SANTA ANA, Calif. -- The Nike Extravaganza, held at the Meruelo Athletic Center on the campus of Mater Dei, continues to be one of the season's most anticipated events and this year was no exception. With close to 50 Division I prospects in attendance -- including five seniors who signed with high-major programs -- the level of talent was outstanding. However, by the time the last buzzer sounded, a junior stole the show.
Dexter Strickland, a 6-foot-3 junior who recently committed to UNC, put on a dazzling display of skill and talent that wowed the near-capacity crowd. But despite hitting on nine of his 12 shots and finishing with 28 points, his poor free throw shooting (he was just eight of 15) helped Los Angeles/Fairfax to escape with a 62-61 victory.
Although Strickland was the unanimous standout of the event, there were many other impressive performances, including 5-8 Long Beach State signee Caspar Ware (Cerritos, Calif./ Gahr) and intriguing sleeper 6-3 senior Kyle Fogg (Brea, Calif./ Brea Olinda).
Jerime Anderson (6-2, 175)
Senior, Anaheim Hills, Calif./ Canyon
Anderson doesn't have elite speed or quickness, but his clever handle and overall feel for the game will get him on the court early and often at UCLA next season. He is a late bloomer and like current UCLA standout Russell Westbrook, expect to see that same transformation in Anderson's frame as well. He is the quintessential point guard for the next level. His mid-range game is great and his decision-making is quite sound. Although he had an uncharacteristic amount of turnovers (seven) in the game, at least half of those should have been converted into baskets by his teammates. He poured in 28 points, grabbed eight rebounds and handed out eight assists as he led his team to victory over a well-coached Los Alamitos squad. However, he did struggle from beyond the stripe (0-for-4) but with added strength his release is smooth enough where it should be only a matter of time before that area of his game improves. Overall, Anderson demonstrated why he is considered one of the top-five point guards in the country.
Dexter Strickland (6-3,180)
Junior, Elizabeth, N.J./St. Patrick
Strickland came into this event with a distinguished reputation and he more than met that description. Strickland -- again, think UCLA's Westbrook -- has a rangy frame with extremely long arms and overall great length for either guard position, although he's more of a shooting guard than a point at this stage of his career. Strickland has a tremendous knack to score from anywhere on the court and rarely forces the issue. His jump shot is tight with a smooth release and he has definite range on it as well. His pull-up game is solid and he does an excellent job of running the break. His handle is crafty, including a swift crossover he used numerous times to get to the basket. In addition to his exceptional skill level, he has a rare second gear in the open court which makes him difficult to stop. He also showed a willingness to rebound. Overall, other than Jrue Holiday, Strickland is the most complete guard I've seen this season.
Jordan Hamilton (6-7, 190)
Junior, Compton, Calif./ Dominguez
Hamilton is one of the elite scorers in the country, but is far from a complete player. He possesses that scorer's mentality, but he's a volume shooter who hunts his own shot far too often. He tossed in 25 points, but hit only 11 of 27 attempts. He needs to allow the game to come to him instead of forcing the issue every possession. But despite these shortcomings, he has improved since his sophomore campaign. He is a much better rebounder and has improved his ballhandling. If Hamilton can become more team oriented, he would be a fine addition to any program around the country.
Solomon Hill (6-5, 190)
Junior, Los Angeles/ Fairfax
Hill has progressed nicely over the past year. During his sophomore campaign he was strictly an undersized four-man. However, during his junior year he has shown great improvement in his jump shot as well as his overall feel for the game. His handle is solid and he did an admirable job getting his team into their offense. Although he had only one assist to go along with 22 points and 11 rebounds, he made a number of savvy-type passes that eventually led to a basket. At this stage, I would consider Hill a solid mid-major prospect at the three-spot, but with continued improvement he has a chance to reach that high-major level.
Caspar Ware (5-8, 170)
Senior, Cerritos, Calif./ Gahr
Ware gets better and better each time out. A year ago, I had nearly written him off because he couldn't shoot and his decision-making was erratic to say the least. However, this season he has demonstrated that he is one of the most improved players on the West Coast. His frame -- think former Washington Husky standout Nate Robinson -- is chiseled and he has the ability to break down defenders off the bounce and either finish at the rim or find an open teammate. In the open court he has blinding speed and his pull-up is solid. His jump shot has progressed nicely over the past year and he gets great lift on it. Although his shot selection and overall decision-making have come into question in the past, at this event he was under control for the most part and finished with a sparkling 31-point performance with four assists and only two turnovers. Overall, he is a nice get for Long Beach State.
Andy Brown (6-8, 215)
Junior, Santa Ana, Calif./ Mater Dei
Brown -- think Luke Walton -- is the unsung hero for Mater Dei's perfect season. Although he didn't shoot particularly well (5-of-13 FG), he did snag eight rebounds and handed out a couple of assists. Brown has an excellent feel for the game and possesses the court demeanor you look for in an elite prospect. He plays the game with an even keel at all times and never gets rattled under pressure. He can create off the bounce or hand out a nifty assist as well. His jump shot is a tad mechanical, but it's consistent. Brown will probably never be the go-to guy in a high-major program, but he's the ideal glue-type.
Renardo Sidney (6-9, 230)
Junior, Los Angeles/ Fairfax
Sidney has been outstanding this season, but his effort at this event is hopefully an aberration and not a sign of things to come. Playing against Kansas signee 6-8 Quintrell Thomas (Elizabeth, N.J./ St. Patrick) Sidney had trouble scoring, especially in the paint area, and ended up with only nine points on 3-of-10 shooting. Sidney is a remarkable talent with a versatile game -- he is an excellent passer -- but there are areas he could improve to take his game to another level. First, he needs to exert his will in the paint area and utilize his big frame. Far too often, he drifts from the basket and many of his post-up moves usually end up in the fade away category. With his physique it's surprising how often he struggles finishing inside against opponents of near-equal strength. A strong drop-step move and some work on his post fundamentals would make him a nightmare matchup at the next level. I had always envisioned him as a Chris Webber-type, but Webber was much more dominant in the paint area than Sidney at the same stage.
Alec Williams (6-5, 230)
Junior, San Juan Capistrano, Calif./ J Serra
Williams' stock is on the rise with his play at this event. He's a wide-body with decent length, but despite his size he is surprisingly bouncy and possesses a great pair of hands. Williams is best around the basket and quite nimble for a man his size. He has a soft shooting touch out to the stripe and is an excellent scorer around the basket. What level he plays at is yet to be determined, but I can see him being an effective post player in the Big West, a la Scott Cutley at Cal State Fullerton.
Kyle Fogg (6-3, 180)
Senior, Brea, Calif./ Brea-Olinda
Fogg may be the best unsigned senior in the West. This hidden gem has a lot of upside not to mention the frame, athleticism and attitude to be a devastating defender at the next level. He has long arms, excellent lateral quickness and some bounce as well. His skills are still developing, particularly his handle, but he displayed a solid burst to the basket and can score effectively in the paint. His jump shot is more than solid and has a smooth release as well. Fogg -- think Ty Abbott at Arizona State -- has a bright future and should end up somewhere at the high-major level by the time the spring signing period comes around.
What we learned
• Quintrell Thomas, a 6-8 Kansas signee out of Elizabeth, N.J./ St. Patrick, has a chiseled frame with long arms and soft hands, but his post game, other than a solid looking turn-around jump shot, needs to tighten up to be an effective scorer in the Big 12 Conference.
• Michael Gilchrist, a 6-5 freshman out of Elizabeth, N.J./ St. Patrick, came into this game with a lot of hype and for the most part didn't disappoint. He's an undersized power forward at this point, but he has an impressive frame with long arms and he's springy as well.
• Michael Dunigan, a 6-9 Oregon signee out of Chicago/Farragut Academy, has a high-major frame and is an outstanding rebounder, but his offensive skills and fundamentals need refining.
• He is one of the best all-around prospects in the country, but 6-6 Washington State signee Klay Thompson (Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif./ Santa Margarita) needs to display more leadership skills and be more aggressive offensively at the end of games.
• Tyler Lamb, a 6-5 sophomore out of Ontario/ Colony, is one of the most promising wing men in the West. He struggled a bit with the ball (10 turnovers), but his shot looked solid out to the stripe and he's developing into a solid passer as well.
• Ronnie Stevens, a 6-7 freshman out of Orange, Calif./ Orange Lutheran, has extremely long arms, quick feet and a solid face-up game for being so young.
• He doesn't have much lift, but 6-10 freshman Kyle Caudill (Brea, Calif./ Brea Olinda) has a nice feel for the game and impressive fundamentals in the post.
• One of the better shooters in the state is 6-4 unsigned senior Zach Zaragoza (Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif./ Santa Margarita). CS Northridge, Marshall, Northern Arizona and Montana State have offered.
• Jared Dubois, a 6-2 SMU signee out of Los Angeles/ Westchester, is one of the smoothest players in the West. He could be a solid contributor by creating off the screen and utilizing that feathery touch.
• Juniors 6-4 Myron Green and 6-5 Robert Mandingo made the clutch plays down the stretch at both ends for Compton Calif./Dominguez.
• One of the most promising up-and-coming sophomores in the West is 6-3 Jordin Mayes (Los Angeles/Westchester). He is a smooth shooter who has a great feel for the game.
• Dwayne Polee, a 6-7 sophomore out of Los Angeles/ Westchester, is an unbelievable athlete in the open court and his fundamentals are getting better, but he's a bit of a 'tweener unless his perimeter skills improve.
• Avery Johnson, a 6-2 sophomore out of Huntington Beach, Calif./ Ocean View, is a consistent jump shot away from being one of the more heavily recruited players in his class.
• Once his body (lengthy) catches up to his skill and savvy, 6-5 sophomore Anthony Brown (Huntington Beach, Calif./ Ocean View) will be one of the most promising wing-types on the West Coast.
• He doesn't have much bounce to his game, but 6-8 Stefan Kaluz (Corona Del Mar, Calif./Corona Del Mar), who is headed to Brown University, has a knack to score in the paint area as witnessed by his 34-point effort.
• Although he struggles to score in the paint area due to a lack of lift, 6-10 senior Corbin Moore (Los Alamitos, Calif./Los Alamitos) has a great frame, soft hands, is a solid rebounder and can stick the 15-foot shot with regularity.
• Chris Gabriel, a 6-9 New Mexico State signee out of San Juan Capistrano, Calif./Serra, continues to demonstrate why he is one of the most fundamentally sound big men in the West.
• He is electrifying in the open court, but 6-3 junior Demetrius Walker (San Juan Capistrano, Calif./ J Serra) needs to tighten up his mid-range game, specifically his jump shot, if he's going to be a solid Division I player.
• One of the more improved players in the West is 6-1 sophomore Gary Franklin (Santa Ana/ Mater Dei). His consistency from the stripe has been there throughout his brief career. However, he is learning to not hunt for his shot so often and allowing the game come to him.
Joel Francisco has been a high school basketball scout for 15 years. He has written for Hoopscoop Magazine and Basketball Times and organized "So-Cal's Finest," his own scouting service.