In part one of this two-part series, Beach breaks down the three Washington commits - Jaylen Nowell, Blake Harris, and Jontay Porter - as well as other prospects of note. And finally he gives his thoughts on the weekend in general and what stood out to him.
Part two will go in-depth on Washington's prospects for 2017, 2018, and 2019 that he saw in Vegas.
Washington Verbal Commitments
Jaylen Nowell 6’4" SG Seattle Rotary
The recently committed UW Husky has loomed large over Seattle’s grassroots basketball scene since middle school. Little has changed for the Garfield High School senior-to-be since the high school season ended with a heartbreaking loss to crosstown rival Rainier Beach, which is just fine, because he’s polished on level that’s unusual for a player his age. He’s one of the nation's deadliest mid-range scorers, with an accurate mid-range pull up jumper, though he does need to continue to improve his three point shot before he arrives at Montlake next year. Nowell possesses ideal size for a Pac-12 two-guard with a long, athletic build and athleticism to match. He’s already an above average defender, making him an ideal candidate to contribute early for the Huskies. Though he’s not a natural point guard, Nowell is an unselfish passer with good vision and quality ball handling skills.
Blake Harris 6’3" PG CP3 (NC)
The biggest mystery thus far of the Huskies' 2017 recruiting class had been the lanky point guard from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, but he quickly put to rest any questions about his capabilities with a sterling, MVP-worthy 18-point performance in CP3’s championship game against MoKan Elite on Friday. Harris is flashy scoring point guard with a superb handle and nifty, low crossover dribble he uses to slash into the paint. As one might expect from a Chris Paul-sponsored team, he shows excellent floor vision and timing while exercising considerable poise with the ball in his hands. He also shoots a quality three-point ball and connected on a couple of fluid mid-range pull ups. Perhaps most importantly, he’s a dynamic pressure defender with lightning quick feet and active hands. For that reason Harris is certain to make an immediate splash in the Huskies' rotation when he arrives
Jontay Porter 6’9" F MoKan Elite
The Huskies' lone 2018 verbal commitment so far helped lead his MoKan (MissouriKansas) AAU squad to the championship game of the Las Vegas Bigfoot Classic against an explosive CP3 squad despite the absence of older brother Michael - a 2017 Washington verbal commit - and touted point guard Trae Young. Checking in at a well-proportioned 6-foot-9 and 230 pounds, the 16-year old recently enrolled at Seattle’s Nathan Hale High School and showed why he’s such a buzzworthy prospect. Porter is a high skilled front court prospect, with good hands and excellent instincts with the ball down low. Though he lacks his brother's elite athleticism, he does possess a similar lightning quick trigger from beyond the three-point line despite struggling to find his range Friday under a bright national TV spotlight. He’s still growing into his body, but with two years of high school remaining, Porter has plenty of time to mature into his long frame and develop a nasty streak on the floor.
Other Players of Note
Corey Kispert 6’6" W Friends of Hoop
There’s little left that needs to be said about the superb sharpshooter from tiny Kings in Shoreline. The recent Gonzaga commit is one of the nation's top pure shooters, though he’s no longer limited to just raining three-pointers. He’s an excellent athlete, and threw down a massive tomahawk in one game Friday afternoon, powering up and through a defender as if he wasn’t even there. He continues to sculpt his powerhouse frame, and he’s finally putting it to good use bruising through defenders to finish with a flourish at the cup. Off the catch and shoot he has few peers, and he’s especially adept at coming off screens and powering to the hoop. Kispert is physically equipped to play a key role for the Zags from day one.
Freddie Roberson 6’3" G Seattle Rotary 16U
Roberson is another unheralded standout from Seattle who is starting to open eyes as he prepares to take on a starring role at Rainier Beach next season. Roberson shares some similarities with Daejon Davis: a physical combo guard with a high revving motor who loves to get into the teeth of the defense and cause havoc at the rim. He’s got good quicks and is a tough player to stay in front of, and shoots a nice pull up jumper showing good three-point range. He’s an excellent ball handler under guard, and shows good vision and passing ability. His energy also extends to the defensive end where he demonstrates considerable promise, and is an excellent rebounder for a guard.
Philip Pebble 6’8" F Seattle Rotary
The muscular forward from Shoreline is one of the most underrated players in the Northwest. New to the game of basketball, Pebble is on the raw side, but he is an exceptional athlete with surprising instincts at both ends of the floor. He’s a high riser, and uses his excellent timing and long wingspan to block a lot of shots, and is similarly effective on the glass. He’s particularly effective in transition on defense, using his great speed and length to chase down opponents streaking down the court. Offensively, he’s mostly limited to offensive put backs and dunks so far, but given the rapid rate of improvement with other facets of his game, there’s no reason he can’t be a an effective scoring threat in time. He generated serious buzz over the summer recruiting period and his recruitment should ramp up quickly.
Marcus Austin. 6’2" G Seattle Rotary 16U
Another unknown Seattle area player, Austin carries on the theme of high level Rotary combo guards who play with a ton of energy. Playing behind Roberson and 2019 standout Noah Williams, Austin has a big-time motor and commanded constant attention from opponents as he blazed up and down the floor. Demonstrating good vision and heady instincts as a passer, Austin plays with a lot of confidence and showed a quality three-point stroke in the games we watched. He’s definitely a player to keep an eye out as he begins to make believers out college coaches and scouts alike.
The quality and depth of talent in the Seattle area has never been better, and the word is out. Head coaches from just about every team in the Pac-12 lined the court as Seattle Rotary faced off against Friends of Hoop Saturday.
Unlike previous years, the Washington coaching staff made no secret of their top targets as they travelled as a trio - Lorenzo Romar, Raphael Chillious, and Will Conroy - from gym to gym, and were a fixture on the Rotary sidelines.
Interesting, the coaching staff from Washington State was largely absent from the sidelines of the Seattle team's games, which is perplexing given the sheer volume of high-major talent in the area. There is far more high-major talent in the area than Washington’s roster can accommodate, and it would seem like a golden opportunity for WSU to load up on local talent.
For the first time in a decade, there are a ton of quality bigs with D1 potential in the Seattle area, and that’s not counting the Porter brothers, who will take things to another level when they hit the hardwood at Nathan Hale next fall.
The Metro league is going to be a prep hoop fan's dream next fall. Garfield, Rainier Beach, O’Dea, Seattle Prep and Nathan Hale all boast legitimate 5-star talent on their rosters. The state tournament will be as competitive as it has ever been.
The unity in the Northwest basketball community is special. Though immensely competitive, there is a entrenched layer of universal support and mutual respect among players, fans and programs on a level that goes way beyond the norm. In light of today’s polarized society it’s truly refreshing to see and demonstrates how unique the Northwest basketball community truly is.
It was warm, even by Las Vegas standards, with the temperature topping 123 degrees on Friday.