Prospects at SLO Tourney

The Mission Prep Christmas Classic in San Luis Obispo brought a good amount of UCLA prospects into town, including UCLA-committed junior guard Malcolm Lee, elite junior guard Jrue Holiday, and three young recruits from Los Angeles Dorsey and Sylmar...

I spent the afternoon and evening at the Mission Prep Christmas Classic in San Luis Obispo watching some top prospects of interest to UCLA.

The Sylmar/Dorsey game had a couple of interesting sophomores. Victor Rudd, a 6-6 small forward from Sylmar, didn't play on any high-profile AAU teams and he isn't well-known nationally yet. He's a good-looking kid – long arms, young face, very good athlete and handles the ball well. His release is somewhat low, but he has range to the three-point line. He's not a consistent shooter at this point, but he makes enough of them to see where he might develop into a good shooter.

Rudd reminds me a little bit of young Trevor Ariza. He might not be quite the explosive athlete that Ariza was, but he's pretty close. His ball skills, though, are superior to Ariza's at the same age. He's a young kid, and his focus isn't always what it needs to be, but I like the way he competes. He's very effective in transition, as well as when he's slashing off the wing. He likes to attack the basket and finishes strong at the rim. Rudd has some impressive physical tools and some advanced skills for a young prospect. Most of his problems are things that coaching can fix. Shot selection, defensive technique, decision-making, etc. He's still got a long way to go before he's ready to play at the elite, high-major level, but he's got a chance.

Jordan Hamilton, a 6-foot-7 small forward from Dorsey, is also a sophomore, but you wouldn't think he's in the same class as Rudd. Hamilton is much more mature-looking and I would guess that he's at least a year older than Rudd. Hamilton's body is also more mature and he doesn't possess the same physical upside as Rudd. Hamilton is a fairly good athlete, but not as explosive or quick as Rudd. Where Hamilton has the edge is with his shot. He's an excellent shooter, with a very good stroke to the stripe.

While Hamilton's shot is certainly a weapon, I think he relies on it a bit too much. He missed opportunities to get to the basket yesterday, preferring to pull up for jumpshots in transition. Hamilton was content to contribute mostly as a scorer yesterday and didn't do much on the boards or defensively. If he's to become an elite prospect, Hamilton needs to see himself as more than just a shooter and work on elevating his all-around game. He'll be an interesting recruit to watch, though, as his shot is going to get him a lot of attention. A key factor will be how his body goes in the next couple years. He's got decent quickness at this time, but sometimes you'll see mature bodies like his get thicker and slower as he gets older. For now, though, he's certainly got a chance to be among the top forwards in the west for his class.

The Campbell Hall/LACES game was similar to watching a recent UCLA game against any of the Big West opponents. The Campbell Hall players knew they would win easily and, as a result, they came out sluggish and never really played up to their capabilities. Their press and defensive pressure eventually forced a bunch of turnovers, though, and they won rather easily. Jrue Holiday was somewhat sluggish himself early on and he made several uncharacteristically poor decisions in the first half. He took some bad shots and was careless with the ball, resulting in some sloppy turnovers.

But when Holiday turned up his energy level, and became a little more focused, he showed why he's the best prospect in the west. He knocked down a couple of smooth jumpers and had several plays where he seemingly drove through the LACES players like they were pylons on an obstacle course. When he's ready to play – which is most of the time -- Holiday can do pretty much whatever he wants against high school players. He'll probably have a lot of moments where he really isn't challenged this season, as Campbell Halls plays against a lot of weak teams in league.

Malcolm Lee, the 6-4 junior point guard/shooting guard from Riverside North, had a frustrating game Monday night in a loss to Mission Prep. Lee, who has already committed to UCLA, is a very talented young prospect who is at his best when he has the ball in his hands. He's not strictly a point guard, but he has very good ball skills and he's adept at making his teammates better.

But in North's offense, Lee doesn't have the ball more than any other player. North runs a flex offense that has lots of motion and screens and cutting – which all looks very nice, except it takes the ball out of the hands of the best player on the team. While it's nice to see a high school team that actually tries to run stuff, and it does succeed in getting open looks for players, it's very frustrating to see a talent like Lee not getting the ball. Even more frustrating is the fact that, when he did get the ball, he was posted up with his back to the basket. I'm typically against the playground style ball you see in the summer, but there's no doubt in my mind that North wins this game if they simply would have cleared out every time for Lee and let him create off the dribble.

Given all this, it wasn't a great game to evaluate Lee's progress since the summer, as he simply didn't have the chance to make many plays. He does look very good physically – longer and taller than he was in July. He's got a chance to be a great defender, but he does need to be more active and aggressive on defense. He's not using his length to his advantage, as he keeps his hands down and doesn't attack the offensive player the way he should. His shot wasn't dropping last night, but that's not a concern – he's got a very good stroke and deep range. Hopefully, the next time we see Lee, he'll be used to better advantage by his coach.

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