We started out the day watching the Las Vegas Prospects taking on the Playaz, which features Duke-bound Gerald Henderson and North Carolina commit Wayne Ellington. In this game, though, the star of the show was Luke Babbitt, 6-7 SO PF Reno (Nev.) Galena.
Babbitt pretty much had his way inside, posting up strong and scoring in a variety of ways. He's got a terrific feel in the post and a nice little jump hook. He's also got the ability to step away from the basket and knock down threes. He's got very long arms and he uses them to good effect, scoring over bigger players inside. His footwork is very advanced for a young four man.
The most impressive play that Babbitt made all game, though, was when he just caught the ball. He was in the low-post when a teammate at the top of the key threw a bullet of a pass. Babbitt snatched it with one hand. Two college coaches sitting with me turned and said, "damn, you think he's got good hands?"
With three more years to go in high school, it's hard to imagine how good Babbitt might be when he enters college. Assuming reasonable continued development, he should be one of the elite prospects in the country for the class of 2008.
While Babbitt's performance was outstanding, it wasn't the best one we saw yesterday. That honor would go to Adrian Oliver, 6-2 SR SG/PG Modesto (Calif.) Modesto Christian. Oliver was simply unconscious in the second half as he led the Soldiers to a win over a talented Hurricane team.
By our count, Oliver had six three-pointers in the second half and each one was huge. He made three in a row on successive possessions with about six minutes to go in the game. He scored 17 of the last 20 points of the game for the Soldiers.
Oliver is deceptive in that he's not an exceptional athlete and he has just an average-looking body. But he's quicker than you think and he has an excellent feel for the game. He set up his man several times before making hard cuts to get open for his shots. He moves well without the ball and he has great instincts for finding gaps in the defense. One area he needs to improve in, though, is in his decision-making. He'll sometimes spin in the lane and get a bit out of control. But there's no question he's one of the elite prospects in the west for 2006 and he should have a terrific career at Washington.
James Keefe, 6-8 SR PF Rancho Santa Margarita (Calif.) Santa Margarita, played with the talented SCA team in the spring, but decided to play with his high school team in July. So we knew it would be an interesting game when SCA and Santa Margarita matched-up last night. Keefe is at his best playing in real basketball games, as oppposed to the nonsense that passes for basketball on the AAU circuit, and we weren't surprised when he came out and put on a show in the first half of the game last night. Whether it was grabbing seemingly every rebound, knocking down jumpers or sprinting the court to beat his man to the basket, Keefe was all over the court and led Santa Margarita to an early twelve-point lead.
But Keeefe and the rest of the Santa Margarita squad ran out of gas -- they only played six guys -- and SCA pulled away in the second half for a relatively easy win. Keefe, though, made a statement to all of the national analysts who questioned him in the spring and dropped him in their rankings. Anyone who doesn't understand that Keefe is one of the top 30 players in the ocuntry just doesn't know what they're looking at. He's an outstanding athlete, with a great frame, very high skill level and off-the-charts intangibles. He's going to get better every year and end up an All Pac-10 player before he's done. As one college coach watching the game last night said, "Hey, he's a pro."