Some 18 minutes from where UNLV’s basketball team played Radford on Wednesday night, the Tarkanian Classic welcomed a few of the nation’s best prep teams.
It wasn’t difficult deciding where to be, given I’m fairly certain Bishop Gorman, Mater Dei (Calif.) and Findlay Prep all own better RPIs than the Rebels today.
Great high school teams translate to some terrific individual skill, a truth that was on display from one end of the court to the next at Bishop Gorman.
Random thoughts about three impressive teams, all which would have been favored to beat Radford …
Bishop Gorman 63, Lynwood 43: How to tell if a young player has a chance to be special: Watch him pass.
It stands out with Stephen Zimmerman. Sure, the fact he is 7 feet and has every college program from Lexington to Bloomington to Las Vegas to Chapel Hill to Tucson to Los Angeles chasing his services is a plus.
The Bishop Gorman junior is very good today.
He needs to get a heck of a lot stronger to eventually be great.
But when a player his size can pass as he does, can see the floor and notice mismatches for teammates and get them the ball in the right spots at the right time, his already prodigious ceiling just continues to rise.
“He has all the intangibles, so the rest is going to come,” said Bishop Gorman coach Grant Rice, whose team could potentially advance to a Platinum Division championship against Mater Dei on Saturday night at 7:30. “Most star players get the ball back and don’t want to pass. He is totally different.”
Zimmerman also needs to learn what to do after dunks, considering he gets so many of them.
He picked up a technical foul late in Bishop Gorman’s win for staring down the Lynwood player he just threw down on, which considering the opposing kid gave up at least four inches, wasn’t one for the highlight tape.
“He was talking to me the entire time he was guarding me, so I had to let him know,” Zimmerman said. “It was my first good (dunk) in a while, so I had to let it out.”
Suggestion: More dunking, less staring.
Mater Dei 84, Foothills Christian 45: The Monarchs took a good 40 minutes after a blowout victory to appear from their locker room, which means coaches were either detailing all that went wrong or were busy getting food orders from players.
Given they have a small army to feed.
And here I thought Illinois brought a boatload of folks to Las Vegas to play UNLV.
Mater Dei arrived with enough bodies for four five-man teams and two subs. I attended the school and can’t for the life of me believe our graduating class in 1985 had more souls in it than those standing around Wednesday wearing Mater Dei warmups, most of whom didn’t appear to have a specific job other than, well, representing.
The school’s best player, and one of the nation’s best, is senior Stanley Johnson. He scored a career-high 42 and wasn’t all that impressed with either his or the team’s effort.
“We can always get better,” said Johnson, who will play at Arizona next year. “We didn’t run our set plays well at all today, things we had practiced on for more than an hour and a half. Plays we need to make.”
That is the attitude domination creates. When you win at a level Mater Dei has over the years, settling isn’t an option. You win by 40 and talk about set plays you didn’t run. You score a career-high 42 and lament the fact it was a long bus ride from California and you didn’t have time to get many shots up beforehand.
“It took us a while to get going,” Johnson said. “A rough day in a lot of ways, but good to get a win.”
Tell you what. It’s really going to be rough for whoever is in charge of Mater Dei’s laundry.
Up all night, for sure.
Findlay Prep 79, Faith Baptist Christian Academy (Ga.) 48: I might need a mentor. I definitely need a trainer.
It seems point guard Rashad Vaughn has both in Pete Kaffey, an assistant coach for Findlay who followed the player here from Minnesota and wouldn’t tell the Minneapolis Star-Tribune recently how he came to be hired by the Henderson-based school.
Don’t you just love the innocence of high school sports?
Maybe he’s teaching a class on ice fishing.
I don’t know if Kaffey will next join the coaching staff of wherever Vaughn decides to attend college — many more stories to follow if he does — but I can see why teams such as UNLV are recruiting the point guard.
Good size. Good vision. Plays under control. Strong.
Vaughn would be a welcome addition to any high major.
And if Kaffey can’t land a college gig alongside Vaughn, he should definitely apply to be on Mater Dei’s staff.
A warmup suit awaits.
Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ed Graney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-4618. He can be heard from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday on “Gridlock,” ESPN 1100 and 98.9 FM. Follow him on Twitter: @edgraney.