Prince Ali a year ago at this time looked like a top-100 prospect, but by the spring he had begun to take on the look of a top-50 guy. Then, after competing during the summer, he played his way up to No. 38 in the Class of 2015.
Well, based on his stirring play for Weston (Fla.) Sagemont on Saturday afternoon, even that lofty status may be low. Ali led Sagemont past one of the country’s more talented teams, Alpharetta (Ga.) St. Francis, scoring 20 points on 9-15 from the field.
Ali boasts one of the quickest first steps of any wing in the class. He typically attacks right but can go left as well, and very few defenders can contain him one-on-one. Also carrying with a solid frame, he loves to lower his shoulder and power into the chest of opposing big guys who attempt to block his shot. He oddly shot no free throws versus St. Francis, but in the past he has been highly productive at the line.
Meanwhile, his jump shot continues to improve. Previously a short-range specialist, Ali evolved into a deeper mid-range scorer and now looks more comfortable than ever from three-point range. He buried 2-3 on long bombs versus St. Francis, elevating nicely and launching the ball with touch.
The next question is how he can help UCLA most quickly and emphatically. First, he’ll need to get ahead of the curve physically, and he isn’t far away.
”I’m 188 (pounds) right now and would like to be 205 as a freshman,” Ali said. “I’m also working on my jumper, agility and defense.”
The Bruins presently rank a respectable No. 40 in adjusted offense according to kenpom.com, but obviously they aren’t where they need to be when a Kentucky-style massacre occurs. And Ali understandably envisions himself as a potential early contributor.
”Coach Alford says all the time that he sees me as an impact freshman,” Ali said. “I’m just blessed to have the opportunity to play for UCLA and happy that I’m able to go there.”