Pangos Dream Classic Recap
Meet the West’s best young ballers.
by Ryan ZumMallen
The candy paint sparkled as drop-tops pulled up to Cabrillo High on a beautiful 75-degree January day in Long Beach, as some of Southern California’s best teams—and a handful of the region’s top DI commits and prospects—met for a one-day showcase at the Pangos Dream Classic in the LBC.
It was just as bright inside the gym, with future stars heading to schools like USC, Cal and Stanford battling head-to-head, making their case for West Coast bragging rights, and proving why they’ve attracted the attention of scouts nationwide.
While the overall level of play was as high as you’ll see anywhere in the country, there were clearly a few future superstars that stood taller than the rest. While juniors such as Byron Wesley of Etiwanda (USC) and Davon Potts of Gahr (undecided) showed promise that made local basketball fans drool, it was seniors like Allen Crabbe and Richard Solomon of Price (both headed to Cal), Anthony Brown of Ocean View (Stanford) and Deonte Burton of Compton Centennial (undecided) that set the place on fire.
In the Classic’s opening game, the 6-7 junior forward Wesley led his Etiwanda team to a mini-upset in a 58-52 battle over Compton Centennial despite 20 points from 6-2 star Burton. A super athlete whose skills have improved drastically since last season, Burton slammed home a vicious two-handed alley-oop and then nailed a three-pointer to give Centennial a 48-42 lead, but Etiwanda ended the game on a 16-4 run behind Wesley—who scored six points in the final two minutes, including a swift glide to the basket that sealed the victory. Wesley finished with 19 points and 6 rebounds.
The most impressive ballers of the day were on display later that night, however, as a powerhouse Price team faced off against an undersized but swarming Gahr High in a matchup between two of Southern California’s most electrifying teams. Using unrelenting full-court pressure, Gahr jumped out to a 28-11 lead and looked to be running away with the game. Junior 6-2 guard Davon Potts’ jumper was on fire and 5-9 Ervin Ware used his impressive strength to run the offense from the high post, racking up assists and rebounds like they were on sale. Price began to figure out the press, though, and went on a run of their own to cut the lead to three at halftime. From there on out, it was all about Price senior Allen Crabbe.
“In the second half I just had to pick it up,” Crabbe said after the game. “I hit a three, and I thought, ‘Ok, I’m gonna turn it on,’ and I just did what I could for my team.”
The 6-5 senior proceeded to put on the most impressive show of the day, scoring from every spot on the court and throwing the crowd into a frenzy with emphatic high-flying dunks. Both Crabbe and 6-foot-10 teammate Richard Solomon (pictured below right) will attend Cal next year, and they showed why; a dynamic duo flying through the air that their opponents just could not contain. Still, Gahr continued their frantic pace and held a 61-55 lead late in the fourth quarter, but the Price boys were determined not to let this one slip away.
Crabbe sliced into the paint and effortlessly threw down a rim-rocker, followed by another dunk from Solomon and a long three-pointer from Crabbe that sparked a 22-4 run to end the game and give Price the 77-65 victory. Crabbe hit six 3-pointers for 32 points and 10 rebounds, while Solomon backed him up with 24 and 14. Gahr became victims of their own fast-pace style, running out of juice and shooting flat jumpers, but Potts did not disappoint with 23 points and 4 steals. Ware, the shortest player on the court, dominated the paint for 12 points, 11 assists and 8 rebounds. But it was Price that showed they are a dominant program in Southern California, and could be among the best in the state.
“I’m really excited for my team and what we can accomplish if we keep working,” said Crabbe. His coach agrees, although Michael Lynch has guided plenty of dominant teams in his 14 years at Price and isn’t yet ready to call this team the best he’s ever had.
“This one has an opportunity to the best,” Coach Lynch said with a smile, “But I can’t put that [title] on them until they win something.”
Another future DI star put on a show in the following game, as 6-7 guard Anthony Brown put up 32 points to lead Ocean View over La Verne Lutheran by an 81-69 score. Ocean View led by double digits for most of the game, and Brown became more aggressive whenever the lead was in jeopardy with an array of spinning drives and fadeaway jumpers that Lutheran was unable to counter.
“When they were making runs I knew I had to take over and get our team back on top,” Brown said after the game. The smooth Stanford signee spent the offseason working on strength and conditioning so that he wouldn’t tire at the end of games like he did during his junior year. “This year, I feel like I’m getting stronger as the game goes on.”
Ocean View needed every bit of that strength to hold off a charging Lutheran squad that has several weapons of their own, like dynamic guard CJ Cooper (29 points) and slashing 6-1 Bruce English (19 points), both juniors who should garner plenty of DI looks. The young Lutheran team is extremely talented, a true up-and-coming SoCal program, but Cooper & Co. were too raw to top Ocean View and their senior star.
Brown’s teammate and wingman-in-crime Avery Johnson also impressed, using raw speed and athleticism in a 6-3 frame to seal the game for Ocean View. Johnson was able to get to the basket almost literally at will and finished with 27 points. “That’s my boy,” Brown said of his athletic teammate, who will have his pick of several colleges next fall. “He always comes to play hard, and I always know where he’s at on the floor.”
Two earlier games did not exhibit as much talent but were highly competitive, as the host Cabrillo Jaguars repped Long Beach to the fullest with a 65-63 overtime win over Paramount. Cabrillo was led by senior guards Christian Verdugo (14 points) and Tony Bell (13 points) as the improving program closes in on the school record for victories, which currently stands at 12 and will almost assuredly be broken as Cabrillo improves to 10-4. “It’ll take a couple more years to get where we want to go, but we’ll get there,” said Cabrillo coach Jim Nielsen, who believes that hosting the Pangos Dream Classic was a huge opportunity for his team to be in the spotlight and watch high-profile programs like Price, Gahr and Compton Centennial.
Two programs struggling to regain their footing also battled earlier in the day as St. John Bosco won 47-40 over the once-mighty Dominguez—yes, that Dominguez, producer of NBA stars Tyson Chandler and Tayshaun Prince, as well as Texas freshman phenom Jordan Hamilton. The program has fallen hard after patriarch Russell Otis was convicted of misdemeanor child molestation; his scandalous departure left Dominguez without any leadership and the team fielded in Long Beach was very young. Bosco was also without electrifying point guard Cesar Guerrero, who is being courted by the entire Pac-10 Conference but was not in attendance.
However, this sloppy contest was not indicative of the dazzling display put on by so many Los Angeles-area superstars at the Pangos Dream Classic. With players like Crabbe, Solomon, Wesley and Brown prepared to tear up the Pac-10, and others like Burton and Potts still weighing their options, the future of West Coast collegiate basketball was center-stage in Long Beach. Everyone in attendance headed out into the California night replaying those soaring dunks and long-range bombs in their heads courtesy of California’s finest.
Ryan ZumMallen is a contributing editor to LBPOSTSports.com and also covers high school and college basketball on the West Coast. He lives in Long Beach, CA.