Prospects at the Pangos Camp

The Pangos Camp held this past weekend at Cabrillo High in Long Beach, Calif. wasn't always pretty, but we did get a look at prospects like James Johnson, Alex Kirk and Shabazz Muhammad, guys who are on UCLA's recruiting list...

Long Beach, Calif. The 2009 Pangos All-American Camp was a bit short on elite West Coast talent, but there were some interesting prospects in attendance. The bigger problem, and this is a problem that crops up in most "camp ball" settings (not just Pangos), is that the quality of play was dreadful. It's starts with bad guards looking to jack it up at every opportunity. When that happens, all the other players start to play selfishly as well. Pretty soon you have power forwards taking people off the dribble twenty five feet from the basket…and getting to the hoop for uncontested lay-ups. Which brings me to the defense, which was pretty much non-existent. Very shaky individual defense and zero help or transition defense. So you have constant lay-up drills where nobody gets back.

Finally, you have the "coaches" (using that word in the loosest possible sense) on the benches. A word of advice, fellas. When you have out of control games, where the players are making horrible decisions and running willy-nilly up and down the court -- looking like they each consumed five cans of PitBull (official Pangos sponsor) prior to the game – you might want to stop yelling "push it!" at every opportunity. A better approach might be to actually do some coaching. You know, like tell a selfish kid to stop taking crazy shots or perhaps suggest to your team that defense is part of the game too. With all these issues, it's very difficult to do any real evaluating in this type of setting. Simply put, the kids weren't playing anything close to real basketball. Given that qualifier, here are my thoughts on some of the players I saw this past weekend.

James Johnson, 6-8 PF San Diego (Calif.) Morse. Very good body with outstanding feet and hands, along with above average athleticism. Attacks the rim at every opportunity – excellent finisher. Showed some toughness and competitiveness in an environment where that was not the norm. Plays with an edge in a good way. Outside shot is just fair at this time, but that's kind of irrelevant when you consider the rest of his tools. Easily the top power forward prospect in the west by a wide margin.

Yannick Atanga, 6-6 PF Ojai (Calif.) Beasant Hill. Great body and a terrific motor. Not a scorer at this time, but impacts the game as a defender/rebounder. Very quick off his feet and has the potential to be a big-time defender with the ability to guard multiple spots. Overall ball skills need polishing, but this kid is unique. High major prospect.

Ben Vozzola, 6-5 SG Las Vegas (Nev.) Centennial. A long and slender prospect, the only thing Vozzola really lacks at the moment is strength (and that's going to come). But he's got a high skill level and a very good feel for the game. In an atmosphere where virtually everyone jacked up terrible shots, Vozzola at least tried to play within a team concept. He's an excellent passer with terrific vision, as well as an underrated athlete. He projects very well as a prospect and will no doubt receive high major interest.

Terrence Jones, 6-7 PF Portland (Ore.) Jefferson. Questionable body – very thick lower half – and very shaky approach to the game (way too selfish at this event). He has skills, but they don't necessarily translate to the next level. Loves to bring the ball up the court and show off his handle, but that's not exactly what we're looking for out of our power forwards in college. He's an accurate shooter with three-point range, but he's got a very long stroke – needs to quicken up his shot for it to play in college. He really needs to work on learning how to play in the paint – looked by uncomfortable on one post up attempt and showed very rudimentary footwork – as well as improving as a rebounder. He does have some skills to work with, but his approach needs a radical adjustment. Any coach telling this kid that he'll play the three in college should be ashamed of himself, as Jones has zero chance of defending threes on the perimeter in college. Forget defending threes, he may have to defend a five at the next level as body matures and he naturally adds weight.

Anthony Brown, 6-6 SG/SF Huntington Beach (Calif.) Ocean View. Brown still looks like a baby and he's nowhere close to filling out yet physically. Some people mistake that for softness, but I think it's more a strength issue. His skill level and feel for the game are outstanding. Very nice stroke, good passer and he plays the game the right way. When he fills out and gets stronger, his game will go to a whole different level. He's one of the elite wings in the west for 2010 and that will be obvious to everyone in a couple years when he matures physically.

Alex Kirk, 6-9 C Los Alamos (New Mexico) High. Average body and athleticism. Does have decent length, but a tad slow and mechanical. Can face up and shoot it to 16-18 feet. Does compete well, there isn't a lot of upside to body. In a class with no bigs, he'll no doubt getting plenty of looks at the high major level. Mountain West would probably be a good level for him, but he'll have the option to go higher if he chooses to do so.

Keala King, 6-4 SG Compton (Calif.) Dominguez. King has a solid body, good athleticism and intriguing ball skills. He competes very well – great motor – and he plays with toughness. His shot is just fair, but that can get better with time. Where he really needs to improve is with his approach to the game. He over-handles the ball way too much and constantly is looking to make the flashy play rather than the right play. While he does have good ball skills for a two, he's got no chance of playing the one – his approach and feel for the game are just too far away for him to play that position. I do think he has a lot of tools to work with, but he's in serious need of some coaching. If he can learn to just play to win – and stop worrying about playing for himself – he has a chance to be a very good player down the road.

Gary Franklin, 6-0 SG Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei. Has the ability to knock down threes all day if left open. However, he's a two-guard all the way – lack of feel for the position of point guard and inability to dribble with his left hand make that a given – and he has no upside as he's already very mature physically (and he's been that way for a couple years now). I give Franklin a lot of credit for making himself into an effective scorer at the high school level despite an injury which left him unable to dribble effectively with his left hand. This kid has a lot of heart and determination – and he's clearly spent a ton of time turning himself into a very good shooter. I can see him as an undersized two-guard at the mid major level, but not as a point guard at the high major level.

Jordan Gathers, 6-1 PG/SG Los Angeles (Calif.) Loyola. Very interesting prospect with big-time athleticism and a very good body. Ball skills and decisions need work – he's a long way from being a point guard – but he's got some stuff to work with if he figures it out. Definitely worth a look a mid major level right now.

Byron Wesley, 6-4 SF San Bernardino (Calif.) Cajon. A very promising prospect, Wesley has gotten away from what made him good in the last couple of events. He's got a strong body and he's very effective when he gets inside 15 feet for so (excellent mid-range touch). Recently, however, he's taken to casting up way too many three-point attempts and that's simply not his game. He's a decent perimeter shooter, and he may become a good one in time, but he's settled for way too many jump shots lately. I really like him as a prospect, especially when he's playing to his strengths and showing off his well-rounded game. But he needs to get back to what made him unique – a very effective inside/outside game.

Keaton Miles, 6-6 SF/SG Dallas (Tex.) Lincoln. I don't scout Texas, and I only saw this kid play a bit, but I just wanted to mention him. What a great-looking prospect.

Shabazz Muhammad, 6-3 SG/SF Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman. The scout I was sitting with remarked that Muhammad is "like a more athletic James Harden" and that's a pretty good description. Very good body, terrific athlete and a high skill level. I love his approach to the game, as you don't see many young kids with his talent level who also compete and play the game the right way. He's got no problem going inside and battling bigger/older players, but he's got the ball skills to create his own shot on the perimeter (with range to the stripe). With continued development, he has a chance to be one of the elite players in the country for 2012.

Grant Jerrett, 6-8 PF/C La Verne (Calif.) Lutheran. Impressive young post who is getting better by the minute. Moves so much better than you expect and has good hands as well. I love the way he competes against stronger/older kids, as he's fearless in attacking the basket. For me, he made the play of the weekend when he got back in transition, was one-on-one with James Johnson, and took a charge on the play (the only charge I saw all weekend). This kid has toughness, skills and upside. He's one of the better 2012 prospects I've seen so far.


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