PowerHouse 16U Elite: Coming of Age

by Justin Vargas | Posted on Monday, April 30th, 2018

When I first saw this group I thought to myself, "Well, they have some pieces, but they are missing some as well."  They had some big-time athleticism in 6-foot-4 2020 guard Kiimani Holt, 6-foot-6 2020 wing Jerry Iliya and 6-foot-4 2020 guard Chance Garland.

Then Garland had some questions about playing ball in the spring and summer, and Iliya went down with a mild foot fracture. All in this time Holt was leaving a lot to be desired on the court. He seemed to be that player with all the tools but didn't know how to use any of them yet. Well, he must have read some manuals because he is now starting to look like the mid to high-major prospect that his leaping ability led you to believe he was. He is far from a finished product. His handle needs to tighten up some and his outside shot needs to be more consistent and get more lift on it. On the defensive end, he can be a lock-down defender when engaged. But he needs to be engaged on an every play basis. Nevertheless, he has become an absolute dog for this team while playing within the flow of the offense. As soon as he breaks out in transition it's "get the camera's ready" time.

Garland and Iliya are now back and providing much-needed energy and even more excitement in the open court. Garland still needs to gain some confidence shooting the ball and get back into the speed of the game at this level. With Iliya, it's just about time and being around organized basketball. He is still learning the game and only knows one direction once the ball gets in his hands.  But he is a willing learner and once he puts it all together, he will be a force to be reckoned with.

The other thing they lacked was a point guard to come in and control the tempo when their starting point guard, 6-foot-1 2020 Division-I prospect Tay Boothman, needed a blow or when he got in one of his hot-hand moods and needed to start coming off the ball. They finally got that with the arrival of Robby Kinnard Jr. The transfer from Kentucky has plugged in well in his role and he runs it great. A steady and controlled guard with a nice handle and understanding of the game and how to run an offense. He was the understated early Christmas gift for this team.

As for Boothman, much like Holt, he has finally put his foot on the gas and started going the way most in the state knows he can. He has had some game where everything he throws up seems to fall. However, the biggest addition to his game is him doing something that no one saw in him up until recently. He is starting to learn how to run an offense as a point guard. Usually he is making the right pass, setting up plays on the floor without having to hear it from the coach first, and is still nailing shots down like the Tay Boothman that dropped 20+ points on a regular basis at Buckeye High this past season. Now he has started to run that pick-and-roll offense like a seasoned vet.

This team has three 2020 guys that are north of 6-foot-8. Anthony Garza (Shadow Ridge) is the great athlete with a good feel for the game and a motor that has more life than a Ford Mustang coming straight off the lot. A great finisher around the basket that can play above the rim and a tireless rebounder.

Roy Eze (Phoenix Christian) is a monster inside. An explosive athlete that is still trying to figure out how to really play the game. But you know it is not for a lack of effort. He is active and gets after it inside. A great body who makes backboards a little nervous when he throws on down.

Hunter Ruck (Rancho Solano Prep) is almost a mixture of the two. His motor has improved a whole lot since the first time I saw him play, but it is not an Anthony Garza one just yet. He also seems to get bigger every time I see him like Popeye is giving him personal instructions on how to eat Spinach. He is probably the most polished of the 3 up until this point. His footwork is coming together and he has the ability to put some moves on a defender in the low block. He also finishes above the rim well and has made a personal enemy with a few rims in Southern and Northern California as of late.

The biggest X-Factor on this team has been the sharp-shooting 6-foot-2 2020 guard Brycen Long (Gilbert HS). His shot from behind the 3-point line is one of the top in the state. This kid snaps nets like Paul Bunyan chops wood. And his teammates have come to use him like the weapon he is from the outside. He is also great at withstanding pressure with the ball in his hands and stays composed under pressure. Him committing a turnover is a rarity and he has a lot better lateral speed on the defensive end than you might think upon the eye test.

This past weekend they added another piece to the team with the addition of another Gilbert High product in 6-foot-8 2020 forward Griffin Lamb. Lamb was playing for one of the other Powerhouse teams but was moved up to play with this group and add some depth at the power forward position. He blended in well for this squad this past weekend in Ryan Silver's NorCal Spring Showcase.

Last weekend in LA they went 4-0 as a team and looked impressive doing so. Each player on the roster showcased what he did very well in the first live period of 2018. This past weekend they were in Oakland for the second live period and went 3-1 while playing up into the 17U Division.  In this one some had better showings than others but they were entertaining to watch nonetheless.

Head Coach John Ortega stated he loves the teams overall athletic ability and depth has really stood out and thinks their biggest advantage is being able to bring guys like Jerry Iliya, Roy Eze and Chance Garland. They are indeed one of the deepest teams at the 16U level. He credits their performance of late to them starting to play at the pace they want to play at and the depth has stood out more now that they are out in the open court. However, he wants them to turn up their intensity on the defensive end and execute better in half court situations.

This Powerhouse 16U team will be on display again in May. They will take part in the Area Codes Elite 8 event in Phoenix on May 12-13. Then they will head out to Las Vegas for Ryan Silver's West Coast Elite Memorial Day Classic on May 25-28. They will undoubtedly play some higher competition and have a good gauge as to where they are at moving into the next live period in July. Stay Tuned...

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