Loaded Pump 'n Run team needs time

Give the Pump 'n Run All-Star team more time to play together and you're looking at a squad that could give college teams fits. The roster is stocked full of high school All-Americans and Division I super prospects, but without much practice time together and minus a healthy David Padgett, the Pump team came up short in its namesake tournament this past weekend in Las Vegas.

Camps like the Pump ‘n Run Easter Tournament this past weekend in Las Vegas are designed to bring together the nation's best individual talent and put them on "all-star" teams and then to match them up against other all-star teams from around the country.

Well, perhaps the all-star team of them all in Las Vegas was the one created and founded by the tournament's co-hosts, David and Dana Pump.

Here's just some of the roster.

Class of 2003 super prospects David Padgett, Omar Wilkes, Devon Evertsen and Trevor Ariza form the core of the group to go along with prep school standout center Martin Iti and sophomore sensation Bryce Taylor.

Cat Tracks caught up with Evertsen, a star wing out of the junior class, and discussed the weekend experiences from a player's point of view. And, once again, Aaron Jones (the former NBA scout and Cat Tracks quasi-correspondent this weekend) added his thoughts and assessments from the tournament as well.

First of all, for those that need a recap, Evertsen is a 6-7 wing from Phoenix Moon Valley High School. He has been compared to former Arizona and current New Jersey Net star Richard Jefferson in terms of athleticism and potential. He has kept in touch with Cat Tracks for most of the past few months and this will be another Devon Evertsen-type story. Jones, who watched "way too much basketball" this weekend, had this to say about Arizona's best Division I prospect.

"Devon Evertsen really, really impressed me this weekend," Jones said on Sunday night. "Like I told you before, he's much better than he was during his school season. I think he's the type of kid that plays better when he has guys equal to or better than him on the court alongside him. His stock really went up and I think it will continue to do so all summer at the (big) camps."

Evertsen's Pump ‘n Run team just started playing together a few weeks ago when the team all flew into Los Angeles for a couple pre-tournament practices. The lack of cohesion hurt Pump in its second game against a Villa Park (Calif.) team that played all season together in high school. Villa Park handed Pump its only loss in three games but because it was during the second day of competition, Pump only got to play one more game and didn't get a chance to compete for the championship.

"We played a team that played high school ball all year together," Evertsen said. "They stalled all game too. I think the final score was something like 53-51. None of us played well that day. We just didn't have good chemistry and it showed that we hadn't played together much. A coach walked by and said, ‘you guys look completely out of sync'."

The Pump team rebounded later that night to win its final game convincingly, beating another California team by the score of 108-41. As is usually the case, teams stocked full of talent like to get out and run and play up-tempo basketball.

"We played really well the first game and the last game," said Evertsen, who scored 15 points off the bench in the first Pump win of the tournament. "The first game I think I played real good. I shot three of four on three-pointers and went to the basket too. The second game, when nobody played well, I think I only had nine points and most of them came at the free throw line. Then the third game I had a couple of threes and some ‘and-ones' and finished with 16 points."

Evertsen noted that he and his teammates were out trying to have a good time on the court and even unofficially tried to one-up each in a game of ‘who had the most impressive dunk?'

"I really like Trevor (Ariza)'s game," he said. "He's really athletic. He had a baseline dunk where he kind of did a reverse rock the cradle backwards over a 6-9 guy who fell down after he dunked it. Right after that, the same guy tried to come down and dunk but Martin (Iti) blocked it.

"In the third game, I had the best dunk I've had in a long time. I got the ball on the wing on a secondary break, took two dribbles and jumped from about a foot or so outside the lane. I hit chest to chest with some guy and got his jump and went a little higher and dunked with my left hand and he fell down. When I landed I kind of stepped over him and looked at him and the whole gym was just laughing and making noise, it was great. Everyone was there, Roy Williams, Charlie Spoonhour (UNLV) and all the teams."

Speaking of UNLV, both Evertsen and David Padgett found time to make unofficial visits to the UNLV campus on Sunday and Evertsen came away impressed.

"I haven't been to a lot of places yet but I was really impressed with their facilities and stuff," he said. "I know next week David is going on his official trip to Arizona and he asked me and Omar Wilkes to come with him. I don't know if I'll do that because it's his trip and I just live up the way in Phoenix and can come down anytime."

When asked if the existing Padgett-Wilkes combo package might turn into a full-fledged three-man package for some lucky college, all Evertsen could do was laugh.

"Maybe," he said, and left it at that.

Padgett and Wilkes have been close friends since the camps of last summer but they may have found a new buddy to join their little clique.

"I got close with Omar and David," he said. "When I went to practice a few weeks ago in LA, Omar and I kind of hit it off. Me, David and ‘O' got along really well."

In fact, after the team lost its second round game, it was Evertsen and Wilkes that took it upon themselves to do something for team unity by going down to the Sports Authority and buying white, Adidas headbands for everyone to wear. It worked. The Pump team won the next game by 67 points. Add the headbands to the standard issue patent leather blue shoes with the words "Pump ‘n Run" on the back of them, and all of the sudden you have a fashion show masquerading as a basketball camp.

Most of the time during the tournament, Evertsen found himself coming off the bench with the second five. Just because he didn't start, however, doesn't mean a whole lot on a team as loaded as Pump. The team carries ten players, but only nine were active this weekend because Padgett is still nursing a broken kneecap that he sustained during his high school season.

"If you score even 10-15 points on our team, you're an All-American," Eversten said. "I came off the bench and I played point guard for the second group. I brought the ball up and called some plays, it was fun. I used to play the point a lot when I was younger so I was used to it.

"We have a chance to win a lot of tournaments this summer. We've got all of us coming back plus David will be able to play by then. Bryce Taylor (6-3 combo-guard) is the best sophomore I've ever seen, too. He can jump and he can shoot. Of all the sophomores that I've seen, he's definitely the best. I think he had 18-20 points (Saturday) night in the last game."

With the emergence of Taylor, the Pump team now has elite level college prospects all over the roster. Here's a little breakdown of what we already know.

David Padgett (6-11 C, Reno, Nev.) lists Arizona, Stanford, Kansas and North Carolina as his favorites.

Omar Wilkes (6-3 SG, Loyola, Calif.) has Stanford, Kansas, Arizona, Cal and Maryland on his list.

Trevor Ariza (6-8 SF, Los Angeles) is down to Duke, Kentucky, Kansas, Arizona and Louisville.

Martin Iti (6-10 C, Villa Park, Calif.) hasn't made it clear of his intentions quite yet.

Then there's Evertsen, who has made it known that he would commit on the spot if Arizona offered him a scholarship.

"Arizona is still my favorite school," he said. "But USC and Kansas and now UNLV are still on my list too. I heard that (Arizona) is going to sign that guy from Arkansas and he plays the same position that I do, so that (might affect my decision). Because then you'd have Salim (Stoudamire), Will Bynum, Hassan Adams, Chris Rodgers and him all on the perimeter."

Evertsen says that he wants to go into the summer camps "not signed or committed". He will be playing at the Nike camp in Indianapolis and at the Bob Gibbons tournament (May 26th, with Pump) during the summer as well. He hopes to keep improving his stock the same way fellow Moon Valley High Rocket Richard Jefferson did between his junior and senior years.

"I want to win the state title next year," Evertsen said. "And I want to try to get to the McDonald's (All-American) game. If you're a McDonald's game-type player, that means you can go anywhere you want. I'd go to a big-time school like Arizona or Kansas if that happened."

The talent scout, Jones, had these final words to say about the camp and about Devon Evertsen.

"As far as guys from the west go, there were two that stood out and impressed me the most: Ayinde Ubaka and Devon Evertsen. Both will burst onto the national scene this summer. I guarantee you that about Ubaka, and as long as Evertsen keeps playing hard every game and works on his intensity, he will too."

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