Rocky Mountain hoopsters display high level of talent

PARKER, Co. – What perspective was to be gathered from the middle school day of play during the first-ever Pangos All-Colorado Camp Saturday at Legend High in this suburb of Denver?

It’s quite simple, really:

There are quite a few promising seventh- and eighth-grade male hoopsters in Colorado – and a few pretty gifted sixth-graders, as well.

Approximately 90 players participated and were spread among 10 teams, each of those playing twice before the competition wrapped up in mid-afternoon with one all-star game made up of sixth- and seventh-graders and another for the eighth graders who impressed yours truly along with Christian Popoola (Las Vegas-based Elite Athletic Training), Joel Francisco (the Long Beach, California-based recruiting analyst for ESPN.com Recruiting Nation), Ryan Silver (camp director) and team coaches.

A rundown on each of the all-star games should suffice to offer an overview of many of those whose effort and skill level were among the most impressive on display Saturday:

The team wearing the black side of the camp’s reversible jerseys prevailed over the white-wearing squad, 63-37, in the sixth- and seventh-grade game.

Five-foot-six seventh-grader Jamil Safieddine (Graland Country Day School in Denver) was the consensus choice of the above group of onlookers for all-star game Most Outstanding Player honors after sparking the black club with his dynamic dribbling and passing skills – made all the more effective because of his terrific quickness and speed – and jump shooting.

The seventh grader who impressed me the most over the course of his two camp games and all-star game performances was 6-foot, fiery-haired Kenny Foster (Falcon Creek Middle School in Aurora), who also has well-advanced handling and passing skills but was often the tallest player on the floor in the all-star game.

He started out with the black jersey-wearing lads but, once that squad busted out to a 21-3 advanctage – in large part because of his presence – he switched to a white jersey and that made the rest of the contest a bit more competitive, at least.

Among the others who played commendably in the first all-star tilt were seventh-grade guards Stephen Hayes (Prairie Middle School in Aurora), Levi Dombro (Liberty Middle School in Aurora) and Payton Egloff (Blessed Sacrament in Denver).

They were among the the better scorers among all of the players, regardless of age or class, who participated Saturday.

Hayes – who appears to stand at least all of six-foot – was among the more impressive, physically, of all the point guards Saturday.

Dombro scored from out top, along the baseline or on driving floaters. Egloff’s deep jumper was spot-on in the all-star game – by my unofficial count, he hit at least three 3s.

Three of the consistently impressive sixth graders – not only in the all-star game but during their two games apiece, as well – were Dante Davis (Eagleview Middle School in Colorado Springs), Dennis Pigford (Mission Viejo Elementary in Aurora) and Cameron Le Van (Liberty Middle School in Aurora).

Davis has a jump shot that is just about as sweet as his 60s/70s throwback afro.

Forward Deven Nelson (Fountain Middle School – in the city of the same name) and point guard Xai’V’ion Hatch-Jackson (Thunder Ridge Middle School in Aurora) – yeah, you can call him “X” – were so consistently scintillating while helping the black sides of the jerseys-wearing eighth graders to a 60-50 victory that it was too difficult to choose one over the other for Most Outstanding Player.

So we didn’t – they shared that figurative honor (no hardware was handed out).

The game featured the camp’s three most-impressive point guards on Saturday:“X”, as well as the left-handed and slick Daylen Kountz (Florida Pitt-Waller K-8 in Denver) and the ever-so-quick Jon’il Fugett (the Denver School of  Science and Technology).

Six-three Zachariah Hidalgo (Frontier Academy in Greeley) and 6-1 Sam Masten (Rocky Heights Middle School in Littleton) did their best to keep the white jersey-wearing squad within relative striking distance in the game.

Hidalgo was the most skilled, versatile and polished of the players his size or taller who competed on Saturday.

And the left-handed Masten has a combination of handling and jump shooting skills that are matched, maybe, by only two or three other players in the building.

Devin Ocana (Cimarron Middle School in Parker) and Kaison Hammonds (Cherry Hills Christian School in Highlands Ranch) were two other 6-footer (or taller) eighth-graders who scored consistently on Saturday, from both the perimeter or via drives.

And three other eighth graders, Will Becker (Laredo Middle School in Aurora), Jordan Delaney (the Denver School of Science and Technology) and Cortney Dean (Good Shepherd Catholic School in Denver), also got a lot done by way of their quickness, spring and aggressive natures.

The two biggest players in camp – 6-6 Barrett Keith (Cheyenne Mountain Junior High in Colorado Springs) and 6-5 Jaylen Harden (Ken Caryl Middle School in Columbine) – displayed considerable promise as fellows who could evolve into quality high school, and beyond, post players.

The red-haired (is he ever!) Keith seems like he’s destined to sprout to something approaching seven foot. And the left-handed Harden was the most effective back-to-the bucket scorer Saturday.

The Pangos All-Colorado Camp continues Sunday morning with high school players taking the floor for games that begin at 10 a.m. Many of the better players – from the freshmen, sophomore, junior and senior classes – from the state, and a few others from surrounding states, as well, are expected to participate.

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