Just returned from the Nike Extravaganza, where I watched roughly 9 hours of high school basketball game and consumed a grand total of: one hot dog, sans condiments; one bag Lays brand potato chips; 2 bottles of water.
So without further ado, here is my write up, with extra special attention paid to 2 fall signees, Spencer Dinwiddie of Woodland Hills Taft and Askia Booker of Los Angeles Price, and one target for 2012, Gabe York of Orange Lutheran. Please forgive the lack of hard numbers. Taking notes was difficult. I'll update what I can when the official stats get posted)
Eisenhower started off the day by beating the hell out of Fairfax 53-39. Eisenhower has some great penetrating guards, but Fairfax had the advantage inside, or at least I thought. Then Fairfax tried to feed the post, only to watch the ball bounce harmlessly off the hands of 6'7" forwards Laik Carter and Chaunce Hill. Fairfax also has 6'6" wing Reggie Theus Jr, who didn't seem to know the offense of his role in it, and seemingly did everything reluctantly, as if he was a fat kid being told to eat his vegetables. I would like to note that multiple players on Eisnhower, and at least one fan, were sporting truly EPIC high top fades, straight from 1992. I approve of this movement. Moving right along...
Next up was Westchester and Orange Lutheran featuring the aforementioned Gabe York. York is a 6'3" combo guard who is absolutely silky smooth on offense and tenacious playing on ball defense. Ostensibly, senior James Douglas (signed with Northern Arizona) is OLu's point guard, but he shouldn't be. He scored 27, mostly on lighting quick drives to the hoop, but he's not much of a passer, and he didn't really do anything to facilitate a flow in OLu's uptempo motion offense. York, on the other hand, looked like a much better passer and emotional leader. He scored from everywhere on the floor, from 3 pointers, to little floaters in the lane, to 1 tremendous dunk in transition, where he jumped off of 2 feet from outside the lane and flushed it with 2 hands. He's an explosive athlete, but always plays under control, and I don't remember him either taking a bad shot, a dumb foul, or a boneheaded turnover. He's a great player. Oh, and the game was a barnburner. Westchester was ahead at the half, and seemingly in control for most of the game despite the close score, before York decided that he wasn't very interested in losing, thank you very much. It was that monster dunk, after which York let out a loud emotional yell, that really galvanized the Lancers. OLu came storming back, and ended up down one with about 20 seconds left in regulation. York takes the ball, calmly goes right, and finishes at the rim for a 1 point OLu lead. But they couldn't quite get back on defense, Westchester through the ball down and got a foul with one second left on the clock. Some controversy ensued, because the crowd thought it should have been a 1 & 1 (I agree), but the ref called it in the act of shooting (it most definitely was not) and gives him 2 shots. Misses the first, sinks the second, and we're on to overtime. If a 1 and 1 is awarded, it's game over. York scores 5 more in OT and OLu gets the win, 66-63. It was a great game, and I think York's going to be tough to pry away from some heavy hitters. So far, that seems like Boyle's toughest task (Ben Howland was in the building tonight). OLu also has a 6'5" 220 lb sophomore point guard named Payton Banks, but I can only assume that PG is listed as his position ironically. He could handle the rock okay, but he didn't really seem comfortable playing lead guard at the pace that OLu likes to play. Still- a guy to keep an eye on in the future.
The 3rd game featured De La Salle and Taft, and let me start off by saying that this game was extraordinarily dull. De La Salle plays a Princeton offense, takes every possession down under 10 seconds in the shot clock, and plays tough, tenacious defense. No joke- they sit down in their defensive stances during TIMEOUTS. Every one of them, every time. It's just the De La Salle MO (in pretty much every sport). I saw them do the exact same thing 2 years ago, when they played a Dominguez team with better athletes at every spot on the floor, and proceeded to beat the snot out of them 64-38. This was the showcase that Spencer Dinwiddie found himself in, and, well, he was a little underwhelming. Taft likes to play a deliberate half court offense as well, and for most of the game, Dinwiddie did little more than get the ball in the backcourt (every time. there was no question who was their floor leader and who was responsible for bringing the ball up), bring it into the front court, and then pass once. He's a very good floor leader- he spent the entire game positioning his teammates at both ends, but once the ball left his hands, the offense would kind of bog down and he would rarely get it kicked back out. Dinwiddie also isn't the smoothest athlete. He's got extremely long arms and legs, and his jumper looks a little awkward, but he's a good on ball defender and with arms like that, he can be a bit of a pest. But Taft had a front line that were all, shall we say, pudgy, so maybe that, combined with the De La Salle style, stifled some of his playmaking ability. I don't really know. Seriously- it was 22-21 after 3 quarters. Gross. With about 2 minutes left in the game, Dinwiddie had a single, solitary point, with maybe 6 assists and 5 boards (I tried to keep track, but that's the very definition of rough numbers), and Taft was down. Then- BOOM, Dinwiddie appears to realize that he's supposed to be the best player on the floor, and it's on. He hits a 3, drives and draws a foul. Hits both free throws. Drives and gets the bucket and the foul, hits another three, drives and gets fouled, rinse and repeat. At some point (sorry- bad notes) the game was tied up and sent to overtime, where Taft prevailed 49-42. Dinwiddie had 1 point with 2 minutes left in regulation, and got 15 more in the final 6 minutes. He scores mainly by hitting tear drop floaters in the lane, but he doesn't really look to drive and dish, and this offense hopefully isn't the best showcase for his skills. Or any skills, really. Still, a little underwhelming.
Game 4 featured Bishop Gorman from Las Vegas against Long Beach Poly, and was on ESPN2. This game was the opposite of DLS/ Taft, with lots of up and down basketball, but also lots of sloppy play. It was 2-0 Poly 4 seconds in. Gorman is absolutely loaded with talent I'd like to see CU go after. 6'6" junior guard Shabazz Muhammed is probably out of our reach, but they've also got 6'9" junior wing Rosco Allen, who had absolutely no problem handling the ball against Poly's full court pressure, 6'9" junior forward Demetris Morant, who looks like Andre Roberson but far more comfortable playing in the post, 6'8" junior forward Ben Carter (who has been offered by CU) and my favorite player- 5'9" freshman PG Noah Robertham. He didn't do anything spectacular, but he handled Gorman's pressure like an old pro, and did a good job of finding open teammates. Still- a tiny little freshman playing well against 6'2" Poly senior Alexis Moore, who's signed with USC, means that he's a guy to keep an eye on, especially if he continues to grow. Gorman also features 6'7" 275 lb junior center Ronnie Stanley, who wasn't very good in this game, but should be an OT target for the football staff. Poly has 6'8 forward Ryan Anderson, who's signed with Boston College, but he really wasn't very good tonight. 6'6" sophomore Roschon Prince is an intriguing prospect who probably needs a couple of inches to a be a high D1 prospect with his game, which isn't particularly explosive. Blah blah blah, Gorman won 58-53. The most important thing is that I was not shown on TV, thus depriving viewing audiences of my overwhelming beauty.
Finally, we finished with Mater Dei and Price. I've written about MD before (full disclosure- I own a kid who goes there, so I'm biased), but they've got a ton of talent. Katin Reinhardt chose USC over CU, but he's the purest shooter I saw today, a great passer, and a passable defender. MD's also got 6'7" junior wing Xavier Johnson, 6'5" freshman guard Stanley Johnson, and 6'6" freshman wing Shaqquan Aaron. Plus 6'4" junior tight end prospect Josh Cook, and 6'3" guard Eli Stalzer, who I've read was offered by CU, but doesn't seem to have quite the level of game necessary to compete at the high D1 level. Price has 6'10" Norvel Pelle, who's signed with St. Johns, and future Buff 6'0" PG Askia Booker. And, oh my lord, Askia Booker. He was insane. He could get absolutely anywhere on the floor with his dribble drive and would either finish at the rim or dish the ball to an open teammate. He really reminded me of Rajon Rondo, with lots of slick wrap around passes (long arms, though not Dinwiddie long) and he seemed to hang in the air at will until he decided what to do with the ball. The problem was the offense they ran. It was very bizarre. It was a dribble drive motion, I think, but with no motion. Price basically played 3 point guards and 2 bigs, with Pelle matched up with 6'8" Skylar Spencer. All of the guards had the same skill set, but Booker was by far the best. He was unstoppable. The offense was basically- guard takes the ball, tries to beat defender off the dribble, and then either shoots or dishes to an open defender. There wasn't a lot of offensive flow. But here's the thing- Booker spent maybe half the possessions purely as an observer. He would watch the other guards attempt to do the same things he was asked to do, only they couldn't do it was well. So why didn't he just have the ball in his hands full time? It made no sense. I don't know how many assists he had, but he left probably 5 on the floor when his teammates couldn't convert. He finished with 22 points, including 2 buzzer beater 3s at the end of each half. His shot at the end of the game was from maybe 30 feet. He seriously could've finished at the rim or found an open (either big or 3 pt shooter) on every single possession, but he didn't have the ball in his hands. Bizarre. His biggest problem is probably that his emotions run too hot. He didn't get frustrated and try to force the offense (mostly because he didn't have to- no one could stay in front of him), but he should've gotten at least 1 tech, and spent too much time bitching at the refs. The game finished 67-65 in favor of Mater Dei, but the game wasn't really in question. Even though Pelle is much more highly rated-, I thought Booker was by far the best player on the team. He's just not 6'10."
Unfortunately, I didn't really get any good pictures w/ the iPhone, and I wasn't able to track down Booker, York, or Dinwiddie. It was just too crowded and hectic in the gym. (also, a factoid that probably interest only me- this is the Nike Etravaganza. All of the teams were Nike teams save one- Price, who wears Under Armour. I can't remember ever seeing a non Nike team at the event. Weird)