LAS VEGAS — An important first step toward receiving a college scholarship is to get a recruiter to take notice, and that's what junior guard Spencer Dinwiddie of Woodland Hills Taft High has accomplished this summer.
Basketball coaches from UCLA, USC, Kansas, Arizona State and Washington have been calling Taft Coach Derrick Taylor expressing interest in Dinwiddie, who didn't start as a sophomore and was attracting little interest from colleges when the summer began.
"He's made the largest jump of any kid since I've been coaching at Taft," Taylor said. "He went from off the radar screen to the high-major screen in one summer."
This week's convergence of players and coaches in Las Vegas for summer basketball tournaments is a surreal scene, where temperatures outside are in the triple digits but the air conditioning in the high school gyms helps create an ideal environment for players across the country trying to make positive impressions in front of dozens of college coaches.
For Dinwiddie, who has grown to 6 feet 3 after starting high school as a 5-9 freshman, the attention he's drawing here is a little mysterious because he's not known for his scoring. In fact, in a summer game Monday night against Mission Hills Alemany at Taft, he didn't score a point.
"He's made progress through passing the ball and his playmaking," Taylor said this week. "He's getting everybody involved."
Dinwiddie's long arms and size make him a promising defensive player, with his length causing opponents problems. But it still doesn't explain his going from second string to major-college prospect in a matter of months.
"The game has just gotten a lot easier," Dinwiddie said. "I don't know any other way to explain it."
He added: "They say they like my skill set and my feel for the game. They say the only thing I need to do is get stronger."
Whether Dinwiddie will be able to turn growing interest into firm scholarship offers remains to be seen, but Taylor was showing off his phone messages the other day, with calls from coaches at USC, Arizona State and Washington State. They are watching Dinwiddie's development.
"His skill level is improving rapidly," Taylor said. "His level of intelligence rivals Jordan Farmar."
As for how the increased interest is affecting him, Dinwiddie said, "It's not going to change my life that much. I'm going to stay the same person, focus on school and try to get as many scholarships as possible."
He's playing for the talented Double Pump 2011 travel team, on which the starting guards are Lonnie Jackson of Valencia and Josiah Turner from Sacramento, two outstanding college prospects.
Dinwiddie might soon join them as a sought-after Pacific 10 Conference recruit.
High school for late bloomers
Lawndale Leuzinger Coach Reggie Morris doesn't mind if his school becomes known for developing late bloomers thanks to Russell Westbrook, who is now in the NBA.
"That's what it seems," Morris said. "I've never had a kid physically gifted when they were younger. Westbrook was 5-9 with size 14 shoes."
Morris' latest late bloomer is 6-3 senior Aqeel Quinn, who had to sit out his sophomore season after he broke his left leg. Quinn has been enjoying a successful summer.
"He has a high basketball IQ and makes good decisions," Morris said.
Danilo Dragovic, the younger brother of UCLA forward Nikola Dragovic, said he is moving from Serbia to San Marcos. The 6-5 Dragovic is a junior in high school.