The most important month in high school basketball starts after school lets out.
During the next 31 days, college basketball coaches will be watching the country's most talented high school players compete in summer camps and regional tournaments in Los Angeles and across the nation.
In this summer evaluation period, coaches make the crucial decisions that will determine their program's success for the next four years.
Beginning at 12:01 a.m. Saturday night, coaches began the recruiting period by contacting their most prized recruits. Starting Thursday, coaches will travel around the country to evaluate these players. Scholarships will be offered and accepted in November before any of these players play their first high school game during their senior season.
"July can make or break your recruiting season and your program," UCLA assistant coach Lorenzo Romar said. "According to the NCAA rules, you can only see a player twice during the school year. You depend a lot on July to make decisions on guys."
The Nike All-American Camp and the Adidas/ABCD Camp attract the most prominent college basketball coaches, including Indiana's Bob Knight, Arizona's Lute Olson, North Carolina's Dean Smith, Kansas' Roy Williams and UCLA's Jim Harrick.
Many of these same coaches will head West to attend the West Coast All-Star Camp at Cal State Dominguez Hills, Superstar Camp at Cal State Long Beach and the Slam-n-Jam National Invitational at Cal State Long Beach. It's common to see coaches such as Utah's Rick Majerus and Cal's Todd Bozeman holding court at the Hof's Hut in the Long Beach Marina after watching a full day's activity at Cal State Long Beach.
And those being watched will notice who is watching.
Kevin Garnett earned rave reviews from college evaluators last year who tabbed him the best high school prospect in the nation. Combined with the fact he failed to meet college entrance requirements, Garnett entered the National Basketball Assn. draft, where he was selected the fifth pick overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves. He will become only the fourth player in history to go from high school directly into the NBA.
Are any of the seniors-to-be this year good enough to duplicate Garnett's feat?
The current consensus best player in the nation, combination guard Kobe Bryant of Lower Merion High in Ardmore, Pa., certainly has the bloodlines. His father, Joe [Jellybean] Bryant, played eight years in the NBA, including three with the then San Diego Clippers, and is an assistant at La Salle. Bryant works out regularly with the Philadelphia 76ers, according to Bob Gibbons, publisher for Lenoir, N.C.-based All Star Sports Publications.
"He's the most advanced player at the high school level I've seen in a while," Gibbons said. "He is the closest thing to [Detroit Pistons forward] Grant Hill you will ever see at the high school level."
Bryant, Jermaine O'Neal of Eau Claire High (S.C.), Tim Thomas of Paterson Catholic (N.J.) and Lester Earl of Glen Oaks (La.) will be attending the prestigious adidas/ABCD Camp at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Teaneck, N.J.
"I think these four big kids will go 1-2-3-4 in the NBA draft some year," said camp organizer Sonny Vaccaro.
Thomas, a 6-9 center/forward, is one of three talented players listed in the Top 10 from New Jersey. The other two, Malik Allen of Shawnee High and Shaheen Holloway of St. Patrick High, make the Garden State the hot spot for young talent, according to Vaccaro.
"But it will be California's turn in 1996," Vaccaro said. "Schea will have his day in the sun."
College recruiters eagerly await for 6-6 Schea Cotton to become eligible. Cotton, who transferred from Santa Ana Mater Dei to Bellflower St. John Bosco, is old enough to be a senior, but has two more high school seasons left. He will turn 18 in November.
Cotton and most of the top California prospects including Olujimi Mann of Santa Ana Valley will compete in the Nike All-American Camp, which will be held this week at the Hoosier Dome in Indianapolis. Travis Reed of Manual Arts is another member of a talented junior-to-be class.
Mann, a 6-4 combo guard, and 6-7 small forward Greg Clark from Grossmont High of La Mesa, said they will sign with NCAA champion UCLA, giving the Bruins a quick start in the recruiting wars.
According to basketball prognosticators, the three top local players are 6-0 shooting guard Danny Walker, 5-8 point guard Dony Wilcher, and 6-2 small forward Jermel Jones, who may play together at Fremont. Other local players to watch include 6-1 guard Lamont Frazier of Dorsey, 6-1 guard Deon Williams of Verbum Dei and 6-6 forward Corey Williams of Crenshaw.
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Summer Hot Shots
The top high school basketball players will be evaluated by college recruiters at tournaments and camps throughout Southern California and the nation in July.
SENIORS TO WATCH
Name School Ht. Pos.* 1. Olujimi Mann Santa Ana Valley 6'4" CG 2. Corey Benjamin Fontana 6'6" G/F 3. Greg Clark La Mesa Grossmont 6'7" SF 4. Eddie Miller Chatsworth 6'8" PF 5. Ortega Jenkins Long Beach Jordan 6'2" SG 6. Danny Walker Fremont** 6'0" SG 7. Jason Hart Inglewood** 6'1" PG 8. James Lee Artesia 6'5" SF 9. David Lalazarian Tustin 6'6" SF 10. Will Porter Nogales 6'1" CG 11. Tremaine Mayeaux Redondo 6'3" SF 12. Brian Johnson Dominguez** 6'5" CF 13. Dony Wilcher Fremont 5'8" PG 14. Brian Jackson Damien 6'5" SF 15. Michael Garrett Santa Barbara 6'0" PG 16. Brian Jones Banning 6'2" SG 17. Jermel Jones Fremont** 6'2" SF 18. Tony Parker Rowland 6'1" SG 19. Ike Harmon Santa Ana Valley 6'6" CF 20. Brandon Price Bishop Montgomery 6'5" SF
THE TOP 10
Name School Ht. Pos.* 1. Kobe Bryant Lower Merion (Pa.) 6'6" CG 2. Jermaine O'Neal Eau Claire (S.C.) 6'10" C 3. Tim Thomas Paterson Catholic (N.J.) 6'9" C/F 4. Chris Carrawell Cardinal Ritter (Mo.) 6'6" SF 5. Charles Hathaway Hillwood (Tenn.) 6'9" C 6. Ronnie Fields Farragut (Ill.) 6'3" SG 7. Shaheen Holloway St. Patrick (N.J.) 5'10" PG 8. Michael Bibby Shadow Mountain (Ariz.) 6'2" PG 9. Lester Earl Glen Oaks (La.) 6'10" C 10. Malik Allen Shawnee (N.J.) 6'9" C
* CG is combo guard, CF is combo forward, SF is small forward, SG is shooting guard, PG is point guard, PF is power forward
** Probable school for 1995-96 season after transfer.
1. Thur./Sat.: Carson Summer Finale, Carson High
2. Thur./Sat.: Servite Classic, Servite High
3. Sat. 9: Discovery Shootout, CS Dom. Hills
4. Sat. 12: Superstar Camp, CSULB
5. 11-14: West Coast All-Star Camp, CS Dom. Hills
6. 11-14: Great Western Shootout, Ocean View High
7. 13-16: Fairfax Tournament, Fairfax High
8. 15-20: Slan-n-Jam Natl. Invt. Tourn., CSULB
1. Thur. 11: YBOA 19-under Men's National Tournament, Univ. of North Florida, Jacksonville
2. Fri. 12: Nike All American Camp, Hoosier Dome, Indianapolis
3. Fri. 12: Adidas/ABCD Camp, Fairleigh Dickinson U.,Teaneck, N.J.
4. 11-15: Dave Krieder Camp, Univ. of Cincinnati, Shoemaker Center
5. 14-19: Five-Star Camp, Robert Morris College, Coraopolis, Pa.
6. 15-16: Nike/Morris Shootout, Morris, Ill.
7. 15-22: Nike National Summer Prep Championship, Nevada, Las Vegas (north, south gym)
8. 17-22: The Big Time/AAU Tourn., Durango H.S., Las Vegas
9. 24-29: Las Vegas Grand Finale, Cimarron and Cheyenne high schools, L.V.
10. 25-31: 22nd Annual Nike/BCI Summer Prep Intern., Arizona State, Tempe
11. 29-31: Steamboat Classic, Memphis, Tenn.
A DAY IN THE LIFE
Saturday's schedule for the Adidas/ABCD Camp
8 a.m.: Wake up
8-9 a.m.: Breakfast
9:20-10:30 a.m.: Class* I
10:35-11:45 a.m.: Class* II
11:45-12:45 p.m.: Lunch
1-1:10 p.m.: Meeting
1:15-2 p.m.: Guest speaker
2-5 p.m.: Afternoon games
4:45-5:45 p.m.: Dinner
6-6:10 p.m.: Meeting
6:15-7 p.m.: Guest speaker
7-10 p.m.: Evening games
10:15-10:25 p.m.: Meeting
10:30-10:50 p.m.: Snack
11 p.m.: Lights out
* Achievement Test Preparation Class Compiled by SEAN WATERS / Los Angeles Times