The Torrey Pines National Classic was a terrific tournament and there were a number of intriguing prospects at the event. Here are our impressions on some of the seniors that we saw.
Rodrique Benson, 6-9 C Torrey Pines (Calif.) High. Easily the surprise of the tournament, Benson showed that he's come a long way since summer. His footwork in the post is much better, he's more aggressive and he's become an excellent shot-blocker. He's still slender, and will probably need a redshirt year to add strength, but he's gone from a low or mid major to high major player in a matter of months. Don't be surprised if some of the elite high majors become involved.
Travis Smith, 6-3 PG Rancho Santa Margarita (Calif.) Santa Margarita. Brad Holland and San Diego got a steal when Smith signed an LOI with the Toreros. Smith is tough, physical, heady, more athletic than he looks and he competes his ass off. He shoots it well enough to keep a defense honest and he'll no doubt continue to improve as a shooter -- because that's the kind of player he is. He'll get better every year and, at some point, he'll be one of the best guards in the WCC.
Derek Stockalper, 6-5 SG Carlsbad (Calif.) High. Great stroke, great feel and another steal for Holland and San Diego. In a different era, you'd compare him with the guys on the New York Knicks of the late '60s, early '70s. During a summer league game, I was sitting with a coach who leaned over midway late in the second half and said, "he hasn't made a mistake yet." Stockalper isn't quick or bouncy (although he'll surprise you with a dunk every once in a while), but his understanding of the game allows him to compensate and make plays anyway.
Moulaye Niang, 6-9 C San Diego (Calif.) Christian. Niang has made progress since we last saw him. He's calmed down a bit and he's not so frenetic. Before, he'd be running all over the court with basically no clue what he was doing. Now he has a better sense of what his role is as a center. His footwork and stroke have both improved. He could use a redshirt year at Kansas, but he has a chance to help the Jayhawks down the road.
Julius Keeler, 6-4 SF Escondido (Calif.) High. Julius put on a show in a fantastic game against Loyola, scoring thirty-six points in a game that was close the whole way. He was mostly a catch and shoot guy when we saw him in the summer, but he's really gotten better off the dribble. He doesn't have your classic body for a small forward and there is some concern about his ability to defend on the perimeter. But he can definitely shoot it with good range and that alone will get him some looks from some mid majors in the next couple months.
Lenny Collins, 6-4 SG Rancho Santa Margarita (Calif.) Santa Margarita. Underrated shooter and another tough kid. He hit some huge shots in the Eagles upset win over Fairfax. Should have an outstanding career at Cornell.