SoCal Weekend Wrap

LAGUNA NIGUEL, Ca. – I can’t believe the third weekend of June 2012 is just about a wrap.

As a wise man (or woman) once suggested, “Gee, time sure flies, doesn’t it?”

Here is a rundown on my basketball-watching activities over Saturday and Sunday . . .

I casually cruised up the 73 Toll Road Saturday morning to Newport Beach to check out the action in the Corona del Mar Sea Kings Shootout.

The Las Vegas Bishop Gorman Gaels were the headline act – or would have been back in the days when there were a lot of daily newspapers and they had the space/manpower to devote to a high-profile summer hoops event.

With 2012 national Player of the Year Shabazz Muhammad in the stands (he was in Southern California to begin summer school classes at UCLA on Monday), his Class of 2013 brother Rashad helped his team to victories over Southern California squads Huntington Beach Ocean View and Corona (near Riverside) Roosevelt.

The 6-foot-5+ Muhammad, of course, will not be the subject of the recruiting hysteria that surrounded his brother over the past couple of season. But he’s going to have multiple scholarship offers, probably across the spectrum of Division I programs, based upon his continued body of work – in front of recruiters – in July. He is scheduled to play for the Las Vegas Prospects 17s.

Stephen Zimmerman, the top center prospect in the Class of 2015 (at least among the players in that national group I’ve witnessed), was in street clothes – and walking with the aid of crutches.

He’ll miss the rest of the on-court action in June and July after undergoing surgery to repair the meniscus in his right knee – a minor procedure, according to his parents and coach (Grant Rice).

With the departure of S. Muhammad, Rosco Allen (Stanford) and Ben Carter (Oregon), as well as the recovery and rehabbing of “Bigg Zimm” (a great tag), there will be plenty of opportunity over the next five weeks for players to demonstrate the impact they can make for Rice and his “new-look” club next winter and spring.

Among those making the most of that scenario Friday and Saturday was 6-4, sophomore-to-be Nick Blair.

He should provide Rice with a lot of inside strength and bounce.

Several other players from the Class of 2015 also impressed me Saturday.

Ocean View has one of the strongest sophomore classes in Southern California, and 6-4 Tyler Burch and 5-11 Kendall Small demonstrated that point succinctly over the weekend.

Those of you who are keeping track at home should add this name to the ever-growing list of exceptional 2015 prospects in the Southland and beyond.

Justin Simon (6-2ish) of Roosevelt impacted the Gorman game at both ends of the floor before the Gaels eventually pulled away for a six-point victory.

I wasn’t around a few hours later when Roosevelt rallied from seven points down to knock off Ocean View, but Joel Francisco told me that Simon was again extremely impressive

Three other players that played like solid prospects were (Class of 2013) Tim Gilmore (6-2) and 5-9 (2014) E.J. Mitchell of Palmdale, as well as 6-foot (2014) Ryan Tan of Sunny Hills in Fullerton.

MY NEXT stop was Redondo Beach’s Redondo High for the Pangos Triple Crown, a camp aimed at sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders (with a spattering of fifth- and fourth-graders tossed in).

There were 100 or so camp participants and I was impressed with the potential – and current skill level – of a lot of them, across all classes.

My policy (I’m sure I’ve broken it at least a few times; I’ll hold off on doing in this instance) is to avoid writing about players’ hoops skills or performances until they’ve actually enrolled at a high school or are playing for a high school team.

But I will mention the name of some of those who played at the camp, in the contest that they are the sons (or brothers) of players that I wrote about (at the Long Beach Press-Telegram or for other publications/websites) when they were in high school.

Those “next generation players whose careers I will follow” at the camp were:

*Anthony Langston (son of DeAnthony Langston of L.A. Verbum Dei High and Long Beach State);
*Joseph Murphy (stepson of Darrick Martin of Long Beach Saint Anthony High, UCLA and a long NBA career);
*Johnnie McWilliams Jr. (whose dad was a hoop star for Carson’s Victoria Park/Slam-N-Jam program as a middle school athlete, a basketball and football star at Pomona High and top-flight gridder at USC and for five years in the NFL);
*Charles O’Bannon Jr. (pops was a McDonald’s All-American and standout at UCLA, and has had a long and productive playing career in Japan);
*Christian Popoola Jr. (dad was a standout at L.A. Westchester who later played at UNLV and runs out of Las Vegas);
*Ethan Thompson (his dad, Stevie Thompson, is the head coach of the Cal State Los Angeles men’s hoops program, and was an all-time L.A. City standout at Crenshaw High before going on to stardom at Syracuse);
*Maka Ellis (his dad, Eddie, was a quality post player at both Whittier La Serna and Downey Warren high schools);
*Noah Laurie (pops Rico Laurie was another standout at Westchester High) and;
*Joshua and Caleb Christopher (their brother, Patrick Christopher, was an All-CIF and Best in the West selection at Lakewood Mayfair and Compton Dominguez before becoming a two-time all-Pac 10 selection at Cal; he’s been playing in Europe for several years and is scheduled to play for the Sacramento Kings during the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas next month).


Frank Burlison is one of the most respected basketball writers and basketball talent evaluators in the world. He’s an original (1978) member of the McDonald’s All-American Selection/Advisory Committee and was inducted into the United States Basketball Writers’ Association Hall of Fame during the 2005 Final Four in St. Louis. You can catch his writing, player evaluations and comments on the sport – on all levels – at and via his Twitter account – FrankieBur. He can be contacted at

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