EDITOR'S NOTE: Ariza is reportedly one of UK's top prospects for the 2003 recruting class.
The No. 1 ranked team in the Los Angeles City Section, Westchester, beat Carson in a quarterfinal game, 94-66, Wednesday night.
There were many high-profile recruits featured in the game, including Westchester seniors Hassan Adams (who has verballed to Arizona) and Brandon Heath (San Diego State). But Kansas's Roy Williams was in the gym primarily to scout two of the best junior prospects in the Los Angeles area, Westchester's Trevor Ariza, 6-6 JR SF, and Carson's Ekene Ibekwe, 6-9 JR PF.
Ariza is being hailed as one of the best on the west coast, and he has great potential, with good quickness and athleticism for his size. He also shows a pretty decent spot-up jumper from within 18 feet. With this combination, many scouts and coaches like Ariza quite a bit. If you see him once, and see him throw down a tomahawk dunk, you would come away fairly impressed. But Ariza is a tweener at this point, more comfortable on the baseline, but physically more suited for the wing. The problem is his ball-handling and all-around perimeter skills are still pretty raw. We at Prep West have ranked him as a power forward this winter since he's predominantly that as of this point in his development. With a thin body, probably not weighing more than 180 pounds, he'll have to develop into being a small forward to play at the high-major level, the level that most scouts and coaches who haven't seen him that much project him. Last night, he did show some flashes, as he took a defender on the baseline and threw down a quick, one-handed dunk. But he can't consistently take his defender off the dribble, mostly because of a lack of good ballhanding, and he'll need to develop a mid-range game.
Ibekwe has a similar degree of athleticism to Ariza, with great quickness and explosiveness off the floor. For his size, at just about 6-9, he has very good lateral quickness and very good feet. He also has a decent outside jumper that goes down pretty often, but also has a long, awkward shooting motion that will have to be tweaked. Ibekwe's problem is also similar to Ariza's, but in reverse. He's also a tweener, but believes he's a small forward while he will almost assuredly be a power forward on the next level. While he's quick, he's really just quick for a 6-9 player, and doesn't really have the quickness or agility to defend a quick, high-major wing in college. He loves to float around on the perimeter on offense, looking to shoot threes. In the block, he's awkward and mechanical, but shows flashes of good skills, and definitely can use his athleticism around the basket for rebounds and putbacks. He's so thin, though, he lacks strength in his lower body, which tends to make him lose position in the paint, and not be sturdy enough to execute some post footwork as effective as he would like.
It will be interesting to see just who recruits both Ariza and Ibekwe seriously this spring and summer. Ariza has been getting a great deal of attention from some of the biggest profile high-majors in the country, and has been ranked in the top 25 by many national rankings. Ibekwe is getting interest at almost the same level. As the spring and summer tournaments start rolling, if Ariza can display more small forward skills and Ibekwe can hang with some of the top national frontcourt players in the country, they'll have a chance to go pretty high. There's also the factor that the class generally is down from previous years, which will help both Ariza and Ibekwe go higher than they might in another year.