- Joel Francisco
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LOS ANGELES -- When it comes to evaluating basketball, the most difficult venue to capture a player's potential is the infamous camp setting. The basketball exemplified in this type of situation breeds selfishness and shoddy decision-making, and the 2008 Pangos All-American Camp at USC's Galen Center Pavilion was no exception.
Still, most of the prospects played hard and camp director Dinos Trigonis did a solid job of corralling some of the better prospects from California as well as a handful of studs from talent-rich states like Texas, North Carolina and Georgia.
There were a couple of players who stood above the rest -- 6-foot-8 junior Victor Rudd (Van Nuys, Calif.) and 6-foot-3 junior Jonathan Wall (Raleigh, N.C./ Word of God) come immediately to mind -- making their mark from the initial tip and keeping up their outstanding play throughout the camp.
Rudd, a well-known commodity on the West Coast, has had somewhat of an up-and-down spring. However, this weekend he displayed the kind of talent to be mentioned among the nation's elite. His shot is effortless and he may have the most talent, regardless of position, on the West Coast.
Wall, on the other hand, is considered one of the nation's top point guard prospect, and he certainly didn't do anything to contradict his lofty ranking. However, his decision-making was troublesome at times. His upside is greater than fellow point guard extraordinaire Abdul Gaddy because of his athletic prowess, but Gaddy's overall approach and feel for the position are peerless.
Victor Rudd (6-8, 190)
Junior, Van Nuys, Calif.
I've been one of Rudd's greatest critics, but I've never doubted his overall ability to play this game. He has all the necessary attributes of an elite-level 3-man and hopefully this event is the springboard for greater things to come. Rudd has the frame, athletic prowess, and jump-shooting ability to be one of the top wings in the country. His shot is effortless out to 25-feet and his release is tight. In addition, he is a spectacular finisher in transition. He even displayed the ability to advance the ball in transition and distributed the ball quite well in the half-court set. He needs to continue to get better off the bounce, particularly with his left hand, but overall his game is progressing.
John Wall (6-3, 180)
Junior, Raleigh, NC/ Word of God
Wall was a tad inconsistent this weekend, but when he elevates his game there are only a handful of players who can match his talent. His length is tremendous, as are his quickness and speed with the ball. He is a one-man fast break and is very unselfish -- although he does have a flair for the spectacular instead of making the more savvy decision. In addition to his erratic decision-making, his jump shot needs some refining. He has a tendency to aim his shot and it's not very fluid. Defensively, with his long arms and impressive lateral quickness, he could be a nightmare for opposing guards, but Wall doesn't appear to be concerned about that area of his game. Overall, the aforementioned Gaddy has a better feel for the position, but I would be shocked if Wall wasn't in the NBA a few years from now.
Hollis Thompson (6-7, 190)
Junior, Los Angeles/ Loyola
After a rather pedestrian spring campaign, Thompson played some of his best basketball at this event. His energy is never debatable, but his consistency in terms of productivity can be an issue now and again. However, this weekend his jump shot was flowing out to the stripe and he stroked a few midrange jumpers off the bounce that were impressive as well. He's relentless in transition and excels in trapping and playing in the lanes. He needs to become tougher (needs strength) in the blocks, utilize his length and become a tougher rebounder. But overall his play was quite good this weekend. Thompson has a ton of upside and as his skills, particularly his handle, continue to improve he should have a successful career at Georgetown.
Cory Jefferson (6-9, 190)
Junior, Kileen, Texas
Jefferson may have had the most impressive frame of any camper at the event. He is far from a finished product, but his length and athletic ability ooze potential. He is quite raw at this stage, but he did show signs of an improved midrange jumper. In addition, he had a couple of spin moves and finger rolls -- reminiscent of former San Antonio great George Gervin -- that wowed the scouts courtside. He needs to get considerably stronger because at the next level his wiry frame will get pushed around and at his size, he needs to become a better rebounder. Jefferson has many tools and as he develops his 4-man skills, he'll become one of the better players in the Big 12 by the time he's a sophomore.
Michael Snaer (6-5, 200)
Junior, Moreno Valley, Calif./ Rancho Verde
Snaer had a very good camp; his matchup with John Wall on the first night of the camp was an intriguing one. Snaer is one of the best competitors in the country, and he takes on his opponents like it's his last game. However, this approach can sometimes backfire on him -- and that's what happened in the second half against Wall. In the first half, Snaer allowed the game to come to him and didn't force the issue. He made a number of nice plays off the bounce and his jump shot was fluid. In addition, defensively he forced Wall into an uncharacteristic amount of turnovers and bad shots. However, in the second half, Wall took his game to another level and Snaer tried to keep up, resulting in bad shot selection and turnovers. Snaer is a very solid all-around player with a much improved jump shot, and as he gains experience, he'll understand how to control the flow of game at a more efficient rate.
Solomon Hill (6-6, 215)
Junior, Los Angeles/ Fairfax
If there is a more prolific passing 3-man in the country than Hill, I have yet to see him. He is tremendous in the open court and possesses vision beyond his years. In the half-court set, Hill is smooth off the bounce, and he can either hit the floater or dish it off to an open teammate. He'll probably play the 3 in college, but he does have point guard skills. His one drawback is shooting, but if this weekend was a sign of things to come, he has definitely improved that area of his game. His shot is somewhat of a set shot, but his release is pretty solid. His stock has continued to rise, and by the end of the summer he should end up as one of the top 50 players in the country.
Roger Franklin (6-5, 215)
Junior, Duncanville, Texas
Franklin has blue-collar written all over him. He has a very mature frame that causes concern over how much upside he has. Regardless, he plays the game with savvy beyond his years and can hurt opponents in a variety of ways. His physical strength and mental approach to the game are hard to come by, and his overall skill level is outstanding. He is very good in the post and uses his thick frame very well. Secondly, he has decent bounce and hits the glass with a vengeance. In addition to his power game, he can step out to nail the 3-point shot with regularity. Overall, he should be an outstanding glue-type for a high-major program.
Chris Cunningham (6-8, 230)
Junior, Diamond Bar, Calif./ Diamond Ranch
Cunningham continues to have an outstanding spring. What separates Cunningham from most post prospects in high school and college is his savvy and fundamentals. His footwork and patience in the post are remarkable considering his youth. He passes out of double-teams and maneuvers around post defenders with relative ease. He has a great pair of hands and soft touch. He doesn't have much bounce, but he has deceptive quickness. He can step out to hit the 15-foot shot with regularity as well. I originally had him pegged for the mid-major level, but he will definitely receive some high-major offers this summer.
Daniel Alexander (6-8, 210)
Sophomore, Dripping Springs, Texas
Alexander was another prospect who emerged at this event, putting himself among the nation's elite at his position. Alexander has a long, rangy frame with considerable bounce -- he had some impressive dunks in transition -- to his game. At first glance, I noticed how active he was in and around the basket due to his athleticism. However, he was quite selfish with his shot selection as well -- at least early on in camp. He has deep range on his jump shot and gets great lift on it. At this stage of his development, he is more of a catch-and-shoot type; he has tendency to struggle when defenders get into him. He needs to get stronger and more physical in the paint area, but his face-up 4-man skills are pretty solid at this point. Overall, he was one of the top wing-types I've seen in the Class of 2010 and appears to have a bright future.
Quddus Bello (6-3, 170)
Freshman, High Point, N.C./ Westchester Country Day
Bello is one of the top 2-guard prospects in the nation for his class. He possesses the quintessential frame for the position with an enormous wing-span and overall great length. His athleticism was impressive; he made a number of plays above the rim. Whether it was catching a lob from point guard extraordinaire John Wall or finishing strong in traffic, Bello was a highlight ready to happen. His jump shot looked efficient with a fairly tight release, but he needs to get more consistent in that area. It was difficult to see how developed his handle was -- there weren't many opportunities to exhibit those skills in this type of setting. Overall, due to his athletic prowess and upside, Bello has quite the future ahead of him.
Michael Thompson (6-2, 170)
Freshman, Las Vegas, Nev./ Canyon Springs
Thompson is arguably the most promising prospect from the loaded Class of 2011 in Nevada. His frame is outstanding and his athleticism is off the charts -- he was one of the more impressive finishers in the event. He has quite the burst off the bounce and can get to the rim with regularity. He didn't shoot it too often this weekend, but when he did his shot looked solid. He needs to become more consistent out to the stripe and develop a better handle while being pressured. Overall, he appears to have all the intangibles to be a top 2-guard prospect.
Robert Mandingo (6-4, 180)
Junior, Compton, Calif./ Dominguez
Mandingo had an outstanding Pangos Camp. He is best described as one of those prototypical glue-guys who helps you win games. He has great length, quick hands and his lateral quickness is high-level. He has built his reputation as a defensive stopper and in a venue in which defense is an option, he was definitely an aberration. His demeanor is stoic throughout each and every game and he has a terrific feel for the game as well -- he made a number of nifty passes throughout the event. Overall, his offensive game is coming around, but he needs to continue to hone his handle and jump-shooting ability because at this stage he gets most of his points off offensive rebounds or in transition.
Solomon Singer (6-4, 180)
Sophomore, Santa Monica, Calif.
Singer was an unknown commodity prior to this event, but with his play here at the Pangos he solidified himself as one of the top sleepers on the West Coast. He has good size for the 2 -- with a fairly lanky frame -- and his athleticism is impressive. He gets most of his points either off of quick moves to the basket or the 3-point shot. His shot is solid with a nice release, and he gets good lift on it as well. In addition to his scoring prowess, he was one of the better passers in the event and demonstrated his good feel for the game. Singer has solid upside and if he continues to develop his jump shot and tighten up his handle, he should turn out to be a solid Division I shooting guard.
What we learned
• Tony Freeland, a 6-5 junior out of Los Angeles, Fremont, continued his strong spring campaign. He's a blue collar 5/4 with a high-major frame. He is getting more comfortable off the bounce and had quite a few strong finishes at the rim. As his jump shot improves, the offers will increase.
• Kadeem Batts, a 6-8 junior out of Powder Springs, Ga./ McEachern, possesses that prototypical, Division I-ready frame for a 4. He didn't get many touches in the paint, but he can step-out to hit the 15-foot shot with regularity.
• After an outstanding outing at the Rumble in the Bay, 6-8 freshman Kevin Johnson (Gardena, Calif./ Serra) continued his excellent play at this event. He's an excellent rebounder and solid defender despite his youth.
• Joe Burton, a 6-7 junior out of Hemet, Calif./ West Valley, has unique skills -- he can hit soft jump hooks with either hand -- and he's a gifted passer, but his thick frame is worrisome to me.
• One of the more well-known enigmas on the West Coast is 6-7 junior Colin Borchert (Glendale, Ariz./ Raymond Kellis). He has impressive skills for a 4 and shooting range out to the stripe. A normal outing for him is filled with spectacular plays and head-scratching decisions. However, at this event he was under control and his savvy was excellent.
• Jeremy Olsen, a 6-9 junior out of Lawrenceville, Ga./ Collins Hills, will be taking his impressive frame, solid bounce, and an innate ability to score in the post to the University of Utah during the 2009-10 season.
• UNLV is getting a solid prospect in 6-9 junior Carlos Lopez (Henderson, Nev./ Findlay Prep). Lopez has a long frame, excellent hands and a soft shooting touch in and around the paint.
• James Blasczyk, a 6-10 junior out of New Hampton, N.H., has a good looking frame, solid fundamentals and did a nice job of converting on the inside on a consistent basis.
• 6-4 junior Darius Morris (Los Angeles/ Windward) has all the physical intangibles that colleges covet in a 1, but his tendency to force the issue and eagerness to make the spectacular play are worrisome.
• LaBradford Franklin, a 6-0 sophomore out of Vista Murrietta, Calif., has a smooth looking 3-point shot. His point guard skills are developing and he plays under control despite his youth.
• Robert Smith, a 5-11 junior out of Perris, Calif., was one of the top five point guards at the camp. Although he still needs to grow in terms of decision-making and mastering the flow of the game, he is very unselfish and looks to make others around him better. In addition, he was one of the better defensive players of the weekend, utilizing his quick feet and strength.
• Reger Dowell, a 6-0 junior out of Duncanville, Texas, is an Alabama commitment. He is a mature looking prospect with questionable upside. However, his quickness off the bounce was very noticeable and his jump shot looked more than solid.
• Kendall Williams, a 6-3 sophomore out of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif./ Los Osos, is slowly maturing into a solid point guard. He has limited speed and quickness, but his skill level is high and he has a high basketball IQ.
• A year ago, I saw 6-3 sophomore J.T. Terrell (Burlington, N.C./ Cummings) in Las Vegas and came away impressed with his jump-shooting ability and athleticism. However, his skills and savvy haven't developed as I had hoped. His shot was a tad mechanical and streaky, and he doesn't appear comfortable handling the ball, especially when defenders get into him.
• Demario Mayfield, a 6-3 junior out of Royston, Ga./ Franklin County, is raw and far from a finished product, but his frame and athleticism are eye-catching.
• Kareem Jamar, a 6-3 sophomore out of Los Angeles/ Westchester, is another intriguing prospect who emerged this weekend. He is a jack-of-all-trades; included in his diverse skill set was a solid looking 3-point shot.
• He has a great feel for the game, but 6-4 junior Jordan Finn (Etiwanda, Calif.) needs to continue to smoothen out his jump shot because of its flat release.
• One of the better all-around prospects in the West is 6-5 junior Garrett Johnson (Diamond Bar, Calif./ Diamond Ranch). He has the ability and savvy to play all three perimeter positions due to his savvy and skill, but most likely he'll be a 3 in college.
• As he fills into his tremendous frame 6-6 sophomore Anthony Brown (Huntington Beach, Calif./ Ocean View) will be mentioned among the best at this position in the country. He isn't as bouncy as Josh Childress (Atlanta Hawks), but his skills are quite similar.
• If you're looking for the next James Cotton (former Long Beach State standout) and or Charles O'Bannon (former UCLA standout) you needn't look any further than 6-5 junior Thurman Woods (Compton, Calif./ Dominguez).
• Michael Calhoun, a 6-7 junior out of Kennesaw, Ga./ Kennesaw Mountain, has many of the intangibles (athleticism, length, and scoring prowess) you find in elite-level 3-men.
• Jerry Evans, a 6-6 junior out of Lawndale, Calif./ Leuzinger, has an incredible wing-span and intriguing perimeter skills. However, he needs to play harder at both ends and play with much more purpose.
• If there is an elite prospect whose game doesn't translate well to the camp setting, it is 6-5 sophomore Tyler Lamb (Ontario, Calif./ Colony). He isn't a blazer blessed with great quickness (struggled breaking down defenders off the bounce), and he forced an uncharacteristic amount of jump shots as well, but he did make a number of savvy-type passes that demonstrated his feel for the game.
• Although 6-5 junior Alec Williams has the prototypical frame for a tight end in football, basketball is his forte—and he's quite good at it. Williams has deceptive bounce, skills, and savvy to be a solid recruit at the mid-major level. He has range out to the stripe and his ball skills have improved immensely since the regular season.
• Marcus Ruppel, a 6-6 junior out of Glendale, Ariz./Deer Valley, raised his stock amongst evaluators at this camp. He has a feathery touch out to the stripe and that prototypical wing-type frame that college coaches covet. He needs to get stronger with the basketball and show a greater urgency to rebound, but his athleticism and jump shot are Division I caliber.
• D'Angelo Scott, a 6-7 junior out of Lynwood, Calif., has a lengthy frame and solid perimeter handle (got to the rim on a number of occasions). However, his perimeter shot needs refining because it's extremely flat in its trajectory.