Ayinde Ubaka, 6-1 PG Oakland (Calif.) High. Ubaka reaffirmed his status as the #1 PG prospect in the west. Played exceptionally well Friday and Saturday, then just so-so in a disappointing head to head match-up with Marcus Williams on Sunday. Neither player played well, with Ubaka guarding Williams and the Williams' team zoning Ubaka's H-Squad team. Shot is still the one question mark in his game, but it's not far away and should be fine by the time he enters college in eighteen months. He's bigger and stronger than when we last saw him and is now able to overpower some guards when he gets in the lane. Best combination of quickness, size, ball skills and feel among West Coast point guards.
Leon Powe, 6-7 PF Oakland (Calif.) Oakland Tech. Most college-ready prospect in the tournament. Talk of NBA jump from high school is laughable (the 6-7 number may be a stretch), but he'll be a heckuva college player. Perimeter skills are improved, but still need work. Strength, long arms and improved footwork make him a load in the low-post. As one coach said, "imagine when he gets some coaching." Academics permitting, his recruitment figures to be nationwide. When I interviewed him, he didn't mention UCLA, but listed Cal, Kansas, Maryland, Kentucky, and Duke, while pointing out that he's still open.
Ryan Appleby,6-2 PG Stanwood (Wash.) High. Had a few shaky moments, but overall very impressive. Terrific PG instincts and showed leadership qualities. Excellent passer and a very quick release on his jump shot. Shot didn't always go down, but he's got a nice stroke and should develop into a very good shooter. Very good in transition. Needs to settle down somewhat (you get the feeling he likes the wrong Jason Williams), but he remains among the top three prospects at his position.
Mohamed Abukar, 6-9 PF Rancho Bernardo (Calif.) High. Winner of the most "who is that?" comments from college coaches. Still slender, and lacks the strength to get much done in the low-post, but a terrific outside touch and he moves real well. As he gets stronger, we expect he'll become more assertive and aggressive. If that happens, he has a chance to be one of the elite players in the country a year from now.
Nick Stiggers, 6-8 PF Van Nuys (Calif.) Montclair Prep. We only saw Stiggers once and he looked about the same as we saw him a couple months ago. Big body, very nice outside shot. Not real explosive off the floor, but he'll be a tough match-up as he can take post players away from the basket and make them defend him on the perimeter. He can use his big butt to good advantage when he wants to. Needs to play with a little more urgency, but his skills make him one of the top players in the west.
Marcus Williams, 6-2 PG Los Angeles (Calif.) Crenshaw. Is expected to play at Oak Hill next year. Outside shot wasn't quite as on as we've seen it, but he's undoubtedly one of the top shooters in the west. Doesn't have a PG mentality, but the skills are there if he can change his approach to the game. Right now, his first thought is to shoot the jumper, the second option is drive to the basket and his third choice is to make the pass. If he can make the transformation into a point guard, and make better decisions, he has a chance to be very good. Quickness and hops are just ok, but that outside shot is a great equalizer.
Sean Phaler, 6-9 PF Villa Park (Calif.) High. Still painfully skinny and it's uncertain how much weight he'll ever add to that frame. But he's also still among the top three shooters in the west and that's intriguing with his size. Willing to play inside, but doesn't have the strength to get much done down there. Nice feel for the game. Showed a fallaway baseline jumper that could be very tough to defend. Coaches we spoke with all have the same concern -- who does he guard at the high major level? Height alone probably dictates that he defends the four (thus, his classification as a PF), but that's tough to do at his weight. Still, when he gets hot shooting he can single-handedly carry a team for stretches.
Omar Wilkes, 6-2 SG Los Angeles (Calif.) Loyola. Wilkes had a so-so tourney and it might not be completely his fault since the team he played on was a bit of a mess. He never got too much in sync, but showed his skills and ability. Wilkes slight frame might finally catch up with him this spring and summer. He doesn't necessarily need the strength to get it done in high school ball since his skills are so much better than anyone else in that environment. And previously, in other years playing AAU ball, there was always time for Omar to develop physically – but now it's crunch time for him. He's still one of the best shooting guards on the west coast in the 2003 class.
Lodrick and Rodrick Stewart, SG Seattle (Wash.) Rainer Beach. We didn't get to see the twins as much as we would have liked, but what we saw was not encouraging. Yes, they're both big-time athletes with substantial upsides. And they'll both continue to be ranked high in our rankings because of that potential. But they need to learn how to play the game. They both seem to be on the court looking for the spectacular play (particularly dunks), rather than playing to win. They need to learn that basketball games are not judged on style points. College coaches don't care about monster dunks if you can't come off a screen to hit a jumpshot (or, perhaps more importantly, be willing to set a screen yourself). The twins have a chance to be special players. But they have a ways to go before they're ready to start at a mid-major, nevermind coming into an elite high-major program and playing right away.
Mark Bradford, 6-3 SG Los Angeles Fremont. Played his ass off and, as a result, was also noticed by a number of coaches. Ball skills are just ok, and needs to improve range on his shot, but he'll defend anyone, he's effective when he gets in the lane and he's a very good athlete. UCLA is recruiting him as a football prospect (being one of the best junior wide receivers/defensive backs in the L.A. area last season), so he may never take a basketball scholarship, but could be a nice walk-on wherever he ends up.
Other Players to Watch:
Lorenzo Wade, 6-5 SG Las Vegas (Nev.) Cheyenne. Not the biggest name heading into the tournament, but the player who made the biggest impression by the end of the weekend. Long and quick, with very good ball handling/passing skills, Wade made a strong case for the #1 spot at SG when the PWH rankings get revised prior to summer. A lefty with a very versatile game, Wade could end up bigger and eventually move to SF. He showed a nice stroke with three-point range and threw down a couple emphatic dunks that had the crowd buzzing. He has only started to scratch the surface of his potential and he'll no doubt be hearing from some of the elite high majors in the next couple months.
Dominic McGuire, 6-5 SF San Diego (Calif.) Lincoln. Outside shot comes and goes, but everything else is there to make him the #1 small forward in the west. Great body, excellent hops and quickness. Passes and handles extremely well -- real good in transition. Can finish strong at the rim or dish when in the lane (very good vision). Grabs more than his share of rebounds and blocked a half dozen shots (including two attempted dunks) in the games we saw. There is an issue of academic problems.
Ray Shafer, 6-10 C, Wasilla (Alaska) High. Probably the best true center prospect among west coast players at the tourney, Shafer moves extremely well and has good athleticism. His skills are still developing but there just aren't many guys 6-10+ who have high major athleticism out there, so Shafer could very well be this year's Matt Haryasz and end up getting some attention from big-named schools by the time the summer is over. Coaches were already raising eyebrows watching him.
Tyler McGinn, 6-6 SG/SF, Mesquite (Ariz.) High. I've been a big McGinn fan for sometime and it's only a matter of time before the big-named schools become so, too, if they haven't already. McGinn has probably the best combo of size, athleticism and shooting ability of any wing on the west coast. He might be better suited as a small forward, but he has the quickness to stay with two-guards defensively, which makes him even more valuable. He also, from what I hear, has very good grades, so by the end of the Pump Tourney, he had the Stanford coaches watching his games.
Christian Timba, 6-10 C, Los Angeles (Calif.) Fremont. No one saw Timba play this weekend, since he was on the sideline with a stress fracture in his foot. But if there was ever a kid who passes the eyeball test, this is the one. He and his AAU coach said he's only 17, but he looks like an NBA player physically. Originally from Cameroon, he's transferring to Fremont from a high school in Louisville, Kentucky, where he put up 14/10 a game, he said. From asking around, the reports are that he's very raw, but very big and physical.