Advanced Skills Camp Evaluations

UCLA held its annual Advanced Skills Camp this past weekend in Pauley Pavilion and there were several prospects that showed the potential to someday play for the Bruins...

The UCLA Advanced Skills Camp took place this past weekend in Pauley Pavilion and there were a number of potential Bruin prospects in attendance. The mere fact that were several potential elite players in the camp was impressive, as it has become increasingly difficult in recent years to attract top talent to these types of camps. There are so many different events nowadays for top players to attend and many of them have been on the road frequently since April. Many of them had scheduling conflicts with their high school team or another event this past weekend. Also, elite prospects almost always attend those events free of charge. By NCAA rule, UCLA must charge players to attend the camp and a lot of players are simply not going to come up with a hundred dollars to play in a camp.

In terms of the players that were expected to possibly attend, the big no show was Norman Powell. The uber-athletic senior shooting guard from San Diego was a late scratch due to a personal matter. However, Powell has already been to UCLA's campus and he does hold an offer from the Bruins. Shabazz Muhammad and Rosco Allen, the talented duo from Bishop Gorman in Las Vegas, were also no shows as they couldn't make it back from a team camp at BYU. However, that was somewhat expected as they were only hoping to get to UCLA on Sunday for a couple hours of the camp. Senior center Kenyatta Smith was the one other player of note that didn't make it, as he had an obligation with his high school team.

Of the incoming Bruins, only Tyler Lamb ended up playing any extended minutes. Incoming shooting guard Matt Carlino played for an hour or so before suffering a groin injury (doesn't appear to be any thing serious) and Josh Smith is doing conditioning work a couple times a day. Lamb, as to be expected, looked good playing with high school kids. His ball skills are such that I think he could possibly be the Bruins' third-string PG should anything happen to Jerime Anderson or Lazeric Jones.

In terms of the high school kids attending the camp, the class of 2011, as expected, was very short on potential Bruins. Spencer Dinwiddie, 6-4 SR PG Woodland Hills (Calif.) Taft, had a terrific camp and he will no doubt be tracked by the Bruin staff in July. Dinwiddie is a true point with an excellent feel for the game. A young-looking kid, Dinwiddie is still maturing physically and he has a significant upside. He's a good shooter and passer, with excellent vision and a great approach to the game. The other potential 2011 UCLA target at the camp was Josh Richardson, 6-4 SR SG Edmond (OK) Santa Fe. Richardson is a very athletic slashing type wing with a decent stroke to 17-19 feet. He's at his best in transition or when he's taking defenders off the dribble. In this camp, I thought he showed the athleticism the Bruins are looking for on the wing, but he wasn't always focused. His effort level, while not terrible, was inconsistent and I think he will need to show more in July if he is to receive an offer from the Bruins.

Tyrone Wallace, 6-3 JR PG Bakersfield (Calif.) High, was the most impressive prospect from the class of 2012. A true point, Wallace is all arms and legs with deceptive athleticism. He consistently made plays where he surprised defenders with his quickness and length. I don't like to project height, but it wouldn't be surprising if Wallace gets a bit bigger. He just doesn't look done yet physically. He has outstanding vision and passing ability, he's a terrific defender and, like Dinwiddie, he has a great approach to the game. His outside shot is just a fair at this time, but it's not broke and he should be an adequate shooter in time. However, he is so good in so many areas that his shot is irrelevant to me. He's clearly the top PG in the west for 2012 and I expect him to be one of the elite players in the country for his class.

Robert Upshaw, 6-11 JR C Fresno (Calif.) Edison, was only at the camp for the first day Saturday, but he made the most of his time there. Coach Howland singled him out early in the day to the entire camp, noting the progress that Upshaw has made in the past year. And Upshaw's progress has been impressive. His skill level is much improved, both on the perimeter and in the paint. He's got a nice stroke now to about 15-17 feet, as well as a developing jump hook. As is typical with many big kids, Upshaw's game is coming along as he grows into his body. And he's another kid that doesn't necessarily look done yet in terms of his physical development. As of now, he's the top center in the west for 2012 and the Bruin staff will be watching him closely in July.

Victor Robbins, 6-5 JR SF Compton (Calif.) High, was another impressive prospect from the 2012 group. Robbins has a good frame, above average athleticism and he's a terrific scorer. He's adept at creating space and shooting off the bounce, with range to the three-point line. His game, and decision-making, still need fine tuning, but he's a high major prospect and UCLA will likely track him this summer.

Skylar Spencer, 6-7 JR PF/C Los Angeles (Calif.) Price, is a very good rebounder/defender with a significant upside. His offensive game is still some raw, but he showed the lateral quickness to defend four men and he's got a 7'5" wingspan. Coach Howland pointed out that wingspan during the camp and Spencer will no doubt be watched in July by the staff.

Demarquise Johnson, 6-5 JR SG Phoenix (Ariz.) Westwind Prep, is a good-looking wing with a very good stroke to the stripe. Coach Howland noted his stroke when speaking to the camp and there's no question Johnson got the attention of the Bruin staff at this camp. He needs to be a little more engaged at times – at both ends of the court – but his frame and shooting ability are intriguing.

Ryan Wright, 6-5 JR SF Palmdale (Calif.) High, had some good moments at the camp as well. He's got a very good body, he can finish around the basket and he's got a nice stroke in the 15-17 foot range. He needs to improve his perimeter ball skills, as well as his focus, but he's got some very nice tools. He's a definite high major prospect and he's on the radar of the Bruin staff.

In the class of 2013, one of the more intriguing players was Ishmael Wainwright, 6-4 SF Raytown (MO) Raytown South. Wainwright is a very strong, physically mature kid that plays with great energy. He's very effective around the basket and he has surprisingly good ball skills for a power player. He needs to work on his shot to become an elite player, but he is an intriguing prospect. He plays on an AAU team out of Kansas City and he's friends with Earl Watson, so it's possible the Bruins would have an angle with him should he develop into a UCLA-level player. Some other 2013 prospects that showed potential at the camp included Jordan Mathews, 6-2 SO SG Santa Monica (Calif.) High (he's the son of UCLA assistant coach Phil Mathews), Chance Murray, 6-0 SO SG Los Angeles (Calif.) Price and Maurice Kirby, 6-7 SO C Flagstaff (Ariz.) High.

The class of 2014 had several very promising young prospects. Parker Cartwright, 5-8 FR PG Los Angeles (Calif.) Loyola, Tide Osifeso, 5-7 FR PG Alta Loma (Calif.) High and Devin Burleson, 6-7 FR PF/C Los Angeles (Calif.) Price, each had some very good moments in the camp. All three of them figure to be monitored by the Bruin staff in the coming years.

The best freshman, however, and the best prospect overall in the camp, was Shaqquan Aaron, 6-5 SG/PG/SF Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei. I wrote a commentary several years ago chastising the media for over-hyping Demetrius Walker, a physically mature 9th grader at the time. He was being anointed by the clueless as the "next LeBron" and several media outlets did big stories on him that were completely unwarranted (and unfair to the kid).

One of the points I made in the commentary was that the next, truly great basketball prospect does not look like a physically mature, maxed out, 6-1 small forward. Instead he would be a long and gangly, young-looking kid with a basketball body. In other words, he would look like Shaqquan Aaron. A slender 14 year-old kid that looks younger than that, all arms and legs, with the potential to keep growing and a skill set that makes it difficult to project the position he will ultimately play. You take one look at Aaron and you assume he's probably a young post. Then you watch him handle the ball, see the court, pass the ball…and you're thinking he might end up playing point guard. But he's got a terrific stroke with three-point range, so you start envisioning him as a shooting guard. Aaron is a very good athlete, with an excellent feel for the game, and outstanding instincts. When you put together the whole package, you're left with a kid that has a chance to be special. Of course, he hasn't played a real high school game yet. But that doesn't change the fact that he's an extremely promising prospect – the best I've seen at this age in ten years of scouting. Hopefully, he does everything he needs to do, gets good guidance from the people around him and someday delivers on his incredible potential.

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