roster since his sophomore year. For 78 straight games, he’s put his hard hat on and gone to work every single night.

Whether it’d be knocking down clutch three-pointers, boxing out for rebounds, or playing much more physical defense than his frame would suggest, Diaz always plays like he has something to prove.

“I’ve been working at this since I was a little kid, I’ve been putting all those hours in the gym, in the weight room, this season means everything to me,” Diaz said.

Basketball has always been Diaz’s undying passion in life. He started his career at six years old, and was essentially raised by the Zillah youth basketball system.

Spending much of his early years playing for Zillah’s AAU team, Diaz eventually launched himself into a select program called Yakima HD. There he carved out a role for himself as a workhorse point guard.

Diaz had accomplished a lot prior to his high school career, but as tryouts approached for his freshman season, nerves started to increase rapidly.

He knew he could compete with anyone at any time, but he was also aware that he didn’t quite fit the prototype of what a varsity player looks like.

“I would play physical, but my weight just wasn’t there,” Diaz said. “I was a little bit shorter in stature, I wasn’t as quick, I was a little bit of a late bloomer.”

Checking in at 5-foot-8 145 pounds, Diaz simply wasn’t ready yet for the physicality of varsity as a freshman.

When his sophomore year arrived however, a bigger and stronger Diaz showed up, and he believed everything was about to change.

“I think the coaches saw the mentality that I had. I’ve always had that heart in me, kind of a lions mentality,” Diaz said.

He would make the varsity team as a sophomore, and found himself thrown into the fire alongside peers like Brock Ellis and Antonio Salinas, as well as older players like Trey Delp and Beau Widner.

Since bursting on the scene as a sophomore, Diaz has now started 50 straight games as a junior and senior.

One of the most special moments of his career came prior to this senior year, when head coach Mario Mengarelli announced Diaz as a team captain.

Diaz said that while he’s always strived to be a leader, being a captain made it that much more meaningful to continue helping anyway he can.

At every single level, Diaz’s hard work has paid off, and that’s only going to continue when he transitions to the college level.

Right now he has a multitude of college programs around the Northwest region wanting to bring him on board. This includes Walla Walla University, Multnomah University, Shoreline College, and South Puget Sound College.

Diaz projects as a point guard at the college level. Although given the diverse skillset he’s developed at Zillah, he can easily play shooting guard as well.

It’s obviously going to be important to continue developing his on-court game this upcoming off-season, but Diaz believes his separator is going to be his work in the weight room.

“Probably fix or six days a week I’ll be lifting weights,” Diaz said. “I eat about 3,500 calories a day, then once the season comes I cut that down.”

It goes without saying Cesar Diaz will be a program player at whatever school he ends up at.

The future is bright for Zillah’s do everything senior, but for now his focus is lasered in on winning a second state championship. He’ll have to win four more games to make that dream to come true.

“It’s destiny for us,” Diaz said. “Last year came close, we should’ve got it, this year we’re all ready for it."

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