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February 5, 2013
What we learned: Nike Extravaganza
Over the weekend, Rivals.com traveled out to the Los Angeles area. The main event for the weekend was Saturday's Nike Extravaganza at Mater Dei in Santa Ana. While the Extravaganza was loaded, a Friday night trip to watch Campbell Hall and Brentwood play proved to be fruitful as well. Here's a look back at what we learned.
Likely to rise
As things currently stand, 6-foot-6 junior swingman Stanley Johnson of Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei ranks No. 14 overall in the 2014 Rivals150.
That's likely to change.
There are players who have a more prototypical wing-body type. There are players who have better athleticism, a better handle or a better jump shot. But, there aren't many players who have a more well-rounded overall game and a zest for competition like Johnson does.
A power broker who can play out on the wing or create matchup problems on the interior, Johnson is steadily improving his game and is in the midst of a huge junior season. Saturday night's game against Los Angeles (Calif.) Westchester didn't end until almost midnight and as a result was understandably sluggish. There wasn't any energy left in the stands and little more on the floor. But, Johnson tapped into his reserve and found a way to make things happen by playing like a man around the rim.
Because he's a big-bodied kid, Johnson will always have to be careful about his weight and his lateral quickness needs some improvement. But, he's also a guy who is still maturing physically and he already has pretty good athleticism and great timing to go along with his skill and motor. In many ways, he's reminiscent of Ron Artest -- although Artest was a bit more explosive athletically -- in his high school days. Arizona, Kentucky, USC, UCLA, UNLV, Louisville, Syracuse, Oregon, N.C. State and San Diego State have expressed interest.
Point guard crop
For the most part, 2014's group of point guards has been panned by many coaches and scouts. Sure, there are a few high-level guys in Emmanuel Mudiay and Tyus Jones, but there has been worry about the overall depth in the junior class. With that in mind, coaches might want to start keeping an eye on Los Angeles (Calif.) Brentwood School's Tra Holder.
A 6-foot three-star prospect, Holder showed us that he not only has a good skill level and feel for the game, but that he is also a competitor who makes plays when they matter most. Elusive off the dribble thanks to a great first step and good mastery of changing speeds, Holder runs his team and gets the ball where it needs to be. When needed, he steps up and scores, and given his playing style it wasn't a surprise when he mentioned that he tries to pattern his game after Chris Paul.
Holder isn't the biggest point guard and he has to get stronger, but he is certainly a kid making a strong push for inclusion in the next 2014 Rivals150. Gonzaga was in the building to see him on Friday night and his first offer came from Loyola Marymount. Boston College, Connecticut, Oregon State and Arizona have been in touch and more interest should be coming soon.
It isn't always easy being the little brother, especially when your big brother is an NBA All-Star. But that's what Campbell Hall sophomore combo guard Aaron Holiday is facing, although being compared to brother Jrue isn't a bad thing.
But put aside any comparisons to Jrue, or even his oldest brother Justin who played at Washington.
At 6-foot-1, Aaron Holiday is already a four-star prospect in the class of 2015. He plays primarily off the ball and is one of the toughest players in the country, regardless of class. Holiday can be an absolute animal on the floor who seeks contact on both ends of the floor, plays in the paint when his team needs him to and rebounds like a much bigger player. Holiday has also grown at least three inches in the last year, has great length and is on his way to developing into a point guard.
He isn't fully there, but Holiday has the look of a kid who has five-star potential and it wouldn't be a surprise to see him get there. To get there, he'll need to continue to refine his jumper to go along with his impressive skills off the bounce as a scorer and passer. But with his length, athleticism and desire, we'd expect him to keep improving at a pretty rapid pace. Depending on how much more he grows and transitions into a point guard role, it wouldn't be a surprise if he ended up as the best of what is a good group of Los Angeles-area guards in the class of 2015.
When fans look at their future recruiting efforts, especially at places such as Arizona where they've been landing lots of talent, they sometimes overlook the guys ranked a little lower. Odds are, Wildcats fans aren't going to be making that mistake with Elliott Pitts. At least they shouldn't be.
Ranked No. 120 in the class of 2013, Pitts is a solid 6-foot-5 shooting guard who signed with 'Zona during the fall. It may not happen right away and the contribution may be minimal early, but before Pitts finishes his time in Tucson we're betting that he becomes a valuable piece for Sean Miller and his staff.
First of all, Pitts will enter college as a fundamentally sound and smart player who understands how to play in a system thanks to the coaching he's received at Concord (Calif.) DeLaSalle from Frank Alloco. Not only is Pitts well-coached, he plays hard, has good athleticism and does a nice job of blending outside shooting with skills -- particularly passing -- off the dribble. He can play the two, he can play the three and in a pinch he can help out with some ball-handling duties because he's not prone to making mistakes.
We aren't yet sure where Pitts finishes in the final rankings, but regardless of where he ends up we do expect that he'll find his way onto the floor and be a valuable contributor at Arizona before his time in Tucson ends.