Perhaps the best aspect of the Pump tourney Thursday was watching the Pump N' Run team last night dismantle one of the perennial big AAU powers, DC Assault.
Pump N' Run is playing great basketball, probably some of the best team basketball we've seen in recent years from a west coast AAU team. Point guard C.J. Watson sets the pace, and is playing very well. Feeding the ball to a frontline of JR C David Padgett, SR PF Brad Buckman, and SR SF Nik Caner-Medley, who are all playing at the top of their games, tends to make things pretty easy. Shooting guard Brandon Rohe is the outside threat, and coming off the bench for a boost is SR C Martin Iti (yes, he's back), JR SG Omar Wilkes, SR SG Richard Chaney, SR SF Matt McKinney and SR PG David Gale. They're also playing excellent defense and playing hard. They dominated DC Assault, beating them in pool play by about 15, being up by 23 at one point (And by the way, we have to point out that D.C. Assault actually spelled their own name wrong on their unis).
Speaking of Iti…
Martin Iti, the 6-10 C, is back in our country, having come all the way from Australia to play in this event. After the eligibility fiasco from last season, the word is that Iti will attend a prep school back east this next year, which would make it the sixth high school he's attended – in the U.S., that is. The rumored verbal to USC is history.
Speaking of USC…
Don't be surprised if USC hangs in there and becomes a major player for Antione Wright, the 6-6 SR SF who has the entire country jumping on his bandwagon. He had one of the best games of the tourney on Wednesday, putting up 34 points in his first game. Thursday he didn't play as well, but it doesn't really matter at this point; he had coaches from Arizona, Kansas and various other big-named schools in attendance at his games, trying to make sure they were seen rather than being there to scout Wright. But USC, from what we hear, has a legit chance with Wright.
C.J. Watson, 6-1 SR PG, Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman. He's playing at a new level, one that easily should rank him among the 5-8 best point guards in the country and a top 75 national player, at least. Some of the highly-touted east coast point guards are playing at this tourney, and they don't come close to comparing to Watson and his newfound confidence. Expect some bigger names to start recruiting Watson pretty heavily, including UCLA.
Matt Haryasz, 6-10 SR C, Page (Ariz.) High. Putting on a show here, in a year that drastically lacks centers with athleticism and skilll, Haryasz has both. Before the tourney he was probably looking at some Pac-10 schools recruiting him, and now will probably have some big time national schools after him. A recruiting update on Haryasz is coming soon.
Serge Angounou, 6-6 SR SF, Albuquerque (New Mexico) Rio Grande. A high-major player with good athleticism and a consistent outside shot, Angounou is seeing coaches from both Arizona State and Arizona at his games. The word is he's looking really good for the Sun Devils. We spoke with Angounou and his update will be on the site today.
Brad Buckman, 6-8 SF PF, Austin (Tex.) Westlake. A banger who can step out side and shoot, and has some athletic explosiveness, is a rare commodity. So it's no surprise that people here are now talking about Buckman as possibly being among the top forty players in the country. (We've included him here because he's unofficially a west coast kid, playing for Pump N Run).
Justin Holt, 6-6 SR PF, Tacoma (Wash.) Lincoln. Holt is opening a lot of eyes with some great overall play. Oregon and Oregon St. have been watching him, but don't be surprised if some other high majors decide to get involved.
Chase Griffin, 6-2 SR SG, Redmond (Wash.) Eastlake. Came into the tournament with the reputation as a shooter, but he's showing an ability to score in a variety of ways, as well as displaying a terrific feel. Creating a buzz among low to mid major coaches.
David Chiotti, 6-8 SR PF, Mountain View (Calif.) St. Francis. We had some doubts about Chiotti's ability to play at the high major level, but he put those concerns to rest with an outstanding performance yesterday. A lot of mid major coaches are hoping to grab Chiotti, and he may still decide to accept one of their offers, but we expect there to be at least a few high major offers as well.
Derrick Quinnett, 6-9 SR PF, San Jose (Calif.) Santa Teresa. A Dolf-Lungren-look-alike, he's raw, but he has great feet and hands and is tough as nails. Expect many mid-major west coast schools to get on him.
Gio Olmo, 6-7 SR PF, Albuquerque (New Mexico) Rio Grande. Long-armed athlete who is still learning the game, he has at least mid-major written all over him.
Erik Fiegi, 6-9 SR C, Medford (Ore.) South Medford. Big-bodied with skills, Fiegi plays for an AAU team, S.O.C. Hoops, that doesn't get out of Oregon much. But he's at least a low major post player and, in this year, probably a mid-major.
Joe Newton, 6-7 SR PF, Roseburg (Ore.) High. Also playing with S.O.C., Newton probably weighs 225 and beats up people, but has nice skills. He's a football player and has offers from Oregon and Oregon State.
Ben Sullivan, 6-8 SR CF, Lake Oswego (Ore.) High. Has one of the best touches for a guy his size in the west. Could get some serious mid-major looks.
Leaving the Building:
UCLA coach Steve Lavin has left the Bigtime, going back to Los Angeles for the Fairfax tournament and to follow Evan Burns and Hassan Adams. The word is that UCLA's chances are improving with Adams.
San Diego State Coach Steve Fisher returned to San Diego to check out Moulaye Niang in a workout, indicating how seriously the Aztecs are taking their recruitment of Niang.
Big men Chris Ayer and Matt Haryasz have had Stanford coaches checking them out. The Cardinal are also showing up regularly for Dan Grunfeld, an impressive 6-5 two guard from Wisconsin. Grunfeld is the son of Ernie Grunfeld, the former New York Knick and current general manager of the Miwaukee Bucks.