IEBP's 6-2 junior Kendall Williams (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif./ Los Osos) missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer that ended a resilient tournament run by IEBP (Inland Empire Basketball Program) in its upset bid of tournament favorite Compton Magic/Black.
Compton Magic/Black relied on a balanced attack and clutch free throw shooting from 6-1 junior Deonta Burton (Compton, Calif./ Centennial) to defeat IEBP 57-55 in the 1st Annual HAX Memorial Day Blast championship.
The Magic had a host of prospects -- Allen Crabbe (Los Angeles/Price) and Bryce Jones (Woodland Hills, Calif./ Taft) come immediately to mind -- that catapulted them to the championship, but no player was more important to their victory run than 6-7 junior Alex Tiffin (Thousand Oaks, Calif.). Tiffin's savvy and impeccable footwork in the post helped the Compton Magic/Black overcome feisty performances from ICAN White in the semi-finals and later IEBP in the championship.
Kendall Williams (6-2, 170, Point Guard)
2010, Rancho Cucamonga, Calif./ Los Osos
After a subpar spring campaign, UCLA-bound Williams played his best basketball -- in my estimation -- in well over a year at the HAX Memorial Day Blast. Although his team fell short in the championship, he was the most valuable player of the event. He still gets too emotionally involved in his individual match-ups, but overall, he did a much better job of controlling tempo and getting his team into the offense. His decision-making was very good for the most part and he didn't force the issue as much as in the past. In addition, his pull-up jump shot was quite efficient throughout the weekend. Williams still leaves his feet too much while passing and still has a tendency to get himself into trouble by over penetrating, but overall his effort at both ends was impressive.
Allen Crabbe (6-6, 185, Shooting Guard)
2010, Los Angeles/Price
He was a bit passive over the last couple of games on the final day of the Memorial Day Blast Tournament but before that was the event's most impressive performer. He looks to have grown a couple of inches since last fall and could eventually be a 6-7-plus wing/shooting guard in college. He is consistently accurate behind the 3-point arc with a seemingly effortless flick of his right wrist, either spotting up or off of one or two dribbles. He has become much more forceful on penetration moves and gets rim-level on his drives, regardless of traffic. The Cal-bound Crabbe needs to finish through contact better but that should come with the bulk and strength he will gain through maturation and in the college weight room. He should eventually become a more than acceptable man-to-man defender (he seems willing) but needs to be coached or reminded to keep his knees bent and in a stance consistently. He has a chance to be rated the No. 1 prospect in the Southern California class of 2010 by next winter.
Alex Tiffin (6-7, 200, Power forward)
2010, Thousand Oaks, Calif./Thousand Oaks
There were times he was the best player on the floor for his championship-winning team during the Memorial Day Blast in Hawthorne. Tiffin's low-post polish dwarfs that of most centers or power forwards on the prep level, with a repertoire that includes tight and quick drop-step and spin moves from either block. He doesn't possess anything close to "explosive" leaping ability but that doesn't deter him from being an exceptional rebounder, both defensively and offensively. He doesn't look to initiate a lot of his own offense from the perimeter but he has a more than acceptable jump shot into the 15- to 17-foot range. He has both the vision, from either the high or low posts, to find teammates and get the ball to them when and where it should be delivered. If he can demonstrate the ability to defend skilled "4s" out on the floor this summer, high-major programs will take long looks at him.
Bryce Jones (6-5, 175, Wing Forward)
2010, Woodland Hills, Calif./ Taft
Although Jones hasn't received the notoriety of west coast standouts Tyler Lamb and Allen Crabbe, he may possess the most upside of the three. His 3-point shot was shaky at this event and it needs to get better before he gets to college, but the other aspects of his game are high-level. He can impact the game on a number of different levels due to his length, savvy, and explosiveness. He can get to the rim off the dribble quite easily and he utilizes his long arms and bounce to finish in traffic. He keeps his handle very low and he has a very quick 1st step. His mid-range jump shot is solid and he gets great lift on it as well. Defensively, he can guard all three perimeter positions and he plays the passing lanes very well. Once he gets stronger and begins to fill out his sinewy frame, his game will elevate to another level.
Jahii Carson (5-11, 160, Point Guard)
2011, Phoenix, Ariz./Mountain Pointe
This was my first look at Carson in well over a year and I came away very impressed. Although he doesn't possess ideal point guard size, he has a very strong upper body and his athleticism is off the charts. He was by the far the quickest guard at the HAX Memorial Day Blast and he was able to get into the lane at will throughout the weekend. His handle is very tight and he keeps the ball very low. His vision is outstanding, both in transition as well as in the half court set. He gets rid of the ball quickly on the break without wasting a dribble and his passes are always on the money. In addition, his pull-up jump shot is solid out to the stripe and he gets great lift on it.
Yannick Atanga (6-8, 210, Power Forward)
2010, Ojai, Calif./ Besant Hill
Atanga may been a relative unknown prior to this weekend, but that will certainly change after his performance at this event. His long arms and bounce are very impressive and he has a very high ceiling if he works on his skills and fundamentals. He collects most of his points off of dunks in transition or attacking the offensive glass. His offensive repertoire is quite limited, but he does have great feet and good hands. In addition, he can step outside and hit the jump shot at the elbow, although that is an area that needs be addressed as well. However, defensively he has the potential to guard all three front court positions due to his quick feet and length.
Kevin Bailey (6-5, 190, Wing/SG)
2011, Clovis, Calif./Clovis East
Bailey was a first-team All-Fresno selection by the Fresno Bee and demonstrated why he is one of California's best juniors-to-be while standing out for a team that reached the semifinals of the Elite Division in the Memorial Day Blast. He has the whole package, athletically and competitively. You're not going to find many players on any level who play any harder than he does, at both ends of the floor. He has an explosive first step off the dribble and pushes the ball with great speed in the open court. He does need to polish his left hand a bit and his jump shot needs more range and consistency. He is a top-flight leaper, both off of one or two feet. He seems to relish drawing contact either on drives or while playing in the low post area.
Deonta Burton (6-1, 180, Shooting guard)
2010, Compton, Calif./ Centennial
Burton is yet another prospect on the Compton Magic/Black squad that deserves recognition. At this stage it doesn't look like he'll ever grasp the point guard position. However, in terms of explosiveness and an innate ability to get to the rim, he has few peers. He has matured greatly in terms of his handle as he has the talent and skill to separate from defenders with a few quick moves. Unfortunately, his jump shot is still a work in progress and that aspect of his game will have to improve greatly to keep defenses honest at the next level. His frame (strong physique with long arms) and hang time allow him to finish at a consistent basis at this level, but the college game is a whole lot different from high school—thus the level of his recruitment will depend on the improvement of his jump shot.
Denzel Douglas (5-10, 175, Point Guard)
2010, Los Angeles/Westchester
He played well down the stretch of his junior season for the high school team that won the L.A. City and California State (Div. I) championships, and his play at the Memorial Day Blast in Hawthorne showed why he'll be rated among Southern California's best point guards as a senior. He's got enough quickness to penetrate past smaller guards, and enough strength (with broad shoulders, long arms and good muscle mass) to cope with bigger and thicker defenders. He penetrates to set up teammates but doesn't need a lot of space to get to the glass and finish over or around defenders. He shoots it well enough (and deep enough) to keep man-to-man defenders from gapping him excessively to stop his penetration.
Spencer Dinwiddie (6-3, 160, Point Guard)
2011, Woodland Hills, Calif./ Taft
Dinwiddie is a late blooming point guard who may go the high-major route if he continues to progress at this rate. He has a long and wiry frame and a very young looking face to boot. He doesn't have great speed and/or quickness, but he changes speeds very well and his savvy for this game is outstanding. He's an excellent passer and always throws a catchable pass, especially to his bigs (throws to their outside hand away from the defense). His jump shot, more like a set shot, is a work in progress, but with added strength it should get much better. Overall, he is one of the better looking point guard prospects out West, regardless of class.
Tre Johnson (6-7, 195, Power forward)
2010, Reno, Nev./Hug
He was one of the pleasant surprises during the Memorial Day Blast in Hawthorne, impacting games at both ends of the floor as a shot blocker and defensive rebounder and attacking the rim on dunk and offensive rebound attempts. He runs hard and well and has decent lateral mobility. He rebounds in traffic but needs to get stronger and do a better of boxing out and not just rely on his quick-leaping ability. He has a decent mid-range jump shot (especially along the baseline) but his offensive package is extremely raw, both in the low post and on the perimeter. He seems much more likely to be a post than a wing on the college level. Johnson is reportedly an exceptional student.
Stephen Hicks (6-4, 180, Shooting Guard)
2010, Agoura, Calif.
It's rare in this media-saturated age to see a Division 1 prospect emerge for the 1st time entering their senior campaign. However, that is the case with Hicks. He was probably the fourth option on offense this weekend, but that didn't deter him from being noticed this weekend. He has an impressive frame for the 2-guard position and the skills to match. His length is impressive and he slides his feet very well on defense. His ball skills are solid and he can get to the basket as well. In addition, he allows the game to come to him and is a solid passer. His jump shot needs some polishing, but it's not completely broken. Overall, Hicks is one of the top sleepers on the West Coast and should garner considerable Division 1 interest during the summer evaluation period.
Kaylen Evans (6-7, 170, PF/WF)
2010, Bakersfield, Calif./ Ridgeview
Evans has that prototypical wing-type frame with very long arms that college coaches covet, but he's more of a 4-man at this point of his career. His skill package is definitely in its infantile stage, but his athleticism is off the charts. At the beginning of the event he was making an impact by blocking shots and attacking the offensive glass for some impressive dunks. However, as the tournament progressed he began to affect the game on many different levels. He showed glimpses of possibly becoming a wing someday as he handled the ball in the open court and slithered his way to the basket on a number of occasions. In addition, he has 3-point range on his shot (it's a tad mechanical, however) and he has the necessary quickness and bounce to get to the basket off the dribble with very little effort. He is still a ways a way from being a perimeter threat, but the talent and upside are there.
• Christopher Brown, a 5-11 sophomore out of Los Angeles/ Manual Arts, plays the game with poise and confidence. He is a true point guard with good speed and quickness and he always has his head up to get his teammates involved.
• John Ryan, a 6-9 junior out of El Segundo, Calif., will grow on you the more you watch him. He is a physical 5-man with limited bounce, but he has excellent footwork, solid post skills, and will not back down against any competition.
• Khalil Kelley, a 6-7 junior out of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif./ Los Osos, is beginning to mold into a Division 1 recruit. He has a rangy frame and is quite bouncy. His post skills are still raw, but he has definitely progressed since the regular season.
• J.J. O'Brien, a 6-6 junior out of Alta Loma, Calif., is the quintessential glue-type for the low to mid-major level. He is an undersized 4/3 who has good ball skills and can score inside and out.
• Martyre Demarco, a 6-2 sophomore out of Phoenix, Ariz./ Shadow Mountain, continues to demonstrate that he is one of the better looking point guard prospects in the West Coast Class of 2011. He plays the game with an even keel and changes speeds very well to either get his own shot and/or set up a teammate.
• One of the more versatile guards in the west is 6-2 junior Jordin Mayes (Los Angeles/ Westchester). Mayes isn't blessed with elite speed and quickness, but he has a terrific frame and an overall outstanding feel for the game. He has a gifted runner in the lane with either hand and he can knock down the 3-point shot with regularity.
He's an explosive athlete and possesses a terrific frame, but 6-5 Shelton Boykin (Long Beach, Calif./ Poly) is a consistent jump shot away from being a solid Division 1 recruit.
• He's an undersized 5-man, but 6-6 sophomore Damiene Cain (North Hollywood, Calif./ Harvard-Westlake) more than held his own inside this weekend. He has a big frame, good hands, and projects to being a solid prospect for the Big West.
• Wesley Saunders, a 6-5 sophomore out of Los Angeles/ Windward, is strong, athletic, and gets most of his points within 5-feet of the basket. However, his jump shot (flat release) needs a lot of polishing if he wants to be a high level 3-man at the next level.
• Jordan Burris, a 6-5 junior wing-type out of Stockdale, Calif., has definitely improved since last summer. He has a solid frame and can knock down the 3-point shot. In addition, his ball skills have improved, especially in the half-court set.
• One of the bigger disappointments of the weekend was 6-9 junior Richard Solomon (Los Angeles/ Price). His best basketball is down the road due to his slight frame, but other than strength he needs to continue to develop his face-up skills to play at the Division 1 level. He struggled scoring inside throughout the tournament.
• Chris Willis, a 6-3 sophomore our to Las Vegas, Nev./ Canyon Springs, was a definite surprise this past weekend. He isn't blessed with a great frame (short arms), but his mid-range game is quite good. He is very potent off the bounce and he can shoot the 3-point shot—although his release is a tad mechanical.
• Jaylen Henry, a 6-7 junior out of Las Vegas, Nev./ Cheyenne, is a physical specimen for the low to mid-major level. His post skills are raw, but he is a beast on the inside. He is very quick off the floor and is a tenacious rebounder and finisher.
• He is only a freshman, but 5-10 Khalid Banks (Las Vegas, Nev./ Cheyenne) is a talented lead guard. He has a terrific handle and a great feel for the game for someone so young.
• Shakir Smith, a 6-0 combo-guard out of Tucson, Ariz., is not a true point guard, but his frame has filled out since the fall and he plays the game with purpose. His jump shot (low release) needs polishing, but he his feel is impressive and he plays both ends with great energy.
• One of the better bigs of the tournament was 6-8 junior Godwin Okonji (Henderson, Nev./ Findlay Prep). He has lengthy frame, good hands, and knows how to score within the paint area. He couldn't display all his ability because he didn't touch the ball all that often.
• Grant Jerrett, a 6-7 freshmen out of La Verne, Calif./ Lutheran, is far from a finished product, but his upside is significant. His frame is quite lanky with very long arms and his footwork and feel around the basket is quite polished for someone so young.
• Byron Wesley, a 6-5 sophomore out of Cajon, Calif., doesn't have superior athleticism and needs to extend the range on his jump shot (flat shot out beyond the stripe), but he effects the game on many levels. He rebounds very well for his size, has a tight mid-range game, and is a very good passer.
• Timothy James Burke, a 6-7 sophomore out of Tempe, Ariz./ Marcos De Niza, has really filled out since I saw him at the Pangos Frosh/Soph All-American camp. He is quite a bit stronger, but he hasn't lost his bounce and/or quickness. This versatile forward can play either forward position and do it equally well. His face-up game is terrific and he projects to being at least a mid-major recruit down the road.
• Sai Tummala, a 6-6 sophomore out of Phoenix, Ariz./ Brophy Prep, was one of the biggest surprises of the event. This lefty has bounce, length, and a nice looking 3-point shot.
Frank Burlison contributed to this report.