LAS VEGAS -- The 2008 Main Event turned out to be a much more valuable stop during the Las Vegas tournament frenzy exhibition. Unlike last year where the most-talented teams were placed in pools with inferior talent and coaches and scouts had to endure blowout after blowout, tournament director Hal Pastner constructed some intriguing pool play games to lure those of us who were tempted to boycott it.
Although there wasn't a matchup like John Wall vs. Kenny Boynton that would spark immediate interest, there were enough exciting games to make the trek to Spring Valley on the east side of town worthwhile.
In the 10-hour span I was able to evaluate a plethora of prospects including ever-improving 6-4 senior Aaron Dotson (Seattle/Rainer Beach), newly touted 6-4 junior Daniel Bejarano (Phoenix/North) and old reliable 6-4 senior Roger Franklin (Grand Prairie, Texas/ Duncanville), among others.
Main Event player notes
Daniel Bejarano, G (6-4, 190)
Bejarano is one of the fastest rising juniors in the country. He is a prolific shooter with a smooth release and also gets tremendous lift on his shot. He has a strong physique and he utilized it quite well in the rebounding department. Although he has a tendency to leave his feet while passing, he does have a nice feel for the game and should be playing in a high-major conference a couple of years from now.
Jeremy Tyler, F (6-9, 220)
Junior, San Diego
Although he did pick up a technical foul -- it's become commonplace with him lately -- he did appear to be much more focused with the task at hand than during the spring evaluation period. He was very active at both ends and had moments of brilliance, but overall he has a long way to go before he's a finished product. Despite his impressive frame and overall length, he struggled finishing in traffic and his fundamentals (brings the ball down too often) need refining.
Gary Franklin, G (6-1, 170)
Junior, Santa Ana, Calif./Mater Dei
Franklin is an undersized 2-guard who has a real knack to score. He has a lot of moxie and is not afraid to take the big shot (hit a game-tying 3-pointer to send the game into overtime). He does force it too much and takes ill-advised jump shots, but he is a gamer at both ends.
Chris Cunningham, F (6-7, 220)
Senior, Diamond Bar, Calif./Diamond Ranch
Cunningham has a tremendous feel for the game and excellent fundamentals for a big. Despite not having a whole lot of bounce, his footwork is impeccable, which allows him to convert in traffic against taller opponents. He still needs to raise his intensity at both ends, but overall he had a solid outing.
James Southerland, F (6-7, 200)
Senior, Floral Park, N.Y./Notre Dame Utica
Southerland has one of the smoothest strokes in the country. He loves to hover around the 3-point stripe but is far from a volume shooter. He does have a slight frame (narrow shoulders) and needs to get much more physical at both ends, but his face-up game is solid. He needs to get stronger off the bounce, but he's a quick leaper and had some impressive finishes throughout the game.
William Cherry, G (6-1, 160)
Senior, Oakland, Calif./McClymonds
Cherry plays at a relentless pace and is a tenacious defender as well. He plays too fast on the offensive end but is extremely quick and does a nice job breaking down opponents to get to the basket. He is an elusive scorer and his jump shot is streaky, but he will set up his teammates for scoring opportunities.
Aaron Dotson, G (6-4, 200)
Senior, Seattle/Rainer Beach
Dotson has really improved since the regular season and should now be considered one of the top five shooting guards in the West. His jump shot has improved immensely over the last year. He gets great lift on his shot and his release is quite smooth. His mid-range game is still in its developmental stage, but he does have a nice pull-up at the elbow. In addition, he is solid rebounder and he competes at both ends.
Garlon Green, F (6-7, 200)
Senior, Missouri City, Texas/ Hightower
Green has a lengthy frame for the 3 and a feathery touch beyond the stripe. His stroke is effortless and his release is tight. He's a bouncy athlete, but his mid-range game needs attention. At this stage he is very predictable not too mention a tad soft, and he needs to show the ability to take defenders off the bounce to complete his game.
Tommy Mason-Griffin, G (5-10, 200)
Griffin has questionable upside and is quite stocky, but he does have a knack for the point guard position. He is a very good passer both in transition and in the half-court set. He is tremendously strong with the ball and his handle is tight. His jump shot has also improved from a year ago and he definitely has 3-point range now.
Hollis Thompson, F (6-7, 185)
Senior, Los Angeles/ Loyola
Thompson hasn't developed much in the past year -- both physically and with his overall game. He is a slashing wing-type who needs to get tougher and become a much more consistent jump shooter if he is going to play for Georgetown during the 2009-10 season. He has the athleticism to play at that level, but his overall feel for the game needs to improve immensely.
Keith Gallon, C (6-9, 290)
Senior, Mouth of Wilson, VA./ Oak Hill Academy
Gallon -- think former Michigan standout Robert "Tractor" Traylor -- is enormous and needs to lose weight to reach his potential. Although he's built like an NFL offensive tackle, he does have some dexterity to his game. He is quite nimble around the basket and has a soft touch out to the stripe. Although he outweighs people he did struggle at times converting inside, which is troublesome. He is definitely one of the more intriguing players in the country.
Michael Moser, F (6-7, 180)
Senior, Portland, Ore./ Grant
Moser isn't a shooter just yet, but he does have many other attributes to his game that make him intriguing. His frame is awe-inspiring, including a lengthy wingspan. He guards any of the perimeter positions with equal aplomb and slides his feet as well as any wing in the country. His athleticism is off the charts, but overall his offensive game needs a lot of polishing before he arrives in Arizona for college.
Chris Colvin, G (6-3, 180)
Senior, Chicago/Whitney Young
Colvin was one of the better 2-guards of the event. He has an ultra-quick athlete with a couple of gears to his game and he can get to the basket. His jump shot is solid out to the stripe and his handle is fairly tight, but he needs to slow down and develop more savvy for the game.
Mike Shaw, F (6-8, 200)
Sophomore, Chicago/De La Salle
Shaw -- think a young Rashard Lewis -- has a lengthy frame and is a very good athlete. He's a finesse 4-man with one of the smoother strokes around. His shot is consistent out beyond the stripe, but he relies on it way too much. He needs to get much tougher at both ends of the floor and develop other areas of his game, specifically his post skills.
Deshaun Thomas, F (6-7, 215)
Junior, Fort Wayne, Ind./Bishop Luers
Thomas is a cross between a 3 and a 4. He has an impressive frame with very broad shoulders and extremely long arms. This lefty is a streaky shooter out to the stripe, has a solid handle and can dish out the nifty assist on occasion. He isn't overly bouncy, but he does get up well enough to convert inside against other bigs.
Donnie Hale, F (6-7, 190)
Junior, New Albany, Ind.
Hale is an intriguing 4-man for the next level. He has a willowy frame that needs to add strength, but his overall skill set is impressive. This lefty has a smooth shooting stroke out to the stripe and is a crafty passer as well. He is quite versatile and can be very good in pick-n-pop situations and posting up.
Terrence Jones, F (6-7, 210)
Junior, Portland, Ore./Jefferson
Jones portrays himself as a 1, but due to his bulky frame, he projects more as a hybrid 4-man. He does have a knack for passing, but there are other areas of his game that need his attention. His jump shot -- more like a set shot -- is a tad erratic and he is somewhat of a volume shooter as well. He needs to continue to tighten up his handle and become a more dominant scorer in the paint to reach his potential.
Steven Bjornstad, F (6-10, 215)
Senior, Vancouver, Wash./Columbia River
Bjornstad showed glimpses in the spring of his potential and now it's becoming a reality. His frame is beginning to fill out and he has become a much better finisher as a result. His post skills are still raw, but due to his impressive frame and improved mobility, he'll start garnering interest from the high-major level.
Roger Franklin, F (6-4, 215)
Senior, Grand Prairie, Texas/Duncanville
Franklin is a blue-collar 3-man who can score in a variety of ways. He is at his best when slashing to the basket and utilizing his upper-body strength. He also has a solid turnaround jump shot he gets nice lift on. His frame appears to be maxed out, but he is the quintessential glue-type for the next level.
Joel Francisco is a recruiting coordinator for ESPN Scouts Inc. He has been a high school basketball scout for 15 years, has written for Hoopscoop Magazine and Basketball Times and organized "So-Cal's Finest," his own scouting service.