Look At Them Now: Jordan Hamilton

Jordan Hamilton, a former Compton Dominguez High standout, is averaging 19 points and 7.5 rebounds for Texas. Brendan Maloney/US Presswire

For as long as most can remember, the Southland has been one of those must-stop destinations on the West Coast for Division I college basketball coaches and scouts in search of the next potential big thing at the next level.

So imagine what was going on in the minds of the powers that be once they all had an opportunity to set their eyes on Jordan Hamilton during his high school days at Los Angeles Dorsey before an eventual transfer to nearby Compton Dominguez.

After speaking with numerous individuals who were around back then, from 2005 to 2009, the consensus seemed to be that Hamilton was always destined to succeed and become yet another local product to move on and make a name for himself nationally.

Sure enough, Hamilton has lived up to the hype. A starter for Texas nowadays, the 6-foot-7 sophomore small forward is averaging a team-high 19 points and 7.5 rebounds per game for the Longhorns (19-3 overall), who are No. 3 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll and No. 3 in the Associated Press rankings.

Hamilton and Co. next play host to Texas Tech for a Big 12 Conference game on Saturday night.

It seems not so long ago, Hamilton was a senior at Dominguez. At the time, ESPNU ranked him as the No. 1 small forward in the country and No. 8 recruit overall.

“Yeah, I know about Jordan Hamilton, know him well,'' said Joel Francisco, a recruiting analyst for ESPN. “In high school, he was one of the best out West. He was one of the top scorers in the nation. I had a feeling that he had the type of game that was ready for the next level. I always thought he was capable of making an immediate impact somewhere.''

Hamilton attracted the interest from several of the nation's powerhouse programs, most notably Connecticut, Kansas and Syracuse. USC also was in the mix for a while. Texas coach Rick Barnes and the Longhorns, ultimately, won him over.

We would be remiss not mentioning this important fact: Hamilton was in the same prep class, the 2009 edition, that ended up producing NBA players, including John Wall, Derrick Favors, DeMarcus Cousins, along with Lance Stephenson and Daniel Orton.

Hamilton appears to be heading down the same road as most of his peers. Obviously, it is taking him a bit longer to get there, but he is on course.

ESPN's Chad Ford ranks Hamilton among college basketball's top 10 prospects, a late lottery selection in the 2011 NBA Draft or a mid first-round pick, at worst.

Given that assessment, all signs point to Hamilton's having a bright future ahead -- a future that all started here, in greater Los Angeles.

“Some kids lack that killer instinct, not Hamilton though, he was mentally tough right from the start,'' Francisco said. “You never saw him wilt, never saw him take a play off. He went hard all the time, he was always in attack mode, that's what made him a hot recruit.

“People thought Jordan was going to be a one-and-done kind of college player and then try to bolt for the NBA. But coming back for his sophomore season has helped him out. His game has matured, his game has developed and that's good for his prospects down the road. I'm not sure of his plans, but I'd say that he's leaning toward going pro after this year.''

King for day, well, not just yet

Expectations around Arizona State were seemingly sky high when the program finally learned it had received a commitment from Keala King. Keep in mind, the former Santa Ana Mater Dei standout was considered the gem of the Sun Devils' 2010 recruiting class.

Turns out, King has taken a while to get acclimated to life in Tempe. Then again, he is a freshman, not everyone is able to make a seamless transition to college life.

Good thing is, King has received his share of playing time this season as one the first players off the bench for the Sun Devils (9-13), who lost to California, 66-62, in a Pac-10 Conference game on Thursday night. Bad thing is, the wide-eyed wing is shooting 29 percent from the field and 44 percent from the free-throw line in 13 minutes per game thus far.

Given time and the opportunity, he figures to improve.

With two seniors on the current roster for the Sun Devils, Ty Abbott and Jamelle McMillan, chances are underclassmen like King will likely have the chance to prove himself as soon as next season. Perhaps then, he'll start living up to some of the advanced billing.

O'Brien is back in action

A few short months ago, it appeared as if J.J O'Brien was on the verge of making his mark at Utah. But a stress fracture in his right foot back in mid-November derailed any plans the freshman, an Alta Loma graduate, might have had at actually cracking the starting lineup.

What followed was a quick recovery. Before anyone knew it, he was right back in the rotation for the Utes, by the end of December. O'Brien picked up right where he left off, much to the pleasure of the coaching staff, and is contributing on a nightly basis once again.

Heading into Saturday's Mountain West Conference home game against Air Force at 5 p.m., he has played 25 or more minutes in seven consecutive games for Utah (10-12). He has topped the 30-minute mark in five of those outings, so yes, it is safe to say that O'Brien is back.

Sean Ceglinsky covers preps for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.