UCLA freshmen: early look

Transition can exert an immense toll on a program's recruiting, but Steve Alford managed to keep key pieces on board and even made a critical pickup late to bolster the Bruins.

UCLA's recruiting endeavors became the talk of the town in the late fall, as the Bruins reeled in a strong class after months of uncertainty and disappointment.

But their recent hot streak pertained to the 2014 class and actually served to obscure their success late with 2013 prospects. Clearly, most recruitniks became at least somewhat familiar with the Isaac Hamilton saga. The Los Angeles native signed with Tim Floyd and UTEP last fall, but he opted not to enroll and — after controversy and some ugly speculation about the hows and whys of his decision — opted for UCLA.

Hamilton appealed to the NCAA for immediate eligibility, but his case was denied and thus he's sitting out this season while practicing with the team. When he becomes eligible in 2014-15, he should become an immediate impact scorer for the program.

We published our final team recruiting rankings prior to Hamilton's switch, and thus the Bruins' class would slot more highly in hindsight than it did (No. 19) at the time.

In addition to Hamilton, UCLA also signed another top-30 talent in Zach LaVine. The athletic guard has demonstrated his outstanding shooting touch so far this season, burying a fantastic 52 percent (12-23) on threes. That number won't be sustainable versus tougher competition, but his accuracy nevertheless has been very impressive.

LaVine actually places second in scoring behind established star Jordan Adams and, while coming off the bench for the time being, projects as a lynchpin starter for multiple seasons. He scored 21 points in his most recent outing, versus Nevada, and earned 26 minutes in the process. Look for his role to continue to expand.

Steve Alford's son, Bryce, is the other freshman drawing extensive playing time. The younger Alford has earned 22 minutes per game and is scoring five points an outing, though he has struggled with his marksmanship.

Wing Noah Allen had received a few minutes as well, but he recently suffered multiple facial fractures after a collision for a loose ball and underwent surgery. Ultra-bouncy forward Wanaah Bail debuted versus Nevada after recovering from knee surgery in June. He should factor into the club's rotation this season, even if he's more of a rejector and finisher now than a consistent offensive weapon.

Coaches rarely get judged for their transition class from the previous regime, and few will affix this one too adamantly to Alford, either. But to the extent his early successes do result from the 2013 class, he deserves credit for keeping it intact and for making such a wondrous late addition with Hamilton.

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