CREAM OF THE CROP
We thought Robert Swift, 6-11 JR C Bakersfield (Calif.) Highland, was clearly the top prospect in the camp and it wasn't close. From the first time we saw him three years ago, it was obvious that Swift had instincts that you just can't teach. Those instincts are still there, but now his skill level is starting to catch up with his feel for the game and he's now playing at a different level than most high school players.
Swift has great hands and feet, a developing shot out to 12-15 feet and a very strong low-post game. He has some mannerisms that remind you of a young Bill Walton. He's not a real explosive athlete, but he's deceptive and moves very well. He's an excellent shot blocker. He's had a tendency to lose focus in the past, but he was all business this weekend and he dominated everyone he went up against. If Swift gives a great effort consistently, he won't be in college for long.
We won't presume to write up a scouting report on guys from out of the west coast region but, based purely on how they looked this weekend, Mohamed Tangara, 6-8 JR C Durham (NC) Mt. Zion, and Jawann McClellan, 6-6 JR SF Milby (TX) High, were the next most impressive prospects at the camp. They weren't in the same category as Swift, but both of these players look like the kind of prospect you find on top 25 national lists.
Here's a look at some of the more notable West Coast prospects in attendance.
TOP 2004 WEST COAST PLAYERS
Lorenzo Mata, 6-8 JR PF South Gate (Calif.) High. Mata dominated Friday night, before leaving for the weekend with an injury. It's too bad he didn't get a chance to go against Tangera, because that would have been a terrific match-up. Mata is strong, very agile and relentless – he just gets after it on every play. His skills have improved considerably since last summer. A high major prospect who can play in any conference in the country.
Arron Afflalo, 6-5 JR SG Compton (Calif.) Centennial. Afflalo forced the action too much this weekend and got away from his normal game. His shot wasn't falling and he tried to do a bit too much. That doesn't, however, change the fact that he's an excellent prospect with all the tools to be a very effective player for UCLA. He's strong, with a great frame, and he can do just about anything you want a guard to do on the court.
Gabriel Pruitt, 6-3 JR PG Los Angeles (Calif.) Westchester. Pruitt continues to show as much upside as any guard in the west (and any guard at this camp). His body isn't even close to mature, but his athleticism gets better seemingly every time out. He glides around the court almost effortlessly – very fluid. Shot wasn't going down this weekend, but we know how well he shoots it. Great feel for the game and a very big upside.
Antonio Kellogg, 6-1 JR PG/SG Oakland (Calif.) McClymonds. Kellogg was out of sorts all weekend, apparently due to some conflict with his teammates. He's got all the ability in the world – whether he puts that ability to use is the question. He plays better with the ball in his hands, but we question whether he has the temperament/approach to ultimately play the one. Still, a very talented player who can play at a high major if he can keep his head in the game.
Ephraim Johnson, 6-9 JR C San Bernardino (Calif.) Arroyo. We hadn't seen Johnson before this event and he was a pleasant surprise. Good hands and feet, decent frame. Showed some ability as a shot blocker and actually did a very credible job when he went up against Swift. Looks like he hasn't played much, still very raw and learning the game. Has the tools to be a player, but may have some academic issues. Possible mid major if eligible.
Curtis Allen, 6-4 JR SG, Palos Verdes Peninsula (Calif.) Rolling Hills Prep. Allen, who is more or less now open in his recruitment (having previously committed to USC), showed during the weekend that he has made some solid development. He's always had great potential, with a great body, athleticism and an outside jumper, but this weekend he showed some advancement in being able to handle the ball, creating a shot for himself and aggressiveness. He had a stretch in one game that might have been the best we've seen Allen play ever – hitting threes, going strong to the basket, two-dribble pull-ups, etc. Allen needs to continue to play hard, play within himself and develop his game, and if he does, it will be interesting to watch how his recruitment plays out.
Chris Berry, 6-6 JR PF, Compton (Calif.) Centennial. He's a power forward in a small forward's body, but Berry went up against some solid low-post competition this weekend and held his own. Most of the time he's too quick for other power forwards, and he's pretty tough for how thin he is, which enables him to get position in the low post and be able to then out-quick defenders to the rim for boards and lay-ins. He's definitely proved he's a D-1 prospect, and if he gets bigger and stronger, possibly a mid-major.
Rico Tucker, 5-11 JR PG, San Diego (Calif.) University. Tucker is one of the freakiest athletes in any class on the west coast. At one point during the weekend he caught a carom maybe five feet from the basket, took one step and threw down a dunk easily, which is a pretty amazing thing to do for a kid 5-11. His game is improving also, and his jumper continues to improve. At this point he's more of a shooting guard than a point guard, though, looking to shoot first or take defenders off the dribble before he looks to pass, especially in a half-court offense. If he expands his game, thinks more like a point guard and sets up players in the half court, he has a chance to get recruited by more D-1s.
Matt Sargeant, 6-3 JR SG, Huntington Beach (Calif.) Ocean View. Sargeant is a solid two-guard prospect, who does everything fairly well. He shoots the ball well, consistently making his outside jumper. He passes the ball well, possessing a good all-around court sense. He's got pretty good hops, too, able to finish well and fight for rebounds. He's proven this spring that he's a D-1 prospect.
TOP 2005 WEST COAST PLAYERS
Joe Darger, 6-6 SO SF Riverton (Utah) High. Watching Darger this weekend, we wondered how he felt playing "camp basketball" as opposed to the real version of basketball he plays with his teams in Utah. Camp basketball is basically every man for himself, with virtually no movement away from the ball, no screens and lots of one-on-one play. Darger ended up playing fine – the kid's a player no matter where you put him – showing off one of the best strokes in the west. A high-major prospect.
Davon Lloyd, 6-2 SO SG Compton (Calif.) Dominguez. Fairly long, with good quicks and a very nice stroke. Lloyd knocked down jumpers all week long. He also got in a defensive stance a few times – something we didn't see much of this weekend. Likely mid major prospect, but possibly higher if he gets a little bigger.
Brett Hoerner, 6-10 SO C, Fullerton (Calif.) High. Hoerner played in one game on Saturday, and he showed that going up against good competition he has a chance to be an elite prospect. He blocked at least five shots, getting off his feet quickly, and exhibited a very good feel and knowledge of how to play in the post. He scored on a couple of nice post moves that seem more natural than mechanical. Again, he's very skinny still, as a sophomore, but if he puts on weight and strength and continues to develop at the rate he is, Hoerner could be among the best post players in the country when he's a senior.
Brian Harvey, 6-4 SO SG, Carson (Calif.) High. Harvey showed his offensive abilities here in two games on Saturday. With a great body, he handles the ball well and create for himself pretty well for just being a sophomore. Combine that with a very pretty jumpshot with a quick release, and very good athleticism and you have pretty much a prototype, young shooting guard college prospect.
Rashad Austin, 6-6 SO PF, Claremont (Calif.) High. Austin has gotten bigger, taller and stronger, and being an athlete, he's an effective rebounder and shot blocker. We've maintained for a year now that if Austin keeps growing he has a chance to be a high-level recruit, and he's definitely grown. At this point, with his body and athleticism, if he doesn't grow much more but continues to develop his basketball skills, he's probably a mid-major. If he gets bigger and continues to develop, he could be more.
Jamal Boykin, 6-6 SO PF, Los Angeles (Calif.) Fairfax. You have to love how hard he plays. He never coasts, he's always focused, his body is always moving at maximum effort. That's quite a bit to say for anyone in AAU ball, let alone a sophomore. He continues to show he's got some crafty moves around the basket, and is able to use his big body and energy to be effective. His limitations in the next two years will be how much he physically develops – whether he gets taller or more explosive athletically.
Titus Shelton, 6-6 SO PF, Bakersfield (Calif.) High. Most people when they see Shelton for the first time are really taken with his appearance – the well-built body that probably weighs 225 already. The fact that he's really started to fill out has to worry you a bit, though, and makes you wonder if he's finished growing. If he gets taller, he's got a real chance since there is almost no one that plays harder and hustles more. If he stays the same height he's still probably a low to mid-major. Even though he's limited a bit athletically, he makes plays with his strength and hustle.
TOP 2006 WEST COAST PLAYERS
Christian Polk, 6-1 FR PG Glendale (Ariz.) Deer Valley. A great-looking young point, Polk has the long arms, young frame and baby-face that make a scout or coach say, "I hope that kid can play." In this case, the kid can play. Polk has a very nice feel for the game and an excellent outside shot. Does have a bit of sideways rotation on the shot, but he's very accurate. Showed a great floater in the lane that is very tough to defend (shoots it on the way up). Good quickness. Got in a stance a couple times and showed the potential to be a really good defender – jumped the passing lane several times for steals. With development, a high major prospect and possibly an elite level player.
Joe Johnson, 5-10 FR PG, Gardena (Calif.) Serra. He's pretty small and has a smallish frame, but he can play, with great quickness, ball-handling and skills. He is very hard to guard, so small and quick, that defenders can't get a hand on him. He also has a good enough shot this early in his development that you have to play him honest, and we like how he instinctually looks to pass and set up his teammates.
TOP 2007 WEST COAST PLAYERS (Yes, current 8th graders)
Taylor King, 6-6 8th grade PF/SF, Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei. King will be a freshman at Mater Dei next year and he figures to be the best player on the team the moment he puts on the uniform. With long arms and great shoulders, he's got a terrific young frame. Very good lefty stroke from the three-point line, along with the ability to post up and shoot with either hand (nice jump hook with left or right). He's a bundle of non-stop activity on the court – makes plays from anywhere. Very good rebounder, especially on the offensive boards. Where he ends up down the road will depend on his body. Ideally, he gets bigger and plays the four. If that happens, he could end up an elite level prospect.
Tim Shelton, 6-5 8th Grader, Bakersfield. The younger brother of Titus Shelton, the younger Shelton has a chance to be a player. At a legit 6-5 already, with a good body and long arms, he has the physical makings of a big-time wing. He also, for a kid his age, has good quickness and agility. How good of a prospect he becomes could depend on how he develops physically – if he gets taller, thickens out and becomes a baseline player, or remains on the lean side and retains quickness and plays on the perimeter.