James Keefe, 6-8 SR PF Rancho Santa Margarita (Calif.) Santa Margarita. Keefe hurt his back a few weeks ago and he hadn't played at all prior to a game last week against Mater Dei. Even though he clearly wasn't himself, he still managed to put up 29 points and 10 rebounds. He knocked down a number of jumpers from the perimeter, mostly in the 17-19 foot range. He's got a nice step-back move that is difficult for opposing big men to defend. When healthy, Keefe is one of the most athletic big men in the west. He runs the court extremely well and rebounds out of his area. He's got good timing as a shot-blocker and plays very good defense on and off the ball. His low-post game needs work, as he doesn't have the footwork yet to consistently score with his back to the basket. In an era of selfish players who are only concerned about their individual stats, Keefe is a throwback. He's the ultimate team player who only cares about winning. He works just at hard on the defensive end as he does on offense. He'll set good screens, dive on the floor after a loose ball and make the extra pass to get a teammate a better shot. You don't find many "star" players with Keefe's talent who will do those things. If the folks at the McDonald's game have a clue, Keefe will be playing in the All-American game in April.
Jonathan Gunderson, 6-5 SR SG Rancho Santa Margarita (Calif.) Santa Margarita. Someone is clearly doing a good job of teaching at Santa Margarita, because they all play the game the right way. Gunderson plays point guard for Santa Margarita, but he's likely to end up at the two in college. However, he handles the ball well enough, and makes good enough decisions, that he could play some one at Santa Clara. Gunderson's got an odd-looking shot with a low-release, but he's very accurate and has deep range. His best attribute as a player, though, is his ability to defend. He did a great job defending Mater Dei's Taylor King, using his quickness and length to good advantage. Defense is mostly about desire and Gunderson clearly wants to be a great defender. He obviously takes pride in trying to stop the other team's best scorer. He's the got the size to play against bigger players, but also has enough quickness to stay with smaller guards. Santa Clara got a good one in Gunderson – we think he'll have a terrific career in the WCC.
Marcus Lawrence, 5-11 SR PG Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman. Lawrence signed with UNLV in the fall and we think he is a great get for the Rebels. High major programs will regret passing on Lawrence. He is a true point guard and those guys are becoming increasingly difficult to find in today's game. In a game this past weekend, Lawrence showed an improved jumper, hitting several shots in the 18-20 foot range. He's not the quickest, strongest or biggest guard, but Lawrence has great instincts and understands his role. He makes his teammates better and he's got the charisma and leadership qualities that you love to see in your point guard. This kid is a winner and we think UNLV has a chance to get back to the top of the Mountain West with Lawrence running the show.
Alex Jacobson, 6-11 JR C Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei. Jacobson was very impressive in the game against Santa Margarita, as he scored on a variety of shots around the basket before ultimately fouling out. He's not a great athlete, but Jacobson knows how to play and you can see him gaining confidence as he grows more comfortable in his body. He rarely tries to do something that he shouldn't, as he usually makes good decisions and plays within himself. He can knock down shots to 15-17 feet and he's developed a nice touch around the basket. He's got a good frame and he's only going to get stronger as he matures. True centers aren't easy to find in the college game, as most talented big men take off to the pros at the first opportunity. Jacobson probably won't be an immediate impact player early in his college career, but we think he'll be an outstanding four year player at Arizona and he could be really good in his junior/senior year.
Justin Holiday, 6-5 JR SG North Hollywood (Calif.) Campbell Hall. Holiday has great length and lateral quickness – he could be an exceptional defender someday. He's more of a small forward than shooting guard at this point, but we're not sure he ever gets the weight and strength needed to play in the frontcourt, so we're projecting him at the two for now. A very active and energetic player, Holiday is best when he's slashing off the wing or making plays around the basket. His jumpshot is still a work in progress and it's questionable whether he'll ever be a good shooter at the college level. He's still very slender, and a bit narrow in his upper body, so strength could be an issue for him. However, we like his upside enough that we're still projecting him as a high major player.
Jrue Holiday, 6-2 SO SG North Hollywood (Calif.) Campbell Hall. Jrue has a completely different body type than his older brother. Jrue is more compact and thick, while still possessing very good lateral quickness. He's an excellent shooter to the stripe, but is more of a scorer than pure shooter. He can make shots from anywhere on the court and has a knack for finding gaps in the defense. In the game we saw, Campbell Hall's point guard was unavailable, so Holiday was playing the point. We were impressed with his decision-making and, particularly, with his vision. He made several excellent passes off drives, finding open teammates for lay-ups. He doesn't have a great handle, but it was good enough that, for the first time, we thought he might be able to play some point guard at the next level. However, the competition in this game wasn't very good and we're not sure how much to take from this game. We'd like to see how he would hold up against pressure defense from high major prospects. In any event, Holiday is already our top-ranked shooting guard in the west for 2008. If he can play some back-up point guard in college, that will only increase his value as a prospect. He's an elite, high major prospect who will be recruited at a national level.
Jerime Anderson, 6-1 SO PG Anaheim (Calif.) Canyon. Anderson has grown since we last saw him in the summer and he's developed into one of the elite prospects in the West Coast class of 2008. He was phenomenal a recent game against Villa Park, as he single-handedly kept his team in the game. Anderson is that rare point guard who has a great feel for the game, and makes his teammates better, but also has the ability to score. He's got a good shot to 18-20 feet, as well as a solid mid-range game. He's a deceptive athlete, showing a second gear that surprises defenders when he drives to the basket. He's got great length and a frame that should fill out nicely. He moves well laterally and can cause a lot of problems with his defense. He's capable of applying good ball pressure when he gets in a stance and he's also very good at jumping the passing lanes. He had numerous deflections in the game we saw. His body is still maturing, but he gets up easy and can finish inside when he gets to the rim. Anderson is a great-looking prospect and we think he ends up at the elite, high major level.