We live in a media-saturated society in which prospects are unveiled at a very young age, so it's always nice to know that there are still a number of sleeper-types who awaken prior to their senior campaigns.
That's exactly what I encountered when I headed up to the Hax Fall League during Final Four Saturday. I was a tad reluctant to leave the Michigan State/UConn tilt, but thanks to TiVo I was able to talk myself into it -- and I'm sure glad I did.
Bryce Jones, a 6-5 junior out of Woodland Hills, Calif./ Taft, had to sit out his junior campaign after transferring from Viewpark (Los Angeles). However, this weekend he displayed very little rust and exhibited the kind of length, skill, and savvy to be considered one of the elite wings in the west.
Jones wasn't the only standout at the Hax Spring League. There were a number of other prospects, such as 6-8 junior Richard Solomon (Torrance, Calif./ Bishop Montgomery) and 6-5 junior Allen Crabbe (Los Angeles/ Price), who showcased their improved games.
Richard Solomon (6-8, 190)
Junior, Torrance, Calif./ Bishop Montgomery
Solomon is a diamond in the rough who is beginning to get polished. His frame is long and lean and he has the potential to be a high-level face-up 4-man someday. He is terrific in transition and can get to the rim easily due to his outstanding quickness. In addition, he can knock down the 3-point jump shot, although his shot is much better in the mid-range area. Despite his slight frame he can rebound in traffic and he has good hands. His post game is non-existent and it would be nice to see him develop a go-to move (jump hook?). However, he has shown the ability to utilize the pump fake to get around opponents in the half-court set. Overall, Solomon needs to bulk up and get stronger for the interior battles ahead, but his upside is quite good.
Gelaun Wheelwright (6-1, 165)
Sophomore, Corona, Calif./ Centennial
Wheelwright is one of the most explosive combo-guards in the west. He has a nice frame with long arms and his quickness is high-level. He is a prolific jump shooter from anywhere on the court, especially in a pull-up situation. He likes to create off the bounce, but he needs to start developing a point guard's mentality because it doesn't appear he's going to grow. He can make the nifty pass in transition, but it would be nice to see him learn how to change speeds and run a team in a half-court set because he is a high-major prospect.
Allen Crabbe (6-5, 180)
Junior, Los Angeles/ Price
As with most late-developing prospects, the best is yet to come for Crabbe. He has gotten taller and more filled-out in recent months and his game has grown as well. He attacks the basket more often now instead of settling for the 3-point shot. In addition, he had one of the best dunks of the spring when he elevated in traffic and crunched one over a would-be defender. His jump shot was still high-level as he hit a number of 3s from different spots on the floor. He still needs to get better with his left and make a more concerted effort to rebound, but overall his progression has been impressive.
Deonta Burton (6-1, 180)
Junior, Compton, Calif./ Centennial
Burton was ineligible during the regular season, due to switching high schools. However, he appears ready to have a very strong spring and summer. His body is tremendous with outstanding length and strength. He's an undersized 2-guard, but due to his physical style and athleticism he may be able to play at the high-major level. His handle has tightened up and he possesses the skill and bounce to breakdown defenders at will off the dribble. He uses his lift, strength, and excellent body control to finish amongst the bigs. An area that needs to be sharpened is his shooting. He has the ability to knock down jump shots, but his release is a tad stiff and mechanical. If he can become a consistent jump shooter, his level of recruitment will definitely elevate.
Bryce Jones (6-5, 175)
Junior, Woodland Hills, Calif./ Taft
Jones has a sinewy frame with very long arms and great hands. He can affect the game on many different levels at both ends due to his quickness and bounce. He has the length to become a lock-down defender and he has very quick hands—had a number of steals this weekend. He can handle the ball well in transition and he gets to the rim very easily, but he needs to get significantly stronger to finish in traffic at the next level. His jump shot is a tad mechanical, but he did hit a quite a few 3s and pull-up jump shots in the two games I saw. He plays hard and with purpose at both ends and is one of the better rebounding wings that I've seen in a while. In addition to his rebounding prowess, he handed out a number of excellent passes to boot. Jones is a high-major prospect and has the upside to be the best wing-type on the West Coast before it's all said and done.
Derek Brown (6-1, 165)
Junior, Chino Hills, Calif.
Brown doesn't possess high-level quickness and/or speed, but he is quite crafty with his handle and he knows how to use his body to ward off defenders. His frame has bulked up in recent months and he changes speeds very well to keep opponents off balance. In addition, he has a nice head-and-shoulder fake to get by his defenders and he usually delivers a good passes most of the time, although he does have a tendency to showboat it from time to time. His pull-up jump shot is solid out to 15-feet, but he needs to become more consistent out to the stripe. Overall, Brown has a nice feel for the game and is a solid competitor at both ends.
Wesley Saunders (6-5, 190)
Sophomore, Los Angeles/ Windward
Saunders has a high-major frame and if his jump shot becomes more consistent he'll play at that level. His physique is impressive with long arms and very broad shoulders. He is extremely gifted finishing around the basket, especially with his left hand. He uses his body very well to ward off shot blockers and he is quite bouncy as well. His handle is solid in the open court and he possesses a pretty nifty crossover to set up his jump shot. His shot has a solid release, but it's more like a set shot rather than a jump shot at this stage. He hits the offensive glass with reckless abandon and has the bounce to dunk it in traffic. Overall, he needs to become a better passer and smoothen out his jump shot to reach his potential.
Dorian Cason (6-7, 200)
Sophomore, Fontana, Calif./ Summit
Cason is an undersized 5-man for the next level, but he does have a significant amount of upside due to his length—specifically his long arms. His post game is still in its infantile stage, but he has good hands and he isn't afraid to get tough in the paint area. He gets most of his points off of offensive tip-ins and rebound put-backs. He runs well in transition and has the ability to guard a "four" on the perimeter. At this stage of his development he needs work on his fundamentals in the post (pivot work and keeping ball high) and develop a solid touch out to the elbow to garner Division 1 interest.
Marqueze Coleman (6-1, 155)
Freshman, Los Angeles/ Dorsey
Coleman has a terrific frame with very broad shoulders and long arms. He is a very good athlete with superb quickness and bounce. At this stage he excels in transition and can either get to the rim and/or nail the pull-up in the paint area. He plays hard at both ends and appears to be a willing defender. Although he is still very young, his decision-making is troublesome at times, which leads to ill-advised shots or unnecessary turnovers. He gets nice lift on his jump shot, but the trajectory is quite flat and that will need to improve to play at the Division 1 level. Overall, the level of his recruitment will depend on his ability to change speeds and not play too fast all the time and improve his jump shot and handle.
• Craig Carter, a 6-4 junior out of Gardena, Calif./ Serra, needs to get tougher and play more physical, but he has an intriguing skills set. He has a nice mid-range pull-up and he's an excellent passer, especially in transition.
• Dominique Dunning, a 6-3 sophomore out of Corona, Calif./ Centennial, is your quintessential glue-type. He isn't the quickest and he needs to polish his jump shot, but he rebounds and is one of the better passers in his class.
• Dorsey high school, based out of Los Angeles, has one of the more intriguing wing-types in the class of 2011 in 6-6 Dillon Biggs. He is still quite raw and makes reckless decisions, but he handles it well in transition and can score in a variety of ways.
• One of the bigger disappointments of the day was the play of 6-9 sophomore Kevin Johnson (Gardena, Calif./ Serra). He struggled mightily finishing around the basket and his post game hasn't progressed as I had hoped.
• Billy Keller, a 5-11 sophomore out of Huntington Beach, Calif./ Ocean View, doesn't have a great frame, but his point guard skills and decision making are impressive.
• He has a tendency to hunt shots, but 6-2 freshman Gabe York (Orange, Calif./ Orange Lutheran) has a tremendous knack to score. He isn't overly quick, but he has a solid 1st step to the basket and is one of the purest jump shooters in the West.