Unless you have a 5 o'clock appointment in Pauley Pavilion that you can't break, here are four reasons why you should spend a big portion of your Saturday in the Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim.
And I'll toss in four more as added enticement . . .
No. 1 - James Keefe
- The 6-8 junior - who committed to UCLA in November - will lead Santa Margarita against Artesia in the CIF Southern Section's III-AA championship game (set for a 12:30 p.m. tipoff). Conservatively, I would rate Keefe as one of the three best junior prospects in the West (along with Brook Lopez of Fresno San Joaquin Memorial and Spencer Hawes of Seattle Prep) and a Top 25 member of the national Class of 2006. No matter how deep and experienced the Bruins are up front two years from now, Keefe's multitude of skills, at both ends of the floor, his effort and his fundamental soundness will dictate that he gets extensive playing time as a freshman.
No. 2 - Taylor King
- He and his Mater Dei teammates take on The Colony at approximately 2:15 in the Southern Section's II-A title match. The 6-7 sophomore, who announced for the Bruins prior to beginning classes at Mater Dei in 2003, has as many "scoring" skills as any player in the state right now. He's also an underrated rebounder. He'll graduate from Mater Dei rated as one of the five best players ever in Orange County.
No. 3 - Mike Roll
- One of the national Class of 2005's most underrated "big guard/wing types" tries to help Aliso Niguel capture a Southern Section I-A crown when the Wolverines face El Toro in an all-South Orange County battle at 6:30. Did even the Bruins' coaches know just how good of a prospect Roll was when he signed with UCLA in November after earlier committing to UC Santa Barbara? Probably not. But everyone who has seen him lately is convinced he's good enough to challenge a group of perimeter veterans for playing time next season.
No. 4 - Darren Collison
- When the 6-footer from Etiwanda High committed to UCLA last June, it caused nary a ripple on the national and regional scenes. In hindsight, it was quite a coup as Collison - who leads the Eagles into the I-AA final against Hart at 8:30 - has proven to be the best point guard in California and one of the five best "pure" playmakers in the national senior class. With him and Jordan Farmar, the Bruins will have a pair of point guards to rival any in college basketball next season.
Others, while you're in the building, that you should check out:
No. 5 - Brandon Jennings
- If you're ambitious enough to get into the Pond by 9 a.m., you'll be rewarded with an up-close viewing of Jennings, undoubtedly the next McDonald's All-America out of Dominguez High (which is facing Pasadena in the II-AA championship game) and, quite possibly, as good a freshman point guard as there is in the country. Pasadena has a 6-0 sophomore worth evaluating, too, in Trevon Harmon who is more of a "scorer" than point guard right now.
No. 6 - Alex Stepheson
- Harvard-Westlake is attempting to win its fourth consecutive Southern Section title (facing Oak Park in the 10:45 a.m. III-A final) and the 6-8 junior is a big reason. He's one of the best rebounding and shot-blocking power forward prospects in the national Class of 2006.
No. 7 - The Artesia Underclassmen
- Artesia (which is matched against Keefe & Santa Margarita in the 12:30 III-AA game) has a variety of underclassmen who are major college prospects, including 6-1 junior point guard Derek Glasser, 6-10 junior center Shawnell Norman, 6-4 sophomore wing James Harden (a left-hander who is already one of the "purest" jump shooters in Southern California) and 6-4 freshman standout Malik Story.
No. 8 - The "other" Mater Dei sophomores
- Taylor King and Mike Gerrity are the Monarchs' primary scoring threats but
two other starters, and future major college recruits, are both 10th graders:
point guard Kamyron Brown (a determined and sound man-to-man defender, and
slick-but-fundamental passer) and center Alex Jacobson (who seems to be making
steady progress as a rebounder and shot blocker).