With the high school tournament season in full swing, we thought we'd offer our thoughts on some of the players that we've seen in the last two weeks.
Dorrel Wright, 6-6 SR SF Lawndale (Calif.) Leuzinger. Quite possibly the best athlete in the west, Wright is now showing signs of refining his skills. He made one play in a game last week where he got the ball in transition about fifteen feet from the basket. Usually, Wright would try to get to the basket and dunk the ball. This time, he pulled up, on balance, and made a no-frills bank shot. Wright is better now than when we last saw him in July. If he continues to improve, it's possible he'll be among the top two small forwards the next time we update our rankings.
Tron Smith, 6-2 SR PG Moreno Valley (Calif.) Canyon Springs. We watched Smith in one game against Loyola earlier this week and we saw nothing to dissuade us from our opinion that he'll be a very good player at Arizona St. He's not a pure point guard -- not in the pass-first, run the team sense -- and he's also not a pure shooting guard. But we think he can play either position in college. He handles it well enough to play the point, yet he's got the athleticism and strength to play the two. He shoots it from beyond the stripe and no one in the west gets better elevation on his jump shot. Smith needs to work on his decisions -- he gets caught up in the Canyon Springs run and gun, shoot first, my turn/your turn style -- but we think he'll develop into a very nice player under Rob Evans at Arizona St.
Wendell White, 6-5 SR SF Redondo Beach (Calif.) Redondo Union. White didn't play much this past summer (reportedly to focus on schoolwork) and he seemingly fell below the radar with a lot of schools. That may have been because there's some doubt about his ability to qualify out of high school. In any event, White showed last week that he's still a very interesting prospect. He was in better shape than when we last saw him and he showed a very versatile game. He scored from all over the court, while defending and rebounding as well. His skill level, combined with his size and strength, figure to make him a tough match-up in the WCC.
Trevor Ariza, 6-7 SR SF Los Angeles (Calif.) Westchester. We have Ariza listed among the small forwards, but I continue to believe there's a good chance he ends up a power forward in college. Ariza still struggles to make plays on the perimeter. He doesn't have the quickness or ball skills to play effectively away from the basket. He is a fairly good passer, but his handle is not at the high major level for a small forward and his outside shot is still suspect. He is effective when he plays around the basket, due to his long arms, quick hops and quick feet (relative to other post players). He also plays well in transition -- very good finisher -- and he would probably be a good player for UCLA in a Matt Barnes kind of role (point man on a press, matchup problem for post players).
Matt Shaw, 6-7 FR C Los Angeles (Calif.) Verbum Dei. We only saw Shaw play one game this week, but it was enough to get our attention. A big, wide-body with excellent hands and good feet, Shaw has a chance to be a big-time prospect. He shoots it fairly well out to fifteen feet. It's hard to believe he's only a freshman -- he looks like a junior or senior. He'll need to watch his weight but, for a freshman, his size and skill level is impressive.
Amir Johnson, 6-8 SO PF Los Angeles (Calif.) Verbum Dei. Verbum Dei figures to be a popular school with college coaches for the next couple years. Johnson is another high major prospect who has a chance to be as good as any post in his class. With a long frame and quick feet, he's already a force as a shot-blocker. His shot is ok and he handles the ball very well for a young big man. He has a tendency to stand and watch a bit too much, but there's no question he has a very high ceiling.
Bryan Harvey, 6-5 SO SF Carson (Calif.) High. Playing in the same game with Ekene Ibekwe (bound for Maryland) and Jordan Farmar (the #2 PG in 2004 West Coast class), Harvey still stood out. A big, strong wing who can shoot it from deep, Harvey also knows how to play the game. He's unselfish for a such a talented player and he has terrific instincts. His handle could use a little work, but it's not hard to envision high majors from across the country recruiting him in another year.
Stephen Gilling, 6-2 SO SG Chino Hills (Calif.) Ayala. Gilling is well put together, with long arms and a nice stroke out to three-point range. He has a nice feel for the game -- doesn't force things -- and he played hard in the two games we saw. Needs to work on his defensive technique (staying in a stance) but, with continued improvement, the physical tools appear to be there for a potential mid to high major player.