The Las Vegas Easter Classic

The perennially strong Houston Hoops team wins the championship, some seniors continue to impress, one brings out some big-named coaches from around the country, and there are some young sleepers that emerge...

The 23rd Annual Mae Fisher Memorial Las Vegas Easter Classic had coaches from around the country coming into Las Vegas this last weekend to check out some of the talent.

Houston Hoops took the championship, beating the Utah Bruins in the championship game Sunday pretty easily.

Perhaps the biggest buzz around the tournament was about Mohamed Abukar, 6-9 SR PF, Poway (Calif.) Rancho Bernardo, who could be the senior in the country that's racking up the most frequent flyer miles for many national coaches.

With Abukar having gotten his release from his National Letter of Intent from Georgia, and with some hype surrounding him, many coaches from around the country flew into Las Vegas this last weekend to watch him play.

In attendance at his games were Rick Pitino of Louisville, Donovan of Florida, Ben Howland of UCLA, Ernie Kent of Oregon, and assistants from dozens of schools, including Kentucky, as well as many national scouts.

Abukar definitely showed that he had improved since last summer. He physically is bigger, and his mobility has improved, along with it his ability to create a shot for himself. In one game this weekend, Abukar put up 43 points, mostly getting those points from a very nice shooting eye from the outside.

There truly aren't many 6-9 players in the country that can shoot like Abukar. He is, though, mostly a perimeter player at this point and resistant to playing near the basket, banging or rebounding. It will be interesting to see what coaches believe his style of play can fit within their system and move on him. Right now the word is that Connecticut is on him pretty hard, as well as Washington and Oregon.

A couple of seniors who we've always known about and have written about that are just now getting the attention of national scouts are Lorenzo Wade, 6-5 SR SG, Los Vegas (Nev.) Cheyenne, and Dorrell Wright, 6-8 SR SF, Lawdale (Calif.) High.

We've hade Wade ranked as the #1 shooting guard in the west for quite a while, and he certainly proved why this weekend. Long, athletic and skilled, Wade has to be one of the best wings in the country, and many scouts remember at the Las Vegas Holiday Prep Classic back in December when he was the best player on the court when Cheyenne faced loaded Mouth of Wilson (Virg.) Oak Hill Academy. The long-held rumor was that Wade will probably go to a prep school himself for a year and then be the target of a pretty intense recruiting battle. Tennessee is thought to have the inside track with him.

Wright, along with Wade, is one of the top five players in the west and, talent-wise, a top 40 national type player. A few national scouts were believing they discovered Wright this weekend and claiming that he was a "sleeper," even though most on the west coast have been quite aware of Wright for sometime. Wright, like Wade, will not qualify academically to play college ball next year, so look for him to crop up in either a prep school or a JC next season.

Two elite players that participated from outside of the west were Monta Ellis, SO PG, and Charles Rhodes, 6-8 JR PF, both from Jackson (Mississippi) Lanier. Ellis, while not a true point guard yet, is an explosive, crafty athlete with very advanced skills. Rhodes is a long-armed pogo stick. On the champion Houston Hoops team, consensus top ten national prospect Daniel Gibson, 6-2 SG/PG, Houston (Tex.) Jones, who is verbally committed to Texas, was hurt for a majority of the tournament. Arizona commit Jawaan McClellan, 6-5 JR SF, Houston (Tex.) Milby, looked athletic and smooth.

From the west, there were some well-known juniors that had good tournaments, including Gabe Pruitt, 6-2 SG/PG, Los Angeles (Calif.) Westchester; David Burgess, 6-10 JR C, Irvine (Calif.) Woodbridge, and Andrew Haskins, 6-3 JR SG, Kirkland (Wash.) Lake Washington. Pruitt was up and down a bit, not really sustaining effort in every game, but in a quarter-final game he turned it on and got the best of the quicker Ellis. Burgess looked solid, probably the best technical rebounder in the tournament and showing his know-how in getting in scoring position in the low block. Haskins displayed an improved jump shot to go along with his athleticism and quickness.

Arron Afflalo, 6-4 JR SG, Compton (Calif.) Centennial, twisted an ankle in the first day, and didn't come back to play until Sunday, where he had a mediocre game combined with one good one.

Perhaps the biggest "sleeper" in the tournament that many coaches might not know about is Lee Cummard, 6-6 JR SG/SF, Mesa (Ariz.) High. Cummard could very well be the best player in the Arizona junior class, a kid with great shooting ability, ball-handling skills, and deceptive athleticism who plays hard. Ty Morrison, 6-6 JR SF, Phoenix (Ariz.) Trevor Browne, has been thought to be the best in Arizona, and he had his moments this weekend in Vegas, showing an improved jumpshot and a developed upper body. But Cummard does everything so well, and showed it this weekend, that he at least is competitive with Morrison for the best-in-Arizona title.

A real sophomore sleeper to keep your eye on is Joseph Darger, 6-6 SF, Riverton (Utah) High. Darger has one of the sweetest outside shooting strokes and a great basketball sense.

We'll have some follow-up stories that detail all the best west coat players we saw at the Vegas Easter Classic coming up on Prep West Hoops...

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