Thomas Welsh, 7-0 C Los Angeles (Calif.) Loyola. Welsh has had a terrific senior season so far and he had another great showing at the Holiday Classic in San Diego. He impacts the game at both ends of the court, as he's become a good shot-blocker and help defender. He's also a more physical player than he was a year ago. Part of that may be due to added weight and strength, but it could also be added confidence and aggressiveness. He had success in the summer against some very good players and it seems like he's got a different attitude than he had a year ago. Whereas before he could be a bit tentative at times, now it seems like his attitude is "I'm the best player on the court and I'm going to dominate you." He looks for opportunities to attack the basket and goes for dunks rather than lay-ups. With continued development, he figures to get significant minutes for UCLA next season.
Ivan Rabb, 6-8 C/PF Oakland (Calif.) Bishop O'Dowd. Rabb has pretty much everything you're looking for in a young post prospect. Great bball body/length, explosive athlete, can score with either hand in the post, impacts the game at both ends, good rebounder, pretty good touch facing up out to 15 feet or so, competes well…he's got a chance to a very good player in college. Of course, with his skill level and physical attributes, it may only be one year in college.
Marquese Chriss, 6-8 PF Elk Grove (Calif.) Pleasant Grove. I saw Chriss play one game at the Holiday Hardwood tournament at Westlake High and he confirmed what I thought in July – his upside is as high as anyone in the west other than Ivan Rabb. That isn't to say he'll be better than Stephen Zimmerman, Chase Jeter, Jeremy Hemsley or some other top prospects. But his upside, if it all comes together for him, is enormous. He can shoot to the stripe, knock down mid range shots, throw down monster tip dunks, block shots at the top of the square…he'll make 6-7 plays a game that make you say "wow." Then he'll disappear for stretches and not impact the game. He might get distracted by a bad call, or get down on himself for a bad play, and you can see him lose focus. But he's young for his grade and hopefully it's just an issue for maturity and experience. I'm betting it all comes together for him and by July (maybe April) he will be shooting up the national rankings.
Justin Simon, 6-4 PG Temecula (Calif.) Temecula Valley. Simon was very impressive in the one game I saw him play. He showed more point guard attributes than I saw from him in the summer, with good vision and decision-making. While there might be some question about his ability to defend the small, really quick point guards in college, he's a terrific athlete with very good length. So it's quite possible he'll be one of those rare guys that can defend all three perimeter positions. His shot is playable at this time and he should be a more than adequate shooter by the time he gets to college. He's among the top PG prospects in the west for 2015.
Brandon Cyrus, 6-4 SG San Diego (Calif.) Torrey Pines. Cyrus is a great-looking sophomore prospect. He's got a very good body, with really long arms and he's an above-average athlete. His ball skills overall are very good – nice stroke, handles well and a good passer. He's got a really good approach to the game. He plays very unselfishly for a kid with his talent and he plays to win. He's among the elite prospects in the West Coast class of 2016.
Lonzo Ball, 6-4 PG Chino Hills (Calif.) High. Ball was very impressive in the game I saw, showing off both his ability to score and create for his teammates. He's one of those players that see things unfolding a second or two before everyone else on the court. This is, obviously, a nice attribute for a point guard to possess. For a kid that can really score, he plays surprisingly unselfishly. He always passes the ball ahead on a break and typically makes good decisions with the ball. An above average athlete, he can score at the rim and knock down jumpers from well beyond the stripe. He needs to get stronger, and learn to play in a more structured system (Chino Hills plays really fast), but he's a terrific young prospect.
T.J. Leaf, 6-8 PF El Cajon (Calif.) Foothills Christian. Leaf is probably the most skilled forward in the west for 2016. He's got deep range on his shot, he can score around the basket, he handles the ball very well and he's a good passer. He's not a great athlete, but he's somewhat deceptive with good feet and a nice first step. He's a solid rebounder and willing defender. His ultimate level will depend on how his body goes in the next few years, but right now he projects as one of the top prospects in the West Coast class of 2016. UCLA offered him last spring.
Devearl Ramsey, 5-10 PG Chatsworth (Calif.) Sierra Canyon. Ramsey is a mature-looking sophomore and there is a question of physical upside with him. However, he's got a lot of positive attributes as a prospect. He's very skilled, he shoots it well, he's a good athlete with excellent speed/quickness, he competes well and he has a nice feel. He's among the top 2016 PG prospects in the west.
Cody Riley, 6-7 PF Chatsworth (Calif.) Sierra Canyon. Despite the fact that he's oldest-looking freshman I've seen, Riley is still quite a prospect. He's got a great body, he's an above average athlete and he's very skilled for a kid his size. It's obviously still very early, but he's among the early top prospects in the west for 2017.