More December Hoops Evals

Thomas Welsh, Chase Jeter, Stephen Zimmerman and Jonah Mathews are among the potential UCLA prospects we saw in the last few weeks...

Thomas Welsh, 7-0 C Los Angeles (Calif.) Loyola. Welsh had an excellent showing in the Santa Monica tournament earlier this month. As he has grown into his body, becoming more agile and coordinated, he's more comfortable trying to make plays he couldn't make a year ago. He was attacking the basket aggressively and trying to dunk whenever he had the opportunity. His fundamentals are outstanding, probably the best for any post in the west since Kevin Love. He consistently keeps the ball high whether he's rebounding or receiving a pass. He's got good footwork in the post and he has a very good feel. He passes very well out of double-teams and typically makes very good decisions with the ball. He's an active defender and does a good job both in terms of guarding his man, but also providing help to teammates. His progress from his sophomore to senior season is as impressive as any West Coast prospect in recent memory. Something of a project only a year ago, he now projects as a player that should be able to contribute meaningful minutes in his freshman season at UCLA.

Ivan Rabb, 6-9 C Oakland (Calif.) Bishop O'Dowd. The best prospect in the west, Rabb has separated himself from the other 2015 big men. An outstanding athlete, his quickness and explosiveness around the basket are eye-opening. He's adept at finishing with either hand in the post, he's a very good rebounder and his overall ball skills are terrific. He's developing a decent touch facing up to 15 feet, but he does most of his damage in the pain, which is where he belongs. He's got a good feel for the game and plays with very good energy. It's difficult to imagine him playing more than one year of college basketball. UCLA is recruiting Rabb, but he will likely be a tough guy for the Bruins to ultimately sign.

Stephen Zimmerman, 6-10 C Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman. Zimmerman looks about the same as he did in the summer. An above-average athlete, he's got very good ball skills and has the ability to play facing the basket as well as with his back to the basket. He's got a nice touch to 15-17 feet, he's a good (and willing) passer and he competes well. He may not have the upside of Rabb due to the difference in athleticism, but he's still one of the elite prospects in the class and another potential one-and-out guy. Zimmerman is one of UCLA's top priorities in 2015.

Chase Jeter, 6-9 C/PF Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman. Jeter has grown a bit in the last year and his body looks longer and leaner. Only 16, he could easily be a sophomore in high school right now and it's clear that he's not yet a finished product physically. It won't be surprising at all if he grows a bit more. He moves very well for a young big kid still growing into his body, showing very good coordination, good feet and hands. He's got above-average ball skills, with the ability to score with his back to the basket or facing up out to 15 feet or so. Zimmerman is the better player today, but Jeter may ultimately be the better prospect due to his physical upside. Jeter is another top priority for the Bruins.

Paris Austin, 5-9 PG Oakland (Calif.) Bishop O'Dowd. Austin was very impressive at the Tarkanian Classic. A true point guard, he's got the ability to get his own or find teammates for open looks. He's on the small side, and he may not get to UCLA's level, but he's someone to keep an eye on.

Michael Oguine, 6-0 PG West Hills (Calif.) Chaminade. Oguine had a somewhat mediocre showing at the Santa Monica tournament, playing somewhat passively and not showing as well as he did in the summer. It may be that he's still adjusting to playing with a new team (he was previously at Cleveland). He's not currently being recruited by UCLA and it's possible he never gets to their level. However, he's still got the quickness, ball skills and upside that you're looking for in a junior point guard and he remains one to watch.

Rex Pflueger, 6-4 SG Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei. Pflueger is a streaky shooter with good leaping ability and he garnered a lot of attention in the summer due to those attributes. Brian Morrison got a UNC scholarship many years ago by showing those qualities in one summer tournament. Pfluger's overall game, though, is somewhat erratic. He's a decent athlete, but he's more bouncy than quick. UCLA has shown interest, and being a decent shooter we could see UCLA's interest getting serious.

New Williams, 6-1 SG Santa Monica (Calif.) High. Williams is another bouncy kid that can knock down jump shots. He's got the quickness to defend a point guard, but lacks the ball skills and approach to play the one at the next level. He's best shooting off the catch, but struggles to create his own offense. UCLA has shown some interest, but he doesn't project today as a UCLA-level prospect.

T.J. Leaf, 6-8 PF El Cajon (Calif.) Foothills Christian. Leaf was very impressive at the Tarkanian Classic. He's got outstanding ball skills for a young big kid. He's got an excellent stroke to the stripe, but he's also very effective around the basket. He can create his own shot off the bounce, finish with either hand inside and he's got a very good feel. He's a somewhat deceptive athlete, with good feet and a little more bounce than you might think. You never know with young bigs how their bodies will go as they mature – sometimes they have difficulty maintaining their quickness/explosiveness as they add weight. But Leaf's skill set is really impressive and he currently projects as one of the elite prospects in the west for 2016. UCLA offered Leaf last summer.

Derryck Thornton, 6-1 PG Henderson (Nev.) Findlay Prep. Thornton has added weight and strength since I last saw him and he looked good in one viewing in Las Vegas. He's a true point, with very good vision and passing ability. His stroke looked improved from when I last saw him and he's a very good on the ball defender. He's one of the top couple guards in the west for 2016. UCLA is one of many schools recruiting him.

Jonah Mathews, 6-1 SG Santa Monica (Calif.) High. The son of former Bruin assistant Phil Mathews, and younger brother of Cal's Jordan Mathews, Jonah is a big-time prospect in his own right. He's the definition of a scorer. He can light it up from a variety of spots on the court and he's adept at creating his own shot. Shot selection is sometimes an issue, but when you can score it like he can – and his team needs him to score a lot – you forgive some of the tough shots he takes. He's a better athlete than his brother and he's farther along as a prospect at the same stage. UCLA will very likely be recruiting him.

M.J. Cage, 6-9 C Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei. Cage's skill level has improved quite a bit in the last year. He's got a nice touch out to 15 feet or so and he finishes most of his opportunities around the basket. He's a decent, not great, athlete and moves fairly well for a young big man. He's still growing into his body, though, so it's possible he'll improve in that department. He's more of a finesse guy than banger at this time, but that too may change as he adds weight and strength. UCLA has offered Cage.

Leland Green, 6-1 SG Redondo Beach (Calif.) Redondo Union. Green is an explosive athlete with fairly good ball skills overall. His shot looks improved from the summer and he's effective when attacking the basket. Decisions can be erratic at times, but he's only a sophomore. He's got a pretty good upside and has a chance at ending up at UCLA's level down the road.

Henry Welsh, 6-9 C Los Angeles (Calif.) High. The younger brother of Thomas, Henry is actually a little farther along than Thomas was at the same stage. His body type is a little different, as he's a little thicker and stronger than Thomas was as a soph. He showed some decent ball skills in limited time during the Santa Monica tournament. One thing to keep in mind, though, is that being a little more advanced today doesn't necessarily mean much since Thomas's development over two years was extremely unusual. Henry may not get as tall as his brother and he's got a long way to go to reach UCLA's level. However, he's an interesting young post prospect in his own right.


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