July 23, 2007

Las Vegas: Day One

LAS VEGAS -- And they are off. The gun has fired and the games have shot out of the blocks for five straight days of intense basketball in the desert. We spent Sunday at the Reebok Summer Championships and saw a wide variety of players.

Star power

By now, it's almost a given that Malcolm Lee will have a great game in major events. He's been great all year long and continues to keep himself at the top. The future UCLA guard scored 20 points and dominated with a make-it-look-so-easy pull up jumper.

Part of the beauty of his game is his overall versatility in the backcourt. Lee scored when he wanted to against the under-matched Dakota Schoolers. He also added seven rebounds and three assists.

Trying to defend the speedster is nearly impossible simply because teams can't stay in front of him. Lee can wear a lot of hats on the court, too. He's proven himself as a scorer, doing a fine job as a passer and big enough to be a good rebounding guard.

One of the highlights of the day could have been the pairing of five-star 2009 prospects Karron Johnson with the Richmond Squires and Nolan Dennis of the Dallas Mustangs. While the match-up was good on paper and just a hair above average, it was fun to watch to of the top underclassmen in action.

Johnson, a versatile and ultra-athletic 6-foot-7 wing, did a fine job of scoring in the midrange. He finished with a double-double 22 points (9-20 FG) and 12 rebounds. The Mustangs had a hard time of finding the right personnel to match up with Johnson. When he wants to be dominating, he is. You could argue he was on Sunday morning.

Dennis, a skilled 6-foot-5 wing from North Richland Hills (Texas), is a smooth operating wing with a good understanding of the game and his position. Dennis struggled shooting he ball (5-15 FG) but finished with 17 points and seven rebounds. Numbers wise, it was a hard one to swallow but he certainly didn't have any high-major schools that were there to see him taking him of the must-get list.

Bill Self and Scott Drew took in his game. So did assistants from Texas, Arizona, Oklahoma State, Kentucky and Notre Dame.

The kids are alright

After watching Dane Miller in the spring, we were impressed enough to put him into the initial 2009 national rankings. A second glimpse of the 6-foot-7 forward from Rush-Henrietta (N.Y.) revealed a couple of other facets to his game. For starters, the Big East level player plays a bigger role in the game when he's working from the wing in because he's a smooth athlete that does his best work when moving towards the basket. For his AAU club, Miller was regulated to the post. Miller had a rather quiet 14 points and seven rebounds in a win over New Mexico Force.

The talent is not running thin at Indianapolis's Lawrence North High School. Next in line is 2010 forward Justin Martin. The 6-foot-7 forward showed a lot of promise in his Spiece Gym Rats loss to the Smyrna Stars. Martin scored 17 points and grabbed eight rebounds in the defeat but gave a glimpse of great things to come down the road. The Big Ten schools, which were absent in his morning game, should be stuffing his mailbox early on.

A lot of things have happened in Trey Zeigler's life in the last year. For starters, he's moved from California, where his dad Ernie was an assistant, to Michigan, where his father is now the head coach at Central Michigan. The class of 2010 prospect is growing into his body and filling out. And most importantly, he's gone from a good young guy with good upside to a producer on the 17 and under circuit.

Playing with Team Detroit, Zeigler was the first option on offense and he did a good job as the youngest player on the floor. The 6-foot-5 wing scored a team high 17 points in his team's win.

California wing Michael Snaer has the makings of a high-major power scorer. He continues to prove himself as such with Inland Reebok. The 6-foot-5 wing from the class of 2009 prospect scored an impressive 21 points in a game against the Dakota Schoolers. Snear was automatic from deep, to the tune of 21 points. Blessed with good natural strength and great size, it's no wonder why the Pac-10 as a whole has an eye on him. Connecticut, Kansas, Kentucky and Colorado are also involved. All four caught a glimpse of him on Sunday.

Mike Parker's time will come. And when it does, the high-majors will be looking for instant information. Playing with the Richmond Squires, it's easy to overlook the 6-foot-5 class of 2010 prospect. He's not a big numbers guy but he has proven himself as a guy that makes good decisions and doesn't cost his team simple mental mistakes. Parker hails from Terraceia Christian in Chocowinicy, N.C.

Hi, my name is…

The New Mexico Force lost a tough one to the Donyell Marshall Foundation club in the first game of the day. That's the bad news. The good news is Ray Turner, a 6-foot-8 class of 2009 forward, had a very productive start to the tournament. The Houston (Texas) Jones product was a monster on the glass. He grabbed 19 rebounds and scored 12 points (6-7 FG).

But there is a catch. Turner has never played a game in a high school basketball game. He'll be at Jones High for the first time this fall and sources say he could very well end up as a 2010 prospect.

Turner is a garbage man post that gobbles up loose balls and does a solid job of cleaning up the action outside of his area. Offensively, he's still raw but there is a lot to work with, especially if he ends up in the 2010 class. Nebraska head coach Doc Sadler was on hand to see him. So were coaches from Stephen F. Austin, Baylor, Pepperdine and Texas A&M is interested.

Turner wasn't the only one that caught our eye. Siegfried Benton, a 6-foot-4 guard from El Paso (Texas) Parkland High School scored 16 of his team 18 points in the second half. His offense, including a pair of three-pointers, helped the Force climb back into the game with less than four minutes to play. The class of 2008 has the look and skill of a good mid-major. It wouldn't come as a big surprise if the high-majors turned it up as the season goes on. With no offers in hand, Benton said he has heard from Arkansas, TCU and UTEP.

Donyell Marshall leaned on the play of class of 2009 guard Brandon Triche, who put in 22 points in the win. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound guard has a big, strong body and an old school game. He's not one for flair but aims more for production. The local non high-majors have to like him for their level.

Recruiting scoop

Eloy Vargas is the target of a number of elite level programs and there are more and more lining up as the summer moves along and the big man pool dries up. So it shouldn't come as a big surprise that his list will continue to grow. Now mix into the equation a late signing period decision, according to his AAU coach Brionne Gillion.

Vargas, a skilled 6-foot-10 forward from South Florida, will wait until after the early signing period to make a decision. It could take until April to make a final call. As it stands today, Pittsburgh, Louisville, Florida, Florida State and Miami are in good shape. Vargas has visited all but Florida.

Gillion says he would like Vargas to see each of the campuses again during the basketball season to experience the practices on the hardwood, rather than the excitement of a fall weekend visit during the football season.

If Vargas's list is long today, it will certainly be even longer at the end of the summer as Gillion said the four-star prospect is "very open."

Festus Ezeli will have a constant crowd of coaches where he plays in Vegas. The 6-foot-10 center from Northern California via Nigeria has come on strong this month and collects offers at a daily clip. Ezeli has offers from Virginia, Cal, Florida, Ohio State, Vanderbilt, DePaul, West Virginia, Oregon State, UCLA and Pepperdine.

After shining at the Rbk U tournament earlier in the month, Houston Elite forward Dwight Miller has seen his recruitment sky rocket. The hard-working 6-foot-7 forward has heard from Connecticut, Cincinnati, Virginia, Illinois, Oregon and Miami. All of those schools were present to see him in action on Sunday night. Oregon State, Nebraska, Virginia Commonwealth and Tulane have offered while Wake Forest, Indiana State, San Diego State, South Alabama, Missouri State and New Mexico State are interested.

The mid-majors love Dallas (Texas) Kimball guard David Kyles. He's athletic, quick, not a bad shooter and has played well in some national events this summer. The 6-foot-3 athlete with Urban DFW Elite said he has offers from TCU, SMU, Tulsa and Wichita State while Texas A&M is also in the picture. Kyles said he hopes to visit UNLV and Indiana State in the near future.

Triple Threat guard Maurice Creek, a 2009 prospect, said his only offer is from Maryland while Georgetown, Marquette, Texas and Pittsburgh are all showing interest in the 6-foot-4 D.C. area product.

Odds & Ends

A full Rutgers staff watched Olu Ashaolu in the morning game. Ironically, the Scarlet Knights sat right next to Louisiana Tech head man Kerry Rupp and assistant Nikita Johnson. Why is that ironic? Ashaolu considers himself a "soft verbal" to Rutgers now while Louisiana Tech is one of the few schools that have a foot in the door. Ashaolu has an existing relationship with Johnson, who recruited the Canadian when he was at LSU.

Sources tell us Washington bound guard Elston Turner is transferring to the Houston area from Sacramento. His father, Elston, Sr., was hired as an assistant with the Houston Rockets.

Malik Story, a Southern Cal commitment who is headed to Oak Hill next year, had 26 points for his Southern California All-Stars Elite team against the Arkansas Hawks. Story hit on five three-pointers.

Texas Blue Chips forward Erick Frederick scored 20 points and six rebounds in a tough loss to DC Triple Threat.

Oregon has secured a good looking sleeper in Drew Wiley, a 6-foot-7 in-state prospect. He reportedly had a big game against Houston Elite in the morning and followed it up with an impressive showing against the Worldwide Renegades. The big wing has a good looking shot and is a good athlete. The Ducks got this one done early for a reason. He'd be a July rags to riches guy had he not already pledged.

Justin Young is as senior writer for Rivals.com National Basketball Recruiting. He can be reached at jyoung@rivals.com.



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