A significant development is the growing relationship between Farmar and UCLA wing target, Malik Hairston, 6-4 SR SG/SF. Farmar and Hairston got to know each other better at the USA Development Festival in Colorado Springs two weeks ago and it carried over to the Nike Camp this week. They happened to be on the same three-on-three team at Nike, and were clearly friends and actually commented on how they liked playing with each other.
Maarty Leunen, 6-8 JR PF/SF, Redmond (Ore.) High, was a bit overmatched by the athleticism here at the outset, but found his niche, which was playing hard and being physical, while stepping out to about 15 to look for his shot. And he was generally successful. He also showed a great passing sense, looking to find teammates with the ball, which is unusual at a camp like this. He definitely improved his stock, and the word is that UCLA will more than likely step up its recruitment of him. Leunen, as we stated, would fit really well into Ben Howland's system, being able to step out and shoot while being able to defend the four. Gonzaga was also watching every one of Leunen's games.
Josh Shipp, 6-5 SR SG, Los Angeles (Calif.) Fairfax, turned in the best performance of any west coast player in the camp. It's interesting, too, since he's coming off a somewhat disappointing junior season, and then to bust out like he has here in Indianapolis is surprising. He had to be among the leading three-point shooters at the camp, if not the leader. But he also showed a nice all-around game, passing the ball really well, playing under control and not making mistakes, while showing some very improved hops and athleticism. While we don't put much stock in dunking, Shipp did get up very high to dunk over one of the top rising juniors in the camp, Vernon Macklin, Wednesday night. Shipp will see his recruitment pick up. He has offers from Washington, USC and Iowa State, and is trying to improve his academics to be admitted by Stanford (and he's close). UCLA, though, if it loses out on Hairston, could come calling on Shipp. In fact, the Bruins will probably get more involved with Shipp pretty quickly here.
While David Burgess, 6-10 SR C, Irvine (Calif.) Woodbridge, isn't playing in a camp due to his participation in the USA Junior Team overseas, the word is that he scored fairly well on his recent SAT. This means that UCLA now has an better chance of getting Burgess past its academic committee, especially since the plan is for him to take it again, after a longer tutoring period, this fall. UCLA still very much wants Burgess, and would love to sign a fifth player – another big – to go along with another wing. Many close to the situation feel that if the UCLA academic committee signs off on Burgess (whenever that may be), UCLA will be the heavy favorite.
At Nike, there were other bigs that emerged as potential UCLA targets, including:
Al Horford, 6-8 SR PF, Lansing, Mich. We had previously reported erroneously that Horford could have academic issues. It turns out, in fact, that Horford is an excellent student, with a 3.7 GPA. He hasn't been recruited too heavily up until this point and he's probably a good candidate for UCLA to get involved with. He's athletic and quick around the basket, and weighs 215 pounds right now, but is pretty skinny and easily could put on 20 more pounds. Picture a bigger version of Andre Patterson, who could get even bigger.
Davis Nwankwo, 6-9 SR C/PF, College Park, Mary. He's pretty raw, but at 235 pounds he has a great body and a frame that could hold more weight. He's a good rebounder and defender – and most importantly, a good student. Stanford and other academic schools have been on him a while. If he qualifies for Stanford admission, it could be hard to sway him, especially with UCLA getting on him so late.
Chris Miles, 6-10 SR C/PF, Provo (Utah) Timpview. Miles started out slow this week at Nike, possibly a little intimated by the athletes here, but by Wednesday he wasn't very shy anymore and was beating his opponents on both sides of the floor. He runs very well for someone 6-10, so he can get out on a break. Offensively he can face the basket, but he can also go inside. While others were getting tired, he seemed to be buoyed by his success and played harder and stronger as the week went along. We've heard his academics aren't a good situation, so much so that UCLA probably won't be able to recruit him, which is a shame since he's a high major player who would come in and play as a freshman at the high major level.
Curtis Muse, 6-8 SR PF, St. Louis, Missouri. Muse is a bit of a mystery. Some of the best recruiting sources in the Midwest know nothing about him. He's a great-looking prospect, with a great frame and weighing 210 pounds, and easily able to put on 20 more pounds of muscle. He was springy off the floor, with long arms, and had a very nice touch around the basket. It's a good bet that UCLA will investigate him.
Mohamed Tangara, 6-9, McDonough, Georg. He's a long-armed, explosive but raw athlete – just the kind of guy UCLA never seems to get in its frontcourt. UCLA has been on him a bit recently, and Tangara is returning the interest, recently saying in a report that he'd like to officially visit Westwood. Academics could be an issue.
Charles Bronson, 6-9 SR PF, Philadelphia, Penn. A big, square-shouldered kid who weighs 215 pounds but could get bigger, Bronson apparently has decent academics, and is the kind of physical athlete UCLA could be looking for.
Juniors at Nike to Definitely Watch:
Amir Johnson, 6-9 JR C, Los Angeles (Calif.) Verbum Dei, after a couple of disappointing months since last season, really turned it on here. He looks raw, and really is, but he still gets it done on pure instincts. He blocked shots, rebounded, and scored with just pure instinctual post moves. He tends to throw the ball up at the basket, but with such a soft touch, it goes in all the time. He also showed a great passing ability here from the high post and out of the low post. By the evening session on Wednesday he was looking to post up every time down the floor and his teammates, obviously knowing he's a good bet to score from the post, were looking for him aggressively. We're hearing stories that Johnson's academics are really not good that it will more than likely preclude UCLA from recruiting him, which is a shame for a kid with this much potential. A few national scouts indicated he'll be among at least the top 30 players in his class nationally.
Eric Boateng, 6-10 JR C, London, England. A European import with a Cockney accent, Boateng impressed many college coaches at Nike this week. He's long, and still skilly at 215 pounds, but has enormous potential, in his athleticism and body. He could be a top 20 player in the 2005 class nationally, and big-named schools will probably be on him, including UCLA.
Martell Webster, 6-6 JR SF, Seattle (Wash.) Seattle Prep, was the best prospect from the west coast at Nike. Webster is big and very skilled, and stepped up among a top level of competition here and was fearless. He's 6-6 and 215 now and still on the skinny side, so he could very well become 6-6 to 6-7 and 230 pounds and still be a small forward, and probably be the #1 prospect in the west in the 2004 class and conservatively a top 20 player nationally. Arizona is his current favorite, but other schools, including big UCLA and big national programs, will pull out all the stops.
Marcus Johnson, 6-5 JR SF, Los Angeles (Calif.) Westchester, had the rap of: Great athlete, not great skills. Recently, though, it looked like he had improved his skills – specifically his shooting and ball-handling. Here in Indianapolis, though, up against this level of competition and being fatigued, the skills kind of broke down a bit. He has definitely improved, but he still has a ways to go in refining them. The elite high-major athleticism, though, was still readily apparent. It's been thought there was an issue of academics, but some recent reports indicate Johnson has improved academically. UCLA will more than likely be involved pretty seriously.
Other Juniors UCLA Could Recruit Who Were at Nike:
Monta Ellis, 6-1 JR CG, Jackson, Miss.
Louis Williams, 6-2 SG, Snellville, Georg.
Tyrell Biggs, 6-7 JR PF, Nanuet, New York
Richard Hendrix, 6-7 JR PF, Athens, Ala.
Keith Brumbaugh, 6-8 JR PF, Deland, Flor.
Luke Zeller, 6-10 JR C, Washington, Ind.
Joe Krabbenhoft, 6-6 JR SF, Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
Curtis Kelley, 6-9 SO PF, New York, NY
Standout National Sophmores:
Jason Bennett, 7-1 SO C, Jacksonville, Fla.
Vernon Macklin, 6-9 SO SF, Portsmouth, Virg.
Brian Zoubek, 7-0 SO C, Cherry Hill, NJ
Greg Oden, 6-11 SO C, Indianapolis, Ind. (a huge athlete who, in this era, will more than likely never play a minute of college basketball. Interestingly, he's reportedly a very good student).