LOS ANGELES -- The 2008 GBOA Hoops tournament made its debut at the Galen Center on USC's campus featuring a number of the top AAU teams in California going head-to-head in some intriguing matchups. (Although the Pump-n-Run Elite and Compton Magic were not in attendance, there were a quite a few talent-laden teams to evaluate.)
Saturday the basketball was quite good; most teams got after it at both ends of the floor and showed nice patience and execution throughout the day. Sunday however the early games turned ragged. In some cases, emotions went overboard -- a melee nearly broke out between the California Supreme and The Hood in the quarterfinals. The game would eventually be cancelled at the 11:47 mark of the second half with the California Supreme leading by 12.
Despite that distraction, the rest of the day ran relatively smoothly. At the end of the day, less talented, well-composed Branch West team took home the championship by defeating Inland Empire 49-47. The inside-outside combo of 5-foot-10 Alex Tucker (Summit Prep) and 6-foot-5 senior Eric Wise (Riverside, Calif./ Martin Luther King) would be too much for opponents to overcome -- not to mention the play of one of the better "glue" types in the West -- 6-foot-8 junior Andy Brown (Santa Ana, Calif./ Mater Dei).
Michael Snaer (6-5, 195)
Junior, Moreno Valley, Calif./ Rancho Verde
Snaer has taken his game to another level this spring. His frame has slimmed down some, and as a result he has become more explosive, especially on the offensive glass. He is a solid all-around player. For his AAU team (Inland) he is playing point guard. But at the next level, he'll strictly be a 2-guard. He handles the ball well -- although his left hand needs some polishing -- and he has a quick first step to the basket. The biggest improvement of his game is his shooting. His jump shot appears to be less flat and his release is quick. He had a tendency at times to hunt shots and force the action, which lead to his being turnover prone. But overall he has definitely been one of the better performers at both ends of the court this spring.
Renardo Sidney (6-9, 245)
Junior, Los Angeles/ Fairfax
Although his team (LA Dream) lost both of its pool play games, Sidney was by far the most physically dominating prospect this weekend. His frame is that of an NBA power forward -- with broad shoulders and long arms -- but he doesn't take advantage of it nearly enough. He can handle and pass the ball with equal aplomb, especially in transition. In addition, he has a solid stroke out to 22 feet. However, he settles for jump shots far too often and doesn't dominate the interior -- at either end -- as much as he should. Although he may envision himself as an NBA wing-type, he is simply becoming too big for that to happen. Sidney needs to continue to work on his face-up, 4-man skills and develop more skill and savvy in the post to reach his potential. At this level, he can get away with trying to be LeBron James, but at the next level and beyond he'll have to adjust to become more like Chris Webber.
Victor Rudd (6-8, 195)
Junior, Van Nuys, Calif.
Rudd is the quintessential wing-type for the next level. He still has a ways to go in terms of skill development and savvy, but overall, he is having a solid spring. In transition, he's extremely athletic and can get to the rim with authority -- his dunk on Colin Borchert was special. He's showing a greater urgency to rebound and appears to be more focused at both ends. However, there are still kinks in his game that need attention. First, he rarely takes defenders off the dribble, settling for the 3-point shot far too often. Secondly, with his size and length, it would be wise for him to take the ball to the paint area -- it would certainly make him more versatile. Overall though, he is a high-major prospect and one of the top five wings on the West Coast.
Derrick Williams (6-7, 210)
Junior, La Mirada, Calif.
Williams continues to showcase why he is considered one of the top 4/3 types on the West Coast. I still consider him a very good prospect for the West Coast Conference, but if his game continues to progress, he may end up higher by the time the summer evaluation period ends. He has a great frame with long arms, but he isn't very bouncy, especially around the basket. His jump shot has improved considerably since his sophomore campaign, and he's getting more efficient off the bounce. It will be interesting to see how his recruitment progresses over the next few months.
Solomon Hill (6-6, 210)
Junior, Los Angeles/ Fairfax
These Solomon Hill updates may be getting tiresome for some readers. Hill, however, has been efficient enough at both ends to warrant this attention -- and this weekend was no different. He continues to demonstrate he's the best all-around player at both ends of the court for a very talented California Supreme team. He is the best passer, decision-maker and defender, and he is far from a finished product. He attacks the rim very well, but he favors finishing with his right hand far too often and really needs to be equally efficient with either hand. Secondly, his jump shot, which is more like a set-shot, needs to get much more consistent. Despite his inconsistent jump shot, it's amazing how easily he gets to the basket. At the next level however, he'll have to get better as a shooter to keep defenses honest.
Jeremy Tyler (6-9, 240)
Sophomore, San Diego
After watching Tyler dominate the Cactus Classic last spring as a freshman, it's simply amazing how much his overall skills, fundamentals, explosiveness and savvy have taken a significant step backward in terms of development. He is still blessed with an incredible frame with some of the longest arms I've seen on a prospect, but overall he has become one of the most talked about enigmas on the West Coast. Tyler did have some moments of brilliance and gave a few glimpses of the vast potential he possesses. However, his fundamentals -- he has a tendency to brings the ball down the court in traffic -- and overall skills -- he really needs to develop a jump hook -- have diminished from a year go. He used to be able to hit the 15-foot jump shot off the glass with regularity, but I haven't seen him take or convert that shot in more than six months. In addition, he used to rebound, using both hands, with a sense of urgency and be quite the ferocious dunker in traffic, but he didn't display that type of explosiveness this weekend. In the grand scheme of things, he is only a sophomore with a lot of pressure on his shoulders and two more years of maturity to rely on. But his development -- both from a mental and physical standpoint -- is going to be one of the more interesting stories to follow in the coming years.
Norvel Pelle (6-8, 190)
Freshman, Compton, Calif./ Dominguez
Pelle is one of the better looking prospects in the Class of 2011. He has a lanky, yet narrow frame with extremely long arms. He has very quick feet. Despite his wiry frame, he is quite strong, especially in the lower extremities. His strengths at this stage are his shot-blocking ability (exceptional timing) and post defense. He leans on opponents and is very aggressive despite his youth. He is quite bouncy and gets off the floor twice before most get up once. His offensive game is quite raw, but he has all the intangibles -- like length and soft hands -- to be a solid 4/5 prospect in the future.
Nick Johnson (6-2, 180)
Freshman, Gilbert, Ariz./ Highland
Johnson has progressed nicely since the Pangos frosh-soph camp in the fall. He has a stocky frame with fairly long arms and solid overall length for a 2. He's an outstanding athlete with considerable bounce -- not surprising considering his dad is the legendary leaper Joey Johnson (Los Angeles/Banning and Arizona State). He plays the game with skill and savvy well beyond his years. His jump shot is tight and he's always on balance. He handles the ball effectively with either hand and is a very sound passer. His court demeanor is great and he never seems to get rattled under pressure. He still needs to get better at getting to the rim at the bounce, but I'm sure that will come in due time.
What we learned
" Tony Freeland, a 6-5 junior out of Los Angeles/ Fremont, is an undersized 5/4 for the mid-major level. His shot, which extends out to 15 feet, is a tad unorthodox, but his length (broad shoulders and long arms) and tenacity allow him to compete against players much bigger.
" One of the more inconsistent players on the West coast is 6-2 junior Darius Morris (Los Angeles/ Windward). For every spectacular play that he makes, there are always a few plays mixed in that leave you shaking your head. His feel for the game -- he overpenetrates on a regular basis -- has always been a troublesome trait.
" Marcus Lever, a 6-1 junior out of Phoenix/ Desert Vista, enhanced his stock with at this event. His frame is impressive and his skills have improved since the regular season. His jump shot is flat, but his point guard skills are coming along and he has the potential to be an excellent defender at the next level due to his length.
" Andrew Bock, a 6-0 junior out of Rialto, Calif./ Eisenhower, continues to demonstrate why he should be one of the more heavily-recruited point guards on the West Coast. His savvy has improved since the regular season and he has a very clever handle.
" Kauri Black, a 6-6 senior out of Rialto, Calif./ Eisenhower, was one of the more intriguing prospects this weekend. His skill level for the 3 was better than I expected. He possesses the savvy to quite possibly play in the Big West Conference.
" Derek Kaster, a 6-5 sophomore out of Moreno Valley/ Canyon Springs, has a solid looking frame and decent perimeter skills. However, his decision-making needs a lot of refining.
" The Wear's (David and Travis) out of Santa Ana, Calif./ Mater Dei, have lost some of their bounce, but their respective skill set and feel for the game are impressive.
" A sleeper combo-guard who emerged this weekend is 6-0 junior Derrick Flowers (Los Angeles/ Pacific Hills). He is more of a scorer at this stage, but his handle is fairly slick and he has solid range on his jump shot.
" He isn't overly athletic, but 6-8 junior Andy Brown (Santa Ana, Calif./ Mater Dei) has solid perimeter skills and plays with a purpose on every possession.
" Justin Cobbs, a 6-1 junior out of Torrance, Calif./ Bishop Montgomery, and 6-0 sophomore Gary Franklin (Santa Ana, Calif./ Mater Dei) are scoring guards who need to develop an understanding on how to get others involved. Their post-entry passes to Jeremy Tyler (San Diego, Calif.) were fundamentally unsound.
" Thurmon Woods, a 6-5 junior out of Compton/ Dominguez, appears to be getting back to his normal self after a knee injury during the regular season. This lefty has a soft touch out to 17 feet and he's an effective scorer in the post area as well.
" He needs to develop a better handle and improve his shot selection, but 6-2 sophomore Willie Hankins (Van Nuys, Calif.) has one of the better looking strokes in California.
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.