The Torrey Pines Holiday Classic regularly hosts some of the top prep basketball talent in the nation. The 2011 field was no exception. Yours truly was in the house for the Dec. 27-30 tournament and had a chance to witness firsthand some of the next generation of Wildcat basketball.
The cream of the crop was 2013 forward Aaron Gordon, of Archbishop Mitty in San Jose. There is little Gordon does not do extremely well. In his repertoire is a pure jumpshot that extends beyond the 3-point arc, tenacity on the glass, and outstanding court vision. He plays unselfish basketball, showing an ability to set up, then find teammates as well as he creates scoring opportunities for himself.
Gordon's defensive skillset is almost as diverse as his offensive. Routinely throughout the week, he came from the help side to reject penetrating opponents in a fashion reminiscent of Derrick Williams. In fact, much of Gordon's game is comparable to Williams'.
"Somewhere that plays uptempo," Gordon told me was a top priority for what he's seeking in a collegiate basketball program. UA certainly fits the bill in that regard.
"A coach that...doesn't pull you after one turnover or one bad play," he added. Fortunately, Kevin O'Neill is no longer manning the Wildcats' sidelines.
Gordon listed UA among a five-school list that also included Pac-12 rivals Washington and Oregon. UW assistant coach Paul Fortier was omnipresent for Archbishop Mitty's games. Rounding out Gordon's list was New Mexico, and a Kentucky team that he said had been coming after him hard recently.
Compton High School 2012 forward Victor Robbins is a touch shorter than Gordon, standing about a legitimate 6-foot-6. Robbins is also more of a wing than Gordon. He drives to the hoop well, and shoots the long ball even better. He scored 30 points in Compton's tournament finale, including knocking down a 3-pointer that forced overtime.
Robbins said he's had interest from across the Pac-12, mentioning Arizona and Washington specifically, but added that Gonzaga was pursuing him hardest. Robbins' 30-point effort came against UA 2013 commit center, Grant Jarrett.
Jarrett's La Verne Lutheran team struggled in its first round game vs. eventual third place winner Newark Memorial of the Oakland area, showing the effects of a cross-country trek from playing in the Chick-fil-A Invitational in Columbia, S.C.
But by the event's conclusion, Jarrett's jet lag had more than worn off. He showed some strong low post fundamentals and an ability to create shots with his back to the basket. Jarrett is also capable of knocking down long jumpers, a unique trait for a player of his size (6-foot-11) and age. In that facet, he's comparable to Channing Frye, though more developed than Frye before he arrived on campus from St. Mary's -- and that comes from someone who had his tuckus whipped by Frye in an Arizona prep all-star event some 11 years ago.
Jarrett had 35 points, 8 rebounds, 6 blocks and 4 steals in Lutheran's last game. The thought of Jarrett as understudy to Kaleb Tarczewski for a year or two is an intriguing one.
"I love the campus and the [UA] coaching staff is great. They really care about the players," Jarrett said. "Basketball is No. 1 there."
Guard Brandon Randolph of Los Angeles-area St. Bernard is another UA prospect who saved the best for last. Randolph is another 2013 recruit who demonstrated a multifaceted game. He would be a fitting addition to the legacy of Point Guard U. Randolph is a scoring point guard, but his court instincts shine through when he distributes the well.
A riser on the radar is small forward Dakarai Allen from Sheldon High in Sacramento. Allen is 6-foot-6 and slight of frame, but has a great nose for the ball off the rebound and is another well-rounded passer. Allen is yet another recruit for 2013. He has been on the docket of West Coast and Big West Conference players, but said he is seeing more interest from the Pac-12.
"When you're recruited by Arizona, it means you're an elite level player," Allen said.