As Gonzaga enters WCC play, I thought it would be fun to take some time out and focus on the future of the program. So on Saturday night, I made my way out to Liberty High School to watch the Les Schwab Invitational, which not only featured a handful of Gonzaga recruits, but also the No.1 recruit in the country.
Let's start out with the Gonzaga targets:
Silas Melson: Melson and his team faced off against a freakishly talented Rainier Beach squad. Despite the talent gap, Jefferson kept the game close until the final four minutes, thanks in large part to Melson.
The first thing that jumps when you watch Silas play is the variety of ways that he can get going on the offensive end. He has pretty unlimited range and has a beautiful shot with a quick release. He isn't necessarily the kind of guy that will just stand on the perimeter and hoist up 3's, but he will be deadly coming off of screens.
The most surprising part about Melson's game is how well he attacks the rim. He can really handle the ball well and has enough quickness to get to the rim and finish against contact. He is a surprisingly good athlete and had an impressive dunk in transition. Melson ended up scoring over 30 points, despite being the main focus of the Rainier Beach defense.
Equally impressive was the defensive effort Melson gave. Every perimeter player for Rainier Beach is a DI prospect, so watching Melson get his hands on numerous steals and rebounds was great to watch. He is a very competitive player and seemed to take pride in his game on both ends of the court.
This is my second time watching Silas and I wouldn't be surprised if he gets some minutes next year as a freshman. He has a high ceiling and I think will provide nice depth off the bench next year, before replacing Gary Bell in the starting lineup as a sophomore.
Dejounte Murray (Rainier Beach): It's safe to say I have found my favorite Gonzaga target in the 2015 class. Murray starts on the wing for arguably the most talented high school team I have ever seen. The first thing you notice when you see Murray play is how long he is. He is probably about 6'5, but he has arms that seem to extend forever, which makes him an elite level defender. He was tasked with guarding Silas Melson in the first half, and he did a great job forcing the Gonzaga commit into tough shots.
He is an elite athlete in transition, which was put on display with a highlight reel dunk on the fast break. Along with being a big threat in transition, he is also an excellent shooter from the perimeter. He has a beautiful shot that extends beyond the three-point line. Because of his slight frame, he struggles against bigger defenders in the paint, but that is something that can be fixed as he gains strength over the course of his career.
Murray would be an unbelievable addition to the Zags backcourt of the future, and it's clear why the staff is making him such a priority. Gonzaga watched him play on Friday, while Lorenzo Romar and Dana Altman were in attendance on the same day I was.
Greyson Smallwood (Jefferson): Greyson Smallwood is the exact reason why I would never want to be a college coach. When you watch him play, you see a 6'9 kid that has trouble catching the basketball and doesn't have any sort of offensive game. He played maybe 2 minutes in the first half and his lone contribution was a missed dunk.
However, by the end of the game I was sure he was a guy that Gonzaga should at least track over the next year. In the second half, he blocked numerous shots and completely changed the game defensively. He had two large dunks and played with an edge that rarely see from a high school big man. He was diving for loose balls and ran the court very well.
If Gonzaga has an extra scholarship in 2015 and can take a flyer on this kid I would be in support. He is at least 2 or 3 years away from contributing at the college level, and will almost certainly need a redshirt year. However, he is intriguing with his size and athleticism.
Payton Pritchard (West Linn): Gonzaga will need to take a PG in either 2015 or 2016, as Jesse Wade will not be on campus until 2017. One guy that has peaked the interest of the staff is 2016 PG Payton Pritchard. This was my second time watching Pritchard and I have yet to get a great feel for his game.
He is not an elite athlete by any means, but he does have a nice game. He is a good passer and can really handle the ball, which is impressive at his age. When I watched him, his shot really wasn't falling and he was turning the ball over repeatedly down the stretch. However, the next day, he dropped 24 points on Bishop Gorman, which is one of the top schools in the country.
At this point, I'd probably focus on landing Kendall Small in 2015 and sitting out 2016 with a point guard. Prtichard has plenty of time to develop and would be a nice option if the Zags wait until 2016.
Jahlil Okafor (Whitney Young): Jahlil Okafor is the No.1 recruit in the country and is headed to Duke. After one viewing, it's pretty clear he is headed to the NBA right after. Okafor scored 40 points and grabbed 16 rebounds and left me shaking my head throughout the game. He ran the court well, has range out to 14-feet and has a dominant post game. He catches everything thrown his way and really just toyed with the opposition. Just an awesome talent.
Shaqquan Aaron (Rainier Beach): Aaron was the best player on the best team at this tournament. The Louisville bound wing is a freak athlete that delivered two highlight reel dunks against Jefferson. He hit a variety of difficult shots from the perimeter and is an excellent defender. Once he adds strength to his frame, he is going to be a scary talent at Louisville.