Darnell Gant, 6-8 SO PF Los Angeles (Calif.) Crenshaw. It isn't often that you see a kid go from playing on his JV team to being an elite, high major prospect in a couple of months, but that's exactly what has happened with Gant. After watching him the past week – first at the Rumble In The Bay, then at this event – we think Gant is the best power forward prospect in the West Coast class of 2007. He has a terrific basketball body – great length, good frame – with excellent leaping ability and quickness. He looks like he may be able to defend a three or a four down the road. He's got a nice shot to about 20 feet, he can handle it well for his size and he showed a decent post-up game. The really exciting thing about Gant is he's still unpolished. He doesn't look like he's been coached much – but he has very good instincts – and a lot of what he gets done just comes from natural ability. With continued development, Gant has a chance to be recruited by elite programs across the country.
Jamelle Horne, 6-6 SO SF San Diego (Calif.) Hoover. The nickname "Human Highlight Film" is already taken, but that would be an apt moniker for Horne. A freakish athlete, Horne was seemingly above the rim all weekend, with a breathtaking assortment of dunks and blocks. He's got a classic wing body and he's most effective when he's slashing to the basket. His outside shot has improved in the last year and he knocked down several threes in the games we saw. His release is still a bit low, though, and he'll need to bring it up a bit. Despite being somewhat slender, Horne has no fear when he's attacking the basket and he'll rebound in traffic as well. In a 2007 West Coast class that is full of wings, Horne has as big an upside as any of them. He will likely be recruited by top schools across the country.
Deon Thompson, 6-8 JR C Torrance (Calif.) High. Thompson's transformation from project to prospect continues and he's turning into one of the best low-post scorers in the West Coast class of 2006. He's got outstanding footwork, a great touch around the basket and a terrific feel for spacing and angles. He can score in a variety of ways and that makes him a very tough match-up to for a single defender. We were very impressed with Thompson's patience in the low-post. Most young bigs want to get the ball and make a move right away, but Thompson showed the ability to analyze what the defense was doing and make the appropriate play. He's a good passer and showed a willingness to give it up when he wasn't open. He's lost a lot of weight since last summer and his body is still in the process of being toned up. The one area where he could improve would be rebounding. We think he'll get better in that area as he gets older and learns to use his big body. Meanwhile, he's a very legitimate low-post scoring threat and a definite high major prospect.
Taylor Harrison, 6-10 JR C San Clemente (Calif.) High. Harrison missed the Saturday session due to the SAT test and his prom, but he was very impressive on Friday and Sunday. Unlike a lot of players who may stay at the same level for a long time, Harrison gets a little better every time you see him. He gets a little better with the ball, extends his range a bit, his footwork gets better, looks a little more fluid…this is a guy who works on his game. As we've written before, Harrison plays hard every minute he's on the court – he never takes a single play off – and this weekend was no exception. In addition to playing his usual physical, banging style, Harrison came up with one of the best sequences of the weekend. In transition, he caught the ball at midcourt with a defender a couple feet in front of him. He went around the guy with a dribble behind his back, outran another defender and finished with an emphatic slam. He then ran back on defense and blocked a shot off the backboard. Harrison isn't quite as polished as some of the other top West Coast centers, but we feel very comfortable projecting him as a solid Pac-10 center down the road.
Nathen Garth, 6-0 FR PG Sacramento (Calif.) Capital Christian. The best point guard prospect we saw in the camp (other than Larry Drew, who only played one day), Garth was inexplicably left off the Top 20 and Top 45 games held on Sunday. Our prediction is that decision will look pretty stupid over the next couple years. Garth is a true point with excellent ball skills, very good vision and a good outside shot. Unlike many of the players in the camp, Garth looked to distribute the ball and showed an understanding of how to play the game. He's got very good quickness, with the ability to penetrate and score or find an open teammate. He can go left or right equally well – his off hand (left) is as strong as we've seen in a freshman guard in a long time. With continued development, Garth has a chance to be one of the elite point guards in the 2008 class.
Joe Harden, 6-5 JR SG Stockton (Calif.) St. Mary's. Harden had an outstanding camp, displaying a very good outside shot and a great feel for the game. He's much bouncier than we remembered him from last summer and, overall, he's a good athlete. He's got a solid frame and should end up pretty strong by the time he gets to college. He's got great hands on defense – he had a ton of deflections and steals. He's very good at ripping the ball from unsuspecting opponents who let him get too close. Harden's unselfishness was refreshing in a camp full of gunners. We've said it before, but it bears repeating: in an age where very few kids know how to play the game, the ones that do get it stand out in a very obvious way. Harden gets it and that's why he is, in our opinion, a high major prospect.
Russell Westbrook, 6-2 JR SG Lawndale (Calif.) Leuzinger. Every once in a while we see a player blossom seemingly overnight. That's what is happening with Russell Westbrook right now. He was maybe 5-11 when we saw him last spring. Now, he's grown three inches, filled out and turned into an outstanding prospect. He's got long arms, very big feet, a baby face (may still grow) and a solid frame. He shoots it to the stripe, but also has a mid-range game. He's another player that understands how to play and lets the game come to him. He's a good athlete with the ability to defend a one or two. We like Westbrook at the high major level.
We'll have more on the camp in Part Two of our report tomorrow.