June 14, 2006

The Weekly Spin: Think Skywalker

Perhaps no other high school basketball player gets more recruiting attention in the Silver State than Luke Babbitt, a 6-foot-8, 220-pound phenom from Reno (Nev.) Galena high school. With a strong frame and numerous offensive skills, the 2008 prospect "The Weekly Spin" first dubbed as "Cool Hand Luke" after seeing him two years ago at the Cal camp, has exploded on the national scene. While he's still cool, "The Weekly Spin" says he's a Skywalker now.

"He's got that great touch," said one Pac-10 assistant coach after seeing Babbitt play in Las Vegas during the Double Pump High School Boys' Spring Classic.

"I've seen him for three years now and nearly every game, he's quicker and stronger than anybody in the post," said a WAC assistant, recalling watching Babbitt play before his freshman year at Galena high. "He's like another Fazekas. Great hands."

"He attacks the glass," said a Pac-10 head coach. "That's what you like about him. He's on that offensive glass, getting put-backs. Then he does it defensively. He blocks shots and he doesn't get out of position. He's phenomenal."

Sounds like a basketball Jedi, huh?

It goes without saying that the former Midwestern has become one of the west coast's top prospects to watch no matter the size or location of the game. From the Adidas Superstar Camp to the upcoming San Jose (Calif.) Archbishop Mitty-Bellarmine Prep Father's Day summer tournament this weekend, Babbitt is a must see prospect for fans - and a must recruit stud for college coaches.

Luke might have that quiet, unassuming, straight-haired look from his profile. And yes, he's originally from the Midwest. But honestly, think "Skywalker" folks. Of course, not in the Hassan Adams "I-can-fly-all-day" type. Just a guy who beats his opponents on a continual basis with a no-nonsense approach. Luke can certainly flush the ball. He also can rebound, hit the fadeaway or jump-hook, play position defense, nimble on the sideline, move with or without the ball, and drill the three. In fact, Babbitt is a big man with a rim-rocking style who can take opponents outside or inside. He's very unselfish. The more contact, the better - he's an "And-1" machine. Babbitt also uses his left hand near the rim as well as any power forward in the country and his ability to hit shots with foes right in his face makes him a nightmare for small forwards.

What's the Reno star, who just happens to have a 3.9 GPA, doing now that school is over?

"I'm working out," Babbitt said politely, a trait that's never changed in the talented Northern Nevada prospect despite being a world-traveling, nationally recruited baller now. "It's the summer and I have a pretty full plate, but I'm lifting at night and looking forward to all the camps this summer. I'll be at Mitty this weekend for that tournament. As you know, I already played in the Schweitzer games in Germany but I'll also attend the Superstar Camp in Georgia, plus the NBA Camp in Virginia later this month. I'll be playing in the Super 64 in Vegas and the Arizona Elite Camp in July."

"Around here, I get to play some pick up games with the UNR (Nevada) guys," Babbitt added. "I know Nick Fazekas said he's coming back so that's pretty cool. I don't really know him or anything but I've played against him a few times. There's a couple of guys here in the area I can match-up with, including a young guy from Reno high who plays with us on the Las Vegas Prospects."

The Schweitzer games were one of the highlights of Babbitt's prep career. He started nearly every game in the two week, six-game European Tournament. The USA team went 3-3 overall and Babbitt's individual numbers were rock solid. He averaged 10.5 points and 6.0 rebounds per game and hit 43% (25-for-57) of his shots from the floor. Luke also shot 46% (6-for-13) from three. His best game came against Spain as the USA won 81-73, scoring 17 points and 11 rebounds. After playing in Germany, Babbitt returned to the AAU scene with the Las Vegas Prospects and quickly pushed Anthony Brown's squad to the top of the Double Pump Spring touney, winning their hometown tournament over some big-time teams, including 2007 prospect Drew Viney and the SoCal Razorbacks in the final. In middle May, Babbitt and the LV Prospects made it to the semifinals of the Rivals hosted Cactus Classic in Tucson.

Babbitt's impressive showing in national events is no surprise to the folks in Northern California and Northern Nevada - where he plays often. He was a first-team all-State performer after averaging 25.2 points per game for the Grizzlies. He was also named the Northern 4A Region's Co-Player of the Year along with Hug junior Armon Johnson, a talented combo guard who will likely play in the Bay Area's Oakland Athletic League (OAL) this winter.

"The NBA Camp is something I'm really excited about," Babbitt added. "I have heard nothing but great things about that event. Unfortunately, the Cal camp fell on the same dates so I'm really disappointed about that. I've played there the past two years, and I like the atmosphere there at Cal. The coaches at Cal are really cool. In fact, I just spoke with them recently."

Obviously, recruiting fans from around the country want to know what Luke feels about recruiting. Already holding offers from the Big East (Syracuse), Pac-10 (Washington), Big 10 (Michigan), Mountain West (UNLV), and his hometown (WAC) school, the Nevada Wolf Pack, Babbitt also has received significant interest from Cal, Arizona, Duke, and Iowa State, just to name a few. While there's no stated number, he'll likely draw over 30 scholarship offers.

"I'm really still wide open," Babbitt says, answering another recruiting question. "Honestly, this whole process is flattering. I have met people that I didn't think I'd ever meet. There are so many, you know, just like Coach Braun - it's been great to speak with him and different coaches and get to know them a bit. I'm considering everyone still and that's not something that will change until next summer probably."

"The Weekly Spin" will continue to keep tabs on Babbitt.

In other Bay Area college basketball notes:

- As "The Weekly Spin" reported a week ago, Cal basketball's 2006-07 schedule continues to come into focus. The addition of Pacific, a successful local Bay Area program that the Golden Bears have been trying to schedule the past three seasons, to the 29th annual Great Alaska Shootout finalizes the eight-team field. The tournament, which is annually televised by ESPN, now includes Pacific, Hawaii, Hofstra, Loyola Marymount, Marshall, Missouri-Kansas City, and the host Div. II Alaska-Anchorage. Expect the Bears and talented senior guard Ayinde Ubaka to be favored in the 4-day (3 games), Thanksgiving holiday tourney.

- Unfortunately, one anticipated game "The Weekly Spin" outlined last week in Cal basketball's 2006-07 schedule unraveled. Back-to-back Big Sky champ Montana appears to have cancelled, leaving Cal an open date in their non-conference schedule. The Grizzlies, who topped Nevada in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last year, would have been a quality west coast opponent for Cal. Due to a jolt of energy from one of the top young coaches in the game in former NBA player and Montana alum Larry Krystkowiak, the Grizzlies have been on fire during Krystokowiak's first two years in Missoula, amassing a 37-18 record and taking down numerous teams. Montana, who returns three starters including their top scorer and rebounder in 6-foot-7 Yakima (Wash.) native Andrew Strait, should once again be a Top 100 RPI team. This is not the first time under Krystokowiak's tenure that he's eliminated a potential game against a Pac-10 team. Shortly before his first season at his alma mater in 2004-05 (his first season), Krystokowiak canceled a game against the Washington Huskies due to the fact that Montana was already scheduled for a road game against Gonzaga and did not want to play Top 25 teams on the road in back-to-back contests. So the UW game was canceled. However, the Huskies and Grizzlies did coincidentally play later on that year, as the No. 1 seeded Huskies took out the No. 16 seed Grizzlies in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

- There are two places Bay Area fans can catch some prep basketball this weekend. The first site is at the previous mentioned San Jose area (Mitty & Bellarmine) Father's Day Camp which features a number of talented high school squads, including Babbitt's Galena team. Beyond host teams Mitty (featuring Drew Gordon), and Bellarmine, Newark (featuring Chris Jones), Clovis East, Serra, Santa Cruz, St. Joseph's, Jesuit, Bishop O'Dowd, Riordon (featuring Rob Jones), and Sacred Heart will be there. No guarantees on whether Gordon will be on hand though.

- The other site for weekend games will at Saint Mary's college in the Gaels second team camp of the year. The first came last week with Sacramento high (featuring rising 2007 senior Fred Ellis and talented 2009 guard Chase Tapley) knocking of a very tough St. Mary's (Berkeley) squad 30-28. The Brew's brothers (2007 SG William Brew and 2009 point Christian Brew) are going to be a tough combo to deal with in the Bay Shore League. But this week's Team Camp should also be outstanding. The top division teams are expected to be Fremont (Oakland), Clovis West (Div. 1 State Finalis), Gilbert, Palo Alto (Div. II State Champ), San Leandro (featuring the 2007 backcourt of Kareem Nitoto and Jeremy Franklin), and Campolindo. Like everything around the Saint Mary's basketball program, it'll be a first class event.

- Lastly, in a bit of Pac-10 coaching news, the Stanford Cardinal have completely revamped their staff. While Trent Johnson will be back for his 3rd year on the Farm, he'll have three "new" assistants at his side. Of course, the new first assistant is anything but a stranger to Cardinal basketball. Former Idaho State head coach Doug Oliver will man the first assistant's chair. Oliver, a 1973 San Jose State grad and a 10-year Stanford assistant alongside Johnson under current Golden State Warriors head coach Mike Montgomery, went 88-134 during his 8 years in Pocatello. With former long-time assistants Eric Reveno (1st year Portland head coach) and Tony Fuller (1st year Phoenix, Ariz. Brophy Prep head coach) moving on, Stanford promoted from within. Johnson turned to two former players for the positions, hiring Basketball Operations staffers Nick Robinson (the former Stanford 6th man) and Donny Guerinoni as 2nd and 3rd assistants, respectively. Robinson played one year under Johnson at Stanford while Guerinoni played under Johnson at Nevada.

A.W Prince is the senior writer and publisher of BearTerritory.net. He pens numerous recruiting features, including "The Weekly Spin", on some of the most talented and highly sought after student-athletes in the country. Along with his recruiting work, Prince has made radio appearances with Rivals Radio and Bay Area college basketball pre-game, halftime, and post-game in-season shows.


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