Best of Las Vegas Prep Championship

Some seniors make a case for themselves, like Santa Monica Crossroads's Jordan Rush, and many underclassmen are impressive, uncluding a Las Vegas big man and a sleeper of a California point guard...

The annual Las Vegas Prep Championship, hosted by Las Vegas High School and held for four days following Christmas, brought together 32 teams from the west coast, including 16 from California, 13 from Nevada, 2 from Arizona, and 1 from British Columbia. The tournament featured at least four multi-overtime games, at least six individual scoring efforts of at least 34 points, and a host of talented college prospects.

In the semi-finals, Santa Monica Crossroads came from behind to defeat local power Cheyenne, 80-77. Cheyenne appeared to be in control, but after losing two players to injuries during the game, and having two more players eliminated on fouls, their deep reserves couldn't hold their lead, and the Roadrunners from Santa Monica advanced on the strength of three players combining for 70 points - Robert Locke (27), Joe Abrahams (23), and Jordan Rush (20). The host school captured the other semi-final victory by grabbing an early lead (16-5) and holding on to defeat Fontana A.B. Miller, 78-66. The Las Vegas Wildcats had four players in double figures, led by Zach Queen's 18 (6 3's).

The championship game was never in doubt, as Las Vegas once again used an early barrage from long distance to put distance between themselves and their opponent, a gap Crossroads was never able to close. By halftime, Las Vegas led by 18, and they finished the game with a 10-0 run for the final margin of 31 points (69-38). The Crossroads guards, so brilliant in the semi-finals, were held to a combined 5 points on 2-17 shooting. The bright spot for the Roadrunners was the play for forward Jordan Rush, who poured in 28 of his teams 38 points. Jeremy Atwater led the way for the champs with 24 points and 9 rebounds.

Final tournament standings:

10. Las Vegas Centennial
9. Temecula Valley, CA
8. Reno McQueen
7. Henderson, NV, Green Valley
6. Rolling Hills, CA, Peninsula
5. Riverside, CA, Martin Luther King
4. Fontana, CA, A.B. Miller
3. North Las Vegas Cheyenne
2. Santa Monica, CA, Crossroads
1. Las Vegas HS

Top players


Joe Abrahams, 6-3 SG, Crossroads - Although his future may lie on the PGA Tour, Abrahams could probably play on the next level with his zone-busting sharpshooting. He gets great elevation on his jump shot, and his range is practically limitless.

Jeremy Atwater, 6-5 PF, Las Vegas - Named the tournament MVP, Atwater dominated the backboards at both ends of the floor against every opponent. Atwater jumps as high as he needs to, he has incredibly long arms, and he plays with the enthusiasm of a puppy. He isn't an accomplished shooter, but he has developed a wide array of scoring moves around the basket, and he uses the backboard well from medium-range. He might be a target for the Big West and Big Sky, among others.

Kevin Gardner, 6-7 PF, Peninsula - Mobile and agile around the goal, yet strong enough to power through double teams on the blocks, Gardner was often unstoppable in Las Vegas. He dunks in crowds and has a nice arsenal of low-post moves, but it seems he sometimes forgets about other aspects of the game, such as rebounding and defense. A college coach who can coax constant effort from Gardner could probably turn him into a good player on the next level.

Marier Ingui, 6-11 C Phoenix Washington - Despite being the tallest player in attendance, there were probably players a foot shorter here who outweighed Ingui. His wingspan is ridiculous, and he uses his long arms to great advantage at the defensive end of the floor, but he lacks the upper body strength to do much rebounding or scoring yet. He does seem able to block shots without picking up cheap fouls, and his defensive presence still makes him an intriguing prospect.

Marvin Lea, 6-3 2G, Riverside MLK - Lea is a prolific scorer (He averaged better than 30 ppg as a junior), but not a classic shooter. He has a deadly set shot out to 25', but he's not a guy who's going to consistently come off screen and hit 17-20' jumpers. He has a knack for driving into the paint and using his athletic gifts to score over bigger people or get fouled, and despite his relentless forays into the lane, he rarely picks up charging fouls. Lea's game may have trouble translating to the next level, but he's a natural leader and would be a great presence in the locker room and on the practice floor.

Jordan Rush, 6-6 SF, Santa Monica Crossroads - Rush was spectacular in the championship game, scoring nearly 74% of his teams points and doing it in every conceivable fashion. He's an explosive slasher, finishing his drives with violent dunks or slithering between defenders to hit scoops and bank shots, and he's just beginning to move his game to the wing. He hit 3-4 from behind the arc against Las Vegas, but he needs time and space to shoot his jumper. As he learns to free himself with the dribble and hit the mid-range shot on the move, he could be a dangerous offensive weapon. He also doesn't mind playing defense, using his long arms and leaping ability to change and block shots. My pick as the Most Outstanding Player in attendance.

Elton Simpson, 5-10 PG, Phoenix Washington - The best senior lead guard in the tournament, Simpson handles the ball like a Globetrotter, and uses his quickness to penetrate and get the ball to his big teammates. His shooting is at its best when he's pulling up from behind the arc, anywhere out to 22'. He overdoes it at times, zipping passes through teammates hands, but he could be emergin as one of the best senior point guards in the state of Arizona.

Johnny Wheeler, 6-5 WF, North Las Vegas Cheyenne - Combine the semi-final game and the 3rd place game, and Wheeler hit 23-30 shots from the field and 13-17 from the free throw line, averaging 29.5 ppg. Wheeler is tailor-made for an uptempo, pressing style of play, where his long arms and anticipation garner him lots of steals and deflections, and he manages to finish seemingly everything at the other end. Halfcourt offense isn't a strength, but it's coming.


Ross Green, 5-9 PG, Temecula Valley, CA - The Golden Bears lost their first round game and then went on to win four straight to claim ninth place. Three of the wins were by a combined 7 points, and the fourth was in quadruple overtime. The only reason Temecula Valley was able to pull out any of those wins was because of #15, point guard Ross Green. Green seemed to rise to the occasion every time the pressure was on at the end of a game, whether it meant coming up with a steal, making a great pass, or hitting a big free throw. He's creative with the ball, and he can penetrate against a set defense and set people up, but he doesn't truly shine until a close game is on the line. Green is a winner, pure and simple.

Robert Locke, 6-3 PG, Santa Monica Crossroads - Locke has good size for a point guard, passing over the defense and scoring on mid-range jumpers after driving hard and pulling up. He'll need to use his upcoming summer and senior year to work on extending his range, but he scraps hard inside for rebounds and takes good care of the basketball. Potentially a fairly big-time recruit. especially if he proves he can knock down the three on a consistent basis.

Mike Philogene, 6-1 SG, Las Vegas Clark - Philogene led the tournament in scoring at better than 30 ppg, and his 39 point outing was the best in the tournament this year. He seems to find different ways to score on every trip down the court, hitting a 22' jumper one trip, then getting a putback, a leaner in the lane, then getting out in transition and converting an alleyoop. He'll need to expand his game a bit or grow to play this same role on the DI level, but he's gone from being a designated shooter as a sophomore to a threat to score from anywhere in the gym as a junior, so he's definitely worth monitoring.

Mitch Platt, 6-9 C, Henderson, NV, Green Valley - Although Green Valley's depth prevents Platt from putting up huge numbers, he's improving all the time. He continues to shed weight and improve his agility around the goal, but he's kept enough muscle to bang with most opposition inside. Platt has a soft touch around the goal and at least 15' range on his shot, although he rarely ventures far from the blocks. David Padgett in Reno rightfully gets the press as the best big man in the state, but he won't be the only post player getting DI recruiting attention in Nevada next year.

Jeremiah Ward, 5-11 PG, Fontana, CA, A.B. Miller - Ward was brilliant throughout the tournament, quite probably the best lead guard in attendance. The quickest player in the tournament, Ward is dynamic at both ends of the floor, making steals and taking charges at one end, while penetrating at will when he has the ball. Learning to change speeds and slow down once in a while will come with more experience, but his weaknesses are few and far between. The way he performed here he could very well be the sleeper among the California point guards in his class.

Shawn Weinstein, 6-1 PG, Rolling Hills, CA, Peninsula - Weinstein swung between both guard positions in Las Vegas, playing both with equal aplomb. Weinstein has good upper body strength and body control which allows him to finish drives in traffic, and he's a deadly shooter when he gets his feet set. In a disciplined system, Weinstein could contribute at a fairly big-time school. Limited quickness will make it imperative that he chooses his college conference wisely, but he knows how to play.


Josh Bomar, 6-7 PF, Temecula Valley, CA - Bomar is very thin at this point, but he attacks the basket aggressively and he displays just enough skills out on the floor to give the impression of a guy who could wind up in the Mike Dunleavy mold. He could go either way, instead becoming a slender post player with no hope of accomplishing anything against bigger, stronger athletes inside, or he could continue the transition to the wing and become something special. Temecula has a team full of underclassmen (The aforementioned Ross Green, Bomar, 6-9 SO David Hodge, 6-4 SO Princeton Joshway, and more), and it will be interesting to watch this crew develop over the next few years and perhaps take their place among the traditional SoCal powers.

David Burgess, 6-10 C, Irvine, CA, Woodbridge - Burgess is improving all the time, growing into his big frame and adjusting his game to fit his size. He has pretty good strength for a player his age and height, and skill wise he's nearly as good as big brother Chris (Duke/Utah) was at the same stage of his career. David doesn't jump or run as well as Chris did, but by the time he's a senior, David is going to be getting quite a bit of recruiting attention.

Stanley Copeland, 5-8 PG, Las Vegas HS - Copeland was a starting defensive back on the football team that won the Nevada 4A state championship in early December, and it's taken him a while to get his basketball legs back. He had everything clicking in this tournament, darting in and out with the dribble to rack up assists whole being a major pest on the defensive end (He held Crossroads' PG Robert Locke to 5 points in the championship game after Locke went for 27 in the semis). His jumper isn't going to scare anybody at this point, but he's going to be a four-year starter and probably break every assist and steal record in the state.

Matthew Thomas, 6-4 SG, Riverside, CA, MLK - Thomas plays in the shadow of some talented senior teammates (Marvin Lea and Leon Rosborough), but his versatile game allows him to play any of three perimeter positions, and he'll take over as "the man" next year. A gifted passer, Thomas may wind up a 6-5+ point guard down the road.


Justin Everette, 5-9 PG, Las Vegas Valley - I wasn't fortunate enough to see Valley High School assistant coach Freddie Banks play when he was starting as a freshman for the Vikings back in 1979-80 (Before heading to UNLV and leading them to the Final Four in 1986-87), but I have a hard time believing he shot the ball any better than Justin Everette. Everette is a lefty point guard with a sugar sweet stroke and enough quickness to get free of almost any defender. He gets overmatched at times against extremely physical defenders, but a bright, bright future lies ahead.

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