Beach's Bits: State Standouts

TACOMA - For the first time in history, the nation's top ranked prep basketball team resides in Seattle, bringing a new level of star power to the State Basketball Tournament, which wrapped Saturday night at the Tacoma Dome. Here were some of the standouts...

2014:

Shaqquan Aaron, Rainier Beach - I never watched Scottie Pippen when he was in high school, but if I had I imagine he would have looked a lot like Aaron does today. The Washington State Player of the Year has the whole package. Though his stay in college is expected to be brief, Louisville is getting an extraordinary versatile, highly skilled player. In truth, there's not much the lanky 6-foot-8 Seattle transplant can't do on the court. He's blessed with tremendous speed, length and athleticism, possesses deep three point range, and has the vision and ball handling skills to effectively run the point. During his two year stay at Rainier Beach, he's proven to be unselfish with the ball and a stellar interior passer, as well as a blur in transition. Aaron scored 22 points in the Championship win Saturday night over Eastside Catholic, but otherwise didn't light up the scoreboard during the tournament. He didn't need to, but that's a reflection of his unselfishness. He's a truly unique prospect.

Djuan Piper, Rainier Beach - Piper is a tough prospect to peg for a multitude of reasons. Though his game winner in the championship Saturday showed real mettle, he was otherwise inconsistent over the course of the three-day tournament. From a physical standpoint Piper has the tools to be a high major player. He's long and nimble, checking in at a lanky 6-foot-6. He's an above average athlete, with good bounce and a nose for the ball. He's an energetic rebounder on both ends, and can block shots as well. Defensively he's exceptional, possessing the quickness to keep small guards in front of him, yet sturdy and long enough to be a factor in the paint. His defensive skills alone put him in rarified air for a high school senior, and what make him such an intriguing college basketball prospect. Offensively, it's a different story though, which is why he's such a recruiting enigma.

On Thursday Piper was a complete non-factor on offense despite playing against a smaller, totally overwhelmed Shadle Park squad. He did recover Friday versus Bellevue, before laying an egg Saturday until the final two minutes and his game winner. When he does score, it's typically via transition baskets or layins and while he does possess a decent shooting stroke, it's not a shot he takes often. He does have some skill with his back to the basket, but at his size it's not a shot he's going to hit consistency at the high-major level. That begs the question: what position does he play in college? He's undersized for his natural position which is at power forward, but doesn't possess the perimeter skills to be a factor offensively outside of the paint. For Piper to be successful, he'll fit best in an up-tempo, transition-oriented system, because in the half court, his contributions will be limited. From a Pac-12 perspective, programs like UW, WSU, USC or Colorado are probably best suited to accommodate his skill set, however he has some academic work before he can take that plunge. Minnesota is rumored to lead for his services.

Tramaine Isabell, Garfield - The diminutive Washington State commit picked the perfect program to showcase his abilities, scoring 34 points in the Bulldogs' 68-59 win over Richland in the 4A title game, the first state championship for Garfield since 1998. For his efforts, Isabell was named Tournament MVP.

Isabell is a high-octane lead guard who draws comparison to former UW star Isaiah Thomas - at least the high school version of the current NBA star. The Garfield scorer is lightning quick, capable of maintaining his dribble in traffic just inches from the floor. He has a flair for the razzle-dazzle, and displays an eye popping array of spin moves and floaters. Much of his scoring is generated fearlessly attacking the paint, where he's a threat to dish or finish at the cup. He's also an excellent shooter, with a deep stroke out to 25 feet. Defensively, his motor is impressive, and though he lacks length, his quickness and energy make him an effective defender.

He does have some key areas that he'll need to address once he gets to Pullman. He can be extremely selfish at times, and he often over-penetrates, finding himself stuck in the trees inches from the basket with nowhere to go. Thomas was able to make the transition to college point guard so effectively because he went out of his way to become a leader and playmaker, which means sharing the ball. In the same vein, Isabell, who is a crafty, precision passer, must mature similarly. If he can develop more of a team-first mentality, it'll mean big things for the Cougars, who have a gaping void at point guard. He may find himself in the starting lineup from Day One.

Elijah Foster, Rainier Beach - One of the most impressive players during the opening rounds of the tournament was the thickly-built Rainier Beach center. The 3A Tournament MVP was a rock of consistency for the Vikings throughout the tournament, and almost certainly elevated his recruiting status with his stellar play. Despite lacking great athleticism, the big bodied 6-foot-7 post is surprisingly agile and possesses soft hands and a nice touch around the hoop. He's an instinctive rebounder, space eater, and a factor on the offensive glass. Foster has good shooting form and a fluid mid-range jumper, which he hit on multiple occasions. Due to his lack of explosiveness, Foster is mostly a below-the-rim player, and he will struggle to get his shot off against taller, more athletic high-major front court players, which is why he's probably better suited to the mid-major level. He has a lot of work to do from a conditioning perspective, but the fact that he's already so effective in the Vikings' up-tempo system despite his girth means he should be able to thrive no matter what college system he chooses. Foster holds offers from Seattle University, Idaho and Loyola Marymount, among others.
2015:

David Crisp, Rainier Beach - Crisp's transfer from Clover Park to Rainier Beach has paid off handsomely for the recently committed University of Washington guard, who earned all-tournament first team honors. Checking in at six feet tall, Crisp is a muscular, athletic combo guard who plays with relentless energy and confidence. Despite his newly transferred status and higher profile teammates to play with, Crisp took the Metro league by storm as a consistent force in the Vikings' back court. His first two games of the tournament showed Crisp at his best, drilling deep threes and flashing down the court for easy transition buckets. The Huskies are getting an energetic defender who dives for loose balls and hustles at both ends of the floor. Though he lacks great length, Crisp possesses above average quickness and sneaky athleticism, good bounce and is a deadly accurate shooter. He was shooting lights out before having to go to the bench with three fouls early in the championship game, and never recovered his form once he returned to the floor.

Though his long term upside is somewhat limited due to his size and physical maturity, Crisp is a player who should be able to come in and be a factor in the rotation from Day One. He's also on the young side, having just turned 17, which is why he'll spend next season at Brewster Academy as he fine tunes his game before heading to Montlake in 2015.

Dejounte Murray, Rainier Beach - Murray's stock has soared thanks in large part to the exposure he's received as a member of the top-ranked Vikings. An ankle injury at the end of the first half in the semis limited his impact on the floor going forward, but the long armed 6-foot-4 junior remains the next big thing in Seattle. Murray is blessed with a coveted extra gear, and he uses that burst at will, setting up defenders with a nasty crossover before attacking the basket. He's got a pretty shot and possesses deep three point range though he can be inconsistent. His wiry frame and combination of length and quickness make him a pesky defender, and moves well laterally despite his lanky build. He sees the floor well and has a high basketball IQ which makes him a playmaking threat, and like his teammates is a dynamic scorer in transition. Murray is being heavily recruited by local programs like UW and Gonzaga plus most of the Pac-12, and has a growing list of elite national suitors, including Kentucky, Arizona and Kansas.

Matisse Thybulle, Eastside Catholic - This was my first viewing of Thybulle who has attracted attention due to his ridiculous length. His long arms and two-footed leaping ability at the forward position allow him to easily flush put backs despite his skinny frame and shorter stature. He displayed a nice touch in the paint Friday despite being limited by foul trouble. He also appears to be a high level athlete and runs the floor very well. Due to his lack of height, his future in college will be on the wing so his growth on the perimeter this summer will likely dictate the quality of offers he'll receive. He currently holds an offer from Cal Poly.
2016:

Alphonso Anderson, Wilson - Anderson has generated quite a bit of buzz this season, and he did little to diminish that status after earning first team all-tournament honors while emerging as one of the top college prospects in the state's loaded 2016 class. While he may lack the flash of some of his higher profile peers, he looks like a man among boys on the court due to bulging arms and sculpted frame. Anderson was one of the most productive players in the tournament notching, three consecutive double-doubles. Playing in the paint, Anderson used his impressive frame to clear space and grab rebounds, nabbing 15 boards to accompany his 23 points Saturday afternoon in the Rams' loss to Bellevue to take fourth in state. He spent much of his time at the charity stripe and has a smooth stroke. He also made a number of nifty interior passes and appears to have good body control in spite of his youth and size. From a recruiting standpoint, his current height at 6-foot-5 marks him as a bit of a tweener and how his body develops over the next couple of years will largely determine what his collegiate basketball future holds. He currently holds an offer from Boise State with growing interest from area programs, including Washington.

Sharif Khan, Bellevue - One of the more surprising players during the tournament in my eyes was the rock solid play of sophomore Bellevue guard Sharif Khan. The speedy point guard possesses excellent quickness and good size for the position at a long 6-foot-1. He's a clever penetrator and covers ground very quickly while weaving through traffic in transition. He also hit several tough jumpers and has a nice looking three point stroke. Khan is another up-and-comer to keep an eye on locally for 2016.
2017:

Trevon Ary-Turner, Issaquah - It's a rare writeup that includes not one, but two legitimate college prospects from the east side of Lake Washington, yet here we are. On the court, Ary-Turner's poise as a ninth-grader playing on the state's biggest high school stage was the first thing that jumped out at me, but there's a lot to like with the Eagles' young guard. Ary-Turner shows a flashy, dependable handle well beyond the capabilities of most high school point guards. Checking in at a legit 6-foot-1, the youngster spends most of his time in the half court hovering around the perimeter, where he bombs away with a sweet stroke. He also hit a number of smooth pull-up mid-range jumpers. In spite of his early success, Ary-Turner will need to curb his tendency to over-dribble, which resulted in unnecessary turnovers. He's one of the more exciting young prospects regardless of class in the Northwest.
Aaron Beach can be found on Twitter at @aaronwbeach


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