SANTA ANA, Calif. -- There was an abundance of individual talent at the 15th Annual Nike Extravaganza, including arguably the nation's top-rated point guard -- Duke-bound Kyrie Irving (Elizabeth, NJ/ St. Patricks). However, most of the games were downright one-sided, with the exception of one -- the Mater Dei/Bishop Gorman tilt.
The Mater Dei Monarchs (Santa Ana, Calif.) came into this game comfortably -- having blown out most of their league foes -- but the Bishop Gorman Gaels (Las Vegas), led by their ESPNU Terrrific 25 sophomore wing Shabazz Muhammad had other ideas. In this outstanding matchup of Western powers Mater Dei, led by 6-5 Keala King (21-points and 7 rebs) and 6-5 Tyler Lamb (26-points and 7 rebs), would be too much for Bishop Gorman to overcome as the Monarchs triumphed over the Gaels 82-76.
Kyrie Irving (6-2, 175) PG
2010, Elizabeth, N.J./St. Patrick
Irving has great size for the point guard position and is arguably the best all-around player at his position in the country. He excels in transition because he is able to change speeds to accelerate past would-be defenders. While on the break, he always has his head up and usually delivers the appropriate pass. He is very slick with the ball and can slash his way to the basket at will. He is very good at finishing around the basket and has that innate ability to hang in the air while adjusting his shot. His jump shot is pure out to the stripe and he has no problem rising above defenders to get it off. Irving always appears to have great command of each and every game he is involved with, and he knows exactly when to take over. When he arrives at Duke during the 2010-11 season there should be a very smooth transition as he takes over for the ultra-efficient Jon Sheyer.
Anthony Brown (6-6, 180) SF
2010, Huntington Beach, Calif./ Ocean View
Brown continues to develop as a prospect, and his best basketball is definitely ahead of him. The rangy wing has a high basketball IQ and an extensive skill set. Current Stanford standout Landry Fields was a late developer, and Brown appears headed down the same path. His frame will continue to fill out. As he gets stronger, his game will continue to expand. He is becoming quite potent knocking down the 3-point shot, and he's an excellent passer. In addition, he has become a very efficient offensive player (32-points on 12/17 fga). He doesn't hunt shots and is one of the few players in high school who allows the game come to him. In addition, he has become more aggressive -- that fact was evident with his 12-rebounds in the contest.
Shabazz Muhammad (6-5, 195) SF
2012, Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman
Although Muhammad has a lot of variety to his game, he pretty much kept his game in the paint against Mater Dei. He did hit one 3-point shot, but it came late when his team was down seven points. The ultra-talented lefty has grown some since the summer, and he may add couple of more inches before he graduates. Although Keala King is a tough defender, Muhammad was able to get off a series of jump hooks and drop-step moves. He has very good bounce around the paint area and is a quick jumper. In addition, he does a nice job facing up his opponent and attacking the rim. Defensively, he had a couple of spectacular blocks and was able to get out quickly in transition to finish at the other end. Muhammad wasn't able to show off his perimeter skills because his team needed him inside. However, he is an intriguing prospect because he can play multiple positions. At this stage it's too difficult to forecast his eventual position at the next level, but based on his skill set and savvy, he'll probably be a wing-type that can go inside and out.
Jelan Kendrick (6-6, 195) SG
2010, Marietta, Ga./Wheeler
Kendrick, who is headed to Memphis, had his whole arsenal on display at this event. This lengthy 3-man has a great feel for the game and an outstanding skill set. He is a smooth operator on the offensive end and despite not being overly quick (long strider), he has a way of getting to the basket. He works the baseline very well and can maneuver quite nicely while getting to the rim. His pull-up jump shot is quite effective, and he has a pretty slick handle for his size, but he'll need to learn to keep his dribble lower because the defensive pressure he'll face at the next level will definitely intensify. Kendrick is a versatile performer with the ability to play multiple positions (very good passer). I would like to see his effort level be more consistent because he has a tendency to play in spurts.
Keala King (6-5, 200) SF
2010, Santa Ana, Calif./Mater Dei
King is one of the most unique players in the country. He is a wing-type with point guard skills. Although not as polished as James Harden (Oklahoma City) at the same stage, he has many of his predecessor's skills, not to mention his toughness. He can post up smaller guards and utilize either hand while finishing. In addition, he can break his opponent down off the dribble and locate the open man. However, his most potent trait is rebounding in traffic at both ends. His jump shot is playable, but it needs to get better to keep defenses honest at the next level. Defensively, he gets into the grill of his opponents and can physically wear them down. King has a nice upside and an intriguing all-around game, if his jump shot can continue to improve he should have a fine career at Arizona State.
Michael Gilchrist (6-7, 200) SF
2011, Elizabeth, NJ./St. Patrick
Gilchrist is the No. 1 junior in the ESPNU rankings for the Class of 2011, and despite his lofty ranking, he comes to play with a vengeance on each and every possession. He has ideal height and length (extraordinary long arms) for the wing position for the next level and the athleticism to boot. He can defend the perimeter, block shots, rebound in traffic, and deliver the nifty assist on the break. His jump shot has improved since his sophomore campaign, and he has become quite deadly in the midrange area. He isn't the most athletic wing-type in the country, but he still has a good amount of bounce and quickness to his game and his basketball IQ is tremendous. In addition, it will be interesting to see how much better he becomes because he is still very young (16 years old). In other words, his ceiling is quite high.
John Gilliam (6-0, 155) SG
2011, Upland, Calif.
Gilliam is a wiry combo-guard who has a knack for scoring. He plays with a great motor at all times and always appears to be around the ball at both ends. He attacks well off the dribble and knows how to get to the rim. He can face up his defender and jump shoot the ball with consistency. He gets great lift on his jump shot. His range is out to 22 feet, and he has nice rotation. Defensively, he loves to get into the passing lanes. He keeps his head on a swivel for steal opportunities. Gilliam is undersized for the 2, but he is a willing passer and has a lot of savvy for this game. Despite his sinewy frame, he should be a mid-major prospect to be monitored during the up-and-coming spring and summer.
One to watch
Avery Johnson (6-3, 190)
2010, Huntington Beach, Calif./ Ocean View
Johnson continues to exhibit why he is one of the most improved players in the state. He has a solid frame with long arms, and his athleticism is better than average. His jump shot has improved immensely since his junior season, and he has now become a dependable shooter. He attacks the rim in transition and is a fearless competitor. He handles the ball well in the open court, but he isn't overly explosive off the drive. Johnson hasn't signed, but mid-majors have been monitoring his situation with Portland apparently out in front for his signature.
• Tyler Lamb (Santa Ana, Calif./Mater Dei), a 6-5 UCLA signee, didn't have his jump shot going, but he did affect the game in a variety of ways. He attacked the rim with spin dribble moves and power drives. Defensively, few players play the passing lanes better than him.
• Utah State got a good one in the ultra-talented 6-3 James Walker (Los Alamitos, Calif.). His jump shot needs to get more consistent, but he can handle it well, and he makes great passes in both transition and the half court set.
• Phil Taylor (Marietta, Ga./Wheeler), is a slick point guard who possesses one of the smoothest shooting strokes around. His release is effortless and he hit a couple from 23-feet.
• One of the top sleepers in the West is 6-2 Julian Caldwell (Ontario, Calif./Colony). He is combo-guard who has a very good frame, good athleticism, and knows how to play this game. He pushes it well in transition and is a skilled passer. A definite prospect for the Big West or Big Sky.
• Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas, Nev.) has a formidable senior backcourt in 5-9 senior Johnathan Loyd and 6-3 BYU signee Anson Winder. Loyd is an explosive scoring guard who can knock down the 3-point jump shot while Winder does a great job slashing his way to the basket and getting to the free throw line.
Joel Francisco is the West Coast recruiting coordinator for ESPN's Recruiting.