UCLA Report from ABCD

From a west coast perspective, Kevin Love, the 6-9 senior post, is the headliner, but there are other west coasters of note -- such as James Harden, Zane Johnson, rising juniors Drew Gordon and Malcolm Lee, and the 6-9 senior forward Derek Selvig, having his coming-out party...

The Reebok ABCD Camp in Teaneck, New Jersey, has about 150 campers or so this year, a reasonable number that allows you to get to see the players enough to get a sense of their games.

There are about 25 west coast players and, for our purposes, those that aren't being re-classified, going to a prep school back east or aren't D-1 prospects, probably less than 20.

The quality of play hasn't been great, but it has to be recognized that we're getting the ABCD Camp a few days in, when the level of play has degraded considerably.

The dominant west coast player, of course, has been Kevin Love, the 6-9 post from Lake Oswego (Calif.) High. Love has been battling with O.J. Mayo for the best-in-camp honors, and Love made a good case Saturday. In his two games of the day, he was clearly the best prospect on the court, again, like he has since he was a freshman, displaying low-post moves and a feel that is unique for a high school player these days. We all know about the moves, the outlet passes, the relentless rebounding, but Love has also broadened his game with a consistent three-point shot, which presents a tough match-up for opposing centers. In one sequence on Thursday, Love hit a three, then the next time down the court, the post defending him came out to pick him up at the top of the key. But Love's ability to drive to the basket has also improved, and on the next play he drove around his defender and laid in the ball easily. Love did this consistently for two games. The guys defending him struggled to guard Love from one simple aspect: Do you respect the shot and pick him up high, and give him a chance to go around you, or do you sag off and let him casually drop threes on you? It's a new challenge in defending Love, among a list of challenges. He's averaging a double-double here and, in our possibly biased, west-coast opinion, is showing he has a bigger impact on a game than does Mayo. He's making a good case to be #1 in the country. It's also looking more and more that Love isn't going to announce a college decision anytime soon, so UCLA and North Carolina fans should buckle themselves in for at least a few months.

Not many west coasters had particularly great days on Thursday, after Love.

Perhaps the player who fared the best was Clint Chapman, the 6-10 senior center from Canby (Ore.) High. Chapman has used his length and girth well here, and hasn't been afraid to try to go aggressively to the basket against this level of athleticism. Thursday he made a nice turn-around jumper, and then drove the lane and threw down a nice dunk, then blocked a shot, all in one very good stretch. The upside here is considerable, since he was just 6-8 a year ago, and is still just learning how to play in an ever-expanding body.

Derek Selvig, the 6-9 forward from Glendive (Mont.) Dawson County, was probably the other west coaster who had a good Thursday. We originally wrote about Selvig this spring, and since he's gotten some attention nationally. Being here now at this camp will undoubtedly get him now in the national spotlight as a high major prospect. Selvig has the mindset of a point forward, in a legit 6-9 body (when he played against Love, and guarded him decently, mind you, he looked at least as tall as Love, if maybe not slightly taller). He has, first, a very good combo for a guy his size that he can really shoot the ball, so you have to respect his shot but, at his height, he sees the court so well, and if he draws you out, he lays off nice passes to his teammates for easier shots. That's a tough enough to match-up for a big, but he's also very quick for his size and can put the ball on the floor for a couple of bounces. On the defensive end, as we said, it was interesting to see him body up with Love, and generally do fine, at least as well as anyone else trying to guard Love. So, Selvig, offensively is a face-up four, who can give you time at the three, and defensively can guard a five, a four and maybe even a three with his laterally quickness and length. There aren't many guys like this around AAU and high school basketball. In fact, only one comes to mind, and that would be Kyle Singler. While Singler is an elite talent, Selvig could be described as a poor-man's Singler. We've heard that high majors are now scouting him seriously, including Gonzaga.

James Harden, the 6-4 shooting guard from Lakewood (Calif.) Artesia, had a decent day. He's not one that flourishes in the me-first camp environment, actually trying to run plays and execute while teammates are jacking up threes on every touch. But it's obvious how good and a fundamental basketball player he is, even here, making the better, extra pass, making sharp cuts, and not over penetrating. If you're scouting this from a standpoint of who can make the most plays, Hardin's game might not stand out, especially since his jump shot hasn't been as consistent as it can in this free-for-all environment. But if you know what you're watching, it's clear that Hardin's feel for the game is very advanced, especially in this type of environment. With his former teammate, guard Derek Glasser, now also going to ASU, it's just about as close to a done deal as you're going to get that Hardin is going to be a Sun Devil.

Along those same lines, another player whose all-around game stands out here is Zane Johnson, the 6-5 wing from Phoenix (Ariz.) Thunderbird. Like Hardin, Johnson is a fundamentally sound player with a very good feel, and sometimes that can go unnoticed when teammates are shooting from 25 feet. But Johnson has played confidently, not hesitating to take defenders off the dribble when he has a step, while also making some smart passes. He's shot the ball fairly well, and it's refreshing that Johnson (and Hardin) are two guys that aren't being compelled to "get theirs" and shoot the ball every time they touch it but are still insisting on trying to play team ball. The Arizona commit has looked good, even though it's not a good environment for him.

The two elite rising juniors from the west here at ABCD are Malcolm Lee, the 6-3 guard from Riverside (Calif.) North, and 6-8 forward Drew Gordon from San Jose Archbishop Mitty. Both have had up-and-down camps. Gordon, reportedly, had a good day Friday, but Saturday had a mediocre showing in the early game Saturday, but then showed flashes in the later game. The poor showing, again, has to be discounted because of the environment, and Gordon has either tried to do too much at times or not enough. It's tough, too when he's playing on a team with Love and Brandon Jennings, two very talented players who are bound to get a great deal of touches on the ball. When he settled down Saturday he had a few good moments, showing a nice, in-control post move that led to a pretty jump hook from about 10 feet. He then had one of the most athletic put-backs I've seen yet this July when, after going up, he caught the rebound somewhat behind and below him, and had the athleticism to adjust and throw it back down. Again, the most you can get out of the camps is to see an indication of the type of player someone is, and Gordon has displayed enough talent.

Maybe the west coast is becoming the fundamentally-sound, team-oriented coast, because Lee is following in the footsteps of Hardin and Johnson and trying to execute and play team-oriented ball in this free-for-all. His national rep might suffer a bit for it, since this is his real, first exposure nationally. But that's irrelevant since we know how good he is. In this environment you have to insist on getting your own, and know that when you give up the ball you're not going to get it back. Lee hasn't done that. He's calling out plays, and starting to initiate them with a pass, but then the play breaks down when someone quickly jacks up an ill-advised shot. Even though he's being prodded to play more me-first, Lee hasn't done it. He could actually assert himself a bit more, since he does have the ability to take defenders off the dribble and perhaps, being his first big camp experience, he's a bit intimidated. He did show some things in bits Saturday, driving the baseline and, with great quickness and balance, pulling up to knock down a 12-footer. His length has shown to be disruptive on defense, especially on help defense when he gets his long arms in to disrupt an opponent's drive or shot. Lee will undoubtedly not blow up nationally because of this camp, but he's shown enough to prove that he's a legit high-major and among the best guards in the west nationally for 2008.

Darnell Gant, the 6-8 senior forward from Los Angeles (Calif.) Crenshaw, was in a shoulder sling and told us that he strained ligaments in his shoulder that could require surgery. The rest of his July is definitely in question. He reportedly was having a fairly strong camp before the injury.

Alex Legion, the 6-4 senior guard from Michigan and a UCLA prospect, is playing point guard here which, Saturday, wasn't good for him. For one, he's not a point guard, and having him do it here is making him handle the ball too much, which caused him to make far too many turnovers. Legion is best catching and shooting, or catching and driving, not ball-handling and passing. He is making a valiant effort since the point guard on his team, Derrick Rose, is hurt, and he has shown he can handle the ball well enough -- for a shooting guard.

Renardo Sidney, the 6-9 sophomore who will tentatively be at Lakewood (Calif.) Artesia next year and is widely regarded as the #1 player in the national class of 2009, is certainly as good as we remember him -- big, skilled and athletic. He reminds you a bit of former North Carolina player Marvin Williams. Sidney, though, is now 240 pounds, probably 20 pounts heavier than he was a year ago, and his weight could be the only thing that slows him down.

UCLA Head Coach Ben Howland was at the ABCD Camp Saturday, watching the games of Love, Legion, Lee, Gordon, Chapman and Sidney.

Kerry Keatin is now at the Adidas Superstar Camp and Donnie Daniels is at the Nike Camp. New assistant Scott Garson will probably not be out this July.

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