Last weekend, March 5th - March 7th, West Coast Elite Basketball kicked off their much anticipated League of Legend series in Gilbert, Arizona at the Inspire Courts Facility. The League of Legends continues throughout the month of March at various locations in Arizona. West Coast Elite has branches throughout various cities in the Western Region, with the Central Program (based in Central California) as one of the new branches debuting last weekend at the League of Legends. This article looks at the Top 10 performers from the entire Central Program, ranging from freshman to seniors, and evaluates what each player did well throughout the weekend. The player evaluations are based on players that I watched play live, feedback from the coaching staff, and film from Be The Beast live stream. There is no specific rank or order to the players discussed in this article.
Over the past few years, I have been fortunate to see Walker play numerous times and the growth of his game was on full display at the first week of West Coast Elite’s League of Legends. Walker wasted no time displaying his all around lead guard skill set, showing off his ability to be a high level playmaker on the ball, as well as create his own offense off the dribble. Walker does a great job of orchestrating the offense in the half court setting, stays poised under on ball defensive pressure, keeps the ball on a string while surveying the defense, has good court vision and when on the attack he makes really nice reads to find open teammates for shots. Walker also has the handles, perimeter moves, foot speed, and patience to create scoring opportunities for himself. Walker had his best scoring game of the event against WCE Marx LA 18U Marx. Walker showed his ability to score from all 3 levels, great change of speed with the ball to create separation, creative finisher around the basket, connected from behind the arc, and did a solid job getting to his spots for his nice midrange pull-up game. Impressive showing of his all around offensive skill set as a lead guard and his ability to impact the game in various ways.
One of the top overall prospects in the WCE Central Program is sophomore Jamar “JJ” Howard, and he showed why last weekend at the League of Legends. Howard was busy the 1st weekend of the League of Legends, as he played with the Central Program's 16U, 17U and 18U squads, performing very well at all 3 age groups. Simply put, Howard is a bucket getter. Howard plays with an energy that is hard to match when he is on the court. Howard uses his length and jumping ability to rebound, alter shots, and jump passing lanes, creating easy transition offense for himself or his teammates. I was also really impressed with his passing ability and vision in the open court, as he made some really nice reads and timely passes to open teammates running with him in transition. Although Howard showed skills in various aspects of the game, his ability to score in a variety of situations was the most impressive part of his game. Howard is very efficient from beyond the 3 point mark, has good ball handling skills and a quick first step to get by his man, has a good pull-up jumpshot, and is looking to dunk everything when he gets to the rim. Howard plays with a toughness, grit, and fearlessness that was evident by the blood on his jersey before the end of Day 1 of the event. Really impressive prospect that has a lot of room to grow, which should be scary for opponents moving forward.
Tucker’s offensive skill set continues to show improvement and his confidence as a primary scoring option continues to grow, as he had a really impressive showing at the League of Legends. Tucker played with the 17U and 18U National teams, and as the tournament progressed Tucker asserted himself as one of the top 2022 prospects at the event. Tucker has good size and length to impact the game on both ends. Offensively, Tucker scores the ball at all 3 levels effectively, but is at his most lethal when attacking the defense from the midrange. Tucker has a smooth stroke and when he gets hot, is a true threat from behind the arc. Tucker has really nice handles, has a variety of moves to shake his defender and create space for his shot, uses his length and strides to get by his defender and into the paint, has good touch on his floater to finish over taller players, and is a creative scorer at the basket. Although Tucker is a scoring threat from deep and at the rim, his mid-range pull-up shot puts immense pressure on the opponent. Tucker reads the defense very well, gets to his spots, can stop on a dime and has a quick release on his pull-up jumper. Tucker rebounds well, which allows him to push the tempo in the open court, where he can be a playmaker or go coast to coast for the transition bucket. Coaches have been in contact with a few schools after the event and the feedback is positive. Tucker will be a key guy for the Central Program and looks to have a big summer.
Towsley is a player that has been under the radar given the skill set, style of play, and exceptional grades he brings to the game and the classroom. This past weekend at the League of Legends, Towsley did a great job of showcasing all that he does well on the court, and there are numerous things that would be of value to a program at the next level. Towsley is a highly efficient shooter from beyond the arc, and moves nicely off the ball to create catch and shoot opportunities. Towsley has good size and lift on his shot to create separation from his defender, increasing his effectiveness from deep. His ability to hit from beyond the arc opens up driving lanes, and Towsley has enough on his handles to get by his man and create off the dribble. Towsley has a solid frame and is not afraid to mix it up around the basket or for loose balls. Towsley rebounds very well for his size, is able to absorb contact and finish through his defender, and his quick leaping ability creates easy second chance points. Towsley is also a great student, as he has a 4.1 overall GPA and would be a great fit for a D2 program or Higher Academic program (great fit for a D3 school).
DiModica had a really solid showing at the League of Legends, and was recognized for his level of play at the event on WCE social media outlets (Instagram and Twitter). DiModica, like Tucker, played with both the 17U and 18U National teams, and he made sure to leave a mark on the event with his style of play and vocal leadership on the court. DiModica has a strong, physical build that allows him to assert himself in the paint. DiModica is an excellent rebounder, has quick leaping ability leading to second chance opportunities on offense, understands when he needs to be strong handed amongst the bigs but finishes with touch at the basket, and has a relentless motor. DiModica showed consistency on his mid-range shot, as well as being enough of a threat beyond the arc to pull rim protectors out of the key, opening up the paint for his teammates. Although DiModica has a really nice all around game, what makes him a great fit for a number of programs at the next level is his on court leadership. DiModica is constantly communicating with teammates, lifting guys up after a bad play, pumping up guys after a great shot, and very vocal on the defense end helping guys with assignments. DiModica is an outstanding athlete, with a 4.5+ GPA, and is a quality High Academic prospect. WCE will be a great program to maximize his options in a tough recruiting environment the next few years.
The 16U Central National Team had a great weekend, as they finished 5-0 with solid contributions from a variety of players. Ellis was huge for the squad, as he held down the lead guard spot running the offense or creating scoring opportunities for himself. Ellis, the dynamic lefty guard, was in his bag early and often at the League of Legends tournament. Ellis does a great job of handling the ball, understands changing pace to keep the defenders on their heels, when on the attack he used his quick burst of speed to get downhill and into the paint, finished at the rim with various layup moves, and made some really nice reads off the dribble to open teammates. Ellis also is consistent from deep, and uses this to get his opponent to over play, which opens up driving lanes where he is able to use his floater or make plays. Ellis is a player that will see his stock rise joining the West Coast Elite program and will generate interest from colleges by the end of the summer.
Prior to the League of Legends event, I had limited knowledge of Williams' game, outside of what I had seen in practices leading up to the 1st event. After Day 1 of play, it was evident that he was one of the top players in the program. Williams played with the 17U National team as well, and despite logging a lot of minutes on the court, his game stayed at a high level throughout the weekend. Williams can play multiple positions on both ends, was consistent on the catch and shoot 3 ball, very creative finisher off the attack at or around the basket, rebounds very well as a guard, moves nicely off the ball to create separation from his defender, and uses his physicality to bully his way into traffic while maintaining good body control. Williams is a really good athlete, has a great motor on the court, can make shots, and impacts the game in numerous ways. Really impressive showing and I look forward to seeing where his game progresses in the next few months.
There were a lot of players that impressed from the new Central branch of the WCE Program, but Payne may have been at the top of guys that left a positive impression on the coaching staff and myself. Payne has a great motor, works tirelessly on the glass (both ends), has the physicality to take hits in the paint and finish through contact, and is a guy that brings the energy levels up for his teammates when it is needed. Payne has a nice touch around the basket, has good footwork in the post, puts a lot of pressure on his defender when he faces up, and is very efficient from 10-15 feet from the basket on his shot. Payne showed that he can push the ball in transition and will knockdown the 3 ball on occasion. Payne will continue to develop more confidence on his handles and gain comfort with his perimeter moves as he gets more time in the gym, but I was thoroughly impressed with how he performed and excited about his future.
I have been fortunate to see Rios play since he was in elementary school and his game has continued to evolve as a legit guard that can post up smaller defenders. Rios was a key impact guy for the 16U National team, as they left the League of Legends event undefeated. Rios does have the ability to score from all 3 levels, but he is at his best when he is looking to score in the midrange areas of the court. In transition, Rios did a solid job of finding the right spot to be in and ready to fire when the ball found him, and it did often. In the half court setting, Rios had numerous buckets off the shot fake into his nice pull-up jump shot. Rios also showed good footwork in the paint and was able to pin smaller defenders on his back and spin off them to the rim. Rios has great touch around the basket, and his court vision and playmaking ability make him tough to guard. Rios is a smart player that rarely makes bad decisions with the ball in his hands. He holds a 4.0 GPA and is a for sure High Academic D3 prospect with time to develop his overall guard skills to up his recruitment over the next few years.
Major upside! That was my biggest takeaway from the League of Legends after watching Gill. Gill is another Central Section player that I have known since grade school and his game has continued to evolve into that of a perimeter player. Despite his size at his age, Gill is not a forward/center. Gill showed solid handles on the wing, has a really nice shot, can shoot over smaller defenders, is consistent from beyond the arc, and does a solid job on the glass. Gill’s ability to rebound, along with his ball handling skills, allow him to initiate the transition offense without waiting to get it to a true point guard. At his height and size, he can see over smaller perimeter defenders and made some good reads to find teammates curls and back cuts. As Gill continues to develop his guard/wing skill set, he will continue to develop into a top tier perimeter player that can stretch the floor or take his man off the dribble. If and when he starts to realize his size and that he can enforce his will on his opponent, the ceiling will continue to rise for this young hooper as a probable D2+ prospect.