Gilbert Arenas Sr., is among a group of Southern Californians who know new Washington Wizards player Nick Young well. And the scouting report coming out of Los Angeles on Young sounds pretty encouraging.
"I compare him to Jason Richardson in that he can jump out of the gym," said Arenas Sr., who helped coach Young in an AAU program. "There have been a few kids who have come through the program that have gone on to the NBA. At first I didn't know if Nick would be the next. But he's always worked hard and kept on improving."
Before Young, the Wizards' top draft pick at No. 16, became a standout at USC, he was groomed for success by Double Pump Inc., an AAU-type program run by twin brothers Dana and David Pump. The program is unchallenged in California as the top producer of high-level basketball talent.
Current Wizards Gilbert Arenas and DeShawn Stevenson also came through the program, as did Utah's Carlos Boozer and Indiana's Mike Dunleavy Jr.
Dana Pump said he realized Young had special skills when he and a team from Double Pump beat a Georgia AAU team with current NBA players Dwight Howard (Orlando) and Josh Smith (Atlanta) twice during the same season.
"You knew that those guys were pros," Dana Pump said. "Each time we beat them, Nick played well. You could tell that he doesn't play with any fear.
"Part of that is due to his world-class athleticism. He can jump out of the gym. The knock on him was his jump shot — people said he struggled with it. From what I"m seeing, though, he's been getting better with the jumper each year, and that's because he works so hard."
Wizards coach Eddie Jordan got a chance to see some of those skills on display over the last three days of training camp for rookies and free agents at Verizon Center.
Last night Young and his teammates flew to Las Vegas for the 2007 NBA Summer League. Jordan has had a chance to develop some impressions of the 6-foot-6 Young, and he, too, sounded impressed.
"He's got work to do, but you can see it," Jordan said at the end of the morning workout. "He's got special skills."
A first-team All-Pac-10 selection in his sophomore and junior seasons, Young last week signed a two-year deal with team options for a third and fourth season beginning at $1.242 million in its first season.
Asked yesterday about his days on the Southern California AAU circuit, Young smiled broadly and said, "It's amazing, the guys who come through there. I mean, you've got Gil and DeShawn already out here. It's like we're a West Coast team that came back East. The team has definitely got a West Coast flavor."
Notes — Tom Thibodeau, who told the Wizards on Friday that he wasn't taking the job as an assistant coach that he had accepted earlier in the week, apparently never signed a contract and had only an agreement with the team. The Wizards will continue to interview potential assistants while in Las Vegas, but it appears former Minnesota Timberwolves coach Dwane Casey is the front-runner. ...
Before leaving for Las Vegas, the Wizards released center Shagari Alleyne, forward Leon Rodgers and guard Derrick Zimmerman.