It wasn't a great day for Artem Wallace, the 6-8 junior power forward from Toledo (Wash.) High. In his first game Saturday when college coaches could watch the tournament, Howland was in the stands for Wallace's first game – and then Wallace strained his knee and sat out a big portion of that game. He returned later in that game to play, but looked like the injury had affected him.
Across town, Lawrence Hill, the 6-7 power forward from Deer Valley High School in Arizona, looked about the same as when we had last seen him during the season. Hill, who probably weighs 200, plays his best around the basket, making up for being undersized with quickness and explosiveness off the floor. He lacks developed post moves, offensively spending more of his time facing the basket. His jumper is just okay, and he still lacks a mid-range game. Essentialy he's an undersized four who's active around the basket that will face-up, but with his athleticism, intelligence and other intangibles, he'll be among the guys UCLA will pursue in the class of 2005.
Jordan Wilkes, the 6-10 post from Los Angeles Loyola, continues to improve, showing more agility and athleticism every time we see him. He's always had skills, and a great sense for the game, but physically and athletically he continues to develop to the point where it's coming more natural to him and not as mechanical. He's by no means a top ten player in the country, but could possibly be among the top ten players in the west – at least among those that actually have decent academics. UCLA will have to continue to watch him.
Brett Hoerner, the 6-10 junior center from Fullerton, shows enough flashes here and there to make you have to continue to watch him. He's passive offensively, but then once in a while catch a pass in the post, with his good hands, and finish with some explosion. He, though, doesn't look like he's gained much weight in the last year, probably still weighing about 200 pounds.
Jeff Pendergraph, the 6-9 center from Etiwanda, has a chance to be a solid player at the lower end of the high-major level, with good size, length and athleticism. He's so raw, on both sides of the court, though, that it will keep the elite high majors from recruiting him.
His high school teammate, Darren Collison, the 5-11 junior point guard, has looked very good here, running his team well, showing his very good quickness and good offensive skills. Watch for UCLA to keep on Collison.
Among the sophomores and freshmen Saturday, James Keefe, the 6-8 sophomore power forward, was the most impressive performer. In fact, Keefe is probably among the top 2-3 prospects in Las Vegas this weekend. His offensive game continues to expand – he's showing a nice stroke to three-point range – and he's a terrific rebounder. He's been extremely active at both ends of the court. Keefe played really well Saturday in front of a good collection of college coachs, including Howland.
Ray Hall, the 6-9 sophomore center from Colorado, looks like he's shed a little baby fat and he continues to project as one of the elite centers in the west for 2006. He's got excellent hands, good feet and a very nice feel for the game. Not an explosive athlete, but a big body who takes up space in the low-post.
Along with Keefe, Alex Stepheson, the 6-8 sophomore power forward from Harvard-Westlake, could end up being a top 25 national level player in a few years. He's very long and active around the basket. Offensive skills are still coming, but he impacts the game already as a rebounder/defender.
Jerryd Bayless, the 6-0 freshman point guard from Arizona, demonstrated that he's easily the top player at his position in the west for 2007. He's very explosive – quick and bouncy. UCLA has been on Bayless for some time now.
Christian Polk, the 6-2 sophomore shooting guard, has improved in the last six months. He's become a better defender and finishes inside more frequently. His outside shot doesn't look great – sideways rotation – but he makes a good percentage of his three-point attempts. Polk has a chance to be among the top couple two-guards in the west for 2006.