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July 16, 2012
LONG BEACH, Calif. -- Rivals.com on Sunday wrapped up a three-day stretch on the West Coast. After spending the weekend at the Pangos Sweet Sixteen and Double Pump tournaments, the future is bright for the up-and-coming players from California its neighboring states.
Class of 2014 five-star Malik Pope was the most talented prospect in either tournament. The near 6-foot-8 Pope is a pure wing with a lot of weapons at his disposal. He shoots with range, can handle the ball, makes things happen in transition and is a highly instinctive player. However, the one thing that Pope isn't, yet, is consistent. To take the next step with his game, Pope will have to become more consistently engaged in the action and be the aggressor. While he's capable of impacting the game in several ways and generally plays hard, Pope can at times be passive on the offensive end where he has the tools to be a dominant scorer if he cleans up a few rough edges.
It's hard not to enjoy watching a team like Utah Hoops roll to a bracket title. The Hoops prove that there is still good coaching in summer ball, that teams will play together and that it's possible to run a well-constructed offense while still playing fast. The Hoops employed a balanced attack, highlighted by outstanding shooting from deep by players such as Abel Porter, Pere Leseuer and Sam Merrill. Combo forward Dalton Nixon is a nice-looking prospect in the class of 2014 and big men Brekkott Chapman and Mike Hibbert had moments around the hoop and run the floor very well.
In order to win the Platinum Division of the Sweet 16, the Utah Hoops had to knock off the Las Vegas Prospects 16s. It was the fourth time this spring/summer that the Prospects group had made a tournament final and they didn't go down without a fight. Shooting guard Darryl Gaynor had a good weekend and earned his first scholarship offer from Northern Arizona. The 6-foot-2 sophomore-to-be is still only 15 with some growing to do, and looks to have good upside. Diontae Jones has to play around the rim a lot for the Prospects because they don't have a ton of size. Jones, who is 6-foot-5 or maybe 6-6, is a tough athlete who works hard, attacks the glass and plays tough defense.
With his team down to California Basketball Club during a Sunday consolation-round game, Team Superstar's Murshid Randle came up big. A powerful and athletic 6-foot-3 shooting guard from Fresno (Calif.) Central, he made plays going to the rim and used his physicality to wear down his opponent.
Speaking of the California Basketball Club, the CBC is an interesting group made up primarily of players with little, if any, actual high school basketball under their belts. The team features four freshmen-to-be and one, gulp, eighth-grader-to-be who play a lot of important minutes against teams mostly made up of players with at least two years of high school under their belts. Probably the best of the class of 2016 guys is point guard Derryck Thornton. Thornton is a six-footer with tremendous quickness, ability off the dribble, competitive fire and a pretty high basketball IQ. He's already been offered by USC and is likely to pick up quite a few more high major offers before he's done with his high school career. Devearl Ramsey is another tough 2016 point guard who will play at Sierra Canyon with Thornton. He's strongly built and shoots the ball extremely well from range and plays off the ball a bit. Eighth-grader-to-be Cody Riley is a physical force at 6-foot-7, 220 pounds who at times manhandled more experienced and older players.
MORE FROM WEST COAST SWING: Point guards stand out
Before leaving Long Beach, we got another look at promising class of 2014 big man Andre Adams. The 6-foot-8 power forward from Avondale (Ariz.) Westview was even better the second time around. While he was all over the glass and swatting shots like he did on Friday night, Adams was also scoring. His jumper is legit and he's very dangerous with it from between 12-17 feet. Adams has high major potential.
Another day of watching how few point guards can make shots only illustrates more why Casey Benson is getting the attention that he's getting from high major and upper end mid major programs. The three-star from the class of 2014 isn't a burner, but he is very clever in the pick-and-roll. Also, his 6-foot-2 size and shot-making will allow him to play some off the ball, making him more versatile and thus valuable to his team.