July Hoops Heats Up in Vegas

Here in Las Vegas it's actually unseasonable mild -- but things are heating up for UCLA and the prospects it has targeted for 2009 and 2010. After one day of the three big Vegas tournaments, a couple of semi-new names also make the list that UCLA is focusing on...

The three big Las Vegas tournaments got underway Tuesday, and UCLA Head Coach Ben Howland was where you would expect him to be.

He watched the #1 Pump team, which features Tyler Honeycutt, twice; the #2 Pump team, which features Anthony Stover; UCLA-committed Brendan Lane play with his AAU team, EBO, against Anthony Marshall and the Las Vegas Prospects; Matt Vogrich, the 6-3 shooting guard from Lake Forest (Ill.) High; Seattle Rotary, with elite junior post, Josh Smith; and Indiana Elite, with Stephan Van Treese and junior point guard Ray McCallum play, actually, against the Pump #1 team.

UCLA assistants Donnie Daniels and Scott Duncan we're also in Vegas. Daniels was on had to watch the Northwest Panthers, which features Abdul Gaddy and Avery Bradley.

Honeycutt, the 6-7 senior small forward from Sylmar (Calif.) High, had a mediocre early game and a very good game in the evening. How he performs doesn't matter much, however, when you're scouting; it's all about how he projects. And Honeycutt consistently shows, even when he doesn't necessarily play well, that he's an elite prospect. The thing that stands out the most is his feel for the game and his passing. In transition, he split two defenders with a no-look pass that found his teammate under the basket. He got a couple of easy baskets after back-dooring his defender. He tipped a rebound to a teammate under the basket for an easy bucket.

Just about every college coach who has seen Honeycutt, or just recently saw him for the first time, has been very impressed. Some have even gone out on a limb and to say he's a future pro.

The Panthers had an up and down game. They went up over Team Breakdown, which features top 10 national senior wing, Kenny Boynton, and Brandon Knight, the #1 point guard in the country for 2010, by double digits – only to lose by double digits. Gaddy, the 6-3 elite senior point guard, and Avery Bradley, the 6-2 shooting guard, both from Tacoma (Wash.) Bellarmine Prep, won the guard battle in the first half, with Breakdown struggling to stay in front of Gaddy and Bradley. Gaddy isn't lightning quick by any means, but he's clever, while Bradley is particularly quick. There was some definite posturing going on between the pair of guards, and then the Breakdown duo got the best of it in the second half. Boynton hit a couple of threes, and then kept hitting them from further and further out. Knight locked up Gaddy a couple of times, and things started rolling the other way and Breakdown broke it open.

In the gym watching were coaches from UCLA, Arizona, USC, Oregon, Washington and Kansas.

The general buzz about Gaddy is that Arizona is still the clear leader for him. The feeling is, then, that Arizona will have a good shot at Bradley also, since the two have said they want to be a package deal.

Interestingly, too, since we're talking about elite national point guards, it's thought that Oregon might have a decent chance for John Wall, the consensus #1 point guard in the nation for 2009. The leaders right now are probably Oklahoma State and Baylor, with Oregon a close third.

One of the pure best prospects we saw today – and that UCLA saw today – was Josh Smith, the 6-9 junior center from Kent (Wash.) Kentwood. Smith, who is considered the #1 center prospect in the nation for 2010, has continued to improve this spring and summer, now far more confident and aggressive than he was just a few months ago. His body continues to slim down, and it's intriguing to think just how much he'll continue to improve as he continues to get in shape.

Along with Howland, Washington's Lorenzo Romar on the sideline in the middle of the court, the best for being seen.

The word on Smith, as we've said before, is that UCLA commands a considerable lead. His mother is from Los Angeles, hence all of the previous talk about him possibly transferring to Los Angeles (which the Smith family denied). But being an Angelino originally, Mrs. Smith apparently has many siblings still in Los Angeles, and the Smiths are very comfortable sending their son to play at UCLA with very extensive family support in the area.

UCLA-committed Brendan Lane, the 6-9 post/forward from Rocklin (Calif.) High, didn't have a great showing today. He dropped some balls and didn't look very active around the basket, despite hitting a couple of threes. Again, you can't go by any specific performance; We still like him, because physically he moves so well for his size and he has a good sense of how to play.

In Lane's game, the best player on the floor was clearly Anthony Marshall, the 6-2 guard from Las Vegas (Nev.) Mojave. If you're talking about the best two-guards in the west for 2009, Marshall has to be included in the conversation with Bradley and Michael Snaer. He played some point, and did it very effectively, setting up his teammates for baskets. He's very good at getting around his defender, penetrating and dishing. He also finished a couple of times above the rim, showing off some impressive hops. Marshall's calling card is how hard he plays, and his effort on defense, too.

You can bet that Marshall's performance on Tuesday didn't go overlooked by Howland.

Howland was on hand to watch Matt Vogrich, the 6-3 shooting guard from Lake Forest (Ill.) High. A very good shooter, Vogrich is now getting some considerable high-major attention.

This is what Scout.com's Dave Telep said about Vogrich: Matt Vogrich, SG, Full Package – We heard the rumors and now we've seen the player. He stroked five 3-pointers in the game we saw, went off the dribble and then capped the day off by telling us he's got a big ACT score. There's a striking resemblance in appearance to Coby Karl and Matt Causey. The question is: can he be the same late-bloomer Karl once was? Mid-majors have pretty much conceded him and now its just a matter of who steps up with the offer. It's over 100 degrees here and Vogrich is white hot.

Matt Vogrich indicated his hardest pursuers are Georgia Tech and Northwestern. Michigan, UCLA, Stanford, Virginia and Notre Dame are interested and he can play for all of them.

Anthony Stover, the 6-9 post from La Canada (Calif.) Renaissance, gets better and better every time we see him. He looks like he's getting stronger, but also more confident and is trying more offensively. He now has a very good understanding and feel for his shot-blocking. At his game, in addition to Howland were coaches from USC, Arizona State, Cal, and more.

The Pump #1 team was without Elijah Johnson, the 6-2 senior guard from Las Vegas (Nev.) Cheyenne. We actually saw him in a gym earlier in the day, not suited up, and expected him to play, but he wasn't around when the Pump #1 team took the court. Also absent was Tyler Lamb, the 6-4 junior guard from Ontario (Calif.) Colony.

With the Pump #1 team playing against Indiana Elite, it gave us a good opportunity to see Stephan Van Treese, the 6-8 post from Indianapolis (Ind.) Lawrence North. Van Treese came to UCLA's camp in June, if you remember. At this point, it's fairly easy to see that UCLA probably isn't recruiting Van Treese, since he's a pure four, and UCLA already has two of those committed for 2009.

Also on Indiana Elite is Ray McCallum, the 6-1 junior point guard from Beverly Hills (Mich.) Detroit Country Day, currently the #38-ranked player by Scout.com in the 2010 class. McCallum had said in a past interview that he had interest in UCLA, and he participated in the Adidas Nations, which practiced at UCLA in June. We saw McCallum at that time, but it was good to see him again here, with his AAU team. He has decent size, possibly a bit narrow. He's not blazingly quick, but decently. He definitely know how to run a team like a point, and he has a good outside jumper and also looks for a two-dribble pull-up.

In addition to seeing many of the players we saw today again tomorrow, the plan is to also see: Junior wing Terrance Ross, even though we've heard he could be hurt and not playing; junior forward Terrance Jones; senior shooting guard Michael Snaer; and Daniel Bejarano, the 6-4 junior guard from Phoenix (Ariz.) North who blew up in spring, is now ranked among the best shooting guard prospects in the nation for 2010 and has said UCLA is among his early favorites.


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