Jessie Byrd, 6-8 SR PF Oakland (Calif.) Bishop O'Dowd. We saw Byrd one year ago at the Torrey Pines tournament and we were extremely disappointed. We saw him again in the spring and he showed progress. In July, he continued to get better. Watching him yesterday at the first day of the Torrey Pines tournament, we were struck by just how much he's improved in the last year. He's got a very good frame – great length – and huge feet. He's very active around the glass and he's a solid defender. He showed a little left-hand hook that we hadn't seen before and his feel for the game continues to get better. He's got good court vision and he plays unselfishly. We would expect Byrd to get high major looks by the spring. UCLA had shown interest in Byrd previously, and there is a possibility that he could walk on at UCLA. He as good academics and his family has shown some interest in the possibility. Byrd would be a fantastic walk-on for the Bruins.
Quincy Pondexter, 6-5 JR SF Fresno (Calif.) San Joaquin Memorial. Pondexter has the prototype wing body – long and lean – and he's a very good athlete. His jump shot is still coming along and, at this point, he wants to get to the basket whenever possible. His handle could be tightened up a bit. He needs to work on his defensive fundamentals, but he has the potential to be an outstanding defensive player. A high major prospect.
Robin Lopez, 6-11 JR C Fresno (Calif.) San Joaquin Memorial. Lopez was somewhat overshadowed by his brother Brook in the summer, but he showed yesterday that his game has improved since July. He was much more forceful and active than we'd seen him before. His ability to rebound, and finish inside, is impressive. Like his brother, Robin has a terrific frame, with very good feet, and all the upside in the world. He's still learning how to play and keep his body under control, but he's going to be one of the elite post prospects in the west for 2006. Of course, as we've chronicled with the Lopez twins, Stanford has the extreme inside track with. But UCLA assistant coach Kerry Keating was at San Joaquin Memorial's game Monday.
Josh Guillory, 6-5 JR SG Lynwood (Calif.) High. Guillory has all the potential in the world, but we question whether he's going to realize just how good he could be. Great length, and an elite athlete, but feel for the game is still not there. His outside does continue to improve – range beyond the stripe – but shot selection continues to be an issue. He has high major upside, but he'll need to make some adjustments to his approach if he's to reach that level.
Kenny Lawson, 6-8 JR PF/C, Vista (Calif.) High. There aren't many times when a high schooler in SoCal that is 6-8 and has any talent goes completely unnoticed by his junior season, but this is the case with Lawson. He, reportedly, has grown three inches in the last year, and last season, as a sophomore, sat out with a broken arm, and then didn't play AAU ball last summer (If you want to go unnoticed, that's how you do it). Lawson is easily one of the best post players in the junior class in Southern California. He's a legit 6-8, with a good body. His shoulders are a bit narrow, but he looks young, like he could still grow considerably. He's averaging about 23 points a game, and in the game we saw he had 21 points, 11 rebounds and 7 blocked shots. He scores with a very nice feel around the basket and a soft touch. He's still learning the game, but has a very good natural scoring feel, able to post up on either block, with a natural pivot. What's so attractive about Lawson is, even though it's obvious he's just learning, he doesn't have any bad habits. He doesn't put the ball on the floor in the post, and he keeps the ball high naturally. He's a good athlete, not jumping out of the gym, but he'll throw down a dunk when he has a step. He supposedly has a 2.5 GPA but his coach said he'd be fine academically. Lawson is probably on the lower end of the high majors. From a UCLA perspective, it might be a question of him not quite being good enough or tall enough to get involved with him at this point, since UCLA ideally wants a true center that's 6-10 plus. He is someone the Bruins should watch, and monitor any potential two-inch growth spurts.
Kenton Walker, 6-7 SO PF, Scripps Ranch (Calif.) High. Walker moved from Indiana to California this year and isn't too well known. The fact that he's improved considerably in just a couple of months, also, explains why he hasn't gotten a lot of hype just yet. Walker has a very good body for a soph, with long arms and good muscle tone on a solid frame. He, like Lawson, also looks like he's still growing. A lefty, Lawson also has a very nice touch. With his length he's a very good rebounder, getting 14 rebounds in the game we saw, along with 18 points and 8 blocks. He has a great knack for knowing where the ball will bounce and gets off the floor quickly. All of this also makes him a very good natural shot blocker. He's easily one of the best sophomore post players in California, and probbly among the few best in the west. He reportedly is a good student, too.