UCLA Perspective: First Day in Las Vegas

If you want to know what UCLA's Ben Howland saw Friday in Las Vegas to start the second half of the Evaluation Period, here it is: Brandon Ashley, Dominic Artis, Kyle Anderson, Shabazz Muhammad, Jordan Adams and more...

The second half of the July Evaluatoin Period started in Las Vegas with a big showdown between the Atlanta Celtics and Dream Vision, and it lived up to its expected hype – especially if you're a UCLA fan.

UCLA Coach Ben Howland, who was there, of course, watching, looked like he couldn't contain a smile as he watched his committed prospect, Jordan Adams, go off for 36 points, and his prime target, Shabazz Muhammad, slightly one-up him with 38 points.

Adams is a very good outside shooter, who is limited by his lack of athleticism and body, being a little chunky. He can get separation in AAU ball by pushing off a bit and with a decent handle, but it's skeptical whether that will work at the high-major level. As we've reported, he's only 16, young for his grade, so his body/athleticism could improve, and he does play hard, on both ends of the court. You could envision Howland utilizing Adams in his offense much like he did Mike Roll, using quite a few picks to try to loosen him up from the outside. The question, from a scout's perspective, is who he's going to guard, being 6-4 and not a great athlete. It will be critical for Adams that he improve his body as he matures and develops good defensive technique under Howland so he can stay on the court.

Muhammad, well, did it again. We've seen it dozens of times, written about it that much and taken that much video of the #1 player in the country. He mostly did it Friday with dunks. Seriously. The vast majority of his 38 points were on dunks (and we do have it all on video, which will be coming soon).

The Celtics had the lead for most of the game and then Dream Vision overtook them toward the end of the second half, and it became a Adams/Muhammad duel in the second half, with Adams hitting long threes and Muhammad answering on the other end with dunks combined with and-ones.

William Goodwin, the 6-7 power forward for the Celtics, had a good game, and again showed his athletic upside.

Robert Upshaw, the 6-11 center prospect for Dream Vision, also displayed his tremendous upside. There just aren't many 6-11 prospects out there, who have Upshaw's potential and talent. He made a left-handed jump hook in the lane which had every scout looking at each other. He doesn't always play with much energy, and doesn't impact the AAU game at times, but centers are different animals when they're young and developing, and Upshaw has a tremendous potential.

Howland then watched Javan Felix, the 6-11 point guard from New Orleans. It's a curious thing about Felix; in talking with a couple of national recruiting experts, they consider him a mid-major who's getting high-major attention because of the lack of point guards in the country. But we've now seen Felix play four times in July and clearly believe he's better than a mid-major. His body is a bit worrisome, being very built out and thick, which means it has no place to go since he is going to be just a senior in high school, but in the game I (and Howland) watched, Felix again played well, distributing the ball with a very good vision and scoring under control when he needed to. His ability to get into the lane and score on floaters is exceptional. If UCLA weren't looking like it was about to get a commitment from another point guard we'd think that Howland would get pretty serious about extending an offer to Felix.

Then on to watch Kyle Anderson, the 6-7 point forward. Anderson is a unique player, being utilized as a point guard on his New Jersey Playaz team, while he guards the opposing post player. What this does is get him matched up offensively with a big, which he can exploit by getting into the lane with a hesitation move, and either score or distribute. It's a question of whether he'll be able to do this at the high-major level when he has a high-major, 6-7 athlete guarding him. While Anderson wants to be a point guard, he's going to have to come to terms with the fact that he'll be a very good passing 4/3 on the next level, and he should be happy with that, because with his skills he will present match-up problems when opposing teams have to have a 6-7+ player go out on the perimeter and defend him. Like with Adams, Anderson's question is: Who wil he guard? We think he ends up guarding a power forward, and has a chance to guard some high-major small forwards.

While Howland was watching Anderson on one court, Dakarai Allen, the 6-5 junior wing, was playing on the adjacent court, and displaying his tremendous upside. He's a long and quick athlete, who has a very good feel and approach to the game, with the potential to be a shut-down defender. We've heard that Allen was very excited when UCLA called him before the July Evaluation Period.

Howland then stayed in the same gym to watch Belmont Shore, the Long Beach-based AAU team, with a number of prospects – Zena Edosomwan, the 6-7 senior power forward; Ikenna Iroegbu, the 6-0 junior point guard; Tyler Dorsey, a very talented 6-4 freshman to be (at Ribet Academy in L.A.), along with two Arizona-committed prospects, senior power forward Grant Jerrett and junior guard Eric Cooper. Edosomwan had a decent showing; he generally has been effective this month when he's gone up against mid-major competition but has struggled some when playing against high-majors, and that was the case Friday. He did show some flashes, and played with energy, and he's a guy that, when it's all said and done in November, you could see UCLA taking.

The first night in Vegas was highlighted by the Oakland Soldiers, easily the most talented AAU team in the west. Brandon Ashley, the 6-9 power forward, was exceptional, showing off his great athleticism with spin moves and dunks, and a great quickness off the floor to also go with a three-pointer. Senior point guard Dominic Artis was very good, with good quickness and handle to go along with a good passing ability and a very nice outside shot. Perhaps what's a bit freaky about Artis is, at about 5-11 to 6-0, he has explosive hops. He threw down a couple of dunks in warm-ups and in the game that had the crowd buzzing. His leaping ability allows him to make adjustments in the air when he's going to the basket, enabling him to score more effectively when being confronted with bigs in the lane. What's most promising is that Artis looks like a baby and continues to get taller, easily 5-11 and probably 6-0.

The guy, though, that stole the show was junior wing Jabari Bird. The 6-4, 2013 prospect showed the talent and upside to make him a top 20 national player in his class. He's a unique combination of a great athlete/body and very good skills. He had a couple of athletic putbacks that had the overflow crowd buzzing, but then, under control, made some pretty jumpers -- all with a smile on his face. Something to consider: UCLA looks like it's close to getting a commitment from Artis who, before transferring to Las Vegas Findlay Prep for this upcoming year, went to Richmond Salesian, the same school as Bird. Artis and Bird are reportedly close friends.

Junior guards Tyrell Robinson and Tyree Robinson, and sophomore wing Stanley Johnson also play with the Soldiers and had good showings.

We'll watch Howland watch more UCLA prospects Saturday.


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