WIR: Sleeper class emerging at Loyola Marymount
In the past week, Loyola Marymount picked up commitments from two of the top sleepers in the West Coast Class of 2008 in 6-5 Wendell Wright (Lakewood, Calif./Mayfair) and 6-2 Ameer Shamsud-din (Portland, Ore./Benson-Tech).
Wright should turn out to be an excellent player in head coach Rodney Tention's system. Wright is a superb athlete who plays extremely hard. He had an outstanding summer and improved -- in the areas of fundamentals and savvy -- as much as any player in the West Coast Class of 2008. Once he tightens up his jump shot, he'll be a tough matchup for opponents in the WCC.
Shamsud-din is another top sleeper. He has improved his lead guard skills considerably each year and projects to being the point guard of the future for the Lions.
By getting these commitments, as well as a solid collection of recruits from last year in 6-5 Orlando Johnson of Palma, Calif., 6-4 Isaiah Jenkins of Los Angeles/ Westchester and 6-3 Brandon Walker of Oakland, Calif./ Bishop O'Dowd, Tention is building quite a youth movement in Lion country.
Thompson is widely considered the No. 2 small forward prospect in the West, trailing only 6-6 Demar DeRozan (Compton, Calif.). Although he doesn't have the athletic prowess of DeRozan, Thompson has much more savvy and skill than his counterpart.
Thompson will be an excellent fit for Bennett's motion offense and should make an immediate impact during the 2008-09 season. He is excellent coming off of screens -- especially in a pick-n-pop situation, and he also has the ability to deliver a nifty pass due to his outstanding court awareness.
• As expected, ESPN 150 recruit 6-5 Mark McLaughlin (Kenmore, Wash./Inglemoor) committed to head coach Mark Fox's Nevada program after considering Oregon and Illinois. He'll team with fellow ESPN 150 recruit Luke Babbitt (Reno, Nev./ Galena) to form one of the better one-two punches in the West and quite possibly the nation by the time they're juniors.
McLaughlin has very significant upside due to his lengthy frame and blossoming guard skills. He has a feathery touch out to the stripe and is an underrated passer to boot. Once he gains strength, he should turn out to be one of the top two-guards in WAC.
• James Nunnally, a 6-3 wing-type out of Stockton, Calif./Weston Ranch, selected head coach Bob Williams' UC Santa Barbara program this past week. Nunnaly is part of a solid class that includes 6-7 Jaime Serna (Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif./Santa Margarita) and 6-3 Will Brew (Oakland, Calif./ St. Mary's).
Nunnally is a relative unknown outside of Northern California, however, we feel he's going to turn out to be a fine player in the Big West. Overall, he's a terrific athlete who needs to polish up his perimeter skills, but defensively he has the necessary length and quickness to be a devastating defender.
Joel Francisco has been a high school basketball scout for 15 years. He has written for Hoopscoop Magazine and Basketball Times and organized "So-Cal's Finest," his own scouting service.