Here are some thoughts on players we did see at the Easter Classic.
James Keefe, 6-8 JR PF, Rancho Santa Margarita (Calif.) Santa Margarita. Keefe didn't need to score much on a loaded SCA team, so he was content to mostly play good defense and rebound. He has a nice shot when given time and space, but needs to quicken up his release a bit. He's very effective in transition, partly because he runs very well and also because he never takes any plays off. He also might be the best shot blocker that we've seen in the West Coast class of 2006.
Ray Hall, 6-10 JR C Denver (Col.) Mullen. Hall had a disappointing tournament, mainly due to the fact that he's possibly twenty pounds overweight and out of shape. He was beaten to numerous rebounds by smaller players and had trouble finishing plays around the basket. Hall's naturally a big guy, so fighting his weight will probably always be an issue for him. But when he's in shape, and able to move better, he can use that size to his advantage. He's more nimble than you'd think given his size and he has excellent hands. He's also one of the best passing post players in the west. It will be interesting to see how Hall looks in April and, more importantly, in July.
Chase Budinger, 6-7 JR SF, Encinitas (Calif.) La Costa Canyon. Budinger had a good tournament for SCA, showing off his considerable leaping ability on several occasions and knocking down a decent percentage of his jump shots. He was more impressive in the AAU style of ball than when we saw him with his high school team this year. He's fairly good with the ball when given space, but struggles to get his own shot against real defensive pressure. He's a bit stiff on the perimeter and, at 6-7, it's not easy for him to create off the dribble against smaller players. Budinger can get hot beyond the stripe, but he's not a great shooter. His mechanics are a bit off and he'll probably never be a pure shooter. Given his size, and leaping ability, it wouldn't surprise us if Budinger ultimately spends some time as an undersized four. He's a high major prospect, but whether he plays at the elite level remains to be seen.
Kevin Galloway, 6-6 JR SF, Sacramento (Calif.) High. Galloway is an impressive physical specimen, with a great body for a wing. He played a lot of point guard for the God Squad team and that was a mistake. He's not a point guard by any stretch of the imagination. He's best when slashing off the wing and finishing or getting his teammates open looks. His outside shot is still a work in progress, but you have to be intrigued by the physical tools Galloway possesses. He was an active rebounder in the games we saw and shows signs of someday being a very good defender. Depending on how quickly his skills develop, he could end up a mid to high major prospect.
Marcus Lawrence, 5-11 JR PG Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman. Lawrence didn't shoot it real well in the games we saw, but he continues to be one of the more advanced point guards in terms of his feel for the game. He rarely makes bad decisions and understands how to get his teammates involved. He's got good, not great, quickness and he can defend when he puts his mind to it. We still have him as the top-ranked point guard in the west for 2006.
P'Allen Stinnett, 6-2 JR SG, Las Vegas (Nev.) Palo Verde. Stinnett is an intriguing prospect, due to his scoring ability. He can shoot it well beyond the stripe and also has a knack for getting to the basket. He's an explosive leaper, with good quickness. Physically, he's filled out some since the summer, but he's still got some work to do with his body. His ball-handling is just decent at this time. Decision-making is a major problem at this point, but he does have the potential to develop into a nice player.
Shawn Imadiyi, 6-6 JR PF, Tempe (Ariz.) Corona del Sol. A bouncy, long athlete with a nice frame, Imadiyi got our attention in a couple games. He's not real skilled yet, but he blocked several shots and was very active around the basket. One to watch in the summer.
Taylor King, 6-7 SO PF/SF, Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei. King continues to extend his shooting range, dropping a couple threes that were in the 28-30 foot range. He's got an effortless stroke and, when he squares up with time, he's a very good shooter. He can sometimes get into trouble when he tries to shoot too quickly, before he's had a chance to get his feet set. He did a terrific job on the offensive boards, scoring a lot of his points on put backs after rebounds. Defensively, we think he'll probably end up more suited to defending a four, but he's certainly got three man skills at the offensive end. In any event, he's a unique prospect – you just don't see 10th graders with his scoring ability. Add to that the fact that he always plays hard and you have one of the top sophomore prospects in the country.
Billy White, 6-6 SO SF Las Vegas (Nev.). White played with a group of older players on the Las Vegas Top Prospects team and he generally deferred to them. He got very few touches and not many shots. But he's probably the best prospect on that team, due to his size, length, athleticism and skill level. He's very good with the ball for someone his size and he can play inside as well as on the perimeter.
Daniel Hackett, 6-4 SO SG, Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco. Hackett is an interesting prospect. He's got a very high skill level, excellent stroke and a good understanding of how to play. However, he's just an average athlete and his body doesn't project to the high major level as a shooting guard. He'll need to really work on his body and get as quick as he possibly can if he's to play at a high level. But we like the way he plays, his decision-making and how he lets the game come to him.
Clinton Chapman, 6-8 SO C, Canby (Ore.) High. Chapman barely played for the God Squad, but we thought he looked like a player. Good frame, moves pretty well, nice feet…one to watch in the sophomore class.
Brandon Jennings, 6-0 FR PG Compton (Calif.) Dominguez. Jennings is quickly becoming the top point guard in the west, regardless of class. Playing with a loaded SCA team, Jennings played with confidence, yet didn't force things. He's got a serviceable stroke to the stripe, but it's his quickness and ball-handling that get your attention. A young Kenny Anderson is the comparison some people make and there are some similarities. Jennings made one play, in particular, that caught our attention. Coming down in transition at full speed, Jennings stopped on a dime, elevated on balance and hit a mid-range shot. Rather than over-penetrating, and getting in trouble, he did the right thing and made the play look effortless. He's gotten bigger in the last six months. With a little more strength, he's going to be very tough for anyone to handle at the high school level.
Jin Soo Kim, 6-7 FR SF Van Nuys (Calif.) Montclair Prep. Kim played on a new, RBC West team and it was obvious he wasn't yet clicking with his teammates. He's still learning how to play the American style of basketball, but he'll show you things every once in awhile that hint at his considerable skill level. He has a very advanced feel for the game and he's very good with the ball for someone his size. He needs to get stronger, tougher and more aggressive, but he has a chance to be an elite, high major prospect.
Ricky Henry, 6-4 FR SF Las Vegas (Nev.) Cheyenne. A very good looking young prospect, Henry is long and moves easy. Good frame, quick feet and a pretty good feel for the game. We only saw him play one game, so we don't have a great feel for his skill level just yet. But he certainly got our attention with his activity level and upside.