- Joel Francisco
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SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. -- The 2009 Mission Prep Christmas Classic wasn't as plentiful with elite teams as in the past, but it did provide a championship game that was well worth the wait. Coming into the finale, it almost was a foregone conclusion that Taft (Woodland Hills, Calif.) would walk away with first place, but F.W. Ballou (Washington, D.C.) had a whole different agenda.
Although the Toreadors (Taft) had a more balanced roster with elite talent, the Knights (F.W. Ballou) initiated the contest with a little medieval flavor and took a 35-28 halftime lead due to being much more physical. However, 6-foot-8 DeAndre Daniels (Taft) would change the game's complexion by blocking seven shots and hauling down 14 rebounds to go along with 17 points. His terrific all-around effort -- which helped him earn MVP honors -- combined with a surprising 19-point outburst by 6-4 Pierson Williams would vault Taft to a 65-62 victory.
Bryce Jones, SG (6-5, 180)
2010, Woodland Hills, Calif./Taft
Jones played very well throughout the week, with the exception of the championship. Despite his propensity to get into foul trouble throughout the tournament, he did manage to put up some impressive numbers. What's special about Jones is his ability to affect the game on many levels. He has a solid handle in transition and is one of the better passing wing-types in the country. Despite his wiry frame, he is also a terrific rebounder with a significant amount of bounce. He gets most of his points sliding and slithering his way to the basket and he's even posting up more, which is nice to see. Defensively, he slides his feet very well and he'll be able to guard multiple positions at the next level. However, his jump shot needs polishing to keep defenses honest and he needs to stop picking up silly fouls -- especially in transition.
Dontae Thomas, SG (6-3,180)
2010, Washington, D.C./F.W. Ballou
Thomas was the most consistent performer on a physically imposing, yet fairly well-rounded team. He has an ideal frame for the 2-guard slot at the next level as well as the necessary ball skills -- except shooting. He is terrific off the dribble and has excellent body control while finishing in the lane. In addition, he delivered a number of nifty assists to keep the defenders honest. He is primarily a scorer and is very potent in the midrange area, but he'll need to improve his jump shot to take his game to another level. His shot is flat and it's not a confident stroke, by any means. Overall, Thomas is neither a 1 nor a 2, but he should find a spot at the Division I level as a glue-type player.
DeAndre Daniels, PF (6-8,190)
2010, Woodland Hills, Calif./Taft
After a summer in which Daniels was strictly known as a scorer, it's nice to see him adjust his game to benefit his team. The sinewy power forward didn't hunt shots all week and rebounded at an impressive rate. In addition to his blocked shots and rebounding, he displayed a feathery touch to the stripe. Despite the improvements in his approach, it will be interesting to see how his game will translate to the Big 12 because he will need to add bulk to his frail frame to be effective at that particular level.
Jordon Batts, PG (6-2, 165)
2012, Fresno, Calif./Edison
Batts is one of the better looking 2-guards on the West Coast class of 2012. He has a solid frame with good length and he possesses the ability to score in many ways. He loves to work the baseline, coming off of screens, to make room for his smooth jump shot. He doesn't get great lift on his shot, but his release is very quick and tight. His ballhandling is more than solid in the open court and his first step to the basket is quite good. In addition, he has a nice runner that he hits with regularity. He needs to get stronger going left and to develop a midrange pull-up, but overall he looks to be a solid Division I prospect.
Michaelyn Scott, SG (6-0, 155)
2011, Los Angeles/Washington
Scott is an undersized 2-guard for the next level, but he has a tremendous knack to score. He can stroke the jump shot either off the catch or the pull-up off the dribble. He has a crafty handle in the open court and will locate the open man on occasion, but he looks to score more often than not. Despite his wiry frame, he is a very potent slasher and has a nice floater to boot. Scott has a slight frame and doesn't possess ideal size for Division I, but if he could develop some point guard skills, his future playing at the next level increases significantly.
Player to watch
Robert Upshaw, C (6-10, 220)
2012, Fresno, Calif./Edison
Upshaw has an enormous frame and may end up a 7-footer due to his length and huge feet. However, like most bigs, he has a long ways to go in terms of his overall development. He doesn't have much lift, but that should improve in time as he physically matures. However, in terms of his post skills he needs to bend his knees and spread out to take advantage of his length. He plays too straight up and down and lacks aggressiveness at both ends. He does have soft hands, however, and he turns over his left shoulder pretty effectively around the basket. Defensively, he keeps his hands up most of the time, but at his size he needs to be a much better shot blocker and rebounder to make more of an impact in each and every game.
• Frankie Eteuati (Los Angeles/Cathedral), a 6-8 senior, needs a significant amount of strength added to his frail frame to play in the Big West Conference (Cal State Northridge signee), but he can score in a variety of ways.
• Christopher Brown (Los Angeles/Washington Prep), a 6-0 junior, has solid speed, quickness and understands the point guard position. However, the level of his recruitment will depend on the development of a consistent jump shot.
• Louisiana Tech-bound 6-6 James Johnson (North Hollywood, Calif./Campbell Hall) showed well in the third-place game after getting into foul trouble in the semifinal loss to Taft. The strong lefty did a nice job of facing up his opponent and converting, as well as sealing his defender in the paint area for easy scores.
• Williams hit a number of big shots during the week. The lefty has a very smooth stroke out to 22 feet and isn't afraid to rebound.
• Christian Leach (Washington, D.C./F.W. Ballou), a 6-2 senior, is a physically imposing scoring guard who has an innate ability to get to the rim and finish with contact.
Joel Francisco is the West Coast recruiting coordinator for ESPN's Scouts Inc.