Three of UCLA's committed high school seniors are participating in the event.
In fact, Arron Afflalo and his Compton Centennial team, Lorenzo Mata and South Gate and Jordan Farmar and Taft are all in the same bracket. Afflalo faced off against Mata Saturday, and now Afflalo will face Farmar in the semin-final this evening.
Friday Mata played his first game of the season. He had sat out the first several South Gate games due to academic remnants from last year. Mata, though, told us that he now is doing comparatively very well academically, and now has a 2.8 GPA. He took the SAT once and came close to achieving an NCAA minimum score, but that was without a tutor. He now has been studying with a tutor and plans to re-take the SAT in January.
In his first couple of games this season, played in this tournament, Mata looked good, getting back in the swing of things. He looks to be a little bigger physically, at about 215 pounds or so, but has the kind of body and frame that could easily put on another 20 pounds of muscle. He had 19 points, 15 boards and 9 blocked shots in his first game, and followed that with 26 in his loss to Afflalo and Centennial. He is still a very raw prospect, still learning how to play the game, and getting a feel for what he can do. But his length and athleticism are good, enough to dominate at the high school level. He showed more shooting touch and ability to post up offensively, hitting a couple of turnaround jumpers after catching the ball from about 12 feet away. His ability to be physical and defend in the post might give him a chance to get some minutes next season as a freshman, but more than likely just in a back-up role.
Afflalo scored 15 points in his first game, where he was limited by a small case of asthma. In the second game, against South Gate, he had 24, had several threes, and shot the ball well overall. Afflalo forced it a bit this last summer, but in his two games in this tournament he let the flow of the game come to him better. His shot looks to be slightly improved, smoother and softer. He's about 6-5, and even better built than he was just a couple of months ago, leaning down more and seemingly quicker footer. He'll have a chance to contribute next year, but also more than likely in a backup role as a freshman.
It's always a dicey proposition to make predictions about how specifically a high school player will impact on the college level. But we've believed that Jordan Farmar, UCLA's committed point guard, might make one of the biggest impacts of any UCLA freshman next year. And frrom what we've seen so far this season of him, especially in this tournament, it confirms it. Farmar so dominated the two games he's played in this tournament, and in watching him it's again clear how he could get significant playing time next season, mostly because he provides the true point guard skills that UCLA could really use. He's a great passer, with great vision coupled with great anticipation. He truly is one of those point guards that sees a play happening even before it does. He had 12 assists in the second game at Lynwood, and seven in the first, even though that would have been more like 15 if many of his passes were finished for points. He is very effective in getting out and leading a break. His ability to score, though, will also bring a different dimension to UCLA's backcourt. Opponents next year will have to guard Farmar because of his ability to shoot the ball, and his shooting touch is among the best on the west coast, if not the best, among high school players. He had 29 points in the tourney's first round game (sitting out most of the fourth quarter), and then 37 points in the second round match against Fresno Central. His three-point touch is feathery, but he also scores in bunches from mid-range, being able to pull-up and nail 15-foot jumpers with ease. Against Fresno Central, Farmar scored 20 points in the second quarter, and put on a show, either scoring or creating the opportunity to score for Taft on every possession. A well-respected west coast scout who watched Farmar said that that quarter ranks among the best he's seen ever among high school players
There are still many aspects of Farmar's game that he needs to improve. Physically, he's gotten bigger, but he's still pretty thin and will need to continue to add muscle. More strength will continue to improve his ability to handle the ball against pressure and defend.
While you don't want to place too high of expectations on any incoming freshman, it's pretty safe to say that Farmar indeed has a chance to impact at UCLA next year, and even possibly get the most minutes at the point guard position.
Again, Taft and Farmar will face Centennial and Afflalo in a very Bruin-esque semi-final of the Lynwood tournament tonight.