Some Top AZ Talent Shines in LA

by Justin Vargas | Posted on Thursday, April 19th, 2018

This weekend LA was a great place to watch some of Arizona’s top basketball talent on the AAU circuit during the first weekend of the live period. Spending time at both the West Coast Elite Hoop Review and the Adidas Gauntlet in LA, college coaches packed the facilities to get a chance to see some of the top prep basketball talent on the West Coast. The Arizona hoopers showed well in So Cal, some turning the heads of college coaches and some gaining some interest as far as their upside and performance over the weekend.

Some of the following were some of my news and notes for the weekend.

Let me start this by saying something about this 2020 class we have in our state. It is LOADED! I am optimistic that it will be one of the state’s most talented classes the state has seen in a while.

While Nico Mannion was lighting up the Under Armour Circuit in Dallas, Kyree Walker was making his presence felt for his Dream Vision squad in the Adidas Gauntlet with some rim-rocking dunks and athletic plays that just made you shake your head and smile at his dominance on the offensive end.

The Compton Magic 16U Elite 6-foot-5 2020 guard Dalen Terry absolutely slayed the scene over the weekend with great performances from top to bottom. I was on hand to watch his game against Team Harden, the lone Arizona-based Adidas gold gauntlet program in the state.  Terry shined in a great, intense match-up.  Not only does he look considerably better every time I see him, but his upside is even more considerable.  Athletically, he is starting to get a little burst on his jump and once he is done growing he should start putting his forearm on the rim.  He is so smooth and his basketball IQ and passing ability shines through the court.  With his length and vision and a real big man to play with, Terry is scary running a pick-and-roll offense with.

Defensively, those long limbs are his best friend. It is so hard to get past him and beat him to the hoop without him either ripping you like you have a $100 bill in your pocket or him catching someone from the back to either block their shot or alter it.

Things are really starting to come together for the high-major prospect. Terry picked up an offer from UNLV on Sunday night.

Compton Magic’s 6-foot-11 2020 big man Davion Bradford (Hillcrest Prep) was out for that game against Team Harden with a mild concussion.

I got to see Team Harden twice over the weekend and TyTy Washington had some spurts where he was flat-out unconscious. That pull-up jumper off the dribble is a thing of beauty. That shot looks good every time he chucks it up. The 6-foot-2 2021 guard was phenomenal in the 2nd half of the game against the Compton Magic and put his team on his back. They fell short, but Washington was a warrior. He is another Division-I prospect that is still figuring out his athleticism. He brings it on both ends and puts defenders to sleep off the dribble like a bottle of Nyquil. Already a name that has created a buzz locally for years, he is starting to make a name for himself thru the West Coast with his dog mentality and ability to put the ball in the bucket.

Team Harden’s 5-foot-10 2021 guard Ricardo Sarmiento was as solid as they came on the gauntlet. He is one of those kids that is rare to ever see him have a bad game. He is so steady on both ends of the floor and his midrange game is dangerous. His handle is legit and has a very advanced knowledge of the game and where to find open shooters. Also, a great kid with a mind that is a sponge. He understands things during the course of the game that most have to hear and see after and before a game. If a player has a weakness, Sarmiento usually finds a way to exploit it. Slow feet? He takes you off the dribble. Hard time going left? He turns you that way. Suspect jumper? He’s laying off of you. No coach needs to tell him these things, he figures it out on the fly.

Another top 2020 prospect from AZ, 6-foot-10 forward Shon Robinson, took the court with his Jamal Murray Elite squad at the Adidas event.  Before the first ball even bounced in the Momentus Sports Complex, Robinson picked up an offer from Ole Miss. He followed that up with a great weekend - showcasing all of his abilities. He hit the three, caught a couple bodies on some above-the-rim dunks, and got some buckets off the bounce. Though he was playing some inferior competition in the two times I caught a glimpse of him, I was impressed with his effort on the defensive end. That was my only issue with his game in the past, and it looks like his effort on that end is catching up to his offensive one. He pinned some shots on the backboard and turned around to grab some tough rebounds inside. He is looking like every bit the high-major prospect that he is.

Jamal Murray Elite’s 6-foot-3 2020 guard Jalin Anderson (Compass Prep) looked great all weekend as well for them. He is a dog at that guard spot. He can score from all 3 levels and busts his tail end on the defensive end. He puts pressure on guards that make most uncomfortable and his athleticism is a weapon in the open court. He is aggressive and takes the ball to the rack like he wears a cape. Also has some great court vision to find cutters and open shooters. He had a number of no-look passes to create easy buckets for others coming off of his penetration and craftiness with the ball in his hand. Has some brashness to him and a swagger on the hardwood.

Anderson’s backcourt mate on JME, 6-foot 2020 guard Trent Hudgens, had a big weekend as well. His shot from deep is certified and is another guard that brings it on the defensive end. He gets up in jerseys like a piece of lint on that side of the ball. With the ball in his hands he can facilitate very well and has a nice, tight handle. He plays confident and always looks like one of the better guards on the floor.

Powerhouse 15U Elite team is a team I have gotten to see a number of times over the spring. They are loaded with young talent with some elite level prospects on the roster. That group is headed by 6-foot-10 2022 nationally coveted big man Dylan Anderson. He had a great showing all weekend showcasing his ability to score at every level. He hit the 3, midrange and got him some buckets and dunks inside. On one play in their first game on Friday night, he pulled off a step-back move and sunk a jumper from the free-throw line that looked Dirk Nowitzki-ish. He is a serious problem at a national level moving forward.

Their other top prospect, 6-foot-8 2021 forward DaRon Holmes from Millennium looked great as well. His length and activity on defense and ability to get out in transition and use those long strides to finish out front of a defense is becoming a topic of discussion every time he takes the court. Once he starts getting stronger and the explosion in his game shows up, he will be a serious conversation piece amongst some of the top college programs in the country.

Holmes' year-round teammate, 5-foot-10 2021 point guard Justus Jackson, looks like he is getting the hang of being the point guard of a team with so much firepower. While he is known to be able to light it up from deep, he is looking more and more like a steady floor general each time I see him. He was making some plays and setting up his teammates well in the 2 times I saw him over the weekend and still getting his off of penetration and that nice pull-up game he has. Still want to see more out of him on the defensive end but things are really starting to come together for him.

6-foot-4 2021 wing Max Majerle plays with one of the highest motors you will see at this level. His activity and intensity on the defensive end and out in transition is an intangible every coach asks for out of their players. He is also starting to look more and more athletic and getting up off the bounce a little more with each showing. A tireless worker on the court. He needs to work on his ability to knock it down consistently from the outside and needs to incorporate a pull-up game to compliment his willingness to drive so hard to the basket, but the effort is there.

Powerhouse 17U Schumaker’s 6-foot-1 2019 guard Josh Ursery had him some moments over the weekend. Though he didn’t shoot it from the perimeter the way he is capable of doing and didn’t have one of them games where he scored in waves, he had some sequences that caught the eye of some college coaches.  On Saturday, he had a possession where he got a 2-hand put back dunk through traffic and then sprinted to the other side of the court to put a lay-up on the glass. On Sunday, he opened the game off with a back-door alley-oop dunk. Later in the game, he picked someone’s pocket and took it down the court for a rim-rocking dunk. Ursery’s athleticism and ability to get his own shot is impressive. He is still a raw guard that needs to learn the game more from a cerebral perspective, but he does have some tools to work with.

Coach Schumaker has another Division-I prospect on that team in 6-foot-9 2019 big man Miles Houston. Houston is really starting to figure some things out and becoming more physical every time I see him. The first couple times I watched him play he would give up on rebounds that he was not in position for and would not be the one usually initiating contact down low. That’s all starting to change up. Houston is getting into people in the post and jumping and poking at the ball on the offensive glass while initiating the contact down low. His ability to make the right pass out of the post and get his shot off is still there. Great kid with a great attitude and as about as coachable of a high school ball player as you will find.

Powerhouse 17U Contreras is loaded with some of the state’s top unsigned seniors in the state. 6-9 Christian Anigwe from Desert Vista tops that list. With some Division-I offers on the table already, he is still waiting around for the right fit. Anigwe was dominant over the weekend, albeit against inferior and smaller competition. His footwork and skill-set are impressive and his ability to move his feet on the defensive end on switches and stay in front of guards is intriguing. Add all that to the fact he is an Ivy League caliber student and extremely coachable and a team player, you have a recipe for success with him.

Their other top unsigned senior that shined over the weekend was 6-foot-8 forward from Rancho Solano Prep, Nikc Jackson. Jackson was as impressive as anyone in the gym. He finished in transition with some athletic finishes and a number of dunks. He looked much more physical than I have seen out of him in the past. He defended at a high level and his effort was at full throttle for every minute he was on the floor for. While he still needs to be more physical and more willing to bang against guys his size or bigger, he has a real knack for making shots and is skilled offensively.

Powerhouse 16U Johnson’s 6-foot-7 2020 point-forward Osasere “Oso” Ighodaro from Desert Vista is as intriguing of a prospect as I saw all weekend, regardless of what gym I was in. With his length, they run him at the point and he flourished in the role over the weekend. He found open shooters with ease and made a couple Lonzo Ball-ish full-court passes over the top of a back-peddling defense. I would like to see him in that role against someone that will get into his jersey and put some real pressure on him to see how he handles it. But he is starting to get much lower with the ball and putting together an ability to create some moves off the dribble. What’s scary is the fact that he probably isn’t even done growing yet. He is not a marksmen from the outside yet, but he can knock down the open look. He hasn’t found his athleticism just yet, but you get the feeling he’s not far from pulling that out of his bag of tricks as well. His upside is ridiculous. Also, a high academic kid with a great attitude.

That team also has a 6-foot-5 athletic 2020 wing, T.J Green from Carl Hayden, that can flat out go. Displays maximum effort, flies around the court and finishes strong in transition and through traffic. Very physical kid who brings it on both ends. Still has to figure out some things on the perimeter, but his athleticism and grind-it-out mentality is a factor on the court. It will be interesting to see if he grown anymore. If he doesn’t, his outside game will need to be his focus during the off-season.

Powerhouse 16U Fauske has one of the better pure point guard prospects in the state in 6-foot-1 2021 Jalen Scott from Paradise Honors. He is vastly becoming one of my favorite underclassmen to watch in the state. He has good length at the position and is smooth as a brand-new silk pillow case. His basketball IQ and the way he runs the offense with the ball in his hands is what stands out the most. It always seems like he is making the right pass and is setting his guys up in positions to score. It is rare these days to find a guard that looks to make others better before himself, but Scott is that kid. You get a vibe for him that not only does he take pride in the assist over the bucket, but that he even loves the pass he makes that leads to the assist that leads to the bucket. He still needs to figure out his shot to keep defenders honest when he gets to the next level of competition he is sure to reach, but his intangibles are off the charts.

The Powerhouse 16U Elite squad just has a roster full of players that had great weekends. That team looks completely different from the last few times I have seen them. They are playing faster and scoring at a higher rate and have stepped it up defensively. It’s hard to highlight the players who had the best weekends simply because the whole team looked great. You do have to take into account they there was no Team Harden, Compton Magic 16U or Las Vegas Prospects 16U in this event, but they played two solid teams in the West Coast Elite 16U and Oakland Soldier 16U and looked great against both.

6-foot-1 2020 guard from Buckeye High, Tay Boothman, is starting to really figure some things out as a point guard and not just a volume shooter. He ran the pick-and-roll offense with his bigs to almost perfection. But he still had spurts where he got off with his scoring ability as well. Against the Oakland Soldier’s he was unreal, scoring 24 points and registering 6 assists. It seemed like just about everything he threw up was going in. Defensively, he really gets after it and pushes the ball up the floor off of turnovers.

6-foot-4 2020 guard Kiimani Holt from Rancho Solano Prep had a great showing as well while getting just about anything he wanted offensively. Eventually he is going to have to get some confidence in that outside shot, but he is a dog going to the lane and to the hoop. Add that to the fact that any defender is a prime candidate to be put on a poster when he gets a full head of steam to the rack, and you got you a stud on the AAU circuit. The more intense the game, the more he steps up and when engaged on defense, he is a problem. He had a few dunks over the weekend that was turning heads from the surrounding courts and the crowds just passing thru.

6-foot-6 2020 wing Jerry Iliya was another player that had some of them same type of dunks and goes to the rack like he has a personal problem with the rim. His basketball IQ and his feel for the game have yet to catch up to his physicality and athleticism but he has some things you can’t teach. The things he doesn’t have are coachable and the good thing is the fact that he wants to be coached. A very respectful and well-spoken kid, he is still learning the American game at this level. While raw, he is a problem at this level because there are not many that can match what he brings on the court. He already has a number of high-major D-I offers.

There is no way I can make this list without mentioning the best Arizona shooter I saw all weekend in 6-foot-2 sharpshooting guard Brycen Long from Gilbert High. That kid just shoots the leather off the ball. Every time he shoots it, it looks like it’s about to snap some thread off the net. His stroke is about as picture perfect as you will see at this level. He is also a very sneaky and underrated playmaker. He always seems to make the right pass and does not turn the ball over often. He is a better ball-handler than what meets the eye and very poised under pressure. Also, a good defender who has a knack for getting his fingertips on the ball on the perimeter. He was a pleasant surprise to watch this weekend.

Rancho Solano High has another player on this team that showed out over the weekend for PHH 16U Elite in 6-foot-9 2020 big man Hunter Ruck. He was unreal in the first game with some great footwork in the post and bringing some physicality to opposing post players. He finished with a number of dunks that made the backboard a little nervous. Also rebounded at a high level and got up to block some shots over the weekend that got a team that loves to run-and-gun get out in transition and utilize their athletes to finish. He is starting to figure out a new aspect in his game every time he takes the floor in one of these events.

Thank you to all the Arizona hoopers that traveled out to SoCal and represented Arizona well. Your performances is what takes the level of basketball in our state to the next level. No Surrender X No Retreat #BeRelentless #BallAboveAll #RepAZ

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