Beach’s Bits: Vegas Vittles, Part 3

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.

Aplus trio propels them into Sunday. Aplus hoops was one of the few Northwest AAU teams that played its way into Sunday. Lakeside’s 2016 G Isiah Brown was the headliner, but I’m now torn on how to project him going forward. It appears to me that he has reached physical maturity, which limits his upside long term. His superb scoring polish tells me he’s a player that who is still built to make an impact on a D1 roster from day one. He’s a solid athlete with good quicks, and his scoring acumen is undeniable. Brown is a quality shooter and gets to the rim easily, where he’s a creative finisher in traffic. That said, Brown doesn’t look to share the ball much, nor does he possess point guard instincts or high level passing ability. That is going to be an issue as a marginally athletic, 6-foot-2 off guard. After this weekend I get the sense that Washington has cooled on him after offering him as a freshmen. As a 2016 prospect, Brown still has time to adapt, but his physical limitations are what they are. His scoring abilities alone, however, should net him other mid-high major offers.

A couple of other players on Aplus have emerged with legitimate mid-high major potential. Bishop Blanchet 2016 wing Sam Cunliffe is a 6-foot-6 combo guard with as much long term upside as anyone in his class statewide. He’s a superb athlete with skill to match, and growing point guard ability. He shows a flashy handle and is solid passer, but tries to do too much at times and can be careless with the ball. Athletically, Cunliffe’s upside is immense. He’s an explosive leaper for a player with his size and length. He elevates high into the air and can pop off a pretty three point ball. He has first class body control finishing at the cup. Cunliffe is still shaking off the rust after being ruled ineligible for high school play by the WIAA last season, and it shows on the court, but he’s got developing interest from most of the Northwest programs - including Washington, Gonzaga, Washington State - plus Colorado, Utah, California, and a host of mid majors.

Aplus also boasts one of the few true post prospects in the region in 6-foot-10 center Hank Hollingsworth from Chelan. The 2015 post player is beginning to come into his own and was effective when we saw him on Friday. He’s tough despite his slender build, and is a solid rebounder. Defensively, his mobility has improved, and he’s become more assertive as a shot blocker as well. Offensively his hands are also improving. He powered down a bevy of two-handed dunks while we watched. He’s not the most athletic guy, but his footwork has improved and he’s no longer anchored to the floor. Because his future is in the paint, he’ll need considerable work in the weight room. Hollingsworth has growing interest from the mid-major level, citing Gonzaga, Santa Clara, and UC Davis. He has offers from Columbia and Portland State.

McLaughlin a secret no more. JaQuori McLaughlin is one of several intriguing point guard prospects in the Evergreen State for 2016. The slender 6-foot-2 guard brims with confidence, and is silky smooth with the ball in his hands. He’s got a lot of work to do in the weight room, but is long limbed and puts his length to good use attacking the basket, finishing with excellent body control. He’s a good decision maker and is unselfish, possessing a high IQ. He delivered several nifty passes during Team Access’s blowout win Friday evening. Though McLaughlin lacks high level athleticism, he possesses a quick second gear and can change speeds unpredictably to shake defenders. He’s got a nice stroke and delivered multiple times off the catch and pull as well. McLaughlin has high major interest from coast to coast, with offers from Washington, Memphis, Oregon State and Washington State.

Beach’s Bits: Vegas Vittles Part 1
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