Under Armour Holiday Classic: Day One

DEL MAR, Calif. -- As it does every year the Under Armour Holiday Classic is full of future college talent. On Monday, Henry Welsh showed similar development to his older brother, Chimezie Metu stood out in a big way and a handful of underclassmen stood out.

FAMILIAR STORY WITH WELSH

Current UCLA freshman Thomas Welsh was somewhat of an afterthought early in his high school career. But as he got older his game progressed. The same is happening with his brother, Henry Welsh, who is a junior at Los Angels (Calif.) Loyola.

The younger Welsh now stands 6-foot-9 and checks in at 225-pounds. Although not quite as tall as his 7-foot brother, Welsh has a wider and stronger frame at the same age. Much like Thomas he’s getting more aggressive on the court as well.

Welsh was assertive against Santa Monica and reached the 20-point mark just a minute into the third quarter. Welsh ran rim to rim and scored a trio of buckets from simply beating his man down the court.

Welsh also flashed his tremendous hands and scoring touch around the basket. Similar to Thomas, he’s a very good shooter from short to mid-range. Welsh shoots the ball with confidence and hit two his three attempts from that area.

This time last year, Welsh deferred and wasn’t confident in his offensive ability. That’s changed significantly. He’s making strong, aggressive moves when he gets touches, but he’s also smart, has a good feel and can pass.

Thomas developed late and ended up a McDonald’s All-American. While it’s too early to know if Henry will improve at that rate, he certainly showed on Monday that’s getting better at just the time.

CLASS OF 2015

Chimezie Metu, PF, Lawndale – USC needs Metu, a 6-foot-8 power forward, to be ready to play when gets to campus next year and if Monday was any indication, he certainly should be in a position to contribute. An elite athlete, Metu runs rim to rim, bounces off the ground with ease and has turned into a pretty good rim protector. He showed an ability to face up defenders and drive the ball, as well as make mid-range jump shots. Metu is playing has hard as I’ve ever seen him and in return has been as productive as I’ve ever seen.

Damian Wilson, PG, Taft – Wilson, an available guard, is an intriguing option for college programs in the mid-plus and up range. Wilson, who checks in at 6-foot-4 and has a solid frame, has a knack for slicing his way into the paint and make plays. He’s strong when he drives the ball and can take hits on his way to the rim. He’s a good finisher once he’s there, but also is smart, sees the floor well and can pass. He didn’t show his jump shot in his morning contest, but he competed and proved himself as a passer.

CLASS OF 2016

Jonah Mathews, SG, Santa Monica – Matthews’ mentality is to score and it’s something he does quite well. He hit a pair of three-pointers in a contest Monday morning, but where his bread is really buttered is pulling up off the dribble. He’s good and especially confident pulling up off one or two bounces, but also utilizes floaters when he attacks the basket.

Tim Harrison, PF, Francis Parker – The junior power forward put together a promising effort on Monday. Harrison was effective when he actually got touches. In the first half, he scored off a face up floater, hit a catch and shoot three and then dunked on a defender in transition. In the second session. Harrison hit a pair of mid-range jumpers and also had a put back. He’s an intriguing prospect because of his athleticism, mobility and ability to hit jump shots.

CLASS OF 2017

Nicholas Claxton, PF, Legacy Charter -- Claxton, a sophomore power forward, showed some ability in a match up with Francis Parker. A 6-foot-7 lean forward, Claxton has good mobility, will contest shots around the basket and can make a mid-range jump shot. Claxton has impressive genes, as his dad played at Georgia and later in the NBA. He lacks the weight to be overly physically right now, but that didn’t stop him from playing hard and trying to mix it up around the basket.

Justyne Mutts, PF, St. Augustine – Luckily I stumbled upon Mutts, a 6-foot-6 active and aggressive power forward on Monday. Mutts played with terrific energy and made winning plays through out St. Augustine’s win over Army/Navy. Mutts rebounded in and out of his area, faced up and drove defenders to the rim and ran the floor looking to score. Although he didn’t connect on a jump shot, his form looked good. Just a sophomore, Mutts has lengthy arms and strong base. He’ll be a guy college coaches will soon be picking up their interest level with.

CLASS OF 2018

Jules Bernard, SF, Windward – Just a freshman, Bernard, a 6-foot-5 wing player, is active and plays hard on both ends of the floor. He caught my eye at the Tarkanian Classic last week basically because of the amount of energy he plays with. He didn’t slow down at the Under Armour Classic. He was forced to guard bigger players and that didn’t phase him, as he mixed it up inside, played physical and fought for boards around the rim. On offense, Bernard drove the ball and cleaned up misses in the paint.

Spencer Freedman, PG, Santa Monica – A crafty 5-foot-11 lead guard, Freedman impressed in my first viewing. Freedman has deceptive speed, uses his body to shield off defenders and has a solid handle. He found ways into the paint, showed good vision and had a handful of finishes in transition. The southpaw also made one mid-range pull-up and a three off the catch.

IN THE STANDS

Air Force head coach Dave Pilipovich was spotted at the Army/Nave versus St. Augustine (N.J.) late Monday night.

Assistants from Gonzaga, New Mexico, Washington, American, San Diego State and Boise State were also spotted at the Under Armour Holiday Classic on Tuesday.


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