Vegas: UCLA Prospects Day 1

It's a shortened viewing with just a few games on Wednesday, but UCLA coaches were in Las Vegas watching some of their targets, like Isaac Hamilton, Karviar Shepherd and more...

The third July Evaluation Period got underway Wednesday night at 5:00, so there was only time for a handful of games among the three tournaments in Las Vegas.

UCLA Head Coach Ben Howland was in the gym to watch Florida Elite, which included 6-11 center Joel Embiid, against Urban DFW, with 6-9 center Karviar Shepherd.

Embiid is intriguing, merely because he's 6-11, has a good body that could add weight, and is a good athlete, running well, having good feet around the basket and being pretty springy. The Cameroon native, though, has a very long ways to go in terms of his basketball skills. He did show a nice passing ability on a couple of interior passes, but a developing touch around the basket and facing up. It's clear he's just beginning to learn how to play the game, but the athleticism is there. Here's the thing, though: There just aren't many post players available, and there certainly aren't many that are 6-11 athletes. It will be interesting to see if UCLA does, in fact, end up recruiting Embiid more seriously, merely because of a lack of other options.

Karviar Shepherd is a promising prospect. He's had up and down games in terms of performance, but he has some basic traits that exhibit some upside. He's pretty athletic, and probably quicker than he is springy, which can be a very good thing. Shepherd tonight showed a clear penchant and ability to hedge a screen, probably better than just about any UCLA post player in the past several years, merely because of his quick feet. In one sequence, he hedged the screen then recovered down under the basket and got the block. He also took a charge, blocked a few shots and generally played smart, positional post defense. In other words, he does quite a few things that Howland covets in his big man, and he did them right in front of the UCLA head coach Wednesday night. The knock on Shepherd is that he can be soft, but he wasn't in this game. We've heard he could have academic issues, but he told us he has a 3.2 GPA and wants to be a mathematics major (an interview will be published soon).

Howland, while watching the Florida Elite/Urban DFW game, ducked his head into the adjoining gym to watch the Atlanta Celtics and 6-5 guard/wing Tim Quarterman, who UCLA has showed some interest in lately. Quarterman is interesting, having a young-looking body and some quickness, with some point guard feel and ball-handling ability.

Isaac Hamilton, the 6-4 shooting guard who has emerged as UCLA's prime target, had a pretty poor showing Wednesday. His team, Dream Vision, got blown out by a pretty talented New Heights NYC team, 67-40, and Hamilton shot 3 for 16, missing all 7 three-point attempts and turning the ball over three times. He looked sluggish, and perhaps the fatigue of July and some injuries are hampering him. We know on any given night Hamilton can really light it up from the outside and go off for 30, but there is some concern about his overall athleticism, and whether its limitations could limit him to being just a spot-up shooter in college. Regardless, UCLA is recruiting him heavily.

Namon Wright, the 2014, 6-4 shooting guard, also plays on Dream Vision and, as you might expect, didn't have a good performance either. But Wright, even if he doesn't fill a stat sheet in AAU ball, has potential because of his combination of a good body, athleticism, a very good feel and skills.

UCLA assistant Phil Mathews then appeared in the gym that featured Ohio Basketball Club, and UCLA post target, 6-8 Devin Williams.

In the game following Dream Vision, Tre'Shaun Lexing, the 6-5 small forward in the Northwest Panthers, took the court, but UCLA's coaches had left. Lexing is another who projects to having some considerable potential, with a very good body, athleticism and a very good skill set. He can handle the ball, dish, and also shoot it with a nice lefty shooting stroke. Lexing is just starting to catch fire in terms of his recruiting and get noticed beyond just the Northwest. It doesn't appear UCLA is recruiting him.

We finished the night by watching Roddy Peters, the 6-3 point guard from Maryland who plays on a talented D.C. Assault team. UCLA has just started to recruit Peters, as they've noticed him in recent touranments back eas. Peters shares point guard duties with North-Carolina-committed Nate Britt on that team, but he runs the show enough for it to be clear that Peters is a very good prospect. He's a long 6-3, and covers ground quickly, using that length to guard smaller point guards well but also with a god defensive energy. On offense, he has a good sense of setting up his teammates, and has a very good passing instinct when penetrating and dishing. The lefty also has a decent-looking stroke. This being our first time seeing Peters we can't draw a complete conclusion, but he appears to be a point guard prospect that is worthy of UCLA pursuing (an interview is on the way).

Kelly Oubre, the 6-6 small forward from Louisiana who is ranked #66 in the national 2014 class, said he has an offer from UCLA and the Bruins are his current favorite. We have a video interview currently published with Oubre.

UCLA had prospects playing in other events – namely at a tournament in Atlantic City. Assistant Scott Garson was spotted there watching the games of center BeeJay Anya, shooting guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes and point guards Rysheed Jordan and Tyler Ennis. We haven't heard at this time that UCLA has a reasonable chance with any of them, but the Bruins are just beginning to increase its recruiting effort of Jordan.

Thursday's games will be headlined by a match-up between California Supreme (Marcus Lee, Parker-Jackson Cartwright) and Oakland Soldiers (Aaron Gordon, Jabari Byrd, Stanley Johnson, Tyrell Robinson, Shaqquan Aaron, Kendall Smith). A game that pits the Ohio Basketball Club (Devin Williams)and New Orleans Elite (Kelly Oubre, Jordan Cornish, Craig Victor) should be interesting, too.


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