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August 11, 2006

Harden And Shelley Make Their Choice

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Lakewood Artesia's James Harden was the 2006 State Junior Player of the Year while Tyrone Shelley from Crawford of San Diego was the 2005 State Sophomore Player of the Year. Both big-time basketball players announced verbal commitments within the last week as Harden has chosen Arizona State while Shelley has selected Pepperdine.

Harden is a 6-5 shooting guard who was a key to Artesia's march to the CIF Div. III state title and No. 1 overall state ranking. He knocked down 18.8 points with nearly eight rebounds and four assists per game. Harden possibly could have gone to an even more high-profile program than Arizona State, but the Sun Devils will give him the chance to re-unite with recent Artesia grad Derek Glasser, the point guard for last season's team.

Harden's stock seemed to rise over the summer, which should make him one of the best players the Sun Devils have landed in years. He had 34 points and 33 points in two AAU title games on the same day in July in Las Vegas.

New Arizona State head coach Herb Sendek began his pipeline to Artesia shortly after he took over in April when he hired Pioneers' head coach Scott Pera to be the program's director of basketball operations.

With Harden, Pera and Glasser already in Tempe, other future Artesia recruiting targets could head there as well, although junior-to-be Malik Story has already committed to USC. It'll be interesting to see if sophomore-to-be Renardo Sidney, the 6-9 big man from Mississippi who is going to play for Artesia this coming season, has the Valley of the Sun in his thoughts.

Shelley, who had a 76-point game last season and averaged 26.9 per game en route to earning second team all-state honors, chose Pepperdine despite also considering Arizona, Kentucky, Kansas, Washington and UConn.

The reason a mid-major like the Waves got him were the players already headed there. Two other Crawford players that already had committed to Pepperdine recently were 5-9 guard Tyler Tucker and 6-8 center Malcolm Thomas. Plus, Tyler Tucker's older brother, Rico, has announced he's transferring to Pepperdine from Minnesota. Rico Tucker (who played as a prep at University of San Diego) will have to sit out the upcoming season, but will have two years of eligibility to play with his younger brother as well as Shelley and Thomas.

With Harden and Shelley committing, all three of the state's highest-rated and most honored Class of 2007 players are now locked up. The other is Mater Dei of Santa Ana shooting forward Taylor King, who is headed to Duke.

The state's top recruits still uncommitted look like 6-8 forward Darnell Gant of Los Angeles Crenshaw and 6-8 center Kenton Walker from Scripps Ranch of San Diego. We also have yet to see a commitment from record-breaking point guard JayDee Luster of San Diego Hoover, who isn't high on recruiting lists due to lack of size.

Among others from California who have announced verbal commitments (some who are much higher on some recruiting lists than Shelley and King) are 6-8 Jamelle Horne of San Diego High with Arizona, 6-5 Austin Daye from Woodbridge of Irvine with Gonzaga and 6-5 Drew Viney of Villa Park with Cal.


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