LOS ANGELES -- 6-8 junior Derrick Favors poured in 32 points, had 29 rebounds and blocked eight shots to lead his South Atlanta squad to a thrilling double overtime 78-77 victory over Campbell Hall in the nightcap of the 2008 Pangos Dream Classic.
South Atlanta overcame an eight point fourth quarter deficit and 6-4 UCLA signee Jrue Holiday's 35 points, 18 rebounds, nine steals and seven assists by converting many baskets from Campbell Hall's 27 turnovers.
In a matchup of two of the better teams in the state, 6-7 junior Jordan Hamilton tossed in 35 points and grabbed 14 rebounds to lead Dominguez to a hard-fought 68-60 win over Martin Luther King (Riverside).
Dominguez utilized its swarming half-court defense to neutralize leading scorer 6-5 senior Eric Wise (21 points) in the second half and eventually pulled away for an 8-point victory.
Windward would receive an excellent all-around game from 6-2 junior Darius Morris who pumped in 30 points, snagged six rebounds, and handed out seven assists in a 75-54 win over Cabrillo (Long Beach). After a tight first quarter, Windward's full-court pressure forced Cabrillo to be turnover prone (21) and cruised to an easy victory. Deonta Burton, a 6-0 sophomore would lead Cabrillo with 20 points, including four 3-pointers.
Derrick Favors (6-8, 220)
Junior, Atlanta, Ga./ South Atlanta
Favors entered the game as the No. 1-ranked junior prospect in the country and with his performance here he solidified that ranking. His performance was scintillating and he has room for improvement as well. His frame is impressive with extremely long arms, and he has some of the best hands I've witnessed on a big man. Favors approach to the game is terrific (never gets rattled) as he plays with an even keel at all times.
He is a prototypical four-man prospect for the high-major level, but he needs to polish up his post moves and develop better fundamentals if he is to have that expected significant impact. He does have a solid left hand finish in the paint area, but most of the time he relies on his bounce to finish plays. He can step out and hit the 3-pointer, but his shot is flat as he needs to smoothen out his release. Defensively, he has great timing and he moves his feet fairly well for a big. Favors upside is unlimited and it will be interesting to see his development over the next year.
Jrue Holiday (6-4, 200)
Senior, North Hollywood/ Campbell Hall
Holiday didn't have a great shooting night overall, but he was solid from the arc with four 3-pointers and ended up with 35 points. However, Holiday -- whom I believe is the best overall player in the country -- can dominate a game in a variety of ways as witnessed by his near quadruple-double. What separates Holiday from most players is his piranha-like approach at both ends. He is a devastating defender (nine steals), a stout rebounder (18 rebounds) and blocked one of Favors' shots from behind.
Jordan Hamilton (6-7, 190)
Junior, Compton/ Dominguez
Hamilton is the most relentless scorer on the West Coast, regardless of class. His 35-point outburst was efficient, and he also grabbed his fair share of rebounds (14). He has improved off the bounce since his sophomore campaign and he's quite the creative scorer around the basket. He still needs to create more for his teammates and not hunt his shot so much, but overall his game has evolved from a year ago. On the other hand, defense could be an issue at the next level. He doesn't have great lateral quickness and may be susceptible to quicker wings.
Darius Morris (6-2, 170)
Junior, Los Angeles/ Windward
Morris is one of the better combo-guard prospects in the West Coast Class of 2009. His length and skills are impressive, but playing for a small school and its respective competition has probably hurt Morris in his development. He can get away with forcing the issue against average competition, but when he has to match up against players of his ability or better, he can become turnover prone. However, one area that has improved dramatically in the past year is his jump shot. He has raised his release point -- due to added strength -- and as a result his shot is much smoother. Overall, Morris is a gamer and hopefully his savvy will continue to evolve as he gains experience.
Eric Wise (6-5, 220)
Senior, Riverside/ Martin Luther King
Wise is an undersized four for the low Division I level. He has a thick frame with very little bounce, but his savvy and skills make up for his physical deficiencies. He has an excellent face-up game and a deceptive first step to the basket. He has soft hands and a solid shooting touch out to 19-feet. In addition to his skills and feel for the game, he's a tough competitor at both ends and isn't afraid to mix it up in the paint area. Overall, Wise should end up in the Big Sky and/or Big West by the time the spring signing period comes to a close.
Keegan Hornbuckle (6-6, 190)
Junior, North Hollywood/ Campbell Hall
Hornbuckle was the biggest disappointment of the event. He played decent in the TOC in December, but his play here at this event was troublesome. He has a prolific touch out to 25 feet, but his shot was not falling at this event. Great shooters can have off days, but they can help their teams in other areas (rebounding, defense, etc.). He used to play with great energy but during his junior campaign he hasn't shown that desire to propel him to the next level. His lack of aggressiveness at both ends was noticeable, primarily in the areas of rebounding and defense. Hornbuckle has the length and shooting touch to be a Division I player, but his other skills need to be honed as well as his approach to the game.
Kawhi Leonard (6-6, 210)
Junior, Riverside/ Martin Luther King
Leonard is an intriguing prospect. During the summer circuit, I tagged him as a low mid-major four man, but after this event he showed some improvements (jump shooting touch) that may catapult his stock to the mid high-major level. Leonard has huge hands and very broad shoulders but only possesses a decent amount of bounce. He has excellent court demeanor and competes at both ends. Leonard at this stage is a bit of a 'tweener for the high-major level. However, if he continues to develop his jump shooting ability and perimeter handle, he may garner some high-major attention in the spring and summer.
What we learned
" Deonta Burton, a 6-0 sophomore out of Long Beach (Cabrillo), displayed a solid looking jump shot out beyond the arc, but in order for him to reach his potential he's going to have to develop his point guard skills.
" Los Angeles (Windward) has a promising looking freshman in 6-4 Wesley Saunders. Saunders has an excellent all-around feel for the game for someone so young.
" Dominguez is struggling to find consistent point guard play from its tandem of 6-0 senior Bryce Cartwright and 6-1 Dominick Lacoste. Both can be turnover prone and their shot selection is questionable at times.
" Dallas Rutherford, a 6-2 senior out of North Hollywood/ Campbell Hall, is a solid all-around two guard, but his decision-making, primarily his shot selection, is questionable.
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.