Vegas to showcase a number of top preps

This weekend's Las Vegas Easter Classic has a number of interesting match-ups both for Wildcat fans and for fans of college basketball. It kicks off a busy season of AAU Tournaments and is the first shot at seeing a number of the players the Wildcats will be recruiting.

The Tournament is put on by Hal Pastner, founder of the Houston Hoops and father of Arizona assistant coach Josh Pastner. The even encompasses 13 age groups between the boys' and girls' divisions and over 275 teams have registered for the event.

"We want this to be an incredible event for the kids," Hal Pastner said. "We want for them to have excellent experience. Every kid will further love the gam and love the tournament."

There are a number of players the Wildcats are interested in the event. Most notable are the Houston Hoops. The powerhouse team won their first round game against a normally solid Emerald City Pioneers club.

The big buzz was of course the verbal commitment of Hoops forward Fendi Onobun to the Wildcats, the fourth Hoops player since 2002 to do so. Onobun is not the only story on the Hoops. Nic Wise, a product of the 2006 class, has already verballed to the Wildcats as well. Rashad Woods, a fast-rising '05 wing, is very interested in the Wildcats. He is still waiting on an offer from the UA, but has made no secret that he like the Cats.

Martellus Bennett and Jermichael Finley are two-sport athletes who have been given the okay to play both football and basketball for Arizona. According to Pastner, Bennett may favor the Wildcats and indicated to several observers that he will visit Tucson in September.

The Hoops are loaded and have to be one of the favorites in the event. Pastner claims this may be the best team the program has fielded and that's saying something since Emeka Okafor, T.J. Ford, Lawrence Roberts, Carlos Hurt and LSU gridiron standout Marcus Spears played on a Hoops team that won the world championships.

The Hoops aren't the only elite programs in the field. Belmont Shore, a team from Los Angeles, has three great big men. Jamal Boykin is a combo forward who has expressed interest in the Wildcats, although at this time he does not have an offer. Brett Hoerner and Jordan Wilkes are two of the best centers on the West Coast and the Wildcat love them both.

There are other great programs in Los Angeles. One is the Southern Cal All Stars. Their roster has a number of solid performers, including a few that are of interest to Wildcat fans. Marcus Johnson is a dead ringer for Gilbert Arenas and the Westchester product has long listed the Wildcats among his top teams. We've recently heard his stock may be slipping, but he's still a wing to keep an eye on. Chase Budinger may be the most interesting players on the squad. He's considered one of the top 2006 players and one of the best shooters on the West Coast regardless of class. He's also a big time volleyball prospect.

Another big man the Cats are really eyeing is Brayden Bell. The Salt Lake City standout is one of the best center prospects in the nation. Bell has stated that he wants to go to an up-tempo team in a big conference and that describes Arizona to a ‘t'.

Bell's team, Salt Lake City Metro, is loaded with big time players, though most are not on the Wildcats' radar screen. SF Joe Darger and PF Shaun Green are both four-star recruits. Darger is getting a lot of love from scouts and may be one of the five best players in the west. The 6-7 wing has an offer from Gonzaga and is waiting on the likes of Kansas and UConn.

SLC Metro also has a pair of other players that will get good offers before it is all said and done. PF Coby Leavitt looks like a good MWC or WAC type player, while shooter Tyler Newbold is hearing from top-tier teams, but will probably wind up at a lesser power conference school or a good mid-major.

The biggest story of the tournament won't involve any of the players Arizona is watching. On Friday, in battle of some of the younger players, the sons of two famous NBA players will square off. Michael Jordan sponsored four teams at the tournament and his son is on one of them. The younger Jordan will face off against the young son of John Lucas.

Lucas is confirmed to be in attendance, while it looks as if MJ may make an appearance as well.

"There has been some extra security, so I have a good feeling that he will be here to see his son play," Pastner said.

As good as the event is, it only gets better for Pastner run events. He remains in Las Vegas for the Spring Showcase next weekend. That tournament is expected to feature all the same great teams, plus a number of other Nike teams that were at other events next weekend. Next week the Portland Legends and super frosh Kevin Low will be in town, as will California Elite, a new Nike team that has a lot of people talking.

The following weekend is the Kingwood Classic, one of the biggest events in the country. That tournament will showcase the nation's best teams, regardless of shoe affiliation, and will attract nearly every college coach, pro scour and recruiting analyst.

Pastner takes great pride in the events he puts on.

"I take tremendous pride in putting on a first class event for the kids," Pastner said. "I love to do this. I am driven to do things, and do things at the highest possible level. I always strive for excellence."

Cat Tracks will have an updates from the event in story form and on our Premium Hoops message boards.

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