New Year's Inside Word

Here's the latest scuttlebutt going around on the recruiting front lines, including some inside stuff on Evan Burns and the NBA, Omar Wilkes' early leaders, a huge transfer to the west, the recruiting word on Marcus Williams and Ekene Ibekwe, and more...

Tuesday, January 8th, is a huge day for Evan Burns, 6-8 SR SF, Los Angeles (Calif.) Fairfax. Fairfax hosts Westchester on that day, and the word is that many NBA scouts will be in attendance to scout Burns. We've also heard that Burns is seriously considering bypassing college and going straight to the NBA. He did not pass his attempt at the SAT in October and there has been no word yet on his December attempt.

Nick Stiggers, 6-8 JR PF, originally from Memphis, Tennessee, has tranferred to Van Nuys Montclair Prep. Stiggers, considered a top 40 national player in his class, has not yet been deemed eligible, still waiting on eligibility clearance from CIF. According to sources, his former high school, Memphis Hillcrest, is making the process difficult. There was talk last fall that Stiggers had committed to USC, but he said that they are one among a few schools he's considering. A complete recruiting update on Stiggers is coming soon.

A source close to Omar Wilkes, 6-2 JR SG, Los Angeles (Calif.) Loyola, tells us that the talented prospect has Stanford and Arizona at the top of his list. Wilkes, the son of former UCLA star Jamaal Wilkes, has improved his jump shot in the last six months and he's become more consistent from the three-point line. Wilkes has a terrific feel for the game and needs only to add some bulk and strength to play at the elite high major level.

We've heard conflicting reports on Marcus Williams, 6-2 JR PG, Los Angeles (Calif.) Crenshaw, the talented prospect from Crenshaw. The rumor a month ago was that Williams was on the verge on making an early commitment to UCLA. Then sources close to Williams said that wasn't true and that he was wide open. The latest we've heard is that Williams is indeed leaning strongly to UCLA and will most likely end up a Bruin. Don't be surprised, though, if it takes a while and other schools get some attention from Williams.

Trevor Ariza, 6-7 JR SF, Los Angeles Westchester, is the object of an intense recruiting battle, but it's not being fought by Florida, North Carolina and Arizona. The battle for Ariza that's going on right now is for his services on the AAU circuit. Ariza is being wooed by Belmont Shore, Pump N Run and the Southern California All-Stars. Belmont Shore coach Dinos Trigonis is very confident about landing Ariza and half-jokingly said he'd leave the business if he misses on Ariza. That's a bold statement, Dinos, when you're going up against the Pumps and Pat Barrett. No predictions from us on this one -- this race is too close to call.

We're hearing that junior forward Mark Lovein, 6-8 Anaheim (Calif.) Esperanza, has been very impressive so far this season. We'll try to see him soon and report our impressions.

One of the most-sought recruits in the junior class is Ekene Ibekwe, 6-9 JR PF, Carson (Calif.) High. According to sources close to the situation, Ibekwe favors North Carolina, who is recruiting him pretty hard, and USC, who was on Ibekwe early. UCLA is also in the picture, and showing the 6-9 athlete a lot of early interest.

Louis Darby, 6-3 SR SG, and Frank Robinson, 6-3 SR SF, both from Sylmar, look to be going to Moopark JC next season. Both are good – but raw – athletes who need to do some work academically, but in two year, with some development, could be big-time prospects.

Kelly Orchard, 6-9 SR PF, Bountiful (Utah) High, will go the JC route, attending the College of Southern Idaho next year. He plans on playing for a year and then going on his Mormom mission.

Sophomore Gabe Pruitt, 6-2 CG, Compton (Calif.) Centennial, was named the MVP of the Modesto Holiday Hoop Classic last week, leading Centennial to the championship over Long Beach Poly. Pruitt is really emerging as one of the best in his class, so far this year averaging 25 points a game for Centennial.

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