Las Vegas: West Coast, Day One

Deon Thompson, Andy Poling, Spencer Hawes and Phil Nelson were among the top performers at the first day of the Las Vegas tournaments...

Day One of the Las Vegas tournaments started off with an outstanding performance from Deon Thompson, 6-8 SR C Torrance (Calif.) High. After his Branch West Team Reebok squad started out in an early 16-1 hole to the Minnesota Magic Elite, Thompson thoroughly outplayed heralded junior big man Cole Aldrich and Branch West came back for the win.

Thompson finished the game with 21 ponts, but it was his all-around game that was so impressive. He was 7-7 from the field, 7-8 from the line and he had seven rebounds, seven blocks and five steals. Aldrich got in early foul trouble trying to defend Thompson and finished with two points and five rebounds.

Thompson has a great feel in the post. He'll find cutters and look opposite for open teammates. His footwork is the best we've seen from a big man in the West Coast class of 2006. He's much more nimble than most people realize. When you consider where he was physically a year ago – carrying an extra forty pounds – it's remarkable to watch Thompson today. He's got an array of moves in the low-post and a very soft touch around the basket. Gonzaga, UCLA, Kentucky, Boston College Utah, Arizona State and several other schools were on hand to watch Thompson. We expect other high major programs to get involved with Thompson as people figure out just how much upside there is with the Torrance big man.

Phil Nelson, 6-7 SR SF Keizer (Ore.) McNary, has been considered one of the elite small forwards in the west for some time now and yesterday he demonstrated why he's so highly regarded. Facing a Team Danny Williams squad that featured Davon Jefferson and Seketoure Henry, Nelson was clearly the best player on the court. He buried several deep, effortless threes, rebounded well and showed off his superior ball skills. Washington, Gonzaga and Oregon State, among others, were in the gym to watch Nelson.

Nelson's teammate, Andy Poling, 6-10 SO C Portland (Ore.) West View, was also outstanding in the Panthers' win. Poling has terrific skills for a young big man. He's got a nice little hook shot and very good feet and hands. Once he gains some strength, he will be very difficult to stop at the high school level. Assuming reasonable development, Poling will be one of the elite post players in the country for 2008.

For Team Danny Williams, it was a disappointing game. Davon Jefferson and Seketoure Henry are both playing for the Rick Issacs squad, as they're expected to play at prep school next year. Unfortunately, both players' games have regressed significantly in the last year. Jefferson is content to play for dunks, while Henry casts up long threes and doesn't do much else. Jefferson, in particular, is disappointing because he has all the physical tools to be a very good player. But he hasn't worked on his game in the last year and he's actually a lesser prospect today than he was a year ago. Hopefully, he can get serious about his game and fulfill the great potential we saw in him a couple years ago.

We only saw half a game between Friends of Hoop Seattle and the Portland Legends, but it was enough to remind us just how good Spencer Hawes is today and how much potential he has as a prospect. The game comes very easy to Hawes. He can score inside or facing up. He's an excellent rebounder and shot blocker. To top it off, he's got a great feel and he's unselfish. Hawes was content to mostly feed his teammates, but he made one move for a quick dunk that had a nearby college coach saying, "one year." As in, one year and Hawes is off to the NBA.

Brandon Richardson, a 6-0 JR SG/PG Hawthorne (Calif.) High, hasn't received much exposure to date, but he's a very nice prospect at the mid major level. And if he can develop into a point guard, he might go higher. He's got an excellent feel for the game, makes good decisions and he's got a solid stroke.

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