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  • Devin Ugland

Second Edition of Skills Summit provides a look at established and emerging prospects

IRVINE — Beckman high school again played host to the Hoops By Ugland Skills Summit on Saturday, which drew more than 100 prospects from as far north as Sacramento, deep into Riverside County and well into San Diego.

The event again featured an intense, two-hour skill development session, which featured seven stations that the players rotated through in 10 minute increments.

Clint Parks ran the ball handling station, Marc Rodgers taught pick and roll action, Ryan Smith (Fallbrook/Gamepoint) worked out the shooters, D’Cean Bryant (Fountain Valley/Compton Magic) helped kids get better in the post, Perry Webster (Fullerton College) focused on defensive principles, A.J. Gasporra (Fountain Valley) crafted the isolation work and Alison Zimmer dropped some yoga knowledge.

We’ll begin with the known commodities…

Te-Hina Paopao of La Jolla Country Day may have been the first female player in Skills Summit history, but she didn’t waste any time in stealing the show. The 5-foot-10 Oregon-bound point guard was one of the most fundamental and high IQ players in the camp, displaying command for the position, the ability to hit the catch-and-shoot 3-pointer with consistency and finish paint touches with soft floaters.

Class of 2020 guard Keith Dinwiddie out of Fairfax was one of the top performers on the day. The 6-foot-2 senior is well-known for his elite jump shooting ability and displayed plenty of that during the camp games. Dinwiddie’s high school teammate, combo guard Justin Gladney, was another standout senior with his crafty left-handed scoring ability.

Rising junior Daniel Esparza of Sonora high school proved why myself and Frank Burlison tabbed him as the best non-Trinity League player in Orange County. The 6-foot-1 guard is a high level competitor and an elite scorer with no fear. Servite sophomore Tajavis Miller proved that he is ready to for another strong season, showing improved consistency from behind-the-arc.

Sticking with Orange County, Santa Margarita point guard Jake Blazona already has the vision, passing ability and basketball IQ to run a team at a high level, but it was good to see him look to score as the Eagles will need him to become more aggressive on the offensive end.

David Elliot of Birmingham high school came in as a noted scorer with unwavering confidence and he didn’t disappoint. The 6-foot-2 junior scored early and often in the camp games, getting hot from deep and taking advantage of transition opportunities when they were there.

Santa Clarita Christian forward Kaleb Lowery dominated the paint with his size, strength and athleticism, while his camp teammates Davian Brown (Pasadena) and Adrian McIntyre (Saugus) patrolled the perimeter, knocking down outside shots with consistency.

Heading into the IE, 2021 Colony guard Brenton Knapper had his explosive athleticism and defensive straps on display. The 5-foot-10 point guard had a handful of impressive dunks and acrobatic finishes in transition. Damien swingman Malik Thomas used his combination of strength and athleticism to overwhelm opponents on half-court and transition drives into the paint.

2021 point guard Brenton Knapper of Colony high school.

Eastvale Roosevelt point guard Brandon Porter was another who used his strength to bully players en route to the basket. The senior also pulled back and knocked down a couple of deep jumpers.

Long Beach Poly wing Peyton Watson only needed one half of action to show that he was one of the best players in the gym. The 6-foot-6 junior has the total package when it comes to his offensive skill set and it’s easy to see why he’s considered one of the best long-term prospects on the west coast regardless of class.

Gardena Serra sent a host of players to the event, and while all the Cavaliers provided strong moments, 2022 point guard Jeremy Dent-Smith led the way. The 6-footer got teammates involved and controlled games with his pace and IQ, but showed the ability to take over a game on the offensive end.

Crossroads shooting guard Miles Ceballos scored with effortless feel. The smooth 6-foot-3 senior, who is young for his grade, used changes of speed to get to the rim, but also spread the floor from the 3-point line.

Gridley wing Grant Tull took some time out of his family vacation to Disneyland to get some hoops in and didn’t disappoint. The 6-foot-5 junior is a tough cover because of his old-school style game. He plays off of two feet, has fundamental footwork, can hit the face-up perimeter shot or take a defender off the dribble to the basket.

Heading down to San Diego, junior guard A.J. Burgin knocked down plenty of perimeter shots in his one game of action, but the best part of his camp effort was his willingness to move the ball ahead in transition and make the extra pass in the half-court setting. San Marcos sophomore Devon Arlington can always be counted on to compete on both ends of the floor and Saturday was no different. The 6-foot-3 point guard managed scoring and distributing well and did it with a no-nonsense approach.

Moving on to those who emerged as prospects schools should jump on now…

The player who left the camp with the biggest buzz surrounding their name was incoming freshman Kylan Boswell of Colony high school by way of Illinois. The 6-foot point guard played with incredible pace, IQ and decision-making ability. When you add those qualities in with a knock-down 3-point shot, fundamental perimeter footwork and crafty finishing ability, and you have a guy who will make an immediate impact at the varsity level.

2023 point guard Kylan Boswell of Colony high school

Seniors Isaiah Skinner (Xavier Prep) and Dominic Escobar (Shadow Hills) made their way to Irvine from the desert and it certainly wasn’t a wasted trip for them. Skinner is a lanky 6-foot-4 shooter with good feel for the game, while Escobar is a beast of a competitor who can knock down an open shot with time and space and also slash his way to the rim for strong finishes through contact.

Kyree Dunn of Burbank high school in Sacramento made his presence felt immediately during game play. The 6-foot point guard has a strong first step and second level burst, which he uses to blow by defenders in transition and get to the rim for layups or pull up for a balanced mid-range jumper. Another Sacramento-area prospect who impressed was 6-foot-4 wing Mason Hudnall. The lanky sophomore out of Moreau Catholic has fluid shooting mechanics and knocks down deep set shots with consistency.

Huntington Beach-native and Servite high school shooting guard Andrew Cook turned heads and opened eyes with his shooting touch and all-around basketball IQ. The 6-foot-2 junior doesn’t need much time or space to get hist shot off and has an effective shot fake.

Leighton Bess of San Lorenzo high school was difficult to keep out of the paint due to his powerful first step to go along with his strength and physicality. Bess bullied his way to the rim for power finishes at-will and knocked down the open 3-pointer with time and space.

2020 wing Leighton Bess of San Lorenzo high school.

The Bonita Vista high school trio of MoMo Stokes, DM Sanders and DJ Sanders made names for themselves, immediately jumping out as guys who bought in to the skills portion of the event. All three are quick and crafty guards who defend their positions at a high level.

Will Mathews, a 2020 shooting guard out of Balboa Prep, was a lethal threat from behind the arc and showed improvement when finishing in the paint and around the basket compared to his appearance at the 2018 Skills Summit.

Santa Clarita Christian wing Josh O'Garro might have had the best story of the day. He showed up to watch teammates play and was told a spot opened up in the camp, but he didn't have basketball shoes with him. The 6-foot-5 wing went to a local Dick's Sporting Goods, bought some shoes, and went to work, showing off his elite leaping and finishing ability around the rim.

Village Christian point guard Matt Lee has a really nice combination of strength and change of pace. Lee uses his ball handling ability and change of pace to get in the paint where he can finish through contact or pull-back for a jumper.

Long Beach Wilson forward Jackson Barnhill operated with a high motor all camp long. The 6-foot-8 face-up four man showed pick-and-pop shooting ability and was an active offensive rebounder and rim-runner in transition.

Westminster high school power forward Matthew Brookins was one of the more improved players at the camp. The biggest strides Brookins has made is with his frame as he dropped a considerable amount of weight, which has helped his ability to change ends of the floor and contain guards in high ball-screen action. Brookins, when he got the ball in the paint, finished over either shoulder.

2020 power forward Matthew Brookins of Westminster high school.

Scott Ruegg (Acalanes) and Wes Clarkson (University City) did all the little things a team needs to basketball games. They both talked on defense, encouraged teammates from the sideline and knocked down open shots when their number was called.

La Jolla Country Day guard James Hapgood wasn’t the flashiest player in the gym, but he was productive in his minutes and showed strides as a passer, ball handler and creator for others off the dribble.

Jackson Tucker of GSA Prep (Bakersfield) has a lot to like for a 2022 prospect. He’s a smooth athlete with good length at 6-feet-1. Tucker is a smooth and fluid athlete who can carve his way through the defense for drive and kicks or knock down a jumper on the move.

The Fountain Valley trio of 2021’s Jeremiah Davis and Preston Amarillo along with 2022 Aden Casarez all brought different strengths to the event. Davis is a strong baseline driver and finisher, Amarillo makes an impact with his passing and length defensively and Casarez is one of the better catch-and-shoot threats in Orange County.

Up-and-coming players to keep an eye on: Nate Medina (2022/Valley Christian); LaQwon Cole (2023/Gardena Serra); Christian Watson (2022/Long Beach Poly); Khamani Nelson (2022/Gardena Serra); Benjie Nudo (2022/Rancho Bernardo); Kameron Manning-Fuimaono (2023/Monterey Trail); Micah Hobson (2023/Capital Christian); TJ Waters (2023/Valley Christian); Brayden Kyman (2025/Middle School)


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