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A Weekend on the Trail

Vegas Elite 15U in action at Tarkanian Academy. Credit: Henry Ward

In the latest edition of 'P.I. Pulse,' Pro Insight's Henry Ward details his recent trip to Las Vegas, highlighting standout players from the weekend's three main events Pangos Best of the West Shootout, the Vegas Elite Invitational and the BallDawgs All-Star Game:

Before this past weekend, I hadn’t considered how odd my experiences as a scout had been since I had started turning this hobby into a profession. Having graduated from college last June in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, there hasn’t been a point in my evaluative career that hasn’t occurred amidst the oddities brought on by such a year. Since I’ve been able to fully sink my teeth into scouting full-time since joining Pro Insight this past winter, I’ve been somewhat raised in a scouting world dominated by tape review, zoom calls and cordoned off seating. Thankfully, the NCAA was able to conduct a relatively safe season in which I was lucky enough to conduct some in-person evaluations across the Southern California area, but the ability to scout high school and AAU in person eluded me due to the requisite protocols across the state. With the vaccine rollout humming, case numbers dropping, and a light at the end of the tunnel, I was able to finally make it out to Las Vegas with my vaccination card to view some high-level amateur hoops the old fashioned way.

Having not been in an AAU gym since I was a player, and having not experienced a mixed, high-school aged evaluative setting since working as staff for USA Basketball prospect camps, it was great to finally dip my toes into the AAU circuit with a new hat and take in some awesome performances over a 72-hour span. This weekend was spent at the Pangos Best of the West tournament, the Vegas Elite Invitational, and wrapped up with the BallDawgs All-Star Games, all of which featured impressive performances across all levels. Below, I’ll highlight the players that raised my brow over the past weekend, from unsigned seniors, to five-star sophomores, and everyone in between.

*Disclaimer: As much as I wish I could’ve been at every court in Vegas at once, there was ultimately only so much basketball that could be seen and I undoubtedly didn’t catch every prospect worthy of consideration that was there this weekend.

17U Standouts

Weekend Winner: Mouhamed Gueye / Big / 2022 / Vegas Elite (NV)

In a weekend full of talent, Gueye stood head and shoulders above the rest as the guy I left most excited about. At 7 feet tall and with limited game experience, Gueye sports a stunning technical skill level to go along with terrific movement skills in an impressive frame. Albeit skinny, Gueye has a solid, proportional build with plus-athleticism that allows him to jockey around the paint better than one may assume from simply looking at his measurements. A solid leaper and agile mover, Gueye can put a lid on the rim defensively when he applies himself while also switching out to handle smaller perimeter players. However, what stood out most was his innate touch, translatable shooting stroke, and developing ball skills. Already possessing such physical gifts, it was somewhat jaw-dropping to see him step out and nail multiple threes in succession, including some off the bounce. A simple Google search amidst his madness revealed to me that he’s not a consistent mainstay amongst the top of his class rankings-wise, and all but confirms the idea that the pandemic has muddled such metrics irrelevant for the time being. I would not be surprised to see Gueye amongst the top of his class, and even potentially being nabbed as a lottery pick, before it’s all said and done.

Lorenzo Abellar / Guard / 2021 / West Coast Select (NV)

Arriving in on Friday night, I was treated to an inspired performance right out of the car from Abellar and his West Coast Select team as they gave Vegas Elite’s EYBL team all they could handle. Matched up with 5-star Dior Johnson, Abellar put on a show, picking up the former Syracuse commit 94 feet the entire game while running the show on the other end. A notably fiery competitor who oozes toughness, Abellar needs to be on a D1 team soon, despite his small stature. He more than makes up for it.

Ryan Abelman / Guard / 2022 / Vegas Elite (NV)

Playing on a Vegas Elite team lined with 4 and 5 stars, Abelman stood out with his lights-out shooting and overall feel for the game. It’s rare to find players at the high school level who understand their optimal role and fulfill it consistently well, but Abelman impressed doing just that — spacing the floor with his effortless stroke, making cognizant passes to create for teammates, and racking up deflections and steals off the ball.

McCaden Adams / Wing / 2022 / Salt Lake Rebels (UT)

Watching guys battle it out on the circuit is always fun, but there’s a certain sense of joy that comes from taking in a major performance from a player you had never heard of before in a game against celebrated talent. In the Vegas Elite Invitational 17U championship, Adams took over on both ends of the court to help his Rebels team get the win over a stacked Vegas Elite 16U team playing up a division. With a quick, clean jumper, a functionally deceptive handle, high-level burst and awesome vertical athleticism, Adams shined as a clear D1 talent who’s worthy of consideration for any mid-major looking for scoring juice on the wing.

Nigel Burris / Wing / 2022 / Vegas Elite (NV)

Having reclassified down a grade due to the effects the COVID pause had on his recruitment, Burris’ interests have picked up significantly as of late, and rightfully so. The 6’7 wing only played in one game this weekend, but displayed the defensive versatility, athleticism, and budding shooting prowess that make him intriguing. Don’t let the untraditional form fool you, Burris can punish soft closeouts with confidence.

Marcus Fizer, Jr. / Guard / 2023 / Las Vegas Punishers (NV)

D.J. Fizer, son of former lottery pick Marcus Fizer, found ways to add value all weekend despite increased defensive attention. Clearly the son of a former pro, he has an enchanting nuance to his game that shows up everywhere, from his pace in the pick-and-roll to his defensive positioning — highlighted by one game where he took three charges in a half.

Joshua Jefferson / Big / 2022 / West Coast Select (NV)

Prior to turning an ankle late, Jefferson dominated his only game of the weekend against the Vegas Elite EYBL squad, scoring from all three levels and using his mature frame to muck things up and generate extra looks. The injury was a real bummer, as he had a real stretch of dominance to make the game interesting against such a stacked opponent.

Dior Johnson / Guard / 2022 / Vegas Elite (NV)

Even though Dior didn’t have his best showing this weekend, it was evident why he’s been consistently considered a top-10 recruit in his class. With a truly special handle, good burst, and mature feel, he controlled the game from start to finish even when he wasn’t scoring. There are definitely some things that need addressing for him to translate seamlessly into the college and professional ranks, but the ball-handling package and on-court maturity is easy to fall in love with.

Cam Kimble / Wing / 2021 / Vegas Elite (NV)

Another unsigned senior Pro Insight contributor Aneesh Namburi touched on a couple of weeks ago, Kimble was a nice ancillary wing alongside some more prominent on-ball players this past weekend for VEBC’s EYBL team. His surplus of athleticism, deep bag of slashing counters, and funky but efficient jump shot made him a perfectly scalable piece on the best team I saw all weekend, and would be able to add value in a similar role for a D1 program looking for such a skillset.