The third annual Johnnie L Cochran Jr. Basketball Classic took center stage at California State University, Dominguez Hills, and it more than met my expectations. Event director Ernest Baskerville did another outstanding job of attracting some of the better teams in the area including Taft (Woodland Hills, Calif.) and Bishop Montgomery (Torrance, Calif.) and a few of the elite prospects in the West in fast-rising, 6-foot-7 sophomore Angelo Chol (San Diego/Hoover), 6-8 UCLA signee Tyler Honeycutt (Sylmar, Calif.), and 6-9 sophomore Kevin Johnson (Gardena, Calif./Serra).
Every game was tight and went down to the wire. However, the most anticipated game of the night would be between Hoover (San Diego, Calif.) and Serra (Gardena, Calif.) which featured a matchup of two of the most highly coveted bigs in the west in the aforementioned Chol and Johnson.
Chol is a sleek lefty who projects to the 4 or the 5, while Johnson is strictly an interior force. The early going was a stalemate, but as the game progressed, Chol began to impose his will at both ends of the floor. Chol plays much bigger than his listed height and has really improved his post skill -- he has a left-handed jump hook that is reminiscent of former North Carolina great and NBA standout Sam Perkins.
Johnson, on the other hand, struggled scoring over the top of Chol throughout much of the game. Chol blocked a number of his shots, using his length and quickness, and essentially frustrated Johnson throughout the second half. As Johnson learns to use his massive frame and develops his left hand, he should turn out to be one of the most highly recruited players in the country.
Angelo Chol (6-7, 200)
Sophomore, San Diego, Calif./Hoover
After his performance against Kevin Johnson, Chol may be the No. 1 prospect in the loaded 2011 class in California. This lefty is extremely long and just oozes potential at both ends of the floor. He is very quick off his feet and has excellent timing in the paint area. His body has filled out some since the summer and he was able to hold position in the paint area fairly easy. He has a very smooth jump hook and he gets great lift on it -- making it nearly impossible to block. In addition, he has the ability to knock in the 15-foot shot at the elbow. Although he is very effective on his strong side -- where he can turn over his right shoulder to score -- he is quite raw when posting on the opposite side. He needs to learn how to face up and pivot and put himself in a triple-threat position to continue his evolution as a post player. Overall, Chol is an outstanding prospect and with continued development he should one of the most highly recruited players in the near future.
Robert Smith (6-0, 170)
Senior, Perris, Calif.
Smith, headed to Santa Clara next season, was the top-rated point guard in the event, and he didn't disappoint with his 28-point, 12-assist performance. He has a very strong and stocky frame and he's blessed with that highly coveted second gear. He blows by most defenders in transition and is very good at getting to the rim despite heavy traffic. His handle is tight; he keeps it very low and has a skilled crossover. Smith can dominate at this level with his current talent and skill, but in order to carry that over to the next level there are a few areas which he needs to add polish, specifically his jump shot. He gets great lift on it, but it's still not as consistent as it needs to be. In addition, in transition it would be beneficial for him to come to a jump stop more often and nail the midrange jump shot, because there were numerous times when he forced the issue.
Tyler Honeycutt (6-8, 180)
Senior, Sylmar, Calif.
Honeycutt plays the game at an effortless pace. Although he doesn't play as hard as he could all the time, his talent is undeniable. He can impact the game in so many different ways at both ends of the floor. Whether it's a feathery jump shot or a key block, he is a very unique talent who screams upside. Due to his length and bounce, he has become a better rebounder and he's very unselfish. He is a terrific passer, especially in transition, and he has a very good feel for the game. He still needs to get more assertive and aggressive when it comes to what is needed to win games, but he appears to be headed in that direction.
Chris Cunningham (6-7, 220)
Senior, Diamond Bar, Calif./Diamond Ranch
After a subpar performance at the Pacific Shores tournament, Cunningham was dominant against up-and-coming, 6-8 junior Richard Solomon (Torrance, Calif./Bishop Montgomery). Although he is a below-the-rim player, his footwork and savvy are a sight to see. His dexterity and deceptive quickness allows to him to convert over taller players and he uses his thick frame to muscle his way through contact. Overall, Cunningham doesn't have great bounce, but his skill level and fundamentals are high level.
Leon Gibson (6-7, 215) PF
Senior, Gardena, Calif./Serra
Gibson continues to display why he's considered one of the top sleepers in the West. He has a Division I frame, solid bounce and a sweet shooting stroke out to 15 feet. His release on his shot is smooth and he nails his free throws. His offensive game is raw, but his face-up jump shot is more than solid. He's a tough rebounder and attacks the glass at both ends. He runs well in transition and can finish with a big dunk. He needs to tighten up his back-to-the-basket game, but the upside and improvements are there.
Garrett Johnson (6-5, 190)
Senior, Diamond Bar, Calif./Diamond Ranch
Johnson, who signed with Fresno State in the early signing period, has a unique game for a player his size. He handles the ball well in transition and can be a high-level passer both on the fast break as well as in the half-court set. He has savvy and a pretty versatile game -- although his shooting has a way to go. He posts up well and can score with either hand. In addition, he possesses the ability to find the open teammate from the low post and usually makes good decisions. On the other hand, he really doesn't have a true position for the next level. His jump shot is erratic and needs much polishing. He is a decent shooter within the 15-foot range, but his shot falls apart outside the stripe. Johnson is a talented player, but he needs to hone his shooting to make an immediate impact for the Bulldogs.
Idris Ibn Idris (6-3, 180)
Senior, San Diego/Hoover
Every year there are seniors who improve their game enough to warrant some Division I interest. Idris falls into that category. He has a young-looking frame with solid length and outstanding athleticism. He has solid ball skills and a knack for scoring. Idris is at his best in transition where he can slash his way to the basket and utilize his bounce. In the half court, he has a decent feel for the game. The amount of recruiting interest he receives will solely depend on his development as a shooter. His shot isn't completely broken, but his release is slow.
• Kevin Johnson, a 6-9 sophomore out of Gardena, Calif./Serra, is blessed with great hands and an NBA body, but in the next few years he needs to develop his skills to reach his potential. He has improved greatly since last season and does a great job of keeping the ball high, but it would be nice to see him develop a jump hook with either hand.
• He needs to develop a more consistent jump shot out to the stripe, but 6-2 senior Prince Obasi (Reseda, Calif./Cleveland) does many other things on the court that should warrant some Division I interest. He has a terrific frame, is very skilled with the ball, and can finish at the rim in traffic.
• Low Division I schools should take a look at 6-7 senior Jesse Hazely (Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif./Santa Margarita). His frame is well built, with long arms and good hands. He is mechanical in the post, but he plays hard and is a good rebounder.
• Michael Williams, a 5-11 senior out of Woodland Hills, Calif./Taft, continues to show why he is one of the better shooters in the West. Derrick Taylor's decision to start 5-8 freshman Landon Drew at the point has freed Williams to get set for his shot.
Speaking of Turner, he has a tremendous feel for the game for someone so young, but in the coming seasons he needs to work on his left hand because he has a tendency to go right.
• Allen Crabbe, a 6-5 junior out of Los Angeles/Price, has improved his rebounding since last season, but I would like to see a greater urgency to attack the basket and draw fouls to continue to evolve his game.
• He still plays too fast and can be turnover prone, but 6-foot junior Terrance Ingram (San Diego, Calif./Hoover) has improved his jump shot greatly in the past year.
Joel Francisco has been a high school basketball scout for 15 years. He has written for Hoop Scoop Magazine and Basketball Times and organized "So-Cal's Finest," his own scouting service.