Vegas Craziness -- First Day

With three big tournaments going on in Las Vegas at one time, it makes it difficult for college coaches -- and writers. Here's a look at the first day of craziness from a west coast eye, and from a UCLA perspective...

The three Las Vegas tournaments – the Big Time, Main Event and Adidas Super 64 – got underway today and, as many predicted, it's a complete mess for coaches, writers and scouts who are attempting to evaluate players. There are way too many games, with too many non-prospects, at too many sites spread out across the city.

The Super 64 has the best match-ups, with most of the teams having legitimate prospects, but the main gym that Adidas is using is too far away from the other gyms. The Big Time has way too many bad teams that don't need to be playing in front of college coaches. The Main Event has a mixture of elite teams and bad teams.

The best performance that we saw today was turned in by Micah Downs, 6-7 SR SF Bothell (Wash.) High. Downs was dominant in a win over Belmont Shore, showing a very versatile game. He dropped several pretty threes from deep, snatched a couple of impressive rebounds and came up with the play of the game when he blocked a dunk attempt by 6-10 Brett Hoerner.

Downs's teammates Martell Webster, Spencer Hawes and Jon Brockman also played well in the win for Friends of Hoop. Webster still doesn't look to be fully recovered from his injuries, but he made a couple jumpshots that looked effortless. Hawes showed why many feel he's the best young center prospect (other than Kevin Love) in the west. He's very skilled for a young big, with soft hands and good feet. Brockman was his usual aggressive self and did a good job defending Belmont Shore's Jamal Boykin, once he realized that Boykin didn't have the quickness to go by him. Brockman finished with 33 points and 12 rebounds. For Belmont Shore, Seketoure Henry knocked down a few deep threes, but ultimately didn't get enough shot attempts as the Belmont Shore late rally fell short.

Earlier in the day, Davon Jefferson, 6-7 SR PF Lynwood (Calif.) High, had a very good game as he led H-Squad to a win over Delaware Sharpshooters. Jefferson was very active at both ends of the court. He had several impressive offensive rebounds and showed his developing perimeter skills as he connected on a few jumpshots.

Danny Williams, 6-2 SR SG Los Angeles (Calif.) Fremont, also had a big game for H-Squad, showing off his ridiculous athleticism. Williams doesn't also make great decisions, but he's a terrific defender when he puts his mind to it and he's a much improved shooter. And he'll dunk on your head if he gets the opportunity.

The West Valley BBall I team had a rough opening game, as they were matched up with A Spiece Indy Heat team that featured, among others, future pro Greg Oden from the 2006 class and Duke-commit Josh McRoberts. West Valley was never in the game, but Austin Swift, 6-4 SR SG Santa Cruz (Calif.) High had some nice moments, as did Cliff Sammett, 6-8 SR PF Santa Cruz (Calif.) High.

Chris Oakes, 6-8 SR C/PF, Oakland (Calif.) Castlemont, again played well, being very active and bouncy on both sides of the floor. He's one of the best rebounders in the west, and is so quick off the floor for put-backs. He showed a decent-looking jumper from about 12 feet. His athleticism was evident on one play Thursday when he slammed back a rebound with particular force. While he's so thin, and narrow in the shoulders, with the lack of bigs who can impact the game at the high major level, Oakes is looking better and better.

Steffan Johnson, 6-1 SR PG, Kent (Wash.) Kent-Meridian, is among the players in the west whose play this July has really improved his stock, and it continues to do so in Vegas. Johnson is skilled and a good passer, but needs to get stronger. He has Stanford seriously sniffing around, with Oregon, Washington and Gonzaga already having shown interest.

Lawrence Hill, the 6-7 senior forward from Glendale (Ariz.) Deer Valley who is already committed to Stanford had a very good Thursday in Vegas. His Arizona Magic team squared off against the Delaware Sharpshooters, in particular co-Stanford recruit, 6-8 Ryan Wright. You wouldn't say that either got the best of the other, but both had good performances in the game. Hill is continuing to improve around the basket, using his quickness off the floor to finish against good competition like Wright.

Darren Jordan, 5-11 senior PG from Phoenix (Ariz.) Trevor Browne, a teammate of Hills on the Magic, has looked good in July, and particularly Thursday. He not only was feeling it from three, making 5 of them, he's playing more under control in running his team's offense. He also has obviously recognized his ability to be a very good on-the-ball defender, frustrating opposing guards with his ability to stay in front of them.

From the UCLA Perspective:

UCLA's three assistant coaches were at various gyms around Las Vegas Thursday. Head Coach Ben Howland arrives Friday.

One of the UCLA coaches was in attendance of every game mentioned below, and more.

The word on Brockman is that he has indeed been offered by both North Carolina and Duke. One source close to Brockman indicates that Duke is the more attractive of the two Carolina schools for Brockman, and he could possibly just visit Duke officially. Any visit, though, would most likely come before November, and before Duke's basketball season. Even with the offers, the feeling is still that Brockman wouldn't want to go that far away from home. But you can never under-estimate the impact of an official visit to Duke.

If Duke gets Eric Boateng, while already having what we think could be the #1 player in the country in Josh McRoberts, playing time might be a consideration for Brockman at Duke.

Also, don't forget about the potential package deal with his AAU teammate and good friend, point guard Mitchell Johnson. Johnson apparently likes Stanford, but if Johnson goes to Washington, it could be very persuasive for Brockman. We still wouldn't necessarily count out a potential Brockman-Johnson package to UCLA either.

Taylor King, the 6-6 sophomore forward from Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei who is verbally committed to UCLA, looks in better shape than he was just a couple of months ago, and has been shooting the ball well. Thursday he was content with setting up his teammates in helping the So-Cal All Stars run away with their first game.

Eric Boateng, the 6-10 center, faced off against H-Squad and Davon Jefferson, and Jefferson out-played him. Boateng, while he moves well for his size and is active around the basket, is still very raw in his skills.

Ryan Wright, the 6-8 power forward UCLA is recruiting from Mississauga (Ontario, Canada) Loyola Catholic, as stated above, looked very good and athletic. He will occasionally hit a 12-foot jumper, but does most of his damage around the basket, particularly above the rim with put-backs and dunks.

Brett Hoerner, the 6-10 senior center/power forward from Fullerton (Calif.) High, struggled some against Friends of Hoop. As stated above, he had a dunk blocked by Micah Downs. For at least the first half, he didn't have much aggressiveness, but after some much-needed prodding by his AAU coach, Dinos Trigonis, Hoerner played harder and became more active. While he had a couple of dunk attempts disrupted, he was going up strong to the basket, had a couple of pretty blocks and moved quickly in the post when he touched the ball. But you would probably call it not a great performance overall since it seemed to take him a half to get active.

Tyrell Biggs, the 6-7 senior power forward from Ramsey (NJ) Don Bosco Prep also was a tale of two halves Thursday. In his first, he barely touched the ball. In the second, it was obvious his coach directed his guards to feed the post, and Biggs took over the game. Trailing by as much as 18 to a Georgia Elite team, Biggs led his Metro Hawks squad back to a victory. He definitely is a below-the-rim type of player, but he eats up space with that 250-pound body, can carve out space well in the post and has some nice offensive moves, including a pretty face-up jumper.

Tomorrow we'll see even more UCLA prospects, including UCLA's committed point guard, Darren Collison, from Etiwanda (Calif.) High; Seattle (Wash.) Roosevelt senior wing Marcus Williams; Los Angeles (Calif.) Loyola senior center Jordan Wilkes; junior power forward Alex Stepheson from Studio City (Calif.) Harvard-Westlake; senior post player Sam Warren from Denver (Col.) Cherry Creek; junior center Ray Hall from Denver (Col.) Mullen; senior power forward Brandon Costner from West Orange (NJ) Seton Hall Prep, senior wing Alonzo Gee from Palm Beach Gardens (Flor.) Dwyer; Robin Lopez and Brook Lopez, the junior twin towers from Fresno (Calif.) San Joaquin Memorial; Derrick Jasper, the junior shooting guard from Paso Robles (Calif.) and Trev'Von Willis, the junior shooting guard from Fresno (Calif.) Washington Union, among others.

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