LONG BEACH, Calif. -- The tenth annual Pangos All-American Camp didn't have the star power at the top compared to last year's camp when talents such as Shabazz Muhammad (UCLA) and future NBA pick Andre Drummond (UConn) dominated, but there were plenty of lesser known players that made a name for themselves on a national scale.
The play of guard Zach LaVine of Bothell (Bothell, Wash.) immediately stood out. His controlled athleticism and ball skills made him a difficult defensive assignment. The confidence level of LaVine, ranked No. 97 in the ESPN 100, is through the roof and it helped him gain an edge on other backcourt players in attendance.
"I came here to get my name out (on a national level)," said LaVine, who is uncommitted and has offers from the likes of Washington, Louisville and UCLA. "Coming all the way down from Washington, unless you're a Tony Wroten, you won't get that publicity and have a big reputation until people see what you can do. I have the mindset coming in that I think I'm better than everyone else. I feel like I know what I can do."
Other backcourt performers who stood out included Derrick Walton of Chandler Park (Detroit), Billy Garrett Jr. of Morgan Park (Chicago), Conner Frankamp of North (Wichita, Kan.) and Dakari Allen of Sheldon (Sacramento, Calif.).
Frankamp, a Kansas commit, was applauded for his unselfishness, perimeter shooting and winning basketball plays. Allen was the consensus choice among the camp's coaches and national scouts as the top perimeter defender.
Cream of the Crop
After two and a half days of instruction and competition, the most deserving players were selected to play in one of the Pangos Camp's two all-star games Sunday afternoon.
A panel of respected scouts aided camp director Dinos Trigonis in the selection of players for the Cream of the Crop Top 30 and Top 60 games.
Leading the way for the victorious White squad in the Top 30 all-star game was wing Stanley Johnson of Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.). The White squad led 65-60 with five minutes remaining when Johnson helped his team take control in its 82-67 victory with strong drives to the basket. He finished with a game-high 18 points on 8-of-10 shooting and dished out a team-high four assists.
Named game tri-MVPs along with Johnson were Frankamp and Zena Edosomwan. Frankamp had five points, three assists and a steal while Edosomwanfinished with 15 points on 7-of-9 shooting. Edosomwan, a 6-foot-8 forward originally from Harvard-Westlake (North Hollywood, Calif.), will go the prep school route after reclassifying to the 2013 class. He's headed to Northfield Mount Hermon School (Northfield, Mass.) and is still committed to Harvard.
The standout of the Top 60 all-star game was guard Kevin Zabo of Montrose Christian (Rockville, Md.). He netted a team-high 14 points, including two 3-pointers, in his Blue squad's 69-66 victory over the White squad. Ja'Quon Newton of Neumann-Goretti (Philadelphia) also finished with a team-high 14 points, on 7-of-9 shooting, for the losing team.
"I think I finished off camp strong, especially in the Sunday morning games through the Top 60 game," said Newton, who hasn't narrowed down his list from offers including Georgetown, Villanova, Wake Forest, Rutgers, Temple and Virginia. "This weekend I was impressed by the play of Cliff Alexander."
Veteran camp instructor Tom "Tootie" Cirincione called Pangos a "big man's camp." There certainly were a lot of standout power forward types, none more impressive than Cliff Alexander of Currie (Chicago), who was named the 2012 Pangos Camp Most Outstanding Player.
Other bigs who impressed included Jarrell Martin of Madison Prep (Baton Rouge, La.), Jermaine Lawrence of Pope John XXXIII (Sparta, N.J.), Mike Young of St. Benedict's (Newark, N.J.) and Jonathan Williams III of Southwind (Memphis, Tenn.).
Ultimate camp veteran
Some of the campers fought nerves in early games, but the level of play picked up on the second day, especially in the evening session. One player who didn't have jitters and fully knew what to expect coming in was Kaelen Malone, a junior-to-be at McKinney Christian Academy (McKinney, Texas).
In his pre-teen years, he would accompany his father Mitch Malone (founder of the Texas Bluechips AAU program) to shoe-sponsored summer camps such as ABCD. He would serve as a ball-boy and run around doing errands for the camp coaches. More importantly, he was soaking in invaluable knowledge while watching future pros like O.J. Mayo (Grizzlies) make a name for themselves on the summer circuit.
"I used to hop in drills with the older guys when I got a chance and one memory that stands out was a game at ABCD," Malone said. "On the first play, Bill Walker tried to dunk on Greg Oden but he blocked it and said, 'nope, not today.' It gave me a chance to see how hard guys had to work in order to make it (to the pros)."
Malone intends to do a year of prep school after he's done at McKinney Christian.
"I think it will help me mature and find myself," Malone said. "The experience of being away from home without starting my eligibility will help me be successful. Going to all those camps watching guys that are now making some real money gave me a chance to understand what it takes to be successful."
In the summer of 2011, Iroegbu left his home in Elk Grove, Calif., for the Appalachian Mountains of Mouth of Wilson, Va., to play for national powerhouse Oak Hill Academy.
At this camp last year, Iroegbu showed flashes of being a high-major Division I guard, but he pressed -- trying to do too much on one possession -- and was often out of control with the ball. During Oak Hill's 44-0 national championship season, Iroegbu didn't get as much playing time as he would have liked. He had the same on-court problems with the Warriors, but made tremendous strides during practice under the tutelage of Oak Hill coach Steve Smith, noted for his work developing lead guards.
Future teammate Tyler Lewis was also at the Pangos Camp last year and parlayed an excellent senior season into a McDonald's All-American berth. Lewis wasn't considered a strong candidate for the prestigious game last summer and his senior season is something Iroegbu is working to duplicate in 2012-13.
"Tyler's season showed me that even if you're not ranked at the top, if you're successful on the court, positive things can happen," Iroegbu said. "You just need to win. This off-season, coach Smith has already talked to me about being a team leader. He wants me to be smart and have fun."
The maturity in his game was evident at this year's Pangos Camp. National scouts also noticed his improved strength and controlled explosiveness.
"Ike can blow by anybody, he can be really good," said Oak Hill teammate R.J. Currington. "Another thing ... he's humble."
Pangos Camp All-Time MOPs
2012: Cliff Alexander, Currie (Chicago) 6-9 PF
2011: Shabazz Muhammad, Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas) 6-6 WF
2010: Myck Kabongo, Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.) 6-2 PG
2009: Harrison Barnes, Ames (Ames, Iowa) 6-7 WF
2008: John Wall, Word of God Academy (Raleigh, N.C.) 6-3 PG
2007: Brandon Jennings, Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.) 6-1 PG
2006: James Harden, Artesia (Lakewood, Calif.) 6-5 SG
2005: Jerry-Davon Jefferson, Lynwood (Lynwood, Calif.) 6-8 WF
2004: C.J. Miles, Skyline (Dallas) 6-6 WF
2003: Robert Swift, Bakersfield (Bakersfield, Calif.) 7-0 C