Recap: First evaluation period in SoCal
Southern California — Last week was a busy one for prep basketball players, the media who cover them, and the college basketball coaches hoping to land the ones they are targeting. It was the first of three NCAA live evaluation periods during the month of July, where college coaches comb the country in search of their next program cornerstone or solid four-year player. We had three such events in sunny Southern California last week, the Double Pump Summer Tip-Off in Anaheim, the West Coast Elite 100 Camp in Claremont, and the Pangos Sweet 16 in Norwalk. All were packed to the brim with college coaches. I spent time at each event, with most of my resources spent in Anaheim with the Pumps (Wednesday-Saturday). I was at the Pangos event, run by Dinos Trigonis, for its Friday night opening and made my way out to Pomona Pitzer College (where my good friend Scott Waterman is an assistant) on Sunday for the Elite 100 All-Star Games. Here’s a quick breakdown on what I saw from each: Double Pump Summer Tip-Off The 17U Open Division championship was won by Big Ballers VXT, led by UCLA-commits Lonzo and LiAngelo Ball. We can’t forget their younger brother, either, LaMelo Ball, an incoming freshman who had a big hand in getting that squad into the championship game. The Ball-ers, a team rounded out by fellow Chino Hills high school players (for the most part), went 9-0 on the weekend with one of the more serious threats coming by way of Team Bibby (yes, that Bibby) in the quarterfinals. Team Bibby is coached by former NBA player Mike Bibby and led by his son, Mike Bibby, Jr., along with other talented guards J.J. Rhymes and Christian Ellis, and they led the Ballers for most of the first half. It was a back-and-forth affair in the second half, but the Ballers held a four-point lead with just about six minutes to play when their leader (and full-court post-entry passer) Lonzo Ball fouled out. But the team didn’t skip a beat with the littlest of Ball Bros., LaMelo, stepping up to guide the team to a double-digit victory with a couple deep 3-pointers, floaters off the glass, and pinpoint passing. Big Ballers went on to win the title game over host Double Pump Elite, 72-66, on Sunday. Do-it-all player Eli Scott (2017, Chino Hills High) scored 24 points in the championship game. The Double Pump Elite team had a number of coaches following their every move thanks to a couple talented guards in 2016 Colin Slater (Immanuel HS) and 2016 Eyassu Worku (Los Alamitos). The Chatsworth Sierra Canyon duo of Adam Seiko and Terrance McBride also had good weekends for the Pumps. Another team the coaches flocked to watch was the Oakland Rebels 17U team. Class of 2016 guards Sayeed Pridgett (El Cerrito) and Jeremi Hanks (Oakland High) played well, while 2016 big man DeJon Davis (Oakland Tech) started to come into his own. More standouts: Spencer Freedman (Santa Ana Mater Dei) of SCA Red Elite; the Prodigy duo of Bryce Peters (La Verne Damien) and Miles Oliver (Etiwanda); Team Eleate’s Brad Greene (Lone Pine), Ajani Kennedy (Rancho Verde) and DeShaun Highler (J.W. North); Arizona Power 17U Black’s Saben Lee (Corona del Sol); Team Superstar’s Vittorio Reynoso-Avila (La Mirada); Team Superstar 16’s Jordan Roberts (Bakersfield Ridgeview), Jade Smith (Alameda St. Joseph), and Darrin Persons (Immanuel).
Pictured above: 2017 wing Jordan Roberts of Team Superstar. Photo credit: Devin Ugland Pangos Sweet 16 Though I only made it out to Cerritos College for one night, there was a strong collection of talent at this event. The Arizona Magic edged out Play Hard/Play Smart for the Invitational Division championship, 71-67, on Sunday, led by fast-rising 2016 wing Elijah Thomas (Sunrise Mountain) and 2016 forward Chris Bowling (Gilbert High). PHPS brought down a litany of talent from Northern California. Class of 2016 point guard Isaiah Brooks (Sheldon) stood out on Friday night, as did 6-foot-10, 2016 big man Arash Poorsina (St. Ignatius). The Compton Magic program sent its talented group of youngsters to Pangos and Bellflower rising-sophomore Scooter Smith, a 6-3 guard, put on a nice 3-point shooting display on the first night. Orange Lutheran’s Chris Williams (class of 2017), San Diego Kearny’s Robby Robinson (class of 2017), Desert Ridge’s Timmy Allen (class of 2018), and incoming Temecula Rancho Christian freshman Isaiah Mobley were all good for the Compton Magic. West Coast Elite 100 I saved the 40-plus mile drive to Pomona for Sunday when the traffic would surely be at its lightest; it just happened to be the day of all of the All-Star games, as well. Ryan Silver, the event operator, brought together a nice collection of talent (over 300 kids) from all across the country and split Sunday into five All-Star games: 2018’s, 2017’s, 2016’s, Top 40 and Top 20.
Pictured above: 2018 forward Miles Norris of Earl Watson Elite. Photo credit: Devin Ugland
A pair of talented prospects from San Diego, Chula Vista Mater Dei’s Miles Norris and St. Augustine’s Taeshon Cherry, were very good in the 2018 All-Star game. Norris did as he pleased, knocking down shots from the perimeter and throwing down dunks in transition. Cherry was hitting shots, as well, and showed his endless motor on the defensive end and on the break. David Atencio of Huntington Beach Edison (my hometown) was another impressive guard who made sure to distribute the basketball first and look for his shot second. Michael Feinberg, who I mistakenly tweeted as his older brother Robbie, had a superb all-around game, and KJ Hymes, a lanky athletic forward by way of St. Mary’s High in Arizona, provided a look into his massive potential. The state of Utah dominated the 2017 All-Star game. Jaxon Brenchley (Mountain Crest) is a point guard in the truest sense of the position. He plays with tremendous poise and vision. He can also put the ball through the net when he feels its necessary. Trevin Knell (Woods Cross) was one of the better 3-point shooters in the gym. Ben Rigby (Davis) is a rugged post player with a motor. Samuta Avea (Bingham) is a smooth wing with a high IQ. Riley Matticks out of Legend High in Colorado and Grant Arthur of La Canada shot their way to the top of the 2016 game. Eastvale Roosevelt’s Matt Mitchell, who has one of the best motors in SoCal was impressive in the Top 40 game along with Oak Park 2018 forward Riley Battin. Westport (CT) guard Ryan Murphy, a 2017 prospect, scored a game-high 24 points in that one.
Pictured above: 2016 forward Mitch Lightfoot of Arizona Power. Photo credit: Devin Ugland
Mitch Lightfoot, a highly-coveted prospect out of Gilbert Christian High in Arizona, highlighted the Top 20 game with his versatile game. Santa Monica’s Jayce Johnson and Legend High’s Danny Garrick also put forth good performances.