The list of recruits UCLA is actively pursuing in the 2011 class has gotten considerably smaller.
In fact, there are only really two prime targets remaining, and those two will come to UCLA for official visits this weekend.
Cook, the #20-ranked player in the nation, is a huge recruit for UCLA. The Bruins have missed on all of their point guard targets in 2011 so far, and Cook is the last remaining one that UCLA has offered.
We're hearing that the two primary programs at the top of Cook's list are Duke and UCLA, while he also has plans to visit Villanova on October 22nd, and Kansas has now entered into the running.
Duke presents an interesting situation for Cook. It's pretty well-accepted that Cook likes Duke quite a bit. But there is some uncertainty with the Blue Devils. Duke's incoming freshman point guard is Kyrie Irving, the #1 point guard in the nation in the 2010 class. Irving is expected to immediately be inserted as Duke's starting point guard and it would be pretty difficult to supplant him. Duke, however, is telling Cook that they expect Irving to put his name into the NBA draft after his freshman season, which would open up the spot for Cook. That could very well happen, but it also might not. Duke, historically, hasn't had too many freshmen jump to the NBA. There is also the NBA lockout looming over all of this, which puts into severe doubt whether anyone is going pro after next season.
There is also the element of Austin Rivers, the 6-3 combo guard from Winter Park (Fla.) High, who is ranked the #1 shooting guard in the nation, by Scout.com, throwing a wrench into it all. Rivers is thought to be leaning toward Duke, after taking an unofficial visit there recently and with a planned official visit the weekend of Midnight Madness October 16th. The general belief is that, if Rivers committed to Duke, it could impact Cook's decision, since most experts think Rivers would take over the point guard duties at Duke once Irving leaves.
One source indicated that Duke has offered Cook a scholarship, since they have a couple of scholarships open for 2011 and taking a commitment from him wouldn't preclude them from taking one from Rivers. Other sources assert that Duke hasn't offered Cook and, if they had, he would have committed.
Cook took an unofficial visit to Duke September 16th, and he has plans to visit officially October 15th. Cook is still recovering from knee surgery and it's been tough for him to travel extensively.
But all in all, Duke presents a complicated picture for Cook. It's one, we're sure, that is still very compelling when you have a National Championship banner and Coach Mike Krzyzewski selling you the program. Coach K had an in-home visit with Cook yesterday.
UCLA could make it pretty clear-cut for him this weekend with a positive official visit. While we still believe Duke will ultimately get Cook, there might be a bit of a better chance for UCLA than many believe at this point.
Also taking his official visit to UCLA this weekend is Thomas, the #8 overall prospect in the national class of 2011. UCLA is considered a longshot for the talented Thomas, and they hope to change that with the official visit.
Thomas officially visited Arkansas last weekend, and Tennessee earlier in the month. He'll also visit Florida October 8th and then hometown Memphis October 15th. It's generally believed that Thomas will stay home and play for Memphis, but he keeps insisting he's by no means a lock for them.
UCLA can make a good pitch to Thomas – picking between a Final Four coach in Ben Howland or a fairly inexperienced Josh Pastner, the head coach at Memphis. Thomas and Cook, too, are friends, so that could work in UCLA's favor this weekend.
So, this weekend is truly a make-or-break one for UCLA's 2010 recruiting class.
UCLA is continuing to recruit Jabarie Hinds, the 5-11 point guard from Mount Vernon (New York) High. UCLA has already had an in-home visit with Hinds, and there is some discussion about an official visit sometime in October. UCLA hasn't offered Hinds, and the Bruins are probably waiting to see what will happen with Cook before doing so. Hinds officially visited UNLV, and will officially visit Connecticut, possibly this weekend, and then has an official visit to West Virginia arranged for October 15th.
The Bruins are still trying to become a player for Rodney Hood, the 6-7 forward from Meridian (Miss.) High. UCLA has a plan for an in-home visit with Hood and his family Wednesday. He's already officially visited Florida State and Alabama, but the word is that he has eliminated Alabama from consideration. Georgetown and Louisville will get official visits and Hood is trying to decide between UCLA, Marquette and Oklahoma for his last visit. It will be interesting to see if UCLA can get Hood to agree to an official visit when they conduct the in-home visit Wednesday.
UCLA has also renewed contact with Spencer Dinwiddie, the 6-4 point guard from Woodland Hills (Calif.) Taft. UCLA coaches recently went to watch him play in an open gym at his his high school, and have talked to his parents. Right now, Dinwiddie is considering Colorado, Oregon and Harvard, but had said he had stopped considering UCLA since the Bruins hadn't recruiting him aggressively. Now, with UCLA renewing contact, it will be interesting to see where the recruitment goes. It's pretty easy to assume UCLA won't move on Dinwiddie until Cook has decided, and possibly even Hinds.
The last date coaches can conduct in-home visits is Tuesday, October 5th, which makes it a potentially intriguing scenario for UCLA. After the official visits from Cook and Thomas this weekend, UCLA might want to arrange an official visit Monday or Tuesday with one or both of them to try to seal the deal on verbal commitments. Or, it could opt to visit Hinds again or possibly Dinwiddie. We've heard that UCLA is also looking into other options for the 2011 class, but nothing that has developed to the point it deserves to be reported.