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San Diego prep basketball's "Diaper Dandies"

01/13/2014, 3:00pm PST
By Craig Malveaux

San Diego's 2017 Class decrease learning curve, thrive as starters


Mater Dei Catholic freshman Jaylen Hands (5) looks for an opening against La Costa Canyon’s defense. Hands, who scored 20 points, earned all-tournament honors in helping the Crusaders to the American Division title. — Jamie Scott Lytle

Via twitter, hoops pundits salivate.

“Fast end to end, has deep range on his jump shot and is able to create for himself and others,” — @EvanDaniels

“Very quick, high bball IQ, handles, creates, has shots & has floaters. Quickly has established himself as one of the top 2017 prospects out west at this stage,” — @JoshGershon

“True PG constantly probes opposing D. His reactive acceleration makes him truly elite,” — @mhhsgrizbball

Meet Jaylen Hands. He’s 14.

The slender 6-foot-1 high school hoops prospect, who’s garnered superlatives from West Coast scouts and analysts, is No. 2-ranked Mater Dei Catholic’s “diaper dandy.”

Coined by ESPN basketball analyst Dick Vitale, the label describes a “sensational freshman” basketball player overachieving against his “elders.”

Hands is clearly atop the San Diego Section’s frosh list.

A dozen games into the season, Hands was averaging 15 points, five assists and two rebounds per contest — as the sixth man.

“He’s a freshman,” Mater Dei Catholic coach Kenny Caesar said with a chuckle.

“Paired with that, I believe in playing guys that can play basketball. We have a very experienced senior in Jonathan Dutra, who is stronger and bigger physically and makes smart decisions. Now, Jaylen is first in our rotation. He could probably start for a number of other teams in the county, but he doesn’t in this particular situation.”

The résumé reads otherwise: two all-tournament selections, a 31-point, nine-assist performance guarded by nationally ranked prospect Marcus Shaver of Phoenix St. Mary’s, scholarship offers from USC, USD and Memphis and a bevy of Pac-12 universities vying for his signature in a few years.

His heroics suggest otherwise, too.

Saturday, when tested late, Hands drained four free throws inside the final minute, sealing a 58-55 victory over Temecula Rancho Christian in the Los Angeles-San Diego Challenge at Lincoln High. He also missed two, but that’s a part of the maturation process. So is shooting from NBA range.

“For a younger kid, though, he’s able to contort his body and gets into guys’ bodies to create angles and shots that younger guys don’t know how to do yet,” Caesar said.

“He has an explosive first step, he can pull up from midrange, which is tough for young guys, he can finish through contact and shoot from the perimeter. Three levels of play.”

FRESHMAN STANDOUTS

The San Diego Section’s “diaper dandy” crop doesn’t end with Mater Dei Catholic’s Jaylen Hands:

JOSIAH ESSELSTROM

La Jolla Country Day, 5-10 guard

Scouting report: Good shooter with a knack for scoring. He’s coachable. Leads the Torreys with 16.8 points per game.

LJCD coach Ryan Meier: “We’ve actually contoured our offensive system around him.”

ROBBY ROBINSON

Kearny, 6-7 forward

Scouting report: Long but lean hybrid forward who can finish around the rim and alter shots.

RICHARD POLANCO

Army-Navy, 6-7 forward

Scouting report: A Dominican Republic native who is averaging 13 points and four rebounds per game, this lanky big man possesses a raw combination of shooting touch and a post game that should mature with seasoning.

Army-Navy coach Tom Tarantino: “He has the potential to be one of the elite players on the West Coast. He’s versatile, very coordinated, can handle the ball very well for a big guy and his upside could be UCLA or San Diego State — one of those schools.”

JUSTIN WOODLEY

Bishop’s, 6-0 guard/forward

Scouting report: Smart, crafty wing-type player who can shoot from the perimeter and distribute with ease, averaging 14.8 points per game for the Knights.

Bishop’s coach Matt Niehues: “He does it all. He can play all five positions for us. He’s very composed, let’s the game come to him and is very coachable.”

MICHAEL DIAZ

Orange Glen, 6-1 guard

Scouting report: Raw floor general for the Patriots who possesses freakish athleticism, explosive first step and rebounding ability. He averages 10.5 points, 6.6 rebounds and 3.7 assists per contest.

Orange Glen coach Chris Featherly: “I haven’t seen a better athlete in his class. He has a quick twitch and has very good slashing ability. We’re trying to bring him along as a point guard, but he has very good vision and is improving as a facilitator.”

DEVIN DIAZ

Orange Glen, 6-0 guard

Scouting report: Michael’s fraternal twin. Crafty, this undersized guard uses his smarts to score the basketball, averaging 10.7 points per game.

Featherly: “Devin is more consistent. He’s very long and has a long wingspan, rarely makes a bad decision on the court and can really shoot the ball from the perimeter.”

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