Cityscape: Los Angeles

For years, Southern California's reputation for a breezy, laid back lifestyle seeped into perceptions about its high school basketball prospects. In Los Angeles, in particular, even some very talented players have been considered soft and less committed than their gritty, East Coast peers.

But then you watch a guy like Stanley Johnson and just laugh. The top-five senior and future Arizona Wildcat is one of the toughest players in all of high school basketball, and he's not alone among the City of Angels' tough guys. And we can step it back, too, including NBA greats Paul Pierce and Russell Westbrook.

L.A.'s basketball culture differs starkly in some respects from that of the East, South and Midwest. Players historically have shifted from travel team to travel team far more frequently than prospects in other regions, meaning you might catch a player on one weekend and then see him on an entirely different travel circuit, with a different team, the next.

The EYBL has changed that volatility somewhat, but the point remains that there's a collegial element to AAU basketball that doesn't exist to the same degree elsewhere. And that, in part, leads to the softness allegations.

Which, as mentioned, Johnson has company in his efforts to dispel. UConn signee Daniel Hamilton isn't strong and isn't physical, but he exudes confidence and has a cold meanness to his game. Namon Wright is a scrappy utility athlete headed to Missouri who also possesses top-100 credentials. Parker Jackson-Cartwright, all 5-9 of him, obviously must be tough to be good enough at that size to earn a scholarship to Arizona.

Other Los Angeles-area seniors to make a mark are Thomas Welsh (UCLA), Jordan McLaughlin (USC), Robert Cartwright (Stanford, and another very tough guy), Chris Sandifer (Missouri) and Tra Holder (Arizona State).

The outlook for the Class of 2015 looks even more promising. While much of the country appears down among juniors, the L.A. area is loaded. Top-10 guard Tyler Dorsey already has issued a commitment to Sean Miller's Wildcats, and he's flanked in the top-100 range by Aaron Holiday (early UCLA pledge), Justin Simon (in the exurbs), Chance Comanche, Marcus LoVett, Chimezie Metu, Bennie Boatright, Stephen Thompson, Kendall Small, Rex Pflueger, New Williams and Jeremy Hemsley.

Glancing at sophomores, No. 12 Lonzo Ball is a future UCLA Bruin and a fantastic long-term prospect at point guard. Center M.J. Cage also ranks among the top 25 and impressed onlookers with a strong 2013-14 campaign. Others with high-major pedigree include Jayce Johnson, Devearl Ramsey, Trevor Stanback, Vance Jackson and Jonah Matthews.

And taking a very quick look at freshmen, beastly power forward Cody Riley is drawing early raves.

Clearly, though, the city's strength presently lies in the backcourt. The junior class, in particular, is very strong. Guard play predicates college success more than any other position, and ostensibly the Pac-12 should improve markedly if league members — other than just Arizona and UCLA — can continue to keep L.A. talent within the region as they did with the 2014 class.

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