CARSON, Calif – There’s a strong belief that the 13th annual Pangos All-American Camp, held this past weekend on the campus of California State University, Dominguez Hills, was one of the best groups of talent, top to bottom, that Camp Director Dinos Trigonis has assembled.
There were plenty of bonafide high-major players, and the drop-off from there wasn’t steep, with most of the campers being no less than mid-major prospects.
There was a hard-to-come-by mix of guards, wings and big men, and there was also a willingness to compete through all three days of the event, thanks to the presence of media members and media-types tweeting the happenings from sunny Southern California.
So, who stood out? Who broke out? And which storylines are the ones to follow moving forward?
Alkins, Heron earn Most Outstanding Player honors
Rawle Alkins, pictured above, was one of many impressive guards at the Pangos All-American Camp this past weekend. Photo credit: Devin Ugland
The two most talented players at Pangos, Rawle Alkins (Christ the King, Brooklyn NY) and Mustapha Heron (Sacred Heart, Waterbury CT), were fittingly named the Co-Most Outstanding Players of the weekend.
Heron began his onslaught in the very first game of the camp on Friday night. at 6-foot-5, 200 pounds, the burly and relentless guard was unstoppable throughout the three days at CSUDH with his ability to attack the basket off the dribble by way of the pick-and-roll or straight isolation.
Perhaps the most impressive part of Heron’s game is his craftiness and savvy when he gets in the paint. Heron is at his best when absorbing and finishing through contact, and if need be, he can finesse his way to two points with a finger roll or a step-back jumper from mid-range.
Alkins is made from a very similar mold to that of Heron. The 6-foot-4, 200-pounder is a power guard who can score the ball at-will, feeds off of contact and has the killer instincts of a high major star.
Like Heron, Alkins stepped off his flight from the east coast, made his way to the gym for his first game of the night, and proceeded to put on a show from start-to-finish.
Alkins scored 17 points on 8 of 13 shooting in his first game of the camp, added performances of 26 points and 31 points on Saturday, then finished his weekend with 13 points in the first half of the Cream of the Crop Top 30 game on Sunday before having to leave early to catch his plane home.
If Alkins would’ve been able to stay, there’s really no telling what type of second half he would have put together.
Talented big men give big performances
Xavier Tillman, pictured above, had a standout performance on the low block at the Pangos All-American Camp. Photo credit: Devin Ugland
For the most part, camps like Pangos are normally guard-dominated, but this year’s was filled with impressive forwards and centers.
Xavier Tillman was one of the more impressive bigs in attendance. The 6-foot-8, 230-pound power forward out Grand Rapids, Michigan showed a polished back-to-the-basket game with high-level footwork on the block.
Villanova-bound Omari Spellman (MacDuffie School, Springfield MA) was another big-bodied, 6-foot-8 forward who impressed. Like Tillman, Spellman has that old-school, traditional power forward feel with his forceful approach on the low-block and is coupled with a next-level skill set.
Highly-touted junior-to-be Mohammed Bamba (Westtown PA) proved why he’s such a sought-after prospect. At 6-foot-10 with a wingspan that seems never-ending, Bamba changes ends of the floor well, has great hands, strong instincts on both sides of the ball, and is a fantastic catch-and-finisher of lob passes.
Taurean Thompson was another 6-foot-10-plus player who did himself a lot of favors over the weekend. Thompson is a potent rebounder both offensively and defensively and seems to enjoy mixing it up in the paint. His offensive repertoire is coming along, as well.
Harrison Henderson, lenghty 6-foot-10 product of South Grand Prairie HS in Texas, is an interesting prospect. He's a solid rebounder, can push it up the floor himself, has great timing when blocking shots and can stretch his offense out to 17-feet.
Kenneth Nwuba, a 6-foot-10 rising sophomore out of Arlington Country Day School in Jacksonville, Florida had some good moments on the weekend. He’s still very much a raw prospect on both sides of the ball, but he has a nose for the ball when it comes to rebounding and showed some flashes offensively.
Brandon McCoy, a product of Morse high school in San Diego, is another talented big man who is as raw as they come. McCoy is pushing 6-foot-11 and was one of the more mobile bigs in the camp. McCoy gets up and down the floor well in transition and has so much of the often-used term “upside” in his game.
Nate Morris out of Lancaster High in Texas brought a lot of toughness to the floor. He’s a defense-oriented forward/center at 6-foot-10 and had his hand in a number of blocked and changed shots on the weekend.
Prime Prep (Dallas, TX) teammates Terrance Ferguson and Billy Preston were split up on this occasion, but each had moments that demonstrated why they are considered high-major wings.
Ferguson was one of the better athletes in the camp and provided a few highlight-reel dunks that we’ve come to expect from him. Another thing that stood out from the 6-foot-6 SG/SF was his jumper from mid and long range. Ferguson gets great lift on his shot and has a great release-point and rotation.
Preston made his hoops return to Southern California and brought with him an improved feel for the game. The 6-foot-9, consensus “five-star” prospect did a lot of great work out of the mid-post and that improved basketball IQ was on display with his pinpoint passing out of double teams. Preston has always had the ability to score in the paint, from mid-range and deep.
Arizona-commit T.J. Leaf was one of the most, if not the most, skilled players in the camp as he usually is in everything he plays in. Leaf (San Diego Foothills Christian) can do it all: Hit from 3, beat bigger, slower defenders off the dribble, post up smaller defenders, and just flat-out out-play anyone who attempts to defend him.
Mario Kegler (Arlington Country Day, Jacksonville FL) was another wing who was solid all weekend. The 6-foot-7 prospect is a versatile scorer whose long wingspan and athleticism make him a potentially lockdown defender at the next level.
Galen Alexander, a 2017 prospect out of Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, is emerging as a potential high major prospect. Alexander stands about 6-feet-7 and has a strong frame that allowed him to overpower defenders en route to the bucket. Alexander also showed an adept jumper out to 3-point range.
Cameron McGriff rivaled the above-mentioned Ferguson as the most electric athlete at Pangos. Not a day went by in which the 2016 prospect didn’t posterize someone and the 6-foot-6, South Grand Prairie (TX) product is one to closely monitor as he continues to diversify his offensive game.
Point guards aplenty
While the collection of big men and wings was impressive, the point guards on hand were equally as good.
Shamorie Ponds, a 2016 PG out of Jefferson High in Brooklyn, New York was one of the players who fell into this category. Ponds, a 6-foot-1 guard, falls more into the “scoring guard” category and is a crafty left-hander who can also distribute. Ponds is a difficult cover in transition and in the pick-and-roll. He can craftily slice his way through the trees in the paint and can also nail difficult jumpers out to 3-point range.
Class of 2017 guard Trae Young is another volume scorer. The Norman, Oklahoma product can pour it in from anywhere and in a hurry. He has a good handle and feel in transition. Young’s vision, distribution and point guard qualities will come with time and work.
Bryce Aiken, a 2016 point guard from St. Patrick’s in New Jersey, was very good throughout the camp. Aiken is a steady point guard who has a nice 15-foot pull-up in transition and can hit from behind-the-arc.
Class of 2018 point guard Spencer Freedman put on an absolute passing clinic on the weekend. It’s not often you see a player make it a point to pass the basketball at these events, but Freedman shattered that mold. The 5-foot-10 lefty penetrated and dished to 3-point shooters, tossed up perfect lobs to his athletes and advanced the basketball in transition via the pass. Freedman was very impressive at Pangos.
2017 Christian PoPoola, Jr. (Lone Peak HS, Highland UT), 2016 Justice Kithcart (Virgina Episcopal HS), 2016 Georgia-commit Tyree Crump and 2016 Trenton Catholic (NJ) Myles Powell were others who had solid weekends.
Thompson proves his worth
It might be because he’s not flashy, not a guy who will blow you away with athleticism or a guy who likes to draw a lot of attention to himself, but 2017 Torrance (Calif.) Bishop Montgomery guard Ethan Thompson showed why he’s one of the best guards in the class by doing things the right way.
As most Southern California prep basketball fans know, Thompson is one of the smoothest scorers you’ll find. Like his brother Stevie, Ethan has a picturesque jumper, has a giant-killing floater and uses a vast array of hesitations, changes of speed, and subtle space-creating moves to score on more athletic defenders.
Thompson had games of 27, 25, and 16 points, all of which coming in efficient fashion.