- Devin Ugland
Tons of words on two live viewing periods in SoCal
GARDEN GROVE (and) ANAHEIM (and) NORWALK, Calif. — Please forgive the tardiness of this recap; let’s just chalk it up to the “live period lag.” (Yes, I just made up that term to save my ass). Anyways, the last two weekends on the club and travel basketball scene have allowed for college coaches to be in gymnasiums across the country to watch current and prospective recruits and maybe, just maybe, uncover a sleeper or two or three. The shoe circuits were in full-swing with Nike’s Elite Youth Basketball League having its two stops in New York and Indianapolis, while adidas’ Uprising took place in Dallas and Atlanta, and not to be outdone, Under Armour’s circuit - UA Association - went head-to-head with Nike in New York and Indy. HoopsByUgland.com was at none of those events. If you’re wondering why that is, you haven’t seen my lackluster bank account, but I digress. Instead, HoopsByUgland stayed local, first at the SoCal Hoop Review put on by Gerry Freitas and Ryan Silver in Garden Grove and Double Pump Spring Hoop Fest at the not-so-accessible American Sports Center in Anaheim. Last weekend was spent at Cerritos College in Norwalk for Dinos Trigonis’ Pangos Spring Sweet 16. Let’s begin in chronological order and at the gym closest to my house: Next Level Sports Complex for the Hoop Review. I always try to take advantage of seeing of teams from out of town, so I spent a good amount of time watching Alvin Gentry Elite and PowerHouse Hoops 17 Black by way of Arizona. One player who immediately made his presence felt that Friday night was Alvin Gentry Elite’s Jared Martin. The class of 2018 wing out of Saguaro High in Scottsdale was knocking down 3-pointers and mid-range jumpers with ease. Add in some good athleticism, a nice feel for the game and a 6-foot-5 frame with long arms, and you’ve got yourself a prospect.
Alvin Gentry Elite SG Jared Martin took full advantage of the first live viewing period. Photo courtesy of Alvin Gentry Elite.
Six-foot-7 forward Ethan Spry (Scottsdale Christian Academy) was another AGE product who played well that weekend. Spry has a sound post skill-set, good hands and a nearly automatic 15-foot baseline jumper. Reed Meyers, a 6-foot point guard from Scottsdale Christian Academy, and 6-foot-6 forward Brennen Davis (Basha HS) were two other Gentry’s who stood out. Meyers is a heady floor general who plays with poise and can knock down an open 3-pointer, while Davis is all motor, cleaning up the offensive and defensive glass and slashing to the basket off the ball for buckets. Let’s move to PowerHouse Hoops where 2017 guard Saben Lee (Corona del Sol) showed why he’s such a hot commodity while playing through a severe injury to his right hand. Lee is an ultra quick and athletic guard who thrives when attacking the rim both in transition and the half-court. He can finish through and over contact or drop in one of those “giant killing” floaters we’ve all come to love. His 3-point shooting wasn’t consistent that weekend, but he’s definitely more confident in his stroke since the last time I watched him play. Colton Kresl, a 6-foot-1 guard out of Chaparral High, impressed with his grittiness, spot-up shooting and high basketball IQ. A guy Kresl is a necessity for any team. He gets after it on both ends of the floor, doesn’t turn the ball over and is as unselfish as they come. Six-foot-6 forward Deshawn Wilson (Saint Mary’s HS) provided PowerHouse Hoops with a much-needed physical presence in the paint. Wilson is active on the offense and defensive glass and stepped out to the corner and knocked down a couple 3-pointers. The next stop is with AZ Sting’s 15s squad and 2019 point guard Noah Self. Self is one of those guys who might not be playing with the big name club or on the “top court,” but his play makes you leave the game you’re watching to see what he’s all about. The first thing you notice about the 5-foot-9 PG is his uncanny feel for the game. He doesn’t over-dribble, his head is always up in transition, he passes and sets screens off the ball, but he can also fill it up from mid-range with his jumper. Cal Supreme had its second 17s team in Garden Grove that weekend led by 2018 forward Shareef O’Neal (Windward) and 2018 wings Payton Moore (Windward) and Tevian Jones (Chandler). At 6-feet-9, O’Neal has an impressive skill-set for his size. He handles it and shoots it well enough to play on the wing, while his athleticism allows him to finish acrobatically in the painted-area. If O’Neal starts to dominate on the block like his father did, look out. Moore is one of the most athletic sophomores you’ll find just about anywhere. He plays with a relentless motor, is a stingy on-ball defender and can get to the basket as he pleases. Moore has a long way to go with his perimeter shooting and ball skills if he’s to be a two or three at the next level. Jones, who is the lone non-California guy on that team, might have the most “upside” of any of them. He’s 6-feet-6 and a smooth athlete with an even smoother 3-point stroke.
Tiyon Martin, a 5-foot-9 point guard out of Riverside North High, is another 2018 prospect to watch for Cal Supreme. Martin is a super quick guard with a tight handle and great court vision. Another “off-the-radar” guy at the Hoop Review was Eli Ramos of Gamepoint OC 16U and Walnut High. Ramos, a 2019 point guard, is the younger brother of Cal State Fullerton-bound wing Dwight Ramos and it looks as if he’s benefitted greatly from competing against his big brother. The 6-foot-1 Ramos has spectacular feel for the game. He works well coming off of high ball screens where he can attack the defense with a hesitation move to get to the basket or his silky pull-up jumper. He’s super crafty with the ball in his hands and is sneaky good athlete who got to the cup at-will. There were plenty of standouts on the Oakland Soliders 16U squad, led by heady 2018 point guard James Akinjo. There was really no stopping the 6-footer as he weaved his way into the spots he’s most successful and setting up teammates for easy buckets. One guy who benefitted from Akinjo’s selfless play was 2019 wing Josh Green. At 6-feet-4, Green is a prototypical two-guard who plays with pace and patience. The native of Australia was up near the top of the “prettiest jumper” category that weekend. Six-foot-7 forward Mason Forbes (2018, Folsom) and 6-foot-8 forward Raymond Hawkins (2019, Bishop O’Dowd) are already well-known products in Northern California and rightfully so. Both are talented young big men who have bright futures if they continue to hone their craft. Other players to keep an eye on from Hoop Review: 2019 San Diego All-Stars combo guard Rejean “Boogie” Ellis; 2019 San Diego All-Stars point guard Jaren Nafarette; 2017 Superior Athletes F Lamar Harris; 2018 Superior Athletes F Kevin Ebiriekwe; 2017 Superior Athletes combo guard Kyle Small; 2019 Team Superstar G Bryce Craver; 2019 Team Superstar G Carson Verhoeven; 2018 Team Superstar G Brandon Recek Double Pump Spring Hoop Fest Half of my Saturday was spent at the American Sports Center in Anaheim (where parking is atrocious) watching some more local and out-of-state prospects. 2017s Gabe McGlothan (Basha) and Sean Dunn (Brophy) each had good moments for AZ Power Elite. McGlothan is a do-it-all forward who can shoot it, pass it and handle it, all while playing with a high IQ. Dunn is a big-bodied, 6-foot-10 center with touch out to 15-feet. A handful of Inland Empire prospects played well for Prodigy Elite. 2018 Kessler Edwards, a rangy 6-foot-6 wing out of Etiwanda High, has come a long way from his freshman season. Edwards is beginning to put a skill-set to his frame, shooting it from mid-range and getting to the basket. 2017 point guard Ezekiel Alley (Damien HS) is a high IQ decision-maker who rarely turns the ball over. 2018 power forward Darius Henderson (Muir HS) is raw, but has good footwork at 6-8 and 230-ish pounds. 2017 combo guard Joe Quintana is one of the biggest sleepers in SoCal. He shoots it well from 3-point and mid-range, but handles it and passes it well enough to play the one. Pangos Spring Sweet 16 This event was spread across 200 (kidding) different gyms in Southern California last weekend, but I spent most (all) of my time waiting for the teams to make their way to Cerritos College. The squad with the highest collection of talent - Pro Skills Sports Academy - won the Invitational Division championship, 70-58, over Cali Stars Elite. The Lake Balboa Birmingham trio of Deschon Winston (2017 PG), Devante Doutrive (2017 wing) and Devonaire Doutrive (2018 wing) was imposing all weekend long and especially on “Championship Sunday.” Winston carved up defenses and knocked down shots. Devante was his typical slashing self, finding the weak spots in the defense and using his athleticism to expose it. Devonaire is still coming into his own, but he’s a smooth and long 6-foot-4 wing with a natural feel for the game. The team with the most “potential” talent was The Truth 16U squad which won the Select Division championship over Cali United. 2018 power forward Jacob Eyman was one of the many impressive youngsters for The Truth. The 6-foot-8 Los Alamitos high school product is an elite rim protector with his length, athleticism and ability to stay vertical on contests (I think all that volleyball he plays helps with that). Eyman’s offensive repertoire is still in its infant stages, but he’s progressing in that area. He has a good set of hands, can catch-and-dunk off of two feet without taking a dribble and even knocked down a couple 15-footers.
The Truth's Jacob Eyman (above) is using the spring to build upon a breakout high school campaign.
Six-foot-7 Malik Muhammad (San Pedro High) was another sophomore forward who played well for The Truth. Muhammad has good defensive instincts - timing on shot blocking, keeping arms straight-up on contests - but is still very much a raw prospect on offense. Paul Pierce’s club extension has a trio of valuable 2018 guards in Pearson Parker (Servite), Jordan Griffin (Verbum Dei) and Kendal Frey. Parker is a strong, quick and steady ball handler who flourishes when attacking on the break. Griffin is an athletic slasher on the wing who gets to the basket with ease due to his long strides and superb leaping ability. Frey is a consistent 3-point shooter, hitting from multiple spots behind-the-arc. Jordan Bell, a 6-foot-6 unsigned senior out of Inglewood, did himself some favors over the weekend with Cali Stars Elite. Bell showcased his smooth left-handed shooting stroke from 3-point and mid-range, earning a scholarship offer from Canisus on Saturday. AUSA Hoops Platinum made its way to SoCal by way of Vegas by way of Australia for the Pangos Sweet 16 and it had a handful of good players, led by 2016 SMU-commit Harry Froling. Froling’s skill-set can be described as “ridiculous.” He can pass it on the block and the high-post, he shoots with deep range from 3 and he’s got plenty of post moves up his sleeve. The 2017 guard duo of Cameron Healy and Noah Thomas was fairly formidable. Healy is a tough and steady at 6-feet-3. He plays with a high motor, high basketball IQ and does a nice job of penetrating and dishing. Thomas is smooth yet quick and nailed a bunch of 3-pointers on Sunday. Class of 2016 wing Deng Mayot is another AUSA Hoops player to keep an eye on. IEBP’s Miles Oliver was another guy whom I thought boosted his stock. The 6-footer out of Etiwanda is the quintessential point guard. He knows when to push the tempo, but backs the ball out and sets up offense when there’s no high percentage look on the break. Oliver’s defense was good, as always, and his perimeter shooting is improving, especially his baseline pull-up. Other notes: 2017 Coastal Elite 17U SG Blake Seits (Ramona) can really fill it up from 3-point range. 2019 Cali Rebels 16U F Jakob Alamudun (Marina) is relentless on the offensive and defense glass and has good touch around the basket. 2017 ICAN All-Stars Elite CG Lenzell Simmons has sprouted up a few inches in height and his game has done the same. Good feel on the ball and plays with a chip on his shoulder. 2017 ICAN All-Stars Elite F’s Luis Rodriguez and Harold Moore should each have an impact at Westchester High next season. 2017 California Bearcats 17U G Josiah Esselstrom is a knockdown shooter from 3-point range and plays with edge.