Commentary

Westchester shows talent and depth

Westchester High School's talent was impressive at the Ocean View Tournament of Champions, writes Joel Francisco.

Originally Published: December 16, 2008
By Joel Francisco | Scouts Inc.

HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. -- The 2008 Ocean View Tournament of Champions wasn't chock-full of elite prospects like last season's event, which included current Pac-10 starters Jrue Holiday (UCLA) and Demar DeRozan (USC). However, it did feature a significant amount of Division I talent and a school (Los Angeles/Westchester) that may challenge Mater Dei as the No. 1 team in the state.

While Mater Dei was busy feasting on holiday cupcakes in the Loara tournament, Westchester has captured two legitimate championships in as many weeks with its hard-fought, 62-57 victory over Leuzinger of Lawndale, Calif.

Led by the best unsigned point guard in the West, 5-foot-8 senior Dominique O'Connor, who tossed in 16 points in the final, and a plethora of juniors -- most notably 6-2 Jordin Mayes and 6-4 Kareem Jamar -- the Comets systematically advanced through the brackets to snag the championship.

Standout Players

Dominique O'Connor (5-8, 155)
Senior, Los Angeles/ Westchester

O'Connor was the MVP of the tournament, and he has raised his stock (Montana State and San Francisco have offered) as much as any prospect in the region. He doesn't have the ideal size for a 1 at the next level, but he possesses every other intangible college coaches covet in a point guard. He is a tremendous competitor who is as tough a player as you'll find in high school. At times, he makes poor decisions in transition and becomes turnover-prone, but O'Connor has definitely improved that area of his game. He has tremendous quickness, and he has that rare ability to change speeds at any given time. His stocky frame and burst allows him to penetrate in the paint and deliver the assist. In addition, he has the skill to knock down the 3-point shot. During this tournament, he was accountable for almost every big play in the Comets' run for the championship, and he will be attracting more attention from Division I coaches as the season progresses.

Reese Morgan (6-2, 200)
Sophomore, Palos Verdes, Calif./ Peninsula

Morgan is a basketball player in every sense of the word. Physically, he doesn't possess Division I athleticism, but there is no question he has the savvy, skill and toughness to play for somebody. He has limited quickness, but he knows how to free himself for his offensive repertoire. He has a high-level jump shot with a smooth release, and he utilizes the pump-fake very well. He is a very good passer and has an overall great feel for the game. Despite his lack of bounce, he can score in the paint off the dribble and uses his thick frame to ward off defenders. It will be interesting to see where his frame goes in the coming years, but there is no question he can play this game.

Perris Blackwell (6-7, 240)
Senior, Etiwanda, Calif.

Blackwell continues to show why he is a more-than-solid pickup for the University of San Francisco. He isn't a great leaper, but he has a huge frame, long arms and soft hands. He brings a consistent effort each time out, and the best way to describe him is that he's efficient. He has excellent footwork in the post and he utilizes his frame to finish consistently in traffic -- although he had his shot blocked a few times against Westchester. He runs the floor well for a player his size and can finish in transition. Kareem Jamar (6-4, 190)
Junior, Los Angeles/ Westchester

Jamar is a prototypical blue-collar type for the next level. He has a terrific frame with long arms and overall solid athleticism, but the level of his recruitment will depend on the development of his perimeter skills, specifically his jump shot. He needs to get more lift on his shot because its trajectory is quite flat. Despite his erratic jump shot, Jamar does the necessary things that win ballgames. He is an outstanding rebounder for his size and has a knack for being around the ball at all times. In addition, he is a very good passer due to his game savvy.

Avery Johnson (6-3, 190)
Junior, Huntington Beach, Calif./ Ocean View

Johnson is one of the top sleepers in the West Coast Class of 2010. He is a rangy athlete with long arms, and he has some bounce to him, as well. His game is best described as blue-collar. He is that quintessential glue type who does all the little things that make his team successful. He is an outstanding rebounder who has the ability to lead the fast break and deliver a nifty assist. He gets great lift on his jump shot and his release looks smooth, but his shot is shaky at best. Defensively, he utilizes his long arms and savvy to shut down opponents, and his demeanor is outstanding.

Jerry Evans (6-7, 180)
Senior, Lawndale, Calif./ Leuzinger

Evans has a lot of work to do in the classroom, but he has the talent and frame (long arms) to play at the high-major level. This lefty is reminiscent of former UNLV standout Stacey Augmon, although he isn't the defensive stalwart that Augmon proved to be throughout his career. He has solid perimeter skills, including a crafty handle and a much-improved jump shot with 3-point range. He is very adept at getting to the basket and his passing can be high-level at times. One of his downfalls in the past has been his inconsistent production. However, thus far Evans has been impressive. He has shown leadership skills and a much-improved work ethic at both ends.

Surprise Players

Kyle Fuller (6-1, 180)
Junior, Moreno Valley, Calif./ Rancho Verde

Fuller had the most spectacular effort of the tournament with his 35-point outburst in the first round. His projected position is the 1, but he can really stroke the jump shot. He has a strong physique with fairly long arms and is quite explosive. He has a tremendous first step, and he possesses that rare second gear in the open court. He has a tendency to force the issue, but overall his overall game is quite good. He can run a team in the half court and is a very good passer. In the open court, he has the skill to weave his way to the basket and finish at the rim, but he needs to work on his left hand -- he has a propensity to keep the ball in his right hand. For him to reach his potential, Fuller will need to sharpen up his left hand in both finishing and handling the ball.

Steven Adams (6-8, 230)
Junior, Pasadena, Calif.

After a stellar performance during the HAX Fall League, Adams has shown only glimpses of what he is capable of in the season's first couple of weeks. First and foremost, his approach to the game has been disappointing, to say the least. In all fairness, he has just come back from a minor knee injury, but his sometimes lacking effort, specifically on rebounding and defense, raises concern for the next level. Adams has unique ability for a player his size. He is a wide-body with a smooth shooting touch and very soft hands. In addition to his ability to knock down the open shot, he is capable of finding the open man. Whether in a half-court set or after a rebound, his savvy for this game is very impressive, but his effort level needs an overhaul.

Michael Snaer (6-5, 190)
Senior, Moreno Valley, Calif./ Rancho Verde

Snaer may have been the biggest disappointment of the tournament. He is a major talent, a great competitor, and has a bevy of skills, but his approach to the game was troublesome. He took a number of ill-advised jump shots -- some well beyond the 3-point stripe -- and he forced the issue off the bounce, leading to an uncharacteristic number of turnovers. He did get to the foul line on a consistent basis and he made a number of spectacular plays, but his shot selection, decision-making and fundamentals (a jump stop would help) need immediate attention before he gets to Florida State.

Alex Osborne (6-7, 220)
Senior, Los Angeles/ Pacific Hills

Osborne has all the intangibles to be a solid 4-man in the Big West Conference. He has an impressive frame with very long arms and overall solid length. He has good lift, but he is far from a quick leaper. He doesn't have great feet, but he pivots well and projects to being a solid face-up power forward for the next level. He can step out and nail the jump shot at the elbow, and his release is solid. In addition, he is a strong rebounder and a tough overall competitor.

Top Sleepers

Christian Frankling (6-3, 180)
Junior, Gardena, Calif.

Frankling has a terrific frame for the 2-guard slot at the next level. He is an explosive athlete who attacks the rim with reckless abandon. He does a tremendous job avoiding contact as he slithers through defenders. He has the ability to finish at the rim or hang in the air to avoid getting his shot blocked. Frankling needs to hone his ballhandling -- he tends to turn it over when defenders get into him -- and improve his jump shot. But he has the athleticism to play at the Division I level.

Julian Wheeler (6-2, 180)
Senior, Lawndale, Calif./ Leuzinger

Wheeler transferred from Beverly Hills High School for his senior season, and he's making the most of that move. This lefty, when he gets his feet set, has a prolific shooting stroke. He has a tight release and he gets it off quickly. In addition to his shooting, he does a fairly decent job of breaking opponents down and delivering an assist -- sometimes in very tight situations. Overall, Wheeler is a possible Division I recruit, especially if he tones down his pace and allows the game to come to him more often.

Shelton Boykin (6-4, 190)
Junior, Long Beach, Calif./ Poly

Boykin is an elite athlete with a significant amount of bounce and a lengthy frame. His long arms and leaping ability allow him to be a better rebounder than expected, especially on the offensive end where he gets multiple tip-ins. His perimeter skills are raw at this stage, and he needs to pay particular attention to his ballhandling. He has an explosive first step to the basket, but his left hand is weak. He gets great lift on his jump shot, but he has a hitch in his release that needs to be honed. Boykin has a ton of upside, but at this stage he is a prospect without a position at the next level.

Mark Ware (6-4, 190)
Junior, Hemet, Calif./ West Valley

Ware is a lefty 4-man who has a solid amount of upside for the next level. He has terrific length with very long arms. His skills are raw at this stage, but he has the physical features to be a player someday. He brings an honest effort each time out, especially when it comes to rebounding and filling the lanes. His handle is solid in the open court and he's a decent passer, but he'll need to extend his shooting range to warrant a scholarship for the Division I level.

Michael Mayes (6-1, 160)
Senior, Long Beach, Calif./ Poly

Mayes has been under the radar most of his career, but if his performance at the TOC is any indication of what the future holds, he'll be signing with a low Division I school in the late signing period. He has great size for the 1 and his skills are solid. He pushes the ball well in transition and generally makes good decisions. His pull-up game has improved immensely since his junior campaign, but he still needs to extend his shooting range out to the stripe. He competes at both ends with equal aplomb and has the potential to be an outstanding defender at the next level due to his quickness and length.

Denzel Johnson (6-2, 170)
Sophomore, Fresno, Calif./ Clovis West

Johnson is a fine-looking 2-guard prospect for the next level. He has the willowy frame that college coaches covet. He has solid speed and quickness, but his handle needs polishing (specifically his left hand) to be ready for the next level. His jump shot is very smooth, but his release needs to quicken up.

Leon Gibson (6-7, 200)
Senior, Gardena, Calif./Serra

Gibson has a terrific frame with long arms and soft hands. He has solid bounce and runs well in transition and can finish with a ferocious dunk. He can step out and nail the 15-foot pull-up at the elbow and could be effective in a pick-and-pop situation and/or in a high-low set. Gibson's post game is quite raw and his fundamentals are poor, but there is a solid amount of upside to work with.

TOC Notes

• The ball ties him in knots and he needs a lot of polishing on his fundamentals, but 6-7 junior Dwayne Polee (Los Angeles/ Westchester) is the most explosive leaper in the Los Angeles area since former Louisville standout Cornelius Holden donned the Crenshaw Cougar uniform 20 years ago.

• Anthony Brown, a 6-6 junior (Huntington Beach, Calif./Ocean View) is physically immature, but he is a tremendous passer and can knock down the 3-point shot with regularity. As he gets stronger, he'll be one of the most highly coveted prospects around the country.

• Stephon Carter, a 6-3 Cal State Bakersfield signee out of Bakersfield, Calif., turned in a fine performance at the TOC. He has a strong physique and can score in a variety of ways.

• If college coaches are desiring a 6-3 senior jump shooter -- not to mention a tough defender -- they should look no further than Marcus Ford (Pasadena, Calif.).

• Christian Katuala, a 6-3 senior from Etiwanda, Calif., is undersized for the next level, but he is quite productive at as an offensive rebounder and defender at this level.

• One of the smoothest jump shooters in the West is 6-2 junior Jordin Mayes (Los Angeles/ Westchester). In addition, he has a great feel for the game.

• Todd Lewis Jr., a 6-2 sophomore from Pasadena, Calif., has the length and scoring mentality that projects nicely to the next level.

• One of the under-appreciated prospects on the West Coast is 6-4 Air Force signee Jordan Finn (Etiwanda, Calif.). He isn't going to wow you with quickness, but his jump shot has improved and he's very unselfish.

• Ryan Anderson, a 6-7 sophomore (Long Beach, Calif./ Poly), is a very good-looking prospect for the next level. He has a wiry frame, blossoming post skills and a soft shooting touch.

• Kurt Davis, a 6-5 junior (Compton, Calif./ Centennial), can score in a variety of ways. His jump shot has a high release, but it's effective, and he utilizes his wiry frame to slash his way to the basket on a consistent basis.

• One of the most-improved prospects on the West Coast is 6-9 UC Davis signee DeAndre Medlock (Fresno, Calif./ Clovis West). His frame is still frail, but he has good hands and solid bounce.

• Weber State got a good one in 6-5 senior Blake Davis (Phoenix, Ariz./ St. Mary's). He's physically ready for the next level and has a solid all-around game.

• Ronnie Stevens (Gardena, Calif./ Serra) had a productive week. The 6-8 sophomore can step out and hit the 15-foot shot with regularity, and he's a solid shot-blocker.

Joel Francisco has been a high school basketball scout for 15 years. He has written for Hoop Scoop Magazine and Basketball Times and organized "So-Cal's Finest," his own scouting service.