Zach LaVine, 6-3 PG/SG Bothell (Wash.) High. Lavine was the top guard prospect in the west coming into this weekend, but I hadn't seen him since last June and was curious to see how he had progressed as a prospect. The first thing I noticed was the change to his body. He's about two inches taller, longer and significantly more athletic. He showed off that athleticism with several dunks, as well as a couple blocks, in the opening minutes of the first game I saw. He's still got the same terrific stroke, with very deep range, and he had several nice passes as well. He still looks like a baby – you wouldn't be surprised if someone told you he's in the class of 2015. He's added a little weight in the past year, but he's nowhere close to filled out and it's possible he's still growing. Despite adding a few inches, he's still able to slide his feet very well and he's got a chance to be a good defender with his length and quickness. Unlike many "combos" that aren't really a PG or SG, Lavine is the rare guy that looks like he can truly play both positions at a high level. He may grow out of the PG spot if he gets any bigger but, for now, we'll say he's a PG/SG.
In any event, it was clear after watching him for ten minutes that he's on a whole different level than the other West Coast guards in 2013. There are no guards in the west that are close to him as a prospect. In terms of players at any position, I would give him an edge over Jabari Bird or Aaron Gordon (both of whom are outstanding prospects). But Lavine gets the nod as he has a chance to play a premium position at PG and his overall skill set, athleticism and upside sets him apart. Gordon, as a more physically mature player, may out-produce Lavine early on in college. But for the long-term, I will go with Lavine as the best prospect in the west for 2013. He is a top-ten in the country level talent. At the same stage, Jrue Holiday was the only better guard prospect that Coach Howland has recruited to UCLA. Lavine has said that UCLA is his leader and I will be surprised if he ends up anywhere else.
Jabari Parker, 6-7 PF/SF Chicago (Illinois) Simeon. Parker is listed by most people as a small forward but, at his size, I think there's a decent chance he ends up more of a 4/3. In any event, he's extremely skilled, with a smooth jump shot and very good ball skills overall. I was a bit surprised that he's listed as #1 in the country, as he doesn't have the elite athleticism you usually associate with that kind of ranking (but, then again, neither did Shabazz Muhammad). But he's obviously very talented and he figures to be an impact player whether he stays at the three or ends up more of a four. UCLA is trying, as is the rest of the country, and Parker apparently has some family in Southern California. You have to assume he's a longshot to end up in Westwood, but the Bruin staff is going to give it their best shot.
Marcus Lee, 6-7 PF Antioch (Calif.) Deer Valley. Lee is a terrific athlete, with a very good basketball frame, and he's seemingly getting better by the minute. While not a great scorer just yet, he's a really good passer and shows a very nice feel for the game. He had several big-time blocks in a game against Jabari Parker. He's exceptionally quick off the floor and he runs really well. He's just starting to scratch the surface of his potential and it won't be a surprise if, when it's all said and done, he ends up the post player from the West Coast class of 2013. UCLA is apparently doing well with Lee.
Kendrick Nunn, 6-1 PG/SG Chicago (Illinois) Simeon. I didn't get a long look at Nunn, but I liked what I saw. Good, strong body, with quickness and solid ball skills. He's got a nice lefty stroke with good range. There's upside to his body and he's a very good athlete. He looks to be more of a scorer than distributor, but he can definitely defend a one (which is something the Bruins really need in the 2013 class). I'm not exactly sure what the Bruins' chances are with Nunn, but he's apparently more than just a pipedream for UCLA.
Tyler Ennis, 6-1 PG Brampton (Ontario) St. Benedicts Prep. After hearing that UCLA may have a shot with Ennis, I was disappointed when I got a chance to see him play. He's got a very nondescript body, with just fair athleticism/quickness, and little physical upside. He does appear to have a good feel for the game, with solid ball skills and a decent-looking shot. Prior to seeing him, another scout told me "he looks like a Mike Bibby body wise, but he's not nearly as good." Off of one brief look, that appears to be an accurate description to me. Maybe he's a lot more skilled than he appeared, but the lack of upside to the body is a big concern for me.
Xavier Rathan-Mayes, 6-2 SG Scarborough (Ontario) Huntington Prep. Rathan-Mayes is another player that I heard UCLA might have a chance with, so I was disappointed (to put it mildly) when I saw that he looked like a sawed-off Shipp brother. To be fair, I only saw him play briefly and perhaps he's a lot more skilled than he appeared. But his body, and lack of athleticism, make it difficult to be excited him about him as a prospect.
Semilore Ojeleye, 6-6 SF/PF Ottawa (Kansas) High. Ojeleye is a mature and strong forward that may end up at either forward spot in college. I didn't get a long look at him, but he seemed to have pretty decent ball skills. I didn't see him shoot from the perimeter, but he got to the basket a couple times on drives. He's maxed out physically and I'm not sure he'll be able to stay at the three. UCLA was reportedly doing pretty well with him a while ago, but I don't know if that's still the case.
Tosin Mehinti, 6-9 C Lithonia (Georgia) Greenforest. Originally from Nigeria, Mehinti looks to be a typical African prospect. He's got a great frame, with long arms, good shoulder and he moves pretty well. His offensive skills are very raw. I didn't get to see him enough to really evaluate his feel for the game and that's typically a big concern with the African kids. They usually come to the game so late that they never quite catch up with the feel part of the game. He does, however, have a better basketball body than many of the African imports. UCLA is apparently more than casually involved, but it remains to be seen if Mehinti is a real possibility for the Bruins.
Tyree Robinson, 6-2 SG Lincoln (Calif.) High. Robinson is a strong, athletic shooting guard with a shaky feel for the game. He's a streaky shooter most comfortable spotting up behind the three-point line. But when chased off the line he struggles a bit, as he has no mid-range game and his ball-handling overall is just fair. He can defend when he puts his mind to it but, as is the case with a lot of young players, defense isn't a big priority. He does have some impressive physical attributes, but it remains to be seen if he will use those attributes for football or basketball.
Parker Jackson-Cartwright, 5-7 PG Los Angeles (Calif.) Loyola. Jackson-Cartwright is small and he lacks strength at this time. However, he's got the best feel of any sophomore PG in recent memory, he's highly skilled, with terrific vision and passing ability. He's a true point and he plays unselfishly (and to win – not always a given these days). He's a good, not great, shooter, but he's going to get much better as he gains weight/strength in the coming years. If he grows a few inches, he's a pro. If he doesn't, he's probably still a really good college player. UCLA has been on him for some time and it will be a surprise if the Bruins aren't among his last few finalists.
Kameron Chatman, 6-6 SF Long Beach (Calif.) Poly. One of the elite prospects in the class of 2014, Chatman recently moved to Long Beach from Oregon. He's very young-looking, with extremely long arms and legs, and he's very skilled. He's got a point guard's feel for the game and a very nice stroke. He's still growing into his body and his athleticism figures to improve once he matures. He's very slender right now and a lack of strength keeps him from being consistently productive. But once he matures physically, I expect Chatman to be among the elite players nationally in the class of 2014. No word yet on UCLA's chances with him, but he did say that Washington, Oregon, Oregon State and UCLA have recruited him the hardest to this point. His most recent offer comes from Memphis, while he said he grew up a North Carolina fan.
Shaqquan Aaron, 6-5 SF Apple Valley (Calif.) Home School. Aaron sat out the entire season this past year after being ruled ineligible when he transferred from Mater Dei to Taft. The layoff has obviously affected his game and he looked rusty in his first game Friday. He's still got a prototype body for a wing, with a high skill level and very big upside. But he's moved high schools, and changed club teams, and that has clearly hindered his development. This next year will be a crucial one for Aaron in terms of his future in basketball. He recently mentioned UCLA as one of his leaders, but it remains to be seen if he's a viable target for the Bruins.
Stanley Johnson, 6-5 SF Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei. Johnson is mature physically, with a strong body and fairly good straight-line athleticism. He's got a nice stroke, but his shot is still a bit flat. He's streaky from the three-point line and really needs to develop an in-between game. With his body/strength, he's a tough matchup inside for other small forwards. He probably needs to work on that aspect of his game, as he doesn't figure to be creating many shots on the perimeter. He doesn't have great agility or lateral quickness and defenders at the next level will probably try to chase him off the three-point line. He is a fairly good shooter, though, and it's possible he'll become a real threat from the perimeter in college. No word yet on the Bruins' chances with Stanley.
Justise Winslow, 6-4 SF/PF Houston (Tex.) St. John's. Winslow is a well-put-together forward, with a pretty decent lefty stroke and good ball skills overall. He's not built like your typical small forward – built more like an undersized four -- but he moves his feet pretty well and it's possible he ends up at the three. He played hard in the game I saw. No word yet on UCLA's chances with him.
Ivan Rabb, 6-8 C/PF Oakland (Calif.) Bishop O'Dowd. Rabb is a great-looking young prospect, with a very good basketball body and a nice touch around the basket. He's grown a couple inches in the last year and figures to be a really good-shot blocker with his length, leaping ability and timing. Despite being the youngest player on the court, he had some big-time blocks against Jabari Parker's team. Along with Stephen Zimmerman and Brodricks Jones, he's among the elite post prospects in the west for 2015. No word yet on UCLA's chances with Raab, but he plays for the Oakland Soldiers and the Bruins haven't done great with prospects from that team in recent years. Rabb holds an offer from Arizona and interest from Seattle, UCLA, USC, Ohio State and North Carolina.