Easter Classic: UCLA Dream Team?

In the first day of the Easter Classic Tournament in Las Vegas, two players committed to UCLA -- <B>James Keefe</b> and <b>Taylor King</b> -- and two other UCLA prospects all play on the same team...

The talent in Las Vegas for the annual Easter Classic Tournament isn't great this year, since this year the tournament falls outside of an evaluation period.

But it is still very interesting for UCLA fans as the tournament kicked off Thursday.

Playing on the Southern Cal All Stars #1 team are UCLA junior commit, James Keefe, from Rancho Santa Margarita (Calif.) Santa Margarita; UCLA sophomore commit Taylor King from Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei; UCLA junior target Chase Budinger from Encinitas (Calif.) La Costa Canyon; and elite freshman point guard Brandon Jennings from Compton (Calif.) Dominguez.

In their first game, where they destroyed their opponent by about 50, it was gold to watch Keefe play alongside King. When the played together it was truly a UCLA-flavored treat, the two of them bringing so much naturally great basketball feel to the court. It resulted in extra passes, lay-ups and wide-open jumpers, which is highly unusual for AAU ball. Keefe was stellar, now unencumbered from his highly-structured high school offense, taking defenders off the dribble more, while still showing those excellent rebounding and shot-blocking skills. King merely hit a couple of 30-footers, and scored in transition very well, while the two of them were particularly unselfish in setting up the other to score.

Then throw in Budinger flying around, crashing boards, slamming put backs, and hitting threes himself, and Jennings' quickness and vision, and you had a pretty good show.

And it wasn't just a four-man team. So Cal is loaded, at least for this tournament. Also on the roster is 6-4, skilled soph shooting guard Daniel Hackett from Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco; 6-7 junior post Matt Shaw from Los Angeles (Calif.) Fairfax, and three players from Tarzana (Calif.) Stoneridge Prep: 6-8 junior Taj Gibson, 6-1 junior point guard Jonathan Gibson, and an import from Africa, 6-9 Beas Hamga.

Also, 6-9 junior center Ray Hall from Denver (Col.) Mullen, one of UCLA's primary recruiting targets, was playing coincidentally with a team made up primarily of players from Lakewood (Calif.) Artesia. The rumors have persisted for some time that Hall is going to transfer to Artesia, and he denied it when we asked him directly last week. However, we're hearing that it's definitely a possibility.

Hall, though, didn't look good. He's put on weight since the most recent highlight video published on BRO, and has lost a great deal of his mobility and jumping ability. He still has the big, soft hands and the back-to-the-basket skills, but Hall wasn't exactly what you would call explosive before, and is less so now.

It will be interesting to see what happens with Hall in three weeks when the evaluation period starts and he plays before college coaches. It is three weeks away. Will Hall clue in and get in better shape by then? If not, will UCLA look past the added weight, and the seeming disregard to work hard and stay in shape, and see the talent that is there to work with? We'll check out Hall again today to see if Thursday was just an aberration.

Also on this RBC West team, besides the Artesia playes, was 6-7 freshman Jin Soo Kim. Kim played his freshman year at Van Nuys (Calif.) Montclair Prep.

We'll have video highlights of a few games, including the first SCA game where Keefe, King, Budinger and Jennings play together, and more reports coming soon…

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