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December 29, 2013

Stars perform at UA Holiday Classic

MORE: Class of 2014 Rivals150

SAN DIEGO -- On Saturday, the Under Armour Holiday Classic was Rivals.com's last day of a post-Christmas swing out to the West Coast. For a second day in a row, Los Angeles (Calif.) Loyola was impressive as star seniors Parker Jackson-Cartwright and Thomas Welsh had big evenings. Earlier in the day, Justin Simon showed why he is one of the hottest 2015 recruits on the West Coast.

Loyola experience wins out against Sierra Canyon

A semifinal battle between Los Angeles (Calif.) Loyola and Chatsworth (Calif.) Sierra Canyon offered a look at two very talented, but different teams. Led by UCLA bound seven-footer Thomas Welsh and Arizona bound point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright, the Loyola team is experienced and savvy, while the Sierra Canyon team, led by sophomore guard Devearl Ramsey and freshman forward Cody Riley, is young and inexperienced.

Not surprisingly, the experience of Loyola won out. But, the two teams combined to play a very entertaining game where the stars stood out.

For Loyola, we will start with Welsh. Currently ranked No. 52 in the class of 2014, his improvement over the course of his high school career has been nothing short of staggering. Just two years ago, Welsh labored to run the floor and struggled to keep up with the game. Now, he controls it from the lane on both ends of the floor.

Incredibly sound fundamentally, Welsh has A-plus hands and always keeps the ball high. He is comfortable scoring over either shoulder, makes jumpers to 12 feet and is as polished using the glass on shots as you will see for a young big man. He is moving much better and while he isn't a shot blocker, he does eat up space in the lane and controls the glass. Before fouling out, Welsh had 26 points and 13 rebounds and was totally dominant.

Running the show was Jackson-Cartwright. The 5-foot-9 point guard seems to be practically all arms and legs, and on Saturday night he was all control. When Sierra Canyon went to a zone he carved it up with dribble penetration and skip passing. In man, he got into the lane and used his length to finish from awkward angles. Most of all he played in attack mode and never allowed Sierra Canyon to rest as he put up a sparkling line of 15 points, seven assists and six rebounds.

Watching Loyola again, our thought that they are a top-25, if not a top-15 type team, nationally was confirmed. Junior guard Max Hazzard again made plays and senior guard Khalil Bedart-Ghani is a freakishly athletic finisher at the rim. Currently committed to Yale, Bedart-Ghani is likely going to be opening things back up and he can help a team with his slashing and active play. Finally, keep an eye out for Welsh's younger brother. Henry Welsh is a sophomore center who probably isn't quite as tall as his listed 6-foot-10, but he's an awful lot like his big brother at the same age and has some skill and edge to his game.

As for Sierra Canyon's Ramsey and Riley, they were both outstanding again. Ramsey is as physically tough and is as fast a point guard as there is in the class of 2016. Riley is a potential stud in 2017. Neither gave an inch to the older Loyola players and both look like natural leaders and outstanding teammates.

Simon shows why his stock is soaring

Probably the single hottest class of 2015 name on the West Coast over the last few months has been Justin Simon. A 6-foot-4 combo guard from Temecula (Calif.) Valley who already ranks No. 80 nationally in the junior class, it isn't a surprise to see high major schools making a push. But, watching him perform at the UAHC it was easy to see why his stock has been soaring.

First of all, the luxury of a kid his size with good length and the ability to play the point is something that many schools covet. Simon isn't an out of control or flashy player, yet a simple and under control one who picks his spots to make plays for himself and others off the dribble. From a size, style and athleticism standpoint he is very similar to current Missouri star Jordan Clarkson.

In transition, Simon can handle without losing speed and he makes great decisions about when to pass or force his way to the rim. In the half court, he is outstanding along either baseline and his size makes him a factor as an offensive rebounder. His jump shot does need work, though, and when he's at the top of a zone defenders sag off of him and dare him to shoot over them.

During a win, Simon was good for 21 points (8-12 FG, 5-9 FT), nine rebounds, three assists and three steals to just two turnovers. It was a performance that suggests he could push for the national top 50 and one worthy of the kind of attention he has been getting.

After his game, Simon said that Oregon is his latest offer. The Ducks offer comes on the heels of a recent Arizona offer (Sean Miller watched him in San Diego on Friday) and San Diego State had their entire staff there to watch him, while USC dispatched two assistants after Andy Enfield watched Friday. Other offers for Simon include Colorado, New Mexico (head coach Noodles Neal watched on Saturday), Washington, Penn State, Boston College and Arizona State. UCLA hasn't yet offered but is turning up the heat and was watching as well.

More Saturday notes

Talented sophomore big man T.J. Leaf picked up right where he left off. After a great run at last week's Tarkanian Classic, Leaf had 38 of his team's 52 points in a one-point win. The 6-foot-9 four-man is a patient and skilled low-post scorer and a very dangerous face-up shooter with some sneaky athleticism. After being watched by Sean Miller of Arizona and Noodles Neal of New Mexico during the weekend, he added offers from both schools.

We are going to have to keep a close eye on the development of junior point guard Lindsey Drew. The younger brother of former North Carolina/UCLA point guard Larry and Cal-State Northridge's Landon, Drew is a long and rangy point guard who is really coming into his own. Drew looks to be every bit of 6-foot-2 and is perhaps pushing 6-foot-3. He is very good defensively, can get into the lane with dribble penetration and did a good job of finding his teammates on Los Angeles (Calif.) Fairfax for clean looks at the hoop.

Another intriguing player for Fairfax was senior wing Sage Woodruff. At 6-foot-5, he can handle the ball a bit and looks comfortable with his jumper. He wasn't exactly hot, but he made things look pretty easy on the perimeter and he could be an intriguing spring option for low to mid majors on the West Coast.

Make no mistake about it, Trey Kell is going to score a lot of points in college. At No. 118 in the 2014 Rivals150, the 6-foot-4 shooting guard that is headed to San Diego State is likely a bit under ranked. A smooth and skilled scorer, Kell has the complete package on the offensive end. He's actually quite similar to Kentucky bound Devin Booker in the way he isn't a stupendous athlete, but he makes shots, gets to the free throw line and is clever in using his body to shield off defenders and finish off of one and two dribble pull-ups. He is likely to move into four-star status when rankings get finalized in the spring.


Eric Bossi is the national basketball recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. You can click here to follow him on Twitter.



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