It truly is a luxury of riches for the future of UCLA's backcourt.
Malcolm Lee, the 6-4 guard from Riverside (Calif.) North, played well Sunday and had just an okay game on Monday. Regardless of his performance, however, if you look at his potential as a prospect, coaches really like Lee.
Tuesday, the Pump N Run Elite team, which is loaded with UCLA prospects, beat the team that has emerged as their summer rival, the Atlanta Celtics; the score, I believe, was 88-74.
Pumps went up by 15 at halftime, and then Celtics came back, mostly because of Derrick Favors inside, and drew within 3.
Holiday and Anderson were excellent. While we don't want to get hung up on performances, Holiday, the 6-3 guard from North Hollywood (Calif.) Campbell Hall, might have had one of the best performances we've seen this summer. He hit three threes with a quick release, drove to the basket and converted with strength, and made some excellent passes, while rebounding and playing defense hard.
Anderson, the 6-1 point guard from Anaheim (Calif.) Canyon, was almost as excellent. He made great decisions, set up his teammates with very good passes and played very good defense. He and the Wear twins are getting very good at the pick-and-roll together, which they converted for points a couple of times.
The Pumps held on in the second half, with a great deal of the credit going to Greg Smith, the 6-8 junior from Fresno (Calif.) Edison, who came into the game and helped to keep Favors in check. Favors is so good inside, so strong and quick, that he needed to be double-teamed but it was ineffective until Smith was one of the double-teamers. The kid also is, game by game, gaining confidence, especially on offense, where he's now going up strong against the likes of the elite high majors on the Celtics. He also hit 5 of 6 free throws down the line that helped to ice the game.
Travis Wear and David Wear, the 6-9 juniors from Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei, also played very well. While they still tended to float outside, they shot very well, hitting many threes from the corner, while also going inside on occasion. They are starting to try to make an effort to get inside, board and post up.
Reeves Nelson, the 6-7 junior forward from Modesto (Calif.) Christian, didn't play due to his injured ankle.
Elijah Johnson, the 6-2 junior guard from Las Vegas (Nev.) Cheyenne who plays with Houston Hoops, also sat out Monday with a foot injury.
Probably the second-most significant buzz around the gym about UCLA is that they're probably the clear leaders for the Wears and Nelson.
Which leads you to trying to figure out just how many scholarships UCLA could have to give for the 2009 class.
It's an interesting numbers game – figuring out UCLA's recruiting and the scholarships available, given now how UCLA is a program that has to deal with the distinct possibility of players leaving early for the NBA.
As of right now, UCLA is one over for the 2008-2009 season, if everyone in the program stayed through their senior years. We've heard that Darren Collison will almost certainly go pro after next year. But you never know what could happen. Also, it's very difficult to predict if anyone else in the program – Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Josh Shipp, Kevin Love, most obviously – could also go pro after next season.
UCLA will for certain have four scholarships to give for 2008, and could have even 5 or 6. So, if UCLA did get the Wears and Nelson, that would be a good portion of the 2009 class. It'd be interesting to see if UCLA would then opt for a center to go along with those four, or a wing/guard, or both.
With the 2008 class, while UCLA is out looking for another big, it could very well hold pat with its four committed prospects, as we've said before. J'mison Morgan, the 6-10 center from Dallas (Tex.) South Oak Cliff, would definitely be the clear one UCLA would take as its fifth commitment for 2008. But we're hearing other schools on his list – namely Kansas and Baylor – are probably the definite leaders for him.
If UCLA doesn't get Morgan, there aren't too many more possibilities still out there that would be worthy of that fifth scholarship for 2008.
Colton Iverson, the 6-9 center from Yankton (South Dakota) High, could be the next best possibility. After watching Iverson again today, it's clear he's a high-major player, with a good body, decent athleticism, a good feel, and a developing offensive game. In the gym watching him today was Florida's Billy Donovan and his two assistants, Washington State's Tony Bennett, Nebraska, Cincinnati, Marquette, and UCLA's Ben Howland.
It's interesting that Donovan, for the second day, showed Iverson so much love. You have to wonder why the coach of the defending two-time national champion would have to go to South Dakota to get a big man. They have a commitment from a very good one in Kenny Kadji and have a number of other highly-ranked players very interested in the Gators. Is it perhaps Donovan's desire to get a four-year type of guy?
From how Iverson has looked here, it's probably a pretty good bet that UCLA will stay involved with him.
Morgan, in his match-up against UCLA-committed Drew Gordon, Monday, clearly won the battle. Morgan is an inch taller and probably 30 pounds heavier, and is more physically like a college player. He was very tough for Gordon to handle in the post, scoring on some conversions in the block.
Here are some more player evaluations from Greg Hicks' Vegas travels today:
Drew Gordon, 6-9 SR C San Jose (Calif.) Mitty. Gordon is just now coming back from an injured hand and he's obviously not 100% yet. He's in surprisingly good shape, though, for a kid who hasn't been able to play at all for a few weeks. He must've been doing some cardio work, because he didn't seem to get winded at all in the game I saw. Gordon's role in college figures to be one of an energetic and physical post presence. Defense and rebounding are probably the main two areas that he'll initially be focusing on in the early stages of his college career. He's always been willing to be physical and he's certainly got the body to do it. His offense is still coming, but you can see signs of progress. He's had a tendency to play too fast in the past and also to try and dunk everything. So it was encouraging when he caught a pass in semi-transition, about five feet from the basket, pump faked, got his man in the air and then scored on a little bank shot. In the past, Gordon would just try to attack the rim and dunk the ball. His overall feel for the game is not great and that's something which will hopefully improve as he gets coached at a high level and gains experience. He misses a lot of plays at both ends because his feel is that of a much younger player. And Gordon is young for his class, so that's not surprising. He's got all the physical tools to be a very nice player down the road. If he's patient, and doesn't get caught up in other people's expectations, he should have a very productive college career.
Abdul Gaddy, 6-3 JR PG Tacoma (Wash.) Bellarmine Prep. I had heard a lot of talk about Gaddy, but had never seen him prior to this tournament. Therefore, I was extremely pleased to see that all the talk was justified. The vast majority of the time, the hype I hear on young kids is way out of proportion to their actual talent. But that wasn't the case with Gaddy – he's legit. He's got a great frame, with a young face and the kind of basketball actions that identify him as a player within about two minutes of action. He's a good athlete and very smooth. He takes a couple strides and you're shocked at how much ground he covers. His handle is solid, although it's a bit on the high side. His vision and feel are terrific and he plays unselfishly. He's a true point, but he has the size to possibly defend either spot. His shot looked solid, but he didn't take many jumpers. Off of one viewing, he looks like a contender for the top point guard spot in the west for 2009.
Jeremy Tyler, 6-9 SO C/PF San Diego (Calif.) High. Tyler was content to float to the perimeter in the game I saw. He's obviously very gifted and he has all the potential in the world. But his approach to the game needs to become more consistent if he is to fulfill that promise. At his size, he needs to be in the post and dominating. Once he can do that, then expanding his game to the perimeter might be a good idea. But you have to play the game inside out. As a post player, you master the inside part first – then you gradually expand your game to the perimeter. But Tyler has not mastered the low-post game yet. His footwork still needs a lot of work, along with all the other nuances of playing inside. Like a lot of young bigs with his talent, Tyler wants to play outside first. He also was jawing with the ref over a couple calls and that's another thing that will hopefully change as he matures. He allowed himself to become distracted and taken out of the game because he was upset with the refs. Tyler has the size, athleticism and skills to one day be a terrific college player. But the road to that day is not an easy one and it's not a foregone conclusion that he'll reach the lofty heights that many imagine for him. He still has to approach the game the right way, he has to learn to play hard all the time and he has to work on his weaknesses. If he does those things, he's got a chance to be an outstanding player.
Avery Bradley, 6-2 JR SG Tacoma (Wash.) Bellarmine Prep. Bradley is a terrific athlete and he plays with excellent energy. He's effective when slashing to the basket, but he's not a shooter. His outside shot is just fair. Which is why it's all the more frustrating when he forces jumpshots. His shot selection needs a lot of work. I was impressed with his defensive effort, however, and he could be a great defender if he puts his mind to it. His decisions overall need work, but there's no question he has high major upside if he can improve those decisions.
Michael Thompson, 6-2 FR SG Las Vegas (Nev.) Canyon Springs. Thompson was playing in one of the younger divisions, so I didn't get to see him go against any real talent. However, he shows all the signs of being a very good prospect someday. He has a very good basketball body and he's an above-average athlete. He showed a good feel for the game and played unselfishly. He got to the rim pretty much at will, so I didn't get to see him shoot much from the perimeter. But he certainly looks like a player to watch in the future.