- Joel Francisco
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LOS ANGELES -- Although 6-8 senior Tyler Honeycutt (Sylmar, Calif.) displayed the most promise with his feathery shooting touch and bouncy nature, it would be the underclassmen taking center stage at the UCLA Skills Camp, most notably 6-5 junior Tyler Lamb (Ontario, Calif./ Colony), 6-3 sophomore Jabari Brown (Richmond, Calif./ Salesian) and 6-7 sophomore Kyle Wiltjer (Portland, Ore./ Jesuit).
Lamb was the steadiest out of all the prospects and demonstrated why he is one of a few elite-level wing-types in the West. Brown plays with skill and savvy well beyond his years while Wiltjer exhibits the scoring gifts of former Cal-Berkeley standout Ryan Anderson.
Tyler Honeycutt (6-8, 180)
2009, Sylmar, Calif.
After a pedestrian first day of camp during which his effort level wasn't where it needed to be, Honeycutt was the most impressive performer the next day. He has a slight frame due to his continued growth spurt, but his athleticism and skills are coming along nicely. He has a smooth stroke out beyond the stripe, and he is getting better breaking defenders down off the bounce -- although he needs to bring his dribble down. What separates Honeycutt from most wings is his passing ability. He handed out a number of assists that were impressive, demonstrating his overall feel for the game. His rebounding ability has improved since the regular season, but he needs to become tougher, especially on the defensive end.
Tyler Lamb (6-4, 190)
2010, Ontario, Calif./ Colony
Lamb might have been the most consistent performer of the camp. His game has grown steadily in the past year and his demeanor is terrific. His handle has improved significantly as well, and despite not having great quickness, he has one of the better crossover moves in the West. In addition, he utilizes the pump fake as well as anybody on the high school level. Lamb still needs to hone his fundamentals -- he has a tendency to leave his feet while attempting to pass in the paint -- and continue to smoothen out his jump shot, which has a slow release, but overall his progress has been excellent.
Yannick Atanga (6-8, 215)
2010, Ojai, Calif./ Besant Hill
Atanga, originally from Cameroon, was one of the revelations at the camp. His frame oozes potential; he measured out with the longest reach in camp. His post skills and fundamentals are a work in progress. However, he is quite bouncy and he gets off the floor extremely quick. He gets most of his points off tip-dunks and drop-step moves, but overall he is still quite raw. He plays with great energy and he has all the intangibles (length, quickness, and desire) to be an outstanding defender at the next level.
Nick Johnson (6-1, 180)
2011, Gilbert, Ariz./ Highland
Johnson's game is quite mature for someone so young. At this stage, he's an undersized 2-guard with explosive leaping ability and a smooth looking jump shot. He has a solid first step to the basket and he can elevate amongst the bigs to finish in dramatic fashion. His jump shot is effortless and he gets great lift on it, but it's not as consistent as it needs to be -- which is shocking because his mechanics are so tight. Whether Johnson grows remains to be seen, but it will be interesting to see if he develops into a point guard in the coming years; he has the savvy to do it.
Josiah Turner (6-1, 165)
2011, Sacramento, Calif.
Turner was the most promising point guard in camp and it wasn't really close. He has the ideal size for the 1 and his skills and savvy are extraordinary considering his youth. Turner has a lean frame with very good quickness and speed in the open court. His handle is extremely tight and he keeps the ball low at all times, especially when penetrating. He has a variety of speeds to his game, but he is at his best in transition. He is a pinpoint passer and makes a number of them with his left hand. He can thread the needle with the best of them and rarely turns it over. Despite all the superlatives, Turner needs to work on his jump shot, especially when he shoots it beyond the stripe. His pull-up in transition is quite solid, but its trajectory is flat. As he gets stronger this should help the mechanics of his shot. Another concern I came across at the camp is his effort level. He appeared to play in spurts and coasted through many of the drills. Whether this comes to haunt him down the road remains to be seen.
Jabari Brown (6-3, 185)
2011, Richmond, Calif./ Salesian
When it comes to mentioning the best all-around guards in the Class of 2011, Brown is near the top of the list. His frame doesn't exactly scream upside, but he's big enough to be a solid Division I combo-guard down the road. He has a chiseled physique with solid speed and quickness and he's deceptively bouncy. What separates him from most prospects his age is his overall feel for the game. His fundamentals are quite good in many areas of the game, especially when feeding the post. He can handle the ball equally well with both hands and he is very strong going to the rim with his right. His jump shot is efficient out to the stripe and his release is tight. In addition, he uses the glass well in transition, although he needs to tighten up his mechanics; he has a tendency, at times, to shuffle his feet.
Kyle Wiltjer (6-7, 195)
2011, Portland, Ore./ Jesuit
Wiltjer was one of the more pleasant surprises of the camp. He is far from a finished product, but that's what makes him so intriguing. He reminds me of a young Ryan Anderson, but if he grows he may resemble former University of Washington standout Spencer Hawes. He possesses a gangly frame with long arms and it wouldn't surprise me if he grows a few more inches. He isn't overly quick and/or explosive, but he runs well in transition. His skills in the post are very good and his footwork is impeccable. He has quite the arsenal for someone so young. He has a dependable jump hook with either hand and his outside shooting touch is smooth and effortless out to the stripe.
Perris Blackwell (6-6, 245)
2009, Etiwanda, Calif.
Blackwell has improved immensely since the regular season. His body has tightened up over the past couple of months. As a result, he has become bouncier and more mobile. Despite his thick frame, he gets off the floor quickly. He has a great pair of hands and generally grabs everything in his area. He has a solid drop-step move, but the development of his face-up game, specifically his footwork, has caused his stock to rise. Overall, Blackwell is becoming a solid, mid-major 5-man.
Allen Crabbe (6-4, 180)
2010, Los Angeles/ Price
It's always nice to see prospects read about improvements they need to make in their game, then apply it in a short period of time. In the past, Crabbe was strictly known as a shooter, but now he has added some different aspects to his game that have made him less one-dimensional. He has become tougher off the bounce and his passing ability has improved as well. For example, he made a couple of plays on which he broke his defender down then delivered a nice assist in the paint area.
Stephan Van Treese (6-8, 225)
2009, Indianapolis/ Lawrence North
Van Treese has had a lofty reputation since his freshman season, but his stock is not nearly as high as it once was. He has a nice looking frame with broad shoulders and long arms, and his fundamentals and skills are solid. He is a decent athlete who plays hard at both ends; however, he has limited bounce and is a tad mechanical finishing in the paint area -- he needs space to get on balance. He can spot-up and hit the jump shot at the elbow with regularity. Overall, he is a solid, blue-collar type who needs to polish up his face-up skills, specifically taking defenders off the bounce.
Kendall Williams (6-2, 165)
2010, Rancho Cucamonga, Calif./ Los Osos
Williams is becoming one of the most talked about enigmas on the West Coast. After a scintillating freshman campaign, his game has reached a plateau. He isn't blessed with great lateral quickness and his overall projected position (is he a 1 or a 2) has come into question as well. His decision-making can get erratic because he needs to implement a jump stop to his game. Many times he takes off, utilizing his very good first step, but then he leaves his feet in the paint area to create plays, thus becoming turnover prone. On the other hand, he does have excellent court vision and can deliver the nifty assist, especially in transition. His jump shot is solid out to the stripe and he gets decent lift as well. Overall, he needs to hone in on the fundamentals of the game and become a better decision-maker from the 1 spot.
UCLA Skills Camp Notes
• Jordin Mayes, a 6-2 junior out of Los Angeles/ Westchester, is growing into a legitimate 1 for the next level. He isn't ultra-quick or bouncy, but he has a smooth-looking jump shot and excellent vision.
• Ivan Matip, a 6-3 junior out of Ojai, Calif. / Besant Hill, has quite the chiseled physique for someone so young. His skills are impressive as well as he handed out a number of nice passes and his jump shot looked solid as well.
• There weren't too many prospects in camp who worked harder than 6-10 sophomore Kyle Caudill (Brea, Calif./ Brea Olinda). His post skills have improved since the regular season and he finishes well around the basket with his left hand.
• Reeves Nelson, a 6-6 senior at Modesto, Calif./ Modesto Christian, worked out with the guards in camp. However, when the day is done he'll be a blue collar 4-man with some intriguing face-up skills.
• Some of the coaches and scouts sitting courtside were marveling at 6-8 sophomore Kevin Johnson's frame. He still has a ways to go on the offensive end, but his post skills and fundamentals have improved since the regular season.
• Two of the best prospect that I've seen for the class of 2012 are 6-5 Brandon Ashley (Oakland, Calif./ Bishop O'Dowd) and 6-4 Xavier Johnson (Temecula, Calif./ Chaparral).
Ashley has a lengthy frame and huge feet and projects to being a solid 4-man down the road, while Johnson possesses a lot of upside at the 3-spot with his developing perimeter skills and rangy frame.
• DeAndre Daniels a 6-8 junior who just recently transferred to Woodland Hills, Calif./ Taft from La Canada, Calif./ Renaissance Academy, is a rangy 4-man with an excellent touch out to the stripe. He needs to bulk up and hone his ball skills, but he's an intriguing prospect out of the Class of 2010.
• He has always been known for being a blur in the open court and a prolific jump shooter, but 5-8 sophomore Cesar Guerrero (Bellflower, Calif./ St. John Bosco) did a solid job of distributing the basketball instead of forcing his shot.
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.