In Las Vegas was UCLA assistant Kerry Keating. Head Coach Ben Howland came to Vegas Sunday.
Here are our latest evaluations of some of the top players who participated.
James Harden, 6-5 JR SG/SF Lakewood (Calif.) Artesia. Harden's development over the last year or so is as impressive as any prospect in the class of 2007. Harden has a total game with really no weaknesses. He's become much more explosive off the ground and he can now finish inside against size. He's got a great shot to the three-point line, although he does need a little space to get it off. He's an excellent passer with a terrific feel for the game. He defends and rebounds well. He also plays with a bit of an edge that you don't always see from Southern California kids. Harden is an elite, high major prospect. UCLA is recruiting Harden, and there still is a possibility he ends up in Westwood.
Jrue Holiday, 6-3 SO SG/PG North Hollywood (Calif.) Campbell Hall. There was a fair amount of talent at this tournament, but Holiday stood out as a guy who might end up at a different level than the other guys. Holiday isn't a polished product just yet, but he's extremely gifted and he can sometimes make the game look easy. He's an explosive athlete, with quickness and great body control. He's got a very nice shot that is only going to get better as he matures. He has the handle to play point guard, as well as the vision and passing ability. He'll sometimes take some overly risky chances on defense, but he has the potential to be an absolute lockdown defender. There are some rough edges to be polished out, but Holiday is on track to end up among the very elite players in the country. A recruiting update is coming soon.
Jerime Anderson, 6-2 JR PG Anaheim (Calif.) Canyon. Anderson demonstrated once again why we believe he's among the elite point guard prospects in the country. He's a true point guard who also has the ability to create shots for himself. His jumper was working in a big game against the Las Vegas Prospects and he pretty much kept his Double Pump team in the game in the first half (Jrue Holiday then took over in the second half). Anderson makes great decisions and you rarely see him getting caught in the air or forcing the action unwisely. He's got very quick hands on defense and his length helps him get quite a few deflections. Anderson doesn't have great quickness, but he changes gears real well and quite often surprises defenders as he goes by them. He's an elite, high major prospect. Anderson and Holiday, who played together in Las Vegas as the backcourt on one of the Pump teams, are childhood friends, having played together on various traveling teams since they were ten years old. Monday's Recruiting Update on Anderson
Larry Drew, 5-11 SO PG Woodland Hills (Calif.) Taft. Drew looks like he's taken a big step forward in his game after a solid, but not great, sophomore season. Drew found a good balance in terms of getting his own shot and creating for others. He made consistently good decisions and his shot looked a little cleaner than it did this past season. Physically, Drew is about the same size that he's been for the last year or so. He still looks a little disproportional and you'd expect him to grow into his long arms at some point. Right now, he can sometimes get in a trouble when he goes inside against size. But he's got two more years of high school to go. When it's all said and done, we still expect Drew to be one of the top couple point guards in the west and among the best in the country.
Jamelle Horne, 6-6 JR SF San Diego (Calif.) High. COMMITTED TO ARIZONA. Horne is one of the best athletes in the class and that athleticism was very evident at this tournament. Horne gets up very quick and easy – he had several highlight type dunks over the weekend. But we were more impressed by the strides he's made with his shot. He was on balance with just about every jumper he took and his stroke looks smoother. Horne knocked down shots from mid-range, as well as beyond the stripe. He competed well throughout the tournament and played with very good energy. The one area where Horne needs to improve is his ball-handling. He has trouble makings plays off the dribble and he's just an average passer. He's already one of the elite wings in the west for 2007. If his ball skills get better, he's going to be a special player.
Austin Daye, 6-9 JR SF/PF Irvine (Calif.) Woodbridge. Daye is an outstanding scorer who can get his points in a variety of ways. He's got an excellent stroke with deep range, but he also has a very nice touch around the basket. He made several difficult mid-range shots look easy. He's still physically immature and there's a question as to how his body ends up in a few years. It's difficult to imagine him defending high major small forwards on the wing – he probably won't have the quickness for that job. But he also might have trouble guarding power forwards, as he's not real physical – he's very much a finesse player. But his ability to score is unique and he will find a spot on the floor because of that skill. He's a definite high major player and he has the potential to end up among the best in the class nationally. In fact, many national-level programs are starting to show interest in Daye, including Arizona and Gonzaga. UCLA could gauge interest, but the son of former Bruin Darren Daye could want to find his own road, and his style of play -- being a very offensive player that plays little defense and is a bit soft -- might not lend itself to Ben Howland's program.
Drew Viney, 6-7 JR SF Villa Park (Calif.) High. Viney did a good job playing inside in the two games we saw this weekend. In the past, he's had a tendency to drift to the perimeter, and sometimes avoid contact, but he got a lot done in the paint this past weekend. He's always had a very nice stroke with good range and that was on display as well. Viney's a big kid and putting the ball on the floor against athletic wings isn't something that comes easy to him. He'll need to improve his ability to create his own shot at the next level. However, he's a good passer, with good instincts, and he plays well within a team concept. We expect Viney to be a very solid player at the Pac-10 level, and we had heard previously he was leaning to Cal.
Luke Babbitt, 6-7 SO PF Reno (Nev.) Galena. Babbitt has a very good offensive game, with the ability to play inside as well as on the perimeter. He didn't show it much in this tournament, but he's got a very solid low-post game with footwork and the ability to go to either shoulder. What he did show in this tournament was his terrific stroke. He's got three-point range, but also a nice mid-range game. He's got excellent overall ball skills for a young big kid. He does need to work at being a better rebounder, but he's an elite, high major prospect. Babbitt continue to be one of UCLA's top targets in the class of 2008.
Malcolm Lee, 6-3 SO PG Riverside (Calif.) North. Lee was outstanding in the one game we saw him play on Saturday. His decision-making was much improved from what he showed in Houston and he toned down a lot of the unnecessary junk in his game. He has terrific vision and the ability to thread the needle with bullet passes. His stroke is very solid, to the point that we could see him playing some two guard in college. He has the size to defend a two, but the quickness to stay with point guards. If Lee can build on this performance, and continue to mature into more a true one, he has a chance to be one of the best point guards in this class. UCLA coaches have watched Lee quite a bit this spring.