Here are our impressions on some of the juniors who participated in the Pump Easter tournament this past weekend in Las Vegas.
Lodrick and Rodrick Stewart, SG Seattle (Wash.) Rainer Beach. We didn't get to see the twins as much as we would have liked, but what we saw was not encouraging. Yes, they're both big-time athletes with substantial upsides. And they'll both continue to be ranked high in our rankings because of that potential. But they need to learn how to play the game. They both seem to be on the court looking for the spectacular play (particularly dunks), rather than playing to win. They need to learn that basketball games are not judged on style points. College coaches don't care about monster dunks if you can't come off a screen to hit a jumpshot (or, perhaps more importantly, be willing to set a screen yourself). The twins have a chance to be special players. But they have a ways to go before they're ready to start at a mid-major, nevermind coming into an elite high-major program and playing right away.
Tron Smith, 6-2 PG Moreno Valley (Calif.) Canyon Springs. Smith is more of a combo guard than a pure point but, whatever position you put him at, he's a very nice prospect. One coach told me he felt Smith was as good a prospect as anyone in the tournament. We wouldn't go that far, but Smith can shoot it very well (especially off the dribble) with good range and he's explosive. He gets great lift on his jumper and he can finish strong inside. Handle and passing are adequate, but could use work if he's to play at the one in a high major program. Competes very well and has shown steady improvement in the last couple years.
Marcus Dove, 6-6 SF Long Beach (Calif.) Milliken. Dove caught the attention of several coaches and it's easy to see why. He's got a very good basketball body, moves well and he's got good playmaking skills. He didn't get to handle the ball much on the H-Squad, but when he did he made some plays. Almost never shoots the ball outside the key and he'll need major work in that area. Played harder here than we'd seen during the regular season and that's encouraging if he can keep it up. Dove has some natural ability and a chance to play at the mid to high major level if he puts in the work.
Mark Bradford, 6-3 SG Los Angeles Fremont. Played his ass off and, as a result, was also noticed by a number of coaches. Ball skills are just ok, and needs to improve range on his shot, but he'll defend anyone, he's effective when he gets in the lane and he's a very good athlete. A big-time football prospect, so he may never take a basketball scholarship, but could be a nice walk-on wherever he ends up.
John Winston, 6-2 PG Richmond (Calif.) Salesian. A pleasant surprise, Winston has improved since we last saw him. For one thing, he's huge -- the first note we made was "linebacker." Which could be a problem against smaller, quicker guards, but can also obviously be an advantage, as he can overpower people in the lane. Shot looks better since the summer. Still needs work on handle, but making progress. Decisions were a little shaky at times, but he figures to get interest at the mid-major level.
Yahosh Bonner, 5-11 PG Mesa (Ariz.) Mountain View. Bonner was just ok in the first game we saw -- shot wasn't going down and made some poor decisions -- but he picked it up the next couple days. Plays with good energy and competes. He's very strong, with fairly good quickness. Not exceptional at any one thing, but pretty solid in all areas. Should be hearing from mid-majors to low end of the high majors this summer.
John Ziri, 6-0 PG Tempe (Ariz.) Marcos de Niza. This was the first time we'd seen Ziri and we came away very impressed. Strong build, quick and very active. Maybe more of a combo than pure point, but a good feel for the game. Gets up well, shoots it pretty good. Very quick feet and hands on defense. A sleeper who will get more attention in the summer.
In our next report, still more juniors...