Big Time Checklist, Part II

HENDERSON, Nev. – Our master plan worked again today. By sitting in one seat at center court in the Green Valley Gym, we were able to see a slew of teams play. So, here's our take on the day's top performers.

2003 Checklist

Trevor Ariza, PF, Pump ‘n Run: Talk about a tale of two seasons. Ariza has been very, very impressive this summer. He finally looks comfortable and is playing with confidence. In fact, in Vegas, he continues to make perimeter shots but not at the expense of getting on the glass, being athletic and playing defense. Thumbs up, he's having a fine summer.

JR Smith, Tim Thomas Playaz, SF: It's taken most of the spring and a good portion of the summer, but the hard headed analyst who runs TheInsidersHoops.com has finally figured it out. JR Smith is pretty damn good. In fact, at this stage, one could certainly make the argument that he's the best player on a loaded Tim Thomas team. Seriously. Those close to the Playaz say Smith has always been this good. However, we think he's made gradual strides to reach the level he's presently at. We saw him at the Charlie Weber, then later at ABCD Camp and now here. Each time he's elevated his game another level. Now here's the newest word on his recruitment. He's going to finish up high school and then prep a year at St. Benedict's. He's a young senior and his family thinks it would be good for him. So, we'll starting counting him as a member of the 2004 group after this week.

Omar Wilkes, SG, Pump ‘n Run: Today, he made shots, plain and simple. His offense looked very good and he was able to put forth a great effort in front of throng of interested college recruiters.

Sky Frazier, C, Gateway: This kid loves the game. Prior to today, we had never heard about him. Now, after his game this morning, we figure some high-majors will start showing interest. Check that, they already are. "I just love to play the game," Frazier said.

James Lang, C, Alabama Ice: Simple concept here: toss it to him, turn to get back on defense and see the scoreboard change. James Lang is a hoss. He's too big for the kids in his class. But, he's not just big. He's big and skilled and he's probably the fastest moving guy up the recruiting charts this summer. AND, he gives the same effort every time out.

Travis Outlaw, SF, Alabama Ice: Steadily improving his game. He rises so high on his jump shot these days that he's now making shots over multiple defenders. Toss in the undisputable fact that he can kiss the rim twice on the same leap and you see why Mississippi State moved to lock him up before he hit the July circuit.

Charlie Villanueva, SF, Long Island Panthers: He had 17 points in the first half against DTA Wisconsin. In piling up 23 for the game, once again he displayed range, skill and potential. He did a lot of great things – enough that we still consider him a Top 5 guy. However, right now he's not our No. 2 wingman because we'd like to see the consistency increase. He's got so much untapped potential that it's scary.

2004 Checklist

DeMarcus Nelson, SG, EBO: Without Darius Washington (100 miles rule casualty), EBO is thin at the point and isn't winning a lot of games here. However, Nelson is doing his part. Like we said earlier in the week, he was built to score. His jumper was going down against the DC Assault. Very explosive first step.

Rajon Rondo, PG-SG, Derek Smith AS: This undersized shot maker always seems to find his way into our writeups. That's because he's usually busting 3s at a pretty good clip. Here, he's been handling the basketball and making plays.

Off The Dribble

Team Detroit big man Gary Ward has a nice effort this morning. His value is as a shot blocker and rebounder but he's got some offense to work with as well. … We didn't see it but apparently Marcus Williams had 30+ points in a loss to the Illinois Fire. … One of the best shooters we saw today was Nick Hill of the Gateway 17s. … Can you guess Bobby Knight's favorite player in the Class of 2003? No, it's not Quinn Buckner. Actually, it might be Mitch Platt, a big man from Vegas who can play in the high post and is a fine passer. BTW, he's 6-10 and Knight was here today to see him. …

Tre Kelly of the DC Assault played well today. He made some 3s, handed out some assists and had a positive impact on the game. His school list presently has some of the elite programs in the nation. That might be a little high, but he's having a good tournament. … Mustafa Shakur played sparingly this afternoon as he's nursing an injury. However, the Hunting Park boys didn't need him that badly as they roasted H Squad/Belmont Shore. …

Heading into July we listed Tyler Smith among the Top 30 prospects in the class. That was rather ambitious. Don't get me wrong, I still love him but that's a touch too high. The next time around we'll probably list him in the Top 50 but as a combo guard. … Maybe the dunk of the event so far, and there's been some good ones, belongs to Baltimore Select's Mike Popopko for his thunder throw down over Harrison Schaen. … Junior Josh Smith went for 34 points in an Atlanta Celtics games. ...


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