We just wrapped up 5 weeks of the Prospect Workouts with players coming from as far as Irvine (Southern California) and up to Turlock (Northern California). The purpose of these workouts is to provide exposure for players during a time that has seen players miss out on an entire AAU season, as well as individual player events. The following write-up is an evaluation of the players that have attended the Prospect Workouts from the graduation classes of 2024 and 2025. We had some elite rising young talent come through and this evaluation focuses on this group.
Griffin is a player that I have been fortunate to see play numerous times as a middle school hooper, specifically he was a participant in the inaugural Pangos Central Cali Middle School Showcase hosted by Dinos Trigonis and myself. Griffin enters HS with a good amount of buzz in the basketball world, as he was part of the PG Elite 14u Team and has earned write-ups from the likes of Joel Franscisco of Prep Hoops. Griffin made it to a few sessions of the Prospect Workouts and his skill set is ready for the next level and will have a chance to be an impact player as a freshman. Griffin has very good ball handling skills, navigates the court well with the ball in his hands, keeps pressure on the defense with his playmaking abilities and is a creative shot maker. Griffin is shifty with the ball and has really good body control to finish through contact or make difficult shots off balance. As Griffin moves to the high school ranks, if he learns how to be a lockdown defender he could be one of the top 2-way players in Cali and beyond. Griffin is very confident in his abilities and skill and does not pass up opportunities to put his game on display in various stages of basketball. This will help continue to grow his exposure over the next 4 years.
We have been fortunate to have a lot of talent come through the Prospect Workouts from various parts of Cali since early June. As far as long term upside is concerned, it could be argued that DeMarco Johnson is up near the top of that list of top players to attend the Workouts. I try not to over hype a player that is still in middle school but there are always exceptions to the rules. Johnson falls into that category. I first saw Johnson at the Pangos Junior All-American camp hosted by Dinos Trigonis and his game stood out at an event that featured top middle school prospects from all over the country. Johnson attended the Prospect Workouts a few times and I can say with confidence that he is one of the top 8th grade hoopers on the West. Johnson is very shifty with the ball, solid moves on the perimeter, keeps his dribble alive to escape defenders, keeps defenders off balance with the wide double crossover and has a quick first step to get by his defenders. Johnson already has the ability to score from all 3 levels and has a lot of confidence and trust in his skill set. His last showing at the Workouts Johnson knocked down shots that are years ahead of his age. Sweet floaters, coast to coast buckets in transition and a big time game winning three ball with a defender in his face in 5 v 5 play. Johnson loves to hoop and if he keeps that drive his upside is very promising.
Usochu had a very productive middle school career, school ball and AAU ball, and is entering high school as the top prospect in the South Valley for the Class of 2024. Usochu really caught my attention at the Pangos Central Cali Middle School Showcase hosted by Dinos Trigonis and myself. The Top 20 2024 game was full of talent from Sacramento to SoCal and Usochu earned player of the game honors dropping a game high 20 points. Usochu attended the Prospect Workouts a few times and he was able to display various components of his game with more time on the court. Usochu has a physical build and is very skilled, which allows him to play both guard positions effectively. Usochu has been a primary scorer on most teams he has played on in middle school and is a very creative scorer. Usochu has good ball handling skills, really good moves on the perimeter to create space, great body control when on the attack and has the ability to score in numerous ways. Very creative shot maker from mid-range and around the basket. Defensively, Usochu is a solid defender, he can guard multiple positions on the perimeter, plays really good weak-side defense and uses his physicality and athleticism to be effective on the glass. Usochu’s ability to rebound well allows him to push the ball in transition and as a scoring threat he puts pressure on the defense. As Usochu enters high school and continues to develop his all around game, if he develops his lead guard skills he could be one of the premier prospects in the Central Section.
I first saw Pierro play at the Pangos Central Cali Middle School Showcase hosted by Dinos Trigonis and myself and he played well and was one of the top players in the Top 40 2024 Game. When Pierro showed up at the Prospect Workouts he had grown a few inches and had added to his skill set. Pierro attended a few of the Workouts and it is evident from his development and lengthy body type that he has all the attributes of being one of the better players in the 2024 class if not a top 5 prospect in the Section. Pierro is a talented combo guard that excels with the ball in his hands. Pierro has good court vision, ability to create his own offense, does a nice job of making plays when on the attack and uses his rangy wingspan and crossover moves to get open and make plays. Pierro also plays the passing lanes well and can alter perimeter shots with his length. Pierro and 2022 Robert Buckenberger (Buchanan) had a game where they were dropping some beautiful dimes to each other for four or five baskets that showed Pierro’s ability to play on and off the ball. The 2024 class is loaded with talent in the Central Section but from what I have seen and with continued work on his craft Pierro has the potential to be one of the best prospects in the area. Love his upside.
I have been fortunate to see Hightower at a few middle school events in SoCal and he has always impressed me with his skill level and his intensity on defense. Hightower has good size and is a solid rebounder with nice handles. This allows Hightower to push the tempo in transition and he sees the court well to make plays in the open court. Hightower has the potential to be a great high school 2-way player and already impacts both ends effectively. Hightower anticipates passing lanes very well and his game is smooth in the open court. Hightower can create his own offense and can get to the basket and has good control to get his shot off through contact. Hightower had a solid showing at the Prospect Workouts and we hope to get him back up once we restart the Workouts. Heritage Christian has 2 really productive and highly skilled 2025 players (DeMarco Johnson the other) that will have a major impact at the high school level as freshmen.
Pena was another player that I was able to see play at the Pangos Central Cali Middle School Showcase back in December and he displayed a solid skill set and tough style of play. Pena attended the Prospect Workouts multiple times and I was most impressed by the way he competes and does not shy away from older and physically stronger players. Pena has good ball handling skills and is comfortable running the point position and controlling the offense. Pena shoots the ball well, has nice moves off the wing to get into the defense and finishes with his nice floater. Pena had a few moments where he got hot and showed a great feel for the moment and kept looking to get his without taking bad shots. Pena has a great work ethic and with his tough minded style of play and being under the Clovis East coaching staff his game will continue to grow and will learn to understand when to keep firing and when to be a facilitator.
Hayden has been one of the top middle school players in the South Valley area of California the past 2 years and arguably the second best 2024 prospect behind Usochu (mentioned above). Hayden earned Most Outstanding Player at the East Bakersfield HS Middle School Tournament this past season and is a highly skilled lead guard. Hayden is crafty with the ball in his hand and is confident in running the show as the lead guard. At the Workouts, Hayden displayed his ability to keep the ball on a string and evade pressure from the defense to make plays. Hayden is consistent from beyond the arc, does a great job of getting into the paint and using the floater to score over bigger players, and with other talent on the court he looks to make plays instead of bad shots. As he enters high school and continues to play with more skilled players, he will become more comfortable in his skills and abilities and be able to play both guard spots efficiently. This will be critical as Ridgeview is guard heavy with multiple ball handlers, as Hayden will be playing off the ball a lot his freshman year.
Prior to the Prospect Workouts, I had never seen Dawson play and was not familiar with his strengths on the court. Dawson was a player that attended at least 3 of the Workouts and it was really beneficial as we were able to get a good look at his game and the kid can flat out hoop. Dawson has a nice shooting form and is a threat from deep, as well as putting the ball on the floor and getting to the mid-range shot. Dawson has a lengthy build and he uses that to impact the defensive end. Dawson plays tough defense and irritates his man on the defensive end, leading to turnovers and open court opportunities to score. Dawson is not afraid to mix it up, dive on the ground for loose balls and is a good rebounder. Dawson has great upside and will likely have immediate impact at the high school level with the Mustangs. Dawson will be a great fit alongside Rising Sophomore Joaquin Rios. Coach Purdy has 2 solid pieces for the next 3 years.
Wright, the younger brother of Rising Sophomore Maurice Wright Jr. (Paraclete), has had a productive Summer despite there being few opportunities for Cali hoopers to showcase their games. Wright was another player that I saw for the 1st time at the Pangos Central Cali Middle School Showcase hosted by Dinos Trigonis and myself. Wright has a smooth style of play and keeps a calm demeanor on the floor. Wright is versatile as a combo guard and has the potential to be a high level 2-way player with good instincts on the court and feel for the game. Wright is a good rebounder and can push the tempo in transition. Wright also had a great showing at Pangos Best of SoCal Showcase in Long Beach in late June and received high praises from Prep Hoops writer Joel Francisco. Wright will be at the next round of Prospect Workouts and I look forward to seeing his game as he continues to develop his skill set.