LOS ANGELES, CA – The annual Fullcourt Press Fall Showcase usually proves to be just that – especially when it comes to some of the very best of the prep talent in the Southern California freshmen and sophomore classes.
And that was definitely the case once more during the eight or so hours of action Sunday at Ribet Academy, which is located just a few miles from Dodger Stadium.
The Top 20 Freshman contest – OK, so there were actually 22 players who saw action in that tilt – feature a significant number of the top prospects whose “real high school” debuts are still a little less than three months away.
Among those were:
*Six-foot-five Vance Jackson and 5-11 Milan Aquaah, from La Salle in Pasadena – a program in its first year under the direction of Jelani Gardner (a 1994 McDonald’s All-American who spent last season as an assistant at his prep alma mater, Bellflower St. John Bosco).
Gardner, who played collegiately at Cal and Pepperdine, may have the best 1-2 freshman punch in the state. Both played very well for LaSalle – against quality competition – during early July at the St. John Bosco Tournament.
Jackson also was enlisted top play in The Top 20 Sophomore game and fared quite well in that contest, as well.
*If La Salle doesn’t prove to have the most productive pair of freshmen in the state, then it’s because guards Derryck Thornton and Devearl Ramsey of Chatsworth Sierra Canyon earn that designation.
Thornton wasn’t in the building Sunday but Ramsey – like Aquaah, a strong and slick guard who shot and drove with equal effectiveness – demonstrated that he is willing and more than able to hold up his end of the “best set of freshmen” from December to March.
*Leland Green (Redondo Beach Redondo) was among the standouts during the Scoutfocus.com Show about 70 miles east in Corona on Sept 1.
And the 6-2 Green, a terrific passer who seemingly gets to the rim, from the arc, with one big dribble, was every bit as impressive on Sunday as he was eight days before in the Players Edge facility.
*Less than an hour or so after his older brother (Jordan Mathews) had committed to Coach Mike Montgomery’s Cal program while visiting Berkeley, Jonah Mathews showed off the skill that should give Santa Monica a nifty “All-Mathews backcourt” over large stretches of games over the upcoming season.
Jonah is a much more advanced and fluid ball-handler than sibling was at the same point in their development.
*Another of the better “playmaker-types” in this class on hand Sunday was Dikymbe Martin (Riverside J.W. North). He is not the scorer that Aquaah and Ramsey are (now) but his ball-handling and passing skills are on par.
*If Martin isn’t the “best” (or, at least, most productive) first-year player in Riverside County in 2012-13 then that tag belongs on 6-3 Jordan Griffin of Centennial in Corona.
He was one of the dominating performers in the Eighth Grade game in this event a year ago (when it was held at Dominguez High in Compton) and was just as impressive – if not more so – on Sunday playing against players a year older, stronger and wiser.
*Then there was the tallest of the freshmen – and the one whose upside will most intrigue, and tantalize, college coaches when they get a chance to see him this season.
That’s 6-7 – all of, by the way – Daron Henson of Alemany in Mission Hills.
He’s quick off his feet, rebounds in traffic – in this game, though, he was always well above any traffic – and catches everything thrown his way . . . including a lot of opponents’ shots.
And the Class of 2015 participants did a lot to showcase why this is Southern California’s best sophomore group in a while.
There were seven participants in the Top 20 Sophomore game who are 6-7 or taller.
The most impressive of those was 6-8 Chimezie Metu of Lawndale, who continued to show off his expanding skills – the most notable of those Sunday being passing, both facing and from the low post.
Point guards Sedrick Barefield (Corona Centennial), Cameron High (Redondo Beach Redondo) and Kahil Simplis (North Hollywood Campbell Hall) put their superb ball-handling and penetration – under control – abilities.
Stephen Thompson Jr. (Torrance Bishop Montgomery), Jeff McClendon (Pasadena), Tyler Burch (Huntington Beach Ocean View) and Rex Pflueger (San Juan Capistrano JSerra) demonstrated their considerable wing/2 guard-type skills. They’re among the west region’s best in the class in that category.
*Not surprisingly, the Junior Top 25 game was dominated by Stanley Johnson of Santa Ana Mater Dei, whose deep jump shooting skill is unsurprised in California. He doesn’t need a lot of space against a defender to nail 3s – he hit his first three attempts, each from further behind the arc.
Other standouts in that game included 6-3 Iziahiah Sweeney (Compton), the most explosive player – vertically – in the entire event; 6-7 Kameron Chatman (Long Beach Poly), even at that size looking more like a “true point guard” each time he steps on a court; and “traditionally sized” point guards Ajon Efferson (Pasadena), Taelin Webb (La Mirada) and Victor Joseph (Rancho Cucamonga).
*Wrapping the event up, Stanley Johnson joined in the Top 25 Senior fray, and scored just about as easily as he did in the Junior contest, while Long Beach Poly’s Roschon Prince (who committed to USC a few weeks ago) and Jordan Bell did pretty much whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted.