- Joel Francisco
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CERRITOS, Calif. -- The quality of play at the California Classic was a few tiers below what I witnessed at various holiday tournaments the past few weeks. The teams and prospects put together by Gerry Freitas and Ernest Baskerville were quite promising, but the energy level was spotty at best. However, while the early games showcased very few standouts, the finale between Price (Los Angeles) and Hoover (San Diego) was well worth the wait.
After falling behind 32-23 at the half, Price erupted in the second half behind a rejuvenated Allen Crabbe (20 points and 6 rebounds) and much-improved Richard Solomon (20 points and 9 rebounds) to dismantle a very athletic Hoover squad 69-52. ESPNU Super 60 recruit Angelo Chol would lead Hoover with 19 points, 9 rebounds and 4 blocks.
Angelo Chol, PF (6-8, 190)
2011, San Diego/ Hoover
Chol demonstrated why he is considered a high-level recruit for the Division I level. The lengthy lefty scored in a variety of ways inside and out. His go-to move is a jump hook over his right shoulder. He gets great elevation on it and his release is quick. He can knock down the jump shot at the elbow as well, although it isn't as consistent as it needs to be -- but much improved from a year ago. In addition, he shows his savvy for the game with his passing ability -- he made a number of fine passes out of the paint area. Despite being very wiry, he is a very solid rebounder to boot. Physically he has a slight frame, but he is very quick off his feet, and he can run all day in transition. Defensively, he has the lateral quickness to guard a 4 and the bounce and length to check a 5.
Richard Solomon, PF (6-9, 190)
2010, Los Angeles/ Price, singed with Cal
Solomon has slowly but steadily improved each and every season. Since his junior campaign he has gone from project to prospect and is now approaching player. One of the criticisms of his overall game was his lack of toughness in the paint area. However, in his matchup against the highly-regarded Chol, Solomon rebounded well and made a number of nifty finishes in traffic -- utilizing the pump fake on many occasion. He can step out and nail the midrange jump shot with regularity as well. Defensively, he showed a greater urgency to play more physical and made two fine blocks during the game. Solomon is an interesting prospect because he has a narrow frame to which he may have difficulty adding bulk to bang in the Pac-10. However, he is very long, runs well and possesses an intriguing skill package.
Chen Cai, PF (6-7, 220)
2011, San Diego, Calif.
Cai has a tremendous touch that extends out to 23 feet. Due to his prolific stroke, he projects to the 4 spot at the next level. He has a thick frame that is physically developed. In addition, he is a grounded athlete with very little quickness and almost no bounce. He is at his best when facing the basket and either shooting his jump shot, which more like a set shot, or finding an open teammate with his passing ability. Offensively, he is a solid basketball player who could be effective in a motion offense. On the other hand, defensively he is a major liability -- he struggles to anticipate and slide his feet to stop opposing big men from scoring. Overall, Cai is an interesting prospect because he possesses one of the better looking strokes for a prospect his size, but on defense he has a ways to go in terms of effort and savvy.
Will Davis, PF (6-7, 200)
2010, Sacramento, Calif.
Davis has improved dramatically since his junior campaign, and he has tremendous upside. He is an intriguing prospect due to his length and bounce. This wiry prospect has a wing-type frame but his skill level projects to the 4 spot. He has a soft touch that extends to the stripe but needs to get more consistent. He is much better in the midrange area where he can pull-up off the dribble. His release is very high and difficult to block, but it lands very softly. He is very bouncy around the basket and gets up effortlessly. In addition, he has shown to be quite effective in a face-up situation where he can take his defender off the dribble. Davis has many of the intangibles coaches look for in a D-1 prospect. If he is willing to get stronger and polish his 4/3 skills, he will definitely be playing at the next level.
Dame Ndiaye, SG (6-4, 190)
2011, San Diego/ Hoover
Ndiaye is a physically gifted scoring guard for the next level. He has a chiseled frame and very impressive athleticism. He plays with a great motor at both ends and makes plays on a consistent basis. He can attack off the dribble with an explosive first step, and he has the body control, strength, and bounce to finish amongst the bigs. He can knock down the 3-point shot, but that is an area of his game that needs polishing. His release is a tad erratic. As a result, his shot has a hard landing much of the time. With his burst to the basket if he could add a jump stop to his game and a midrange pull-up his stock will continually elevate.
• Although TJ Taylor didn't shoot it well, he is certainly one of the top point guards on the West Coast. He can knock down the 3-point shot, has a tight handle and can set up his teammates on a regular basis.
• There appears to be another big emerging in the West Coast class of 2012. Skylar Spencer, a 6-7 center out of Los Angeles/Price, has great length and terrific timing on the defensive end. His offensive game is raw, but his defensive instincts are very impressive.
• Dominique Taplin, a 6-2 junior out of Oakland, Calif., has great length and even knocked in a few jump shots, which will determine his ultimate impact at Santa Clara during the 2011-12 season.
• Anthony January, a 6-6 sophomore out of Compton, Calif., has loads of potential at the 4 or maybe even the 3 if his skills improve. He has a ways to go in terms of savvy (making good decisions), playing hard, and getting more on balance (jump stop), but the upside is there.
• Josiah Turner, a 6-3 junior out Sacramento, Calif., is a highly coveted point guard prospect. He can score in many ways and is a high-level passer, but he only played in spurts at this event.
• Robert Garrett, a 6-10 junior out of Sacramento, Calif., has nice length and is improving, but he struggled scoring in traffic due to having very little lift and skill.
• Although he looks to score too much for a point guard, there isn't too many prospects on the west coast that bring a consistent effort time and time again as 6-0 senior Keith Shamburger (Gardena, Calif./ Serra). He can knock down the 3-point shot with regularity and can finish plays in traffic.
Joel Francisco is the West Coast recruiting coordinator for ESPN's Scouts Inc.