What I learned from Pangos camp

LONG BEACH, Calif. -- After 10 years, the Pangos All-American Camp carved out a niche for itself on the June calendars of high-level players. The strength of the camp wasn’t the future lottery picks, as it has boasted in the past, but the overall breadth of talent. There wasn’t nearly the disparity from the first to the last player that there has been in years past.

Camp ball isn’t for everyone. There are certainly better outlets for evaluating, but ’tis the season and even in up and down settings there are ways to stand out from your peers. Nearly 120 prospects gathered at Cabrillo High School to further the camp’s tradition as being one of June’s must-see exposure camps.

The point guards

Travel around the country enough and you’ll come to the conclusion that this position is either disappearing or being redefined. Of course the point guard will never disappear, but it's not the same position as it was a decade ago. Scoring, especially at this camp, was the dominant move for the point guards. This generation of “lead guards” is more selfish and the notion was reinforced last weekend.

There are too few setup men and too many kids wired to think shot first, shot second, pass is the final option. Playing point guard requires upmost discipline and vision to go with physical and mental skills. Too many are taking the position for granted, electing to define themselves by their stat line instead of the ease in which they facilitate for the players around them.

Conner Frankamp (Wichita, Kan./North)

This is a kid whose value can’t be measured by a rating or number. Frankamp is a good player and he’s going to be a valuable contributor to Kansas. Wedged in between the shooting and point guard positions, his obvious gift is shooting but what we saw this weekend was more of a complete package at the point.

The not-so-obvious trait that helps define him is his will. When you aren’t the biggest or the fastest or own the trickiest handle, you survive with your work ethic and rely on that jump shot. Mix in a basketball IQ and consistent approach and you’ve earned your stripes. Guys like Frankamp aren’t built for camps. They aren’t supposed to stand out in this type of alpha personality setting. Well, here’s to Frankamp, the skilled guard who outplayed just about everyone thrown his way and showed he’s more than a shooter.

Point guards you can trust to run a team

Derrick Walton (Detroit/Chandler Park), a well-rounded guard; I.J. Ready (Little Rock, Ark./Parkview), small but can pass and thinks steal; London Perrantes (Encino, Calif./Crespi), one of the only guys who was true to his position and played setup man; Zach LaVine (Bothell, Wash./Bothell), as he’s grown to almost 6-4, he’s steadied his shot and improved all-around; Kendal Harris (Richardson, Texas/Berkner), wasn’t happy with his team’s attitude so he stuck with his game and passed his way to a solid showing.

The wings

The honest assessment of the position at camp was that this group, above any of the others, brought the “too cool to be here” approach. In my mind, there were a handful of big-name guys who didn’t deserve to be graduated to the all-star games after their low-intensity effort.

Anton Gill (Raleigh, N.C./Hargrave Military)

Overlooked locally, Gill picked Louisville, who chased him with great vigor. Since the commitment, his approach has been businesslike and he’s one of the more consistent players on the circuit. He’ll flash the smile but isn’t afraid to take the kill shot. He had the right mix of perimeter (which is good) and attacking off the bounce (which he does better).

Wayne Selden (Boston/Tilton School), 2014

During the workout portion of the camp, Selden’s assigned group was, shall we say, taking liberties with their time. To his credit, Selden was the lone voice that gathered the players together and organized them during the workouts. His commitment transferred to the court where instead of proving what we already know (that he can score), Selden demonstrated that he’s a good enough passer to factor into the offense. Loved his approach and his play.

Dakarai Allen (Sacramento, Calif./Sheldon)

After three days, it would be difficult to say with certainty that Allen can score. Maybe he can, maybe he can’t, but one thing is certain: the guy is a weapon on defense. The poor souls that figured he’d continue the gentlemen’s agreement to play hands-off defense quickly realized Allen wasn’t playing around. He was the Bruce Bowen of Pangos Camp.

Hold your head high: Namon Wright (Los Angeles/Pacific Hills); Brandon Austin (Philadelphia, Pa./IMHOTEP).

The big men

Considering the bigs were outnumbered and mostly ignored, a handful staged big rallies and turned in strong efforts. Circumstances rarely set up well for the larger humans in a guard-dominated setting but credit these guys for defying the odds.

Jarrell Martin (Baton Rouge, La./Madison)

If you think he’s got a big reputation, think about his journey. Because of early academic trouble and then a school transfer, his junior season was his first full season on the high school circuit. At Pangos, Martin had them running from him in the lane. Not only does he rebound, he explodes and looks to blaze a path for himself. Awesome mix of strength, power, semi-inside skill and the desire to make the most of his chances.

Mike Young (Newark, N.J./Hudson Catholic)

In my mind, Young gets held to a higher standard. After seeing him as a freshman and the talent and ability, he leveled off. Well, this spring he’s been anything but level or mediocre. He’s fallen in love with rebounding and has a better understanding that he’s at his best when he starts in the lane and then settles into a comfort zone with his midrange shot. For a big man, camps can be tough; Young had no trouble.

Kevon Looney (Milwaukee, Wis./Hamilton), 2014

It has been a great run for him as of late. He won the “Are You From Here Classic,” then stepped off a long flight Friday night and immediately went to work. The thinking there is that Looney’s passion for rebounding and growing size tilts him to the power forward position in time, which is fine. Since March, these eyes haven’t seen too many board men better than him.

Payton Dastrup (Mesa, Ariz./Mountain View), 2014

When you evaluate camps of this nature, you tend to get a lot of transition, garbage buckets. When a 6-9 skilled forward rips a page out of the Dirk Nowitzki midrange package, it’s a different level. Dastrup has bounce and plenty of skill. What’s going on in Arizona? The place is loaded with young talent. Dastrup is a Mormon who will take a mission trip beginning his second season of college ball.

Cliff Alexander (Chicago/Curie), 2014

Do not be surprised if he takes a major leap toward the upper crust of the rankings. Alexander is a premium player because of his size, which is augmented by a dose of explosion at the rim that is uncommon. In the lane, he erupts in traffic. There’s a freakish element to his body, size and explosive ability. Alexander could find himself amongst the top five players in an elite group of his peers. He’s knocking on the door and trust me, there’s nothing flashy about him. Alexander is about accountability and power.

Karviar Shepherd (Arlington, Texas/Grace Prep)

Sometimes the best message is delivered from a peer. Kendal Harris, the point guard on Shephard’s AAU team, was struggling. To see Shepherd sit him down and explain the dynamics of camp ball to his friend was pretty cool. Since last July, Shepherd is one of the most improved big men and a guy I’d chase around every day in July if you needed a center.

Patson Siame (Las Vegas/Impact)

The kid from Zambia hadn’t played in a gym until a year and a half ago. When it came down to measuring how hard kids played this weekend, Siame was one of the barometers. He’s got the tools and seems like a kid merely scratching the surface.

Had their moments: Jonathan Williams III (Memphis, Tenn./Southwind); Jeremiah April (Glendale, Ariz./Joy Christian); Jermaine Lawrence (Springfield Gardens, N.Y./Pope John XXIII).

The Aussie

On Sunday night, Ben Simmons (Melbourne, Australia/Box Hill) boarded a plane bound for Australia. His brief basketball stint in the States was over (for now). With relatives in the States and a dad from New York, he’ll be back. Sooner than later, college basketball coaches might be flying his way to check on the versatile power forward. A lefty, it didn’t take Simmons long to display his game. He competes, sees the floor, shoots it good enough as a young player and has tremendous hoops genes. He’s going to play college basketball and although you’ll only hear about him sporadically, this is a name you’re going to need to know.

My All-Pangos team

PG Conner Frankamp, SG Anton Gill, F Jarell Martin, F Mike Young, C Cliff Alexander, Sixth man Wayne Selden

Camp season is officially underway. Pangos had plenty of talented players. In the past, the event featured elite, top-10 types. This time around the camp was flush with top 25-100 types. Solid depth and few superstar names should have been a signal to all involved that there was much to gain here reputation-wise. Instead, the bulk of the so-called better talents (especially the wings) played lackadaisically as if they’d already accomplished more than their current résumé displayed. As an evaluator, in this setting, you’re apt to issue one-time passes because of the setting. However, if these efforts replicate, then it speaks to the direction you’re headed as a player.