Was in San Diego earlier this week for USD's first annual "Tee-Off and Tip-Off" charity event benefiting the Fanconi Anemia Research Fund and Father Joe's Villages.
While there, I had the chance to watch a couple of games: Reno vs USD and San Diego State vs Arizona State (on TV).
In the first game, USD controlled the tempo as Reno had trouble scoring. I thought San Diego did a good job executing at both ends of the floor. They're well-coached. Reno also did a nice job mixing up their defenses and the guys played hard the entire game.
For Reno, sophomore guard Armon Johnson, last year's WAC Freshman of the Year, is an inconsistent shooter, but he can get his shot off. A lefty, he changes speed with the dribble, which is high at times. He could be a possible NBDL prospect in two years. For a young guy, he really communicates with his teammates well and shows signs of leadership.
Another young guy for Reno, freshman Luke Babbitt, is a PF at the college level, but he does not have an NBA position. He's 6-9, but must get stronger. Has ball skills. In warm ups looked to shoot ball well with range. Like Johnson, Babbitt is a lefty who really favors his left.
On the catch, USD did a good job shrinking the floor and collapsing on him. At this point, other young guys like Jrue Holiday and DeMar DeRozan are way ahead of him.
For San Diego, Gyno Pomare, a 6-8 PF who was suspended for the team's first game at UNLV, is a good 4 /5 man in the WCC. He should be considered an NBDL or European league prospect. He doesn't have enough lift for the NBA game. A throwback-type player. Efficient. Plays within himself.
Rob Jones is at the other forward spot, though he has a PF game. I could see him playing football at the next level. He's the perfect 3/4 man at the WCC level. Good defender, good mid- range game. Has nice pull-up jump shot from 15-17 feet. Loses focus as a passer. Did a great job defending Luke Babbitt, preventing the former McDonald's All-America from scoring until less than two minutes remained in the game.
USD's Brandon Johnson was the best player in this game [see photo above]. He's a real pit bull. With a strong scorer's mentality, he's a bit of a poor man's Nate Robinson.
Has deep range (NBA 3-point). His size hurts him on dribble-drives trying to finish inside (gets shot blocked at college level). At this point, he's likely an NBDL prospect and NBA summer league player.
Still, he had the biggest impact on the game. He need the ball in his hands.
A number of NBA scouts were at the game: Herb Livsey (ATL), Jim Kelly (TOR), Chet Kameron (MIA), and Tony Ranzone (DET).
The Arizona State-San Diego State game (which I watched on TV) was interesting as ASU's Herb Sendek runs the Flex Offense, Princeton Offense, and various and half-court sets.
Sun Devil sophomore James Harden is a talented left-handed guard who will be a first-rounder and an NBA player. Had some scouts at this game, too, as former NBA coach Gene Shoe and PHX Gm Steve Kerr were on hand.
Pauley, Jenny Craig Pavilion (USD), and USC's Galen Center are all terrific arenas for hoops. But college basketball in early November is a tough draw in California. Crowds were relatively small for all of the games I've seen recently.
[Side note: My reference to the University of Nevada as "Reno" is a bad habit I picked up nearly 30 years ago. My Dad coached the Reno Bighorns of the Western Basketball League in the early 1980s. He used to watch games over at the U of N, back when it was commonly known as "Nevada-Reno." He would always call the school "Reno" for short. I've always called it that, too. Certainly, I mean no disrespect to the university.]