The Pump 'N' Run Easter tournament was held in Las Vegas this year, due to the fact that the CIF would not certify the event in California. Without certification, D1 college coaches are not allowed to attend the event. Thus, the move to a state where the governing high school body was willing to certify. No offense to the folks at Dominguez Hills (the usual site of the Pump tournament), but a weekend in Vegas, even if it's spent mostly in high school gyms, is fine by us.
This is the first of a few reports we'll do on this tournament. We'll start with some of the notable juniors.
Lorenzo Wade, 6-5 SG Las Vegas (Nev.) Cheyenne. Not the biggest name heading into the tournament, but the player who made the biggest impression on us by the end of the weekend. Long and quick, with very good ball handling/passing skills, Wade made a strong case for the #1 spot at SG when we revise our rankings prior to summer. A lefty with a very versatile game, Wade could end up bigger and eventually move to SF. He showed a nice stroke with three-point range and threw down a couple emphatic dunks that had the crowd buzzing. He has only started to scratch the surface of his potential and he'll no doubt be hearing from some of the elite high majors in the next couple months.
Ayinde Ubaka, 6-1 PG Oakland (Calif.) High. Ubaka reaffirmed his status as the #1 PG prospect in the west. Played exceptionally well Friday and Saturday, then just so-so in a disappointing head to head match-up with Marcus Williams on Sunday. Neither player played well, with Ubaka guarding Williams and the SCA team zoning Ubaka's H-Squad team. Shot is still the one question mark in his game, but it's not far away and should be fine by the time he enters college in eighteen months. He's bigger and stronger than when we last saw him and is now able to overpower some guards when he gets in the lane. Best combination of quickness, size, ball skills and feel among West Coast point guards.
Leon Powe, 6-7 PF Oakland (Calif.) Oakland Tech. Most college-ready prospect in the tournament. Talk of NBA jump from high school is laughable (the 6-7 number may be a stretch), but he'll be a heckuva' college player. Perimeter skills are improved, but still need work. Strength, long arms and improved footwork make him a load in the low-post. As one coach said, "imagine when he gets some coaching." Academics permitting, his recruitment figures to be nationwide.
Dominic McGuire, 6-5 SF San Diego (Calif.) Lincoln. Outside shot comes and goes, but everything else is there to make him the #1 small forward in the west. Great body, excellent hops and quickness. Passes and handles extremely well -- real good in transition. Can finish strong at the rim or dish when in the lane (very good vision). Grabs more than his share of rebounds and blocked a half dozen shots (including two attempted dunks) in the games we saw.
Ryan Appleby, 6-2 PG Stanwood (Wash.) High. Had a few shaky moments, but overall very impressive. Terrific PG instincts and showed leadership qualities. Excellent passer and a very quick release on his jump shot. Shot didn't always go down, but he's got a nice stroke and should develop into a very good shooter. Very good in transition. Needs to settle down somewhat (you get the feeling he likes the wrong Jason Williams), but he remains among the top three prospects at his position.
Mohamed Abukar, 6-9 PF Rancho Bernardo (Calif.) High. Winner of the most "who is that?" comments from college coaches. Still slender, and lacks the strength to get much done in the low-post, but a terrific outside touch and he moves real well. As he gets stronger, we expect he'll become more assertive and aggressive. If that happens, he has a chance to be one of the elite players in the country a year from now.
Nick Stiggers, 6-8 PF Van Nuys (Calif.) Montclair Prep. We only saw Stiggers once and he looked about the same as we saw him a couple months ago. Big body, very nice outside shot. Not real explosive off the floor, but he'll be a tough match-up as he can take post players away from the basket and make them defend him on the perimeter. He can use his big butt to good advantage when he wants to. Needs to play with a little more urgency, but his skills make him one of the top players in the west.
Marcus Williams, 6-2 PG Los Angeles (Calif.) Crenshaw. Is expected to play at Oak Hill next year, but we'll cover him until that happens. Outside shot wasn't quite as on as we've seen it, but he's undoubtedly one of the top shooters in the west. Doesn't have a PG mentality, but the skills are there if he can change his approach to the game. Right now, his first thought is to shoot the jumper, the second option is drive to the basket and his third choice is to make the pass. If he can make the transformation into a point guard, and make better decisions, he has a chance to be very good. Quickness and hops are just ok, but that outside shot is a great equalizer.
Sean Phaler, 6-9 PF Villa Park (Calif.) High. Still painfully skinny and it's uncertain how much weight he'll ever add to that frame. But he's also still among the top three shooters in the west and that's intriguing with his size. Willing to play inside, but doesn't have the strength to get much done down there. Nice feel for the game. Showed a fallaway baseline jumper that could be very tough to defend. Coaches we spoke with all have the same concern -- who does he guard at the high major level? Height alone probably dictates that he defends the four (thus, his classification as a PF), but that's tough to do at his weight.
More juniors in our next report...