Beach’s Bits: Vegas Vittles, Part 2

LAS VEGAS - Running the Las Vegas recruiting gauntlet can test the mettle of even the most battle tested recruitniks. Navigating the interconnected arterials crisscrossing the Vegas grid involves careful planning and precise timing. But if you do it right it’s all worth it, because at its best, there’s no other prep basketball showcase like it.

On this stage, scholarships are won and careers are made. It’s the pinnacle of the AAU circuit, but also the most physically draining. As the last major event until Fall, fatigue has set in and injuries mount. But this year was a comeback of sorts for the Northwest after enduring a rough five-year stretch.’s Kim Grinolds and I endured searing 115 degree temperatures in search of the region’s top players, and we weren’t disappointed.

The spotlight shines on David Crisp. The central hub for Adidas Super 64 was the Cashman Center, which featured eight courts going simultaneously. Despite the mayhem, the Northwest Panthers were easy to pinpoint with coach Gary Ward’s non-stop voice echoing through the cavernous hall. Ward and the Panthers have nurtured the talents of some of Tacoma’s finest players over the years, including Avery Bradley and Abdul Gaddy, and are graduating another talented crop of players this year.

Washington commit David Crisp headlines the squad, and is regarded as one of the top three point marksmen in the country for 2015. He’s a swaggering gunslinger with a hair trigger who creates separation with a slick crossover and quickness to match. He’s ruggedly built, despite never setting foot in a weight room, and a fearless penetrator and creative finisher. At 6 feet tall, Crisp doesn’t possess ideal size for a Pac-12 two guard, though he’s committed to developing his playmaking skills when he heads to Brewster Academy in the fall. While his more heralded Rainier Beach teammate Dejounte Murray and freakishly athletic forward Marquess Chriss have drawn much of the attention attention, don’t sleep on Crisp when analyzing Washington’s 2015 recruiting class. Truth be told, he’s ready to play now despite just turning 17. Expect him to vie for major minutes out of the gate when he arrives at Montlake next fall.

Dominic Green’s stock soars. No Northwest player improved his stock more over the last week than 6-foot-7 Panther guard Dominic Green. With shooters in short supply, Green drew raves for his play: his rare combination of size, ball handling ability and sweet jumpshot put high major coaches on notice Wednesday. He continued his play with a brilliant stretch of games into the weekend. His meteoric rise can be attributed to a couple of factors. He attends high school off the beaten track at Hazen, where he plays point guard for the Highlanders. He also languished in AAU obscurity until joining the Panthers last fall.

Regardless, Green is on the map now, with interest from Gonzaga, Washington State, Nevada, Arizona State, and UTEP, among others. He played games under the watchful eye of Lorenzo Romar and staff several times over the course of the week, and indications are that Washington may jump into the recruiting mix as well.

Rotary 16U shines. No Northwest program boasts more future D1 talent than the Rotary 16U squad, and they’ve got a number of things working in their favor. First off, they’ve got Jalen Nowell, but more about him later.

What separates this group from the rest of the region is its front court. They’re the only AAU team in the area with a true front court rotation. The Washington coaching staff was a constant fixture on the sidelines during Rotary’s games, and were flanked by former Husky stars Isaiah Thomas and Tre Simmons, along with former assistant and Seattle U Head Coach Cameron Dollar for one outing on Saturday.

Todd Beamer forward Jalen McDaniels is an impressive 6-foot-7 physical specimen for the 2016 recruiting class, with bouncy legs and a long reach. He can really shake the rim. He’s aggressive in the lane, ripping away boards and fighting for position despite his skinny frame. Rotary is a run and gun team, which means their bigs need to be able to run the floor, and McDaniels fill that role nicely. His recruitment should expand considerably in the coming months.

Jalen King is perhaps the most promising of Rotary’s forwards. The slender 6-foot-8 2017 forward from Pasco has improved considerably since I first saw him in April. His impact on their defensive end really stood out as a fierce shot-blocker. His instincts on the glass were impressive as well as he used his high level hops to nab rebounds at the apex of his leap. Offensively, he’s raw but showed a soft touch and was a powerful finisher with good hands and improving body control and footwork. He also spent a lot of time at the free throw line as he displayed a nice stroke. King’s effort was inconsistent, but when he’s engaged he showed significant high major promise. King is one of the top 2017 prospects in the state.

For Husky fans, Garfield’s Jaylen Nowell doesn’t need an introduction by now. He’s been Seattle’s next basketball crown prince for some time. At 6-foot-4 and still growing, Nowell has ideal size for a high major lead-guard with a lean muscular frame. His energy is electric, and he’s a blur in open space, punctuating fast breaks with a powerful flourish. His mid range jumper is excellent, and his three point stroke is improving. With the ball in his hands, he’s steady and unselfish and a precision passer. Simply put, he’s very mature with advanced offensive skills. Nowell already holds an offer from Washington, which has been recruiting him for years, but the word is out now and he’s bound to draw serious interest from high majors across the country.

Friends of Hoop shooters continue to torch the nets. Rotary doesn’t have all the 2017 talent on lock down. Friends of Hoop has quietly put together one of the finest rosters in the region, and is led by 2017 King’s standout Corey Kispert. Unlike his Rotary counterparts, Kispert is one of the few players his age playing up at the elite 17U level. Physically speaking, Kispert is built like a linebacker, with broad, muscular shoulders and a sculpted football frame. Already checking in at over 6-foot-5, he’s an impressive physical specimen, but it’s his shooting stroke that had coaches from around the region drooling. He connected consistently from NBA three point range, and his form was picture perfect. Though his long term position is yet to be defined, Kispert can play anywhere from 1-3 with Friends of Hoop, possessing great versatility. He’s a sneaky athlete with good quickness and is a solid ball handler and passer. He has great court awareness while playing with a lot of energy, and is a steady, consistent defender and rebounder. Kispert already a high major prospect with an offer from Washington, but things will get really interesting if he keeps growing.

FOH boasts a couple of other quality prospects worth mentioning. Woodinville’s 2016 wing Tony Miller is a long limbed, sweet shooting scoring machine with huge hands and feet, suggesting there’s plenty more room to grow in his 6-foot-5 body. He’s just an average athlete but a hard worker with enough physical potential and a funky three point stroke that’s good enough to put him in the high major conversation depending on how he matures.

Issaquah’s 2015 Ty Gibson is a skilled 6-foot-2 shooter with a hair trigger.

Bellevue point guard Sharif Khan is flat out one of the top point guards in the state for 2016. His physical upside is limited, but he’s poised and unflappable, with quick feet, a secure handle, and great passing skills. He possesses a solid three point stroke as well. He hit a a game-winning, buzzer-beating layin Friday night to propel FOH into Saturday bracket play.

Khan’s 2016 Bellevue high school teammate Mikey Henn is a polished 6-foot-6 post with soft hands and a lot of skill. He caught observers off-guard, draining a couple of three pointers in the first half of FOH’S Friday morning win. He has the skill to be a productive mid-major post, but is a couple inches shy of the high major conversation right now.

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