Phil Nelson, 6-7 JR SF Keizer (Ore.) McNary. The first time we saw Nelson last spring, we felt he had a chance to be the best small forward in the west. Then he had a very mediocre summer and never showed as well as he had in the spring. Well, it's spring again and Nelson once again looks like he could end up the top small forward in the class out west. He's got a basketball body – long and fluid – and a pure stroke with deep range. A good athlete, Nelson can do everything you'd look for in a small forward. He's very good with the ball, sees the court well, he can defend and rebound, and has the size to finish inside. We don't get a chance to see him often, but his biggest issue would appear to be staying focused and playing hard consistently. He might not realize how good he can become. If he puts the work in, and continues to develop, Nelson has a chance to play at the elite, high major level.
ARIZONA TAKE: The Cats are watching Nelson, but right now he is not a top target for the Cats. A few more great performances and they may be more involved.
Seth Tarver, 6-5 JR SF Portland (Ore.) Jesuit. Tarver isn't a shooter, but he has a lot of other attributes going for him. He's got great size for a wing, he's strong, moves very well and he's a terrific defender. He'll probably be able to defend the two or three in college and may end playing the role of locking up the other team's best wing. He's fairly good with the ball, but doesn't really create his own shot well. His range is pretty much limited to about fifteen feet right now, but the stroke isn't pretty and he's probably never going to be a big scorer at the next level. But he plays very hard and understands the game. He'll likely get high major looks this summer.
ARIZONA TAKE: The Cats like Tarver, but they like some other wings better. He needs to keep improving to keep the interest up.
Taylor Harrison, 6-9 JR C San Clemente (Calif.) High. One of the most physical and active post players in the class, Harrison continues to show progress as a prospect. He's a little bigger than he was a few months ago and his skills are better as well. He's got a nice little jump hook now and he can knock down open shots out to about fifteen feet pretty consistently. Overall, he's much more comfortable now with the ball in his hands. He's also a much better athlete now than he was two years ago. He's more fluid, jumps better and his coordination is much improved. Two things, though, make Harrison a unique prospect – he loves contact and he plays with maximum effort on every play. Harrison routinely beats other bigs down the court because he runs on every change of possession – to both ends of the court. Some players will run when they can get the ball, but Harrison runs back on defense as well as offense. Over the last two years, Harrison has looked a little better every time we've seen him. He obviously has a burning desire to be a player and he's turned himself into one of the top post prospects in the west.
ARIZONA TAKE: Arizona wasn't really on Harrison, but that could possibly change. Harrison had a few big games in front of Wildcat coaches. A lot of other Pac-10 teams are starting to take notice.
Jerryd Bayless, 6-1 SO PG/SG, Phoenix (Ariz.) St. Mary's. We've long considered Bayless one of the best guards in the west regardless of class, and he certainly showed how talented he is in Vegas this last weekend. There are very few 6-1 players in the country that have the springs he has, enabling him to throw down on much bigger and stronger players. We would have liked, though, to see him develop more of his point guard skills in the last year, but he's playing mostly off the ball, and looking to score first rather than pass. Last weekend, there was very little he did as a point guard, almost strictly a two-guard in his approach to the game. And that's okay. He's still an exceptional two guard, but with his talent and athleticism, the ceiling was limitless as a point guard. He'll have to continue to improve his outside scoring skills, with his jumper still a bit raw and inconsistent. But again, he is one of the best guards in the west.
ARIZONA TAKE: The Cats love Bayless and would love to keep him in state. He's gotten better since last summer, but needs to keep improving. A priority recruit for the Cats.
Daniel Deane, 6-8 JR PF Salt Lake City (Utah) Judge Memorial. Deane has grown maybe an inch since we last saw him. He's got great shoulders and he's not afraid to use them – he's very physical and seems to relish contact inside. His outside shot has improved to the point that he's now a threat beyond the three-point line. However, he takes awhile to get the shot off and needs to quicken up his stroke. Inside, he struggles to score against size as he doesn't jump well and has a tendency to show the ball and "play small." He'll need to learn to compensate for his lack of lift if he's going to play on the interior at a high level. While we don't see a lot of physical upside with Deane, he does play with great energy and we believe he'll end up at a high major program.
ARIZONA TAKE: One of the Cats' top post recruits. They are still evaluating Deane a bit, but seem to like him quite a bit.
Chase Budinger, 6-7 JR SF Encinitas (Calif.) La Costa Canyon. Budinger has good size for a wing, he jumps extremely well and he's a streaky shooter. His mechanics are not great, which makes him an inconsistent shooter. He also takes awhile to get his shot off – he needs space to get it off from three-point range. He's not particularly quick laterally and an average handle makes it difficult for him to create his own shot against defensive pressure. He's an outstanding volleyball player and you can see some volleyball habits in his basketball game. He plays the game upright and he's somewhat stiff. He could end up moving to the four as he gets older. He'll likely end up at the high major level.
ARIZONA TAKE: One of the top two or three 2006 targets for the Cats. It sounds like they love Budinger and would take him in a heartbeat.
Kevin Love, 6-8 SO C Lake Oswego (Calif.) High. The best college prospect in the west regardless of class, Love is extremely skilled for a young big man. He has great hands, shoots it out to the stripe and very advanced low-post footwork. He's very thick and wide, which allows him to seal off defenders on the block. He has an amazing feel for the game and finds cutters with pinpoint passes. His outlet passes to start fast breaks are better than you see from most big men in college. The one question mark on Love in terms of his ability to play beyond college will be his athleticism. He's had knee surgery already and he doesn't have "young legs." While most players with his talent level would go pro out of high school, or one year of college, it's possible Love will end up being a great college player for several years.
ARIZONA TAKE: The Cats would love to land Love. One of the West's best in 2007 and he could be one nation's best next year.
Kyle Singler, 6-7 SO SF Medford (Ore.) South Medford. Love's teammate on the Portland Legends, Singler has a great frame, a terrific stroke and an outstanding feel for the game. A top prospect in football at tight end, Singler doesn't mind contact and it wouldn't be surprising if he ends up at the four in college. If he grows much more, college coaches might decide that's where he'd best help the team. But he's certainly got great three-man skills. He sees the court very well and doesn't mind spending time playing inside. A good athlete, Singler will be an elite, high major recruit.
ARIZONA TAKE: Singler is on the radar screen and could very well wind up high on the wish list.
Alex Jacobson, 6-11 SO C Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei. Jacobson is still growing into his body and isn't a real offensive threat just yet. However, he can make shots out to about fifteen feet if given time. His best attribute as a player right now is his ability to block shots. He has very nice instincts and timing as a shot blocker. He's got a pretty good frame, but needs to get stronger in order to be a more effective rebounder. We've liked his feel for the game since we first saw him a few years ago. He'll look opposite out of the low post and find teammates for open looks. He looks like he's starting to get more comfortable on the court. If he continues to improve, he'll almost certainly end up at a high major program.
ARIZONA TAKE: He has a lot of improving to do, but we've heard the Cats love his potential. He's already made an unofficial.
Larry Drew, Jr., 5-11 FR PG Woodland Hills (Calif.) Taft. Drew has such an advanced feel for the game that it's difficult to believe he's only a freshman in high school. He understands things that many college guards still don't get. Physically, he looks like a baby and he's got very long arms. He has the appearance of someone who is going to get bigger. He's very skilled with the ball, whether it's passing, handling or shooting. He has good quickness, but he's not lightning quick. However, he knows how to play at different speeds and he'll surprise defenders at times. One of the two best point guards in the West Coast class of 2008, Drew has a chance to be an elite, high major prospect.
ARIZONA TAKE: 2008 is a long way away, but Drew should attract a lot of attention in the years to come. The Cats may or may not take a look at this kid. A lot will depend on what the Cats' PG situation is.
Brandon Jennings, 6-0 FR PG Compton (Calif.) Dominguez. Jennings is the other great, young point guard from the class of 2008. Like Drew, he has a very advanced understanding of the game. He advances the ball better than most high school point guards and he has exceptional vision. He's maybe a little quicker than Drew and a slightly more explosive athlete overall. He looks for his shot a bit more and with good reason – he's tough to stop when he gets in the lane. His shot is pretty good for a ninth-grader, but there is room for improvement. Like Drew, Jennings has a chance to be among the elite national prospects in the class of 2008.
ARIZONA TAKE: Similar to Drew. The Cat coaches were seeing him play with the SoCal All-Stars, so you know they are aware. We've heard they are interested, but like Drew a lot depends on their PG situation.
These are young guys who the Cats are still evaluating.
Jamelle Horne, 6-6 SO SF San Diego (Calif.) Hoover. The best prospect on the Compton Magic, Horne has the prototypical small forward body. Long and explosive, Horne is most effective when slashing to the basket. His outside shot is just decent at this time. He has the potential to be a very good defender. With continued development, a likely high major prospect.
Venoy Overton, 5-10 SO PG Seattle (Wash.) Franklin. Overton is an intriguing young point with long arms, decent quickness and a nice shot to the stripe. He's a little bouncier than we realized but, overall, probably just a little better than average athlete. There's some question about his ability to take people off the dribble. He does have a good shot with range beyond the stripe. One to watch from the class of 2007.