The 2017 version of the Tarkanian Classic featured a number of the nation’s top sophomore talents and was won by a first time champion, as the host squad Bishop Gorman won its first ever Tarkanian title on its sixth try. Despite being ranked among the nation’s top programs in the past, and featuring national top twenty-five talents like Stephen Zimmerman, Chase Jeter, and Zach Collins, it was a deep group of Freshmen and Sophomores that supported Washington signee 6’6 Jamal Bey that lead the Gaels to the title in Las Vegas.
But, it wasn’t easy as Bishop Gorman had to survive a tough challenge from Aurora, CO Overland squad 69-63 coming from ten down in the second half in the tourney opener. Then the Gaels had another tough match up in the Semi-finals outlasting a physical Richmond CA Salesian squad, led by 6’1 Connecticut signee James Akinjo, by a duplicate 69-63 score to reach the finals.
Their opponent in the championship, crosstown rival and pre-tourney No.1 rated Nevada squad, Clark High also had to survive a scare in the opener upending Pasadena squad, led by UCLA signee David Hamilton, 50-47 to move on. They knocked off Putnam City, OK North in the semi-finals, 57-49, after breaking open a close game with a 12-2 run to end the first half and held on to win a hard fought game.The Championship game started out slowly as both squads struggled to make shots early. It was a grinder until late in the half, when Jamal Bey hit a three and scored off a turnover to help open a 25-17 lead at the half for Gorman over Clark. Clark closed the gap to two points early in the second half behind seven points by 6’4 UNLV signee Trey Woodbury. But, a trio of three pointers by 6’3 Sophomore sharp shooter Noah Taitz put Gorman back up by nine, 54-45, and the Gaels never relinquished that lead, as the closest Clark got down the stretch was five points. Gorman held on versus a frantic Clark press converting 7of 8 free throws down the stretch to win a hard fought 69-56 victory.
Gorman was led by Noah Taitz with 25 points, including 5-threes, and all four of his free throws down the stretch. He got solid support from Jamal Bey with 18 points and 6’10 sophomore Isaiah Cottrell who chipped in with 13 points in the win. Clark was led by Trey Woodbury with 14 points while 6’7 junior Antwon Jackson added 13 points and 6’7 junior Jalen Hill chipped in with 13 points in the tough loss.
But, like is usually the case at top notch high school events, it is the talent that shines that intrigues coaches and scouts alike, and the Tarkanian Classic was no exception as the individual talent stood out in Las Vegas. Here’s a look at the top talent who played well in Vegas:
Tarkanian Classic Top Prospects (Listed by Height)
Isaiah Cottrell 6’10 (2020) C/PF Las Vegas (Bishop Gorman) NV – This young post forward showed he can block shots, run floor and finish with flush or touch with jump hook at Tark. He needs to add strength, but all the tools are in development that says he can be an impact talent in college down the road with strength and maturity.
Evan Mobley 6’10 (2020) PF Temecula (Rancho Christian) CA – This long, but thin big man showed he can dominate around basket in flashes. He like Cottrell needs to get stronger, but has quick feet and bounce to score around hoop and can pop and face too. One for majors to watch!
Onyeka Onkongwu 6’9 (2019) C/PF Chino Hills (H.S.) CA – Strong and powerful rebounder can catch in traffic and finish thru defenders at the rim. He has tools to dominate the paint and will be a force once teammates start to look inside first and create thru their bigs. New roles for guards with defections will take a while…but he didn’t get frustrated as one might expect.
Isaiah Mobley 6’9 (2019) PF Temecula (Rancho Christian) CA – Stronger of the two brothers was dominating on glass at times, he isn’t as flashy as some on this list, but he gets it done from 15-feet to the rim with consistency. He didn’t back down on blocks and finished over with touch or kiss.
Dishon Thomas 6’9 (2019) PF Phoenix (Hillcrest Prep) AZ – Nevada commit was one of top inside talents in Vegas as he scored with power around the hoop, rebounded with good bounce and length, and hit jumper to arc on face up. He could be a good one down the road for the Wolfpack!
Te’Jon Sawyer 6’8 (2020) C/PF Richmond (Salesian) CA – Wide bodies young big knows how to position his body on the blocks, seal and finish around the hoop. He also can pop and knock down 12-15 footer and is a horse around the hoop on glass who flat out can rip away from opponents.
Andre Ball 6’7 CF Chino Hills (H.S.) CA – No one on Chino Hills seems to have benefitted from his cousins leaving more than Andre, he has the ball a lot on perimeter and has developed a solid two-man game with Onyeka in high-low game. He is a good passer, rebounds off the ball and finishes off the dribble. He showed range to 17-feet and could be a spring priority for a number of schools based on his play in Vegas,
Jalen Hill 6’7 (2019) CF Las Vegas (Clark) NV – This long and bouncy young forward scored 13 points in final, but has tools to create bigger numbers as he matures. He has nice touch on face-up jumper can attack the hoop and flush it over defenders or pull-up and kiss it off the glass. One for majors to watch!
Julian Strawther 6’7 (2020) WF Las Vegas (Liberty) – He proved that we have him six or seven spots to low in our rankings of Class of 2020 as he put on a top ten performance going for 37 points, grabbing 8 boards and handing out 4 assists. He took on the challenge of guarding Jalen Green in second half. He has a great nose for the ball Knocks down jumper from three or off the dribble and can finish versus contact in the paint. Skilled an on the rise in Sophomore class!
Jamal Bey 6’6 WF Las Vegas (Bishop Gorman) NV – Washington signee went for 20 and 28 in early games and put up 18 in championship game. He is not just a stat maker, he does the things that helps put Gorman in the position to win. He defends, makes solid passes, and gets on the glass. He will contribute from day one for the Huskies!
Jalen Green 6’6 (2020) SG Fresno (San Joaquin Memorial) CA – Our No.2-rated Sophomore has all the tools to be an impact talent at the next level for at least one year, but has to decide who he wants to be. He has great quicks and explosion off the dribble, is a good shooter (range and consistency can still improve) and has handle to create drive going left or right. He has a lot of Kobe Bryant as a sophomore in high school in his game, big question is does he have same drive to be great as he sometimes tends to float. He had 31 points and 9 boards in game we watched vs. Strawther!
Bryce Hamilton 6’5 SG Pasadena (H.S.) CA – UCLA signee can score with jumper from three or create drive and finish in the paint with floater or kiss. He showed he will get after it on defense when challenged. He can post smaller guards and showed he can board and start break too. He will be a solid addition to the Bruins!
Kyree Walker 6’5 (2020) SG Phoenix (Hillcrest Prep) AZ – Arizona State commit is an athletic wing talent who can board from guard spot, push it up on break and score with jumper to arc or finish over and thru contact in the paint. He has length and quick feet to become good defender that will fit right in for Bobby Hurley at Arizona State.
Trey Woodbury 6’4 SG Las Vegas (Clark) NV - UNLV signee is a tough hard nosed guard who has skills to run point in a pinch, but is at his best knocking down jumper or attacking hoop off the dribble from wing. He comes to play every night and doesn’t back down from a challenge on either end. He will be another solid piece to puzzle at UNLV!
Ayo Dosunmu 6’4 CG Chicago (Morgan Park) IL – Illinois signee is an athletic scorer that faced double and triple team situations. He handled it well, but had to work hard for his points. He has ability to score in traffic off the dribble and hits jumper off the move. Consistency beyond the arc is still a question, but ability to fill the stat sheet isn’t!
Noah Taitz 6’3 (2020) SG Las Vegas (Bishop Gorman) NV – This young wing man can flat out knock the jumper down from all over the court. He hit five of seven threes in championship game in route to 25 points. That’s just a sample of the player he can be. He rebounds well from guard spot and is a good passer. He sometimes tends to try to do too much, but he contributes every night.
Daijon Smith 6’2 CG Aurora (Overland) CO – This explosive combo talent may have been the biggest surprise of the tournament! He can stroke the three, create drive, stick mid-range or finish at the rim in traffic versus contact. He is a good passer who has point skills and can run break. He is a junk yard dog on defense! He went for 25 and 22 in games we watched. This under-recruited guard could be a steal this spring for right mid or high major school!
James Akinjo 6’1 CG Richmond (Salesian) CA – Connecticut signee showed why he is rated among the top fifty talents in the senior class by many. He averaged 25 points and 7 assists for the tourney, but is capable of thirty any night. He gets after it on defense and has a little Khalid El-Amin in his style and swagger, something Kevin Ollie is going to like at UConn!
Zaon Collins 6’0 (2021) PG Las Vegas (Bishop Gorman) NV – This young point guard came off the bench for Bishop Gorman and arguably may have been their MVP with his ability to handle the pressure that teams were putting on the young Gaels. He is a handling wizard who doesn’t seem to get rattled, he is a good passer and if he has a fault at this point is he needs to look to score at times. But, he’s young and has lots of time.
D.J. Dawson 6’0 (2020) CG Corona (Centennial) CA – Another of the talented young guards at the Tark, this smallish combo doesn’t back down from anyone, he hits the three, finishes in traffic, and is an excellent passer who sees open man off the dribble when doubled. He can light it up, but plays unselfish, one for majors to watch!
We’d like to thank Tarkanian Co-Directors Grant Rice and Dinos Trigonis for their hospitality along with their tournament staff who did an excellent job running the tournament. Next week, we will be heading to the Beach Ball Classic in Myrtle Beach, SC where we will be able to see the nation’s top two seniors, R.J. Barrett and Zion Williamson….until then Merry Christmas everyone!