Tark Classic: Day One Notebook

Gavin Baxter improved his stock in 2016 on Wednesday in the first day of the 2014 Tarkanian Classic, while Lonzo Ball solidified his standing as an elite prospect in his class.

Baxter continues to progress

When Scout inserted Gavin Baxter in its 2016 rankings this fall, debuting at 56th, the 6-foot-7, 175-pound power forward from Timpview (Utah) was more prospect than player.

He had the length, athleticism, feet and budding skill set, but was still pretty inconsistent and hadn’t learned how to use all his physical tools to his advantage each time out.

Months later, and Baxter has turned the corner.

On Wednesday on the first day of the Tarkanian Classic, Baxter played with a relentless motor, driving from the high post, grabbing rebounds on both ends, scoring on putbacks and knocking down the occasional jumper.

He’s gotten tougher, is slowly getting stronger and proving himself as one of the better West Coast prospects in his class.

“I’ve been working on my ball handling and doing a lot of off the dribble stuff. My court awareness has improved,” Baxter said. “I still need to get my ball handling better; that’s probably the weakest part of my game right now.”

While Utah State, Gonzaga, California and Southern Utah are all recruiting Baxter, two schools stand above the rest.

“BYU and Arizona State,” Baxter said.

Ball unique talent in 2016

Lonzo Ball has been a unique talent since the day he showed up on the scene as an eighth grader and years later, remains as such.

The 6-foot-5, 180-pound point guard from Chino Hills (Calif.) impacts the game in so many ways, it’s hard for him to have an off night, and Wednesday at the Tarkanian Classic was certainly no different.

In an 84-73 win over El Cajon (Calif.) Foothills Christian, Ball scored points with his jump shot and on the drive, used his elite vision to find open teammates, rebounded well and his long arms helped him deflect and pick off passes.

The five-star prospect has been working hard on his game and feels the improvement.

“My game is evolving,” Ball said. “I’m getting bigger and stronger and playing more inside now. I just need to get stronger and become more vocal. I’m working hard at it everyday.”

An early commitment to UCLA, Ball has stayed in contact with the Bruins staff since his pledge.

“Everything is great,” he said. “I keep in touch with the coaches. They’re telling me to keep getting better. I feel like I can come in and make a big impact right away.”


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