There were very few players that did much to change our perception of them. Part of that is due to the fact that we see players more now. Six or seven years ago, there wasn't much going on in-between April and July. So we might not see a player for a few months. But now there are team camps, elite camps, various spring leagues and many more opportunities to evaluate players. So we didn't have any huge surprises in the first two weeks of July.
One player who did raise his stock – with us, anyway – was Robert Jones. The 6-5 senior power forward from San Francisco (Calif.) Riordan has a great combination of size (big body), long arms, great feet and hands, skill level and feel for the game. He's getting hit by most of the West Coast mid-majors and we wouldn't be surprised if several high majors are involved at the end of his recruitment.
Justin Holiday, a 6-6 senior small forward from North Hollywood (Calif.) Campbell Hall, has been in the shadow of his talented younger brother Jrue for some time now. Jrue is one of the top five players in the country for 2008 and he'll be recruited accordingly. But Justin was very impressive at the Three Stripes tournament. His shot gets a little better every time we see him and we love his defensive potential. He has very long arms and he's extremely quick laterally. He also plays his ass off. There's been talk of some Pac-10 teams recruiting Justin as a way to get Jrue, but we believe Justin is a high major prospect in his own right.
The 2007 West Coast crop of point guards is very thin – probably the worst we've seen in the last eight years. So it was good news when Lashard Anderson, a 5-11 senior point from San Diego (Calif.) Serra, played well at the Fullcourt Press All-West Camp. Anderson is very quick, with a pretty good shot to 17-19 feet. He's got some rough edges to be ironed out, but this kid has upside. He was relatively unknown heading into July, so it'll be interesting to see which schools get involved with him.
The 2008 group of point guards is very strong in the west. We've written extensively about Malcolm Lee, Jerime Anderson and Larry Drew. They're each outstanding prospects and they'll all end up at high major programs. But some new names cropped up in early July. Ryan Kelly, 6-2 JR Chino Hills (Calif.) Ayala, showed that he has a chance to be a terrific player. Jordan Higginbotham is a long and rangy guard from Antelope Valley (Calif.) High. He's very skinny and will need to get stronger, but he had some nice moments at the Fullcourt Press Camp. Finally, Kelly Kaigler, 6-1 JR San Jose (Calif.) Oakgrove, also demonstrated that he may end up one of the better guards in the class down the road.
As we noted, Jrue Holiday is the best West Coast prospect in 2008. But Luke Babbitt, 6-7 JR PF Reno (Calif.) Galena, served notice that he'll likely end up a top 25 in the country player himself. Babbitt is much more skilled than the other forwards in the West Coast class of 2008. He can play inside with his back to the basket or facing on the perimeter. He'll knock down threes if you leave him open or kill you if you leave him single-covered on the low-block. He's got a great feel for the game and he's an underrated passer. Babbitt also plays the game the right way. He's going to be recruited at a very high level.
As we said, the point guard group in 2007 is pretty weak – there just aren't many guys in this class who can play the position. Without singling anyone out, here's our advice to the West Coast point guards. Act like you know how to play the position. We were shocked at how many stupid decisions we saw from alleged point guards in the first two weeks.
Fellas, here's the deal. Those coaches that are watching you and trying to decide if they want to give you a scholarship? Those guys make a lot of money – generally anywhere from $200,000 a year to maybe $2 million a year. Guess what? They want to keep making that kind of money. They don't want to be fired because some wild-ass point guard doesn't know how to play. They don't want to see you throwing lob passes that sail out of bounds. They really don't want to see you throw the ball off the backboard on a fastbreak to a trailing teammate. They have to trust you to make good decisions, take care of the ball, take good shots yourself and get good shots for your teammates. That's what they want to see from you. Do those things and you'll have a much better chance of getting a scholarship than you will if you over-dribble, drive wildly into the lane and leave your feet, or take too many bad shots.