The Pumps are in what they're calling a "super pool," four elite teams that are guaranteed advancement to the brackets. So, the Pumps faced two very good teams Friday – the Atlanta Celtics and Ohio Basketball Club and, despite shooting probably 20% from anywhere beyond 10 feet, and not playing consistently well, they won. Saturday they'll face Indiana Elite, the team that beat them in the final of the Kingwood Classic in April, but Indiana is missing a couple of players and Pump has added a couple since.
UCLA Head Coach Ben Howland and assistant Donnie Danield were, of course, on hand to watch the Pump team, and not just their committed guys, but Reeves Nelson and Greg Smith.
The Pumps unveiled new uniforms that were strikingly close to the UCLA blue and gold, which is ironic since there are so many UCLA prospects playing on the team. Coaches from other programs were joking about it, one asking, "When's Joe Bruin going to come out and do a cheer?"
|Holiday and Anderson.|
Luke Babbitt, the 6-7 senior power forward from Reno (Nev.) Galena who is committed to Nevada, is playing for EBO here, and probably had the best performance from a west coast player on the first day of the tournament. He was hitting threes, scoring inside, passing out of the post, and he threw down a great dunk on an alley-oop after a great one-handed catch. His outside jumper is feathery, going through the net as soft as a lay-up.
Brendan Lane, the 6-8 junior forward from Rocklin (Calif.) High playing for EBO, has improved in just the last few months since the April evaluation period. He looks like he's grown, and he's generally more assertive and aggressive on the court. He's very athletic for his height, with good hops and very good lateral quickness for a power forward. He's very active around the basket, and can rebound out of his space very well because of that quickness. He's also continued to develop his outside shot, hitting a couple of threes today. He lacks a back-to-the-basket game right now, and hopefully that will come as he gains strength. A good student, Lane has Stanford as an early favorite, along with Cal and USC, but it's not difficult to envision him continuing to develop and getting more national high-major attention.
Jerime Anderson, the 6-1 senior guard from Anaheim (Calif.) Canyon committed to UCLA, was the driving force in two wins by the Pump N Run Elite team in the super pool over a loaded Atlanta Celtics team and the Ohio Basketball Club. The Pumps were struggling against the Celtics in the first game, but Anderson put together a nice 6-minute run in the second half to give the Pumps a small lead which they held onto. He did it with those quick hands on defense, and hitting a few jump shots, including a couple of threes. He also was critical in the afternoon win over Ohio. He continues to show his intelligence on the court and his exceptional passing ability, as well as his under-rated defensive ability, especially in getting a hand in a passing lane.
Jrue Holiday, the 6-3 shooting guard from North Hollywood (Calif.) Campbell Hall who just recently committed to UCLA, was cold in both Pump games, both from the outside and around the basket. But his play was key in how active he is on the court, both with his defensive effort and his penchant for pushing the ball in transition on offense. His outside shot has taken a bit of a step backward, having gone from a jumper to a set shot, and it wasn't going in Friday. But the combination of Holiday and Anderson were the glue that led the Pump team to two wins.
Reeves Nelson, the 6-7 junior forward from Modesto (Calif.) Christian, had one poor game in the morning and followed it up with an exceptional game in the afternoon. Nelson's game is almost entirely predicated on his energy level – when he plays hard, he's a force; but when he looks fatigued, he's a non-factor. In game one: non factor. Game two: A force. With Anderson and Holiday feeding him the ball, Nelson finished with some explosiveness and returned to his strong rebounding ways. As we've said, he still has a ways to go if he wants to be a small forward skills-wise.
Paul George, 6-6 junior small forward from Palmdale (Calif.) Knight, was a great addition to the Pump #1 team for this tourney, coming off the bench to give a scoring punch and some good defense with his length and quickness. His stroke is fairly long, but the ball goes in, and George is a very good finisher. He's a solid mid-major prospect with the potential to go higher.
Jeff Withey, the 6-11 senior center from San Diego (Calif.) Horizon who is committed to Arizona, much like the rest of the Pump team, had generally a poor game against the Celtics (and it was surprising the Pumps won), but then came back in the afternoon with an improved performance. He's probably close to 7-0, and is still learning how to use that size in the post. There are times when he looks good – especially when he has space to create. He had a beautiful, smooth turn-around banker. But when he gets in traffic, he can get nervous, and can have trouble holding onto the ball. He was bumped around physically against the Celtics, which took him out of that game, but it will be very interesting to see him after he gains more strength. He plays hard, and is starting to get a feel for playing with the Pumps after being with EBO.
Other west coast guys:
Jerry Brown, 6-5 junior wing from San Francisco (Calif.) Sacred Heart, played hard and had a few good drives to the basket, and hit one nice, smooth three, but skills still have to get more consistent for him to be a high major.
Peyton Siva, 5-11 junior point guard from Seattle (Wash.) Franklin, showed his talent – a combination of exceptional quickness and skills – but generally played out of control for the two games of Seattle Rotary. He has to get more under control and show he can run a team and not just drive and kick or shoot a three.
Greg Smith, 6-8 junior center from Fresno (Calif.) Edison, oozes with potential, probably weighing 230 pounds and still looking like a baby. He also looks a bit deer-in-the-headlights now that he's playing with the Pump team and going up against the likes of the Atlanta Celtics. He disappears for a while as a result, but if the light turns on, which we're waiting for, it could be a beacon.
Mark McLaughlin, the 6-4 senior shooting guard from Kenmore (Wash.) Inglemoor who recently committed to Washington State, showed why he's a good fit for that program, showing nice skills and an advanced feel for the game. Now he just needs weight and strength.