The second annual Nor Cal Tip-off Classic, directed by Nor Cal basketball connoisseur Gerry Freitas, was a well-organized event that brought together some of the most talented seniors in Northern California, including 6-foot-3 St. Mary's signee Tim Harris (San Jose, Calif./ Valley Christian) and 6-2 San Diego State signee Chase Tapley (Sacramento, Calif.).
In addition to Harris and Tapley, Freitas was also able to attract a plethora of underclassmen -- 6-1 sophomore Josiah Turner (Sacramento, Calif.) and 6-foot sophomore Dominique Taplin (Oakland, Calif.) were two of the most impressive players on display at Newark Memorial High School.
Tim Harris (6-3, 190) G
Senior, San Jose, Calif./ Valley Christian
Harris had an outstanding day at this event. He has a legitimate jump shot for the next level and should make an immediate impact at St. Mary's during the 2009-10 season. He gets great lift on his shot, and he has become much more consistent in the midrange area off the bounce. His ballhandling is solid, but he needs to get stronger going left. Although he is a scorer, Harris demonstrated the ability to hit the open man. Although he isn't overly quick, he does have an explosive first step to the basket and can finish with a highlight reel dunk. Overall, Harris was equally good from a statistical and physical standpoint, and he should have a fine career for Randy Bennett.
Dominique Taplin (6-0, 160) SG
Sophomore, Oakland, Calif.
Taplin has one of the most impressive frames in the West. He has extremely long arms, and it wouldn't surprise me if he grows a few more inches. His offensive game is still in its infantile stage, but his defensive prowess is impressive. He utilizes his length and quick hands to get numerous steals and his instincts are outstanding. Offensively, he gets most of his points slashing to the basket, but his jump shot is a work in progress because of his slow release. In addition, he keeps his head up always to find the open man. Taplin is an undersized 2 at this stage, but with an improved jump shot he should be a nice player for Santa Clara down the road.
Chase Tapley (6-2, 180) G
Senior, Sacramento, Calif.
Tapley, a San Diego State signee, is one of the better scoring guards in the West. He doesn't have great quickness or bounce, but he has a tremendous knack for scoring. His handle and jump shot have improved greatly over the years. His midrange game is solid, and he can finish with either hand in traffic. His jump shot is smooth and he has a natural fadeaway that is difficult to stop. Although he is limited athletically, Tarpley's scoring instincts are high-level.
Lucas Devenny (6-8, 230) F
Senior, Santa Rosa, Calif./ Piner
Devenny doesn't pass the look test for a Division I prospect. However, he is quite productive and should be a nice get for UC Santa Barbara. He isn't a quick leaper, but he has a solid initial bounce and very long arms. He has 3-point range, but he is much more effective inside 15 feet. In the post, he favors going over his left shoulder and finishes either with a layup or a jump hook. He has very good scoring skills around the basket and possesses that blue-collar mentality when operating underneath. On the defensive end, he is a deceptive shot-blocker and a very good rebounder.
Darius Nelson (6-5, 220) PF
Sophomore, Sacramento, Calif./ Sheldon
Nelson has questionable upside due to his thick frame and limited bounce, but many pundits were saying the same thing about former UCLA standout Kris Johnson years ago, and he turned out just fine. Nelson knows how to play, especially in the post, and gets to the free-throw line frequently. He has a variety of ways to score, including his patented spin move off the drive. In addition, he can nail the pull-up jump shot, but that is an area that needs polishing. He has soft hands and long arms and knows how to use his body to finish amongst the bigs. Overall, Nelson is a gamer who plays hard at both ends. If he can tighten up his frame and stay in good shape, he should get recruited at the Division I level.
Deend Parker (6-5, 190) SF
Senior, San Francisco/ Lincoln
Parker has some work to do in the classroom, but he has the talent to play somewhere at the Division I level. He's an explosive athlete who plays at a relentless pace at both ends. He has quick hands and gets numerous steals on the defensive end, and he's a terrific passer in transition. He has a quick initial step to the basket and can usually blow by most defenders. His hang time is impressive, and he can finish with both hands -- although his left hand can use some polishing. His jump shot has improved, but it still needs to become considerably better if it's going to be a weapon at the next level. Parker could be a nice find for the Big West level.
T.J. Taylor (5-8, 150) PG
Sophomore, Oakland, Calif.
Although he is small in stature, Taylor has a lot of moxie. He is mature beyond his years and displayed solid leadership and poise despite his youth. He has solid speed and quickness off the bounce, and he can really accelerate in the open court. His strong frame allows him to draw contact and finish off the drive. His jump shot is more than solid out to the stripe -- he's a true threat from long range -- and his release is smooth. Overall, Taylor isn't a spectacular talent, but he has the savvy and toughness that college coaches covet in a point guard. It isn't surprising that Santa Clara locked him up early on in the process.
Dominique Lee (6-4, 200) SF
Junior, Berkeley, Calif./ St. Mary's
Lee is a solid prospect for the next level, but there are areas of his game that need addressing if he wants to reach his potential. He is an explosive athlete who thrives in transition. Lee has a tremendous knack to score off the bounce and has the necessary strength and bounce to finish amongst the bigs. He can use either hand while finishing and can hang in the air with the best of them. However, despite all his positive attributes, he shows no inclination of developing a jump shot. He had many opportunities on which he could have pulled up for the midrange jumper, but instead he tried to force the drive and as a result he either turned it over or took a bad shot. Lee is a talent, but the level of recruitment he receives between now and next season will depend on the development of his jump shot.
Demetrius Lee (6-3, 190) SF
Junior, Berkeley, Calif./ St. Mary's
Demetrius is a tad slimmer than his twin brother but a similar type of athlete. He isn't as aggressive as his brother, but his talent should be attractive to coaches from mid-majors. Like Dominique, Demetrius loves to attack the basket and convert at the rim. On the other hand, he does a much better job taking what the defense gives him. Although he took only a couple of jump shots, his shot was much better than expected. His shot is flat, but his release is smooth -- he converted 1-of-2 from beyond the stripe. Overall, for him to reach his potential, he'll need to continue to smooth out his stroke and develop a more refined midrange game.
Nor Cal Notes
• One of the better-looking prospects in the event was 6-7 sophomore Ramone Eaton (Sacramento, Calif./ Sheldon). He has a sinewy frame that needs strength, but he has a very slick handle and a nice feel for the game; he had a number of nifty assists. He has a nice floater in the lane, but his jump shot needs to tighten up.
• Max Hooper (San Jose, Calif./ Valley Christian), a 6-5 junior, is one of the better catch-and-shoot types on the West Coast. In addition, his frame has become much leaner since the summer, and as a result he's much quicker. He still needs to hone his ball skills, but he appears to be a solid Division I prospect.
• Bobby McCall (Newark, Calif./ Memorial), a 5-10 senior, has a strong frame, solid quickness and decent jump shot. However, his decision-making was often shaky.
• Valley Christian High in San Jose, Calif., has an intriguing freshman big man in 6-6 Cameron Stewart. He is a Florida transplant with a lengthy frame and some solid hands.
• Brandon Wilhite (Portola Valley, Calif./ Woodside Priory), a 6-2 sophomore, has the ideal size for the 1 for the next level. This lefty has a solid pump fake, but needs to follow through on his release.
• Robert Garret of Sacramento, Calif., a 6-8 sophomore, has a ways to go on the offensive point and doesn't have much bounce, but he has a great frame and soft hands.
• Stevonte Young of Hayward, Calif., a 5-8 sophomore, is an intriguing point guard prospect for the next level. He is ultra-quick and has a fairly tight handle. He needs to smooth out his decision-making (he was turnover-prone), but overall he has the mentality to be a solid lead guard someday.
• One of the most explosive athletes in the West is 6-5 senior Ken Rancifer (El Cerrito, Calif.). His jump shot is much-improved, and he possesses all the intangibles (length and quickness) to be a lock-down defender at the next level.
• Khion Sankey (Newark, Calif./ Memorial), a 6-4 junior, is an undersized 4-man, but he has a warrior's mentality.
• Josiah Turner of Sacramento, Calif., a 6-1 sophomore, has as much upside as any point guard on the West Coast. His passing in the open court is tremendous and he has developed a consistent midrange pull-up J. However, in the half-court set he was turnover-prone and was indecisive with his decision-making.
Nor Cal Tip-off game results
Game 1: Dublin 78, Riordan (San Francisco) 69
Player of the Game: Brent McHone -- Dublin
Game 2: Lincoln (San Francisco) 78, Woodside Priory (Portola Valley) 44
Player of the Game: Deend Parker -- Lincoln
Game 3: Valley Christian (San Jose) 61, Fremont (Oakland) 49
Player of the Game: Tim Harris -- Valley Christian
Game 4: Piner (Santa Rosa) 58, El Cerrito 55
Player of the Game: Lucas Devenny -- Piner
Game 5: Oakland 57, Hayward 47
Player of the Game: Dominique Taplin -- Oakland
Game 6: Newark Memorial 79, Sacramento 72
Player of the Game: Khion Sankey -- Newark Memorial
Game 7: Sheldon (Sacramento) 71, St. Mary's (Berkeley) 65
Player of the Game: Darius Nelson -- Sheldon
Joel Francisco has been a high school basketball scout for 15 years. He has written for Hoop Scoop Magazine and Basketball Times and organized "So-Cal's Finest," his own scouting service.