Inside Word

More of your favorite feature -- the inside stuff of what's going on in west coast recruiting, including the latest on the hottest senior big man, the NBA and DeAngelo Collins and Evan Burns, and the latest on some elite juniors...

We're hearing that Rodrique Benson, 6-9 SR C, Torrey Pines (Calif.) High, is getting quite a bump in his recruiting. He's gone from Big Sky schools recruiting him to the Pac-10 and ACC checking him out seriously. Stanford, Oregon and even North Carolina are looking into the much-improved Benson.

Once again, Martin Iti, the 6-9 center who attended Anaheim Servite and Villa Park before now attending his sixth U.S. high school this year at Winchendon (Mass.) Winchendon School, could be coming back out west again. The word is that he'll play for the Pump N' Run AAU team this spring and fall. Iti, a native Australian, is classified as a junior this year by Winchendon.

Probably the prospect getting the least love in the Northwest this season is Anthony Grant, 6-4 SR SG, Seattle (Wash.) Franklin. Grant was considered a kid with a good body and potential, and has thus far stepped up his game in the first half of his senior season. Following a junior season when he averaged 6ppg with 8rpg and earned 2nd team All-League honors, Grant is averaging 17.8ppg through 9 games this year. He has become a very consistent shooter, recording a 33-point effort against Mt. View, Oregon, and a 28-point outing against league-rival Eastlake last Friday night. Grant's coach, Jason Kerr, mentioned Grant's improved confidence and the effect it has had on his lanky right-hander after the Mt. View game. And his work on the defensive end has not gone unnoticed. And notice to college coaches: Grant scored an 1150 on his SAT and carries a 3.2 GPA. He has been receiving limited recruiting attention and may be one of those guys who falls through the cracks that ends up making people scratch their heads down the road and wondering "how'd we miss this guy?"

Two commitments from Washington that we've neglected to mention from Mercer Island High: Duke Biggers, 6-0 SR PG, has committed to SMU; and Kevin Tempest, 6-3 SR SG, has given his commitment to Lehigh.

Nick Stiggers, the 6-9 JR PF who transferred to Van Nuys (Calif.) Montclair Prep finally received clearance to play – and has wasted no time, scoring 29 and 36 points in his first two outings, respectively. The word is that USC has the extreme inside track with Stiggers.

NBA scouts have gone out a few times this year to take a look at DeAngelo Collins, 6-9 SR C, Inglewood (Calif.) High, and many are projecting him as a first-round draft pick in the spring NBA draft. Some still express some doubt, citing a lack of consistent effort, but with the scarcity of talented big men in the college ranks more than likely Collins will be drafted high enough that he'll forego any thought of playing college basketball.

Speaking of NBA scouts…

A truckload of scouts attended the recent Fairfax/Westchester game, mostly to watch Evan Burns, 6-7 SR SF, Fairfax. Westchester blew out Fairfax and Burns didn't play a great game, really only scoring consistently after Westchester had put the game out of reach. Many of the NBA scouts left at halftime. The knock on Burns has nothing to do with his talent, but generally NBA scouts believe he needs a couple of years of college to learn to sustain effort. So, Burns played mediocre in a big game, and UCLA benefits. Burns is, of course, verbally committed to the Bruins. With the word now being that Burns would not be drafted by the NBA, college is looming as his #1 option. He has improved his classwork, according to sources, but has not achieved a qualifying test score in two attempts this fall. However, he has started to work with a very effective tutor and the word was that he wasn't far from getting that qualifying score on his fall test attempts. If he gets the qualifying score, it's pretty easy to predict that Burns will go to UCLA. If he fails to get a qualifying score, San Diego State is waiting in the wings, hoping to pick him up as a Prop 48 since the NBA doesn't appear to be an option anymore.

The AAU battle for standout junior Trevor Ariza, 6-7 JR SF, Los Angeles (Calif.) Westchester continues. While Belmont Shore chief Dinos Trigonis insists that Ariza is sewn up for him, the Pump brothers, David and Dana, said Ariza is a done deal to play for their #1 Pump team. While we know it's a little foolish to follow the recruiting battles of AAU teams, this one has been particularly colorful, pitting some of the most charismatic AAU characters against each other.

Definitely a player to watch is Mitch Platt, 6-9 JR C, Henderson (Nev.) Green Valley. The word is that UNLV is all over him, and that many Pac-10 coaches have already taken that really taxing trek to Vegas to check him out. He'll more than likely end up a high-major center prospect in his class this spring and summer.

Many college coaches and scouts have been out to see Ayinde Ubaka, 6-1 JR PG, Oakland (Calif.) High, and the consensus is: He's the best point guard among the junior class on the west coast.

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