UCLA continues to scour the country looking for a recruit who could come in this fall and make an impact. They've scouted many, made some preliminary calls, but really haven't recruited anyone seriously.
There are reports that UCLA is recruiting De'End Parker, the 6-5 guard/wing from City College of San Francisco. We have heard that Ben Howland did go by the school to check out Parker, but to our knowledge UCLA isn't recruiting Parker seriously – at least yet. The word is that Parker, even though he's being touted as a point guard, really is a wing. In that case, it could very well be a matter of UCLA waiting to see if there are any wing defections from the roster this spring, namely whether Tyler Honeycutet decides to go pro. We feel UCLA would look at giving out a scholarship to a wing if that were the case, but doubt it if Honeycutt returns for the 2011-2012 season.
At this point it's truly uncertain whether Honeycutt will, in fact, leave early for the NBA Draft. There are just too many factors that are left to play out between now and this spring.
If UCLA were to add to its roster for the 2011-2012 season, it's more likely UCLA takes a point guard, even if Honeycutt decides to stay – that is, if UCLA finds a point guard it feels is worthy.
As we've reported, one possibility is Chris Anderson, the 5-7 prospect from Anaheim (Calif.) Canyon, the little brother of current Bruin Jerime Anderson. Anderson has vastly improved, possessing very good athleticism, being particularly quick, and a having a very good true point guard feel along with some considerable toughness. His size, obviously, is the factor. But the word is that Anderson, with that quickness, would be able to guard Pac-12 point guards. In fact, many close to west coast recruiting believe Anderson will probably end up at a Pac-12 school. At UCLA he very well might not ever be a clear starter, but he could give UCLA quality depth at the position, and the option of matching up with all the smaller, quicker point guards UCLA has struggled against in recent years. And he could get some considerable playing time merely because he'd be the only high school point guard UCLA has taken in two years. Anderson also looks like he could continue to grow, and definitely continue to fill out. Howland has yet to see Anderson this season, and probably won't have much of a chance to see him, which is vital for UCLA to make a decision on him. If UCLA deems, by April, say, that there is a spot for a point guard of Anderson's caliber, Howland could very well still have a chance to check out the prospect then. It could be a question of whether Anderson is willing to wait around until – or past – the beginning of the April signing period.
A considerable twist in UCLA's spring recruiting is the development of Larry Drew, the junior point guard at North Carolina, having left the UNC program. The word from many sources, including his mother's Twitter account, is Drew, originally from Woodland Hills Taft, intends to go transfer to UCLA. There's quite a bit of controversy over the prospect of it; many feel that the perceived unscrupulous departure from North Carolina would tarnish UCLA. On the other hand, after he redshirted next season, he'd be a senior in the 2012-2013 season, and that could be a good fit since UCLA doesn't have a point guard who will be on the roster for that season. If, say, UCLA did get a point guard in the 2012 class, he'd be a freshman that season, and it could be a very good situation in which the experienced senior Drew holds down the position along with a talented freshman point guard who could take that season to gain experience.
There is much uncertainty over it. Perhaps the most certain is that nothing will be done about it until later this spring. Howland, at this point, is very concentrated on the current season, and the staff would probably want to wait until spring to see what other options there are. There could be a high school point guard that still emerges, or even more transfer options.
So, that leads us to 2012 recruiting.
Currently UCLA has four scholarships to give for 2012 – that is, if everyone who is slated to be on the roster in 2012 is indeed still on it by then. As we said, Honeycutt could be an early jumpee. We've been told that Reeves Nelson might not be with the program by his senior season. There is also speculation that there could be other players who transfer out, but we haven't heard any substantiated information to that effect.
It probably is pretty safe to assume that, if Honeycutt doesn't jump to the NBA after this season, he almost certainly will after his junior year. UCLA would probably also assume that going into this spring and summer's recruiting, which would have them looking to fill five scholarships. Figure in the uncertainty over others on the roster, and it's probably very safe for UCLA to feel they'll have five rides to give out.
So, with possibly 5 scholarships it seems like there are plenty of spots available, but in actuality, there might not be.
And the reason why could be very good news for Bruin fans.
We're hearing that Shabazz Muhammad, the 6-5 SG/SF from Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman, the #3-ranked player in the nation overall, is a solid lean to UCLA. In fact, as of now, many close to the situation feel that Muhammad is, in fact, going to be a Bruin. Yes, it tends to contradict many of the published reports out there, but we wouldn't be reporting it unless we had it on good authority.
Muhammad would be a huge recruiting coup for the Bruins in the 2012 class. It gets UCLA one of the elite players in the nation at a position of need, and the type of player UCLA needs to bring into the program -- a good character kid who plays hard all the time.
But it does so much more because Muhammad is potentially a pied-piper recruit who will attract others to play with him.
In fact, the word is that Xavier Johnson, the 6-6 SF from Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei, intends to play on the same AAU program with Muhammad (the one, Dream Vision, run by Muhammad's father). Johnson has said publicly that he and Muhammad are talking about playing in college together, too, and we've heard that that would be at UCLA. Johnson is one of our favorite prospects in the west for 2012, having a great amount of upside while he's continued to improve – while also being a kid who plays with high energy and effort himself.
If UCLA were, in fact, able to get Muhammad and Johnson, the entire dynamic of UCLA basketball could change. It would go from, in recent years, having an issue in regard to some players not playing with optimum effort, to having two work-their-ass-off types that would help to return UCLA to the dynamic it had during its Final Four years under Howland.
If UCLA does, indeed, get Muhammad and Johnson, it would also have two spots taken up by two elite wing-type prospects. Before it appeared that UCLA's scholarship availability was considerable, but if UCLA has those two on board the scholarships get scarce quickly. The plan, too, is for UCLA to give out one ride to a post player in 2012; even though it has good depth for the 2012 season in the frontcourt, all of the guys on that projected 2012-2013 roster are upperclassmen, and you'd have to think there is a possibility that they might not all be here by that school year. Nelson would be a senior, and Josh Smith would be a junior, and it's pretty uncertain at this point if we'll see Smith in a UCLA uniform that season. So, say, for 2012, you give out a ride to a post player, and then, say, Muhammad and Johnson, you probably only have two others to give.
Then, say, completely hypothetically, UCLA does take Drew as a transfer, and he takes up another one of those scholarships.
UCLA quickly could be down to having just one ride available for another guard. And, remember, UCLA needs some point guards. It definitely wants to bring in a 2012 point guard.
UCLA has been spending a great deal of time out recruiting and scouting 2012 point guard prospects. The two national prospects UCLA has been pursuing are L.J. Rose, the 6-2 prospect from Houston (Tex.) Second Baptist; and James Robinson, the 6-3 prospect from Hyattsville (Mary.) DeMatha Catholic. Rose is the #2-ranked point guard in the nation and Robinson is #11. UCLA has offered Rose, who has California ties, and they're pursuing him very seriously. Robinson is a guy many national scouts think has some considerable upside, with a real point guard feel and passing vision.
UCLA assistant coach Scott Duncan is spending a great deal of time out nationally, trying to find more 2012 point guard options, mostly because the options on the west coast are so scarce.
As of right now, the best guard possibility on the west coast is Tyrone Wallace, the 6-3 prospect from Bakersfield (Calif.) High. Wallace has the approach and feel of a point guard, but could very well grow out of the position. He could, though, be good enough to take regardless.
You'd have to think that, if that Drew-Muhammad-Johnson scenario actually comes to fruition, UCLA would then have a bit of a luxury to hold out and see if they could get the highest level 2012 point guard prospect, like Rose. If, say, Muhammad and/or Johnson commit elsewhere, it could perhaps make Wallace a bit more attractive, and offerable, since UCLA would have so many guard/wing rides to fill and he could probably also play some off-guard.
As it is so often with recruiting, it's about timing and what's public knowledge. The timing of Muhammad/Johnson commitments could be key to how UCLA recruits its other 2012 prospects. Whether UCLA has silent commitments, too, could very well affect their recruiting moves.
What we do know for sure, though, is that probably nothing is going to happen with 2012 recruits UCLA hasn't offered like Wallace until summer, when Howland has definitely seen them enough and UCLA knows more about the status of Muhammad and Johnson.
OTHER 2012 WINGS/GUARDS:
Richard Longrus, 6-6, Oakland (Calif.) Bishop O'Dowd. A player with some considerable upside. Offensively still very raw, but has the athleticism to guard multiple positions. UCLA has verbally offered Longrus.
Roscoe Allen, 6-7, Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman. Very skilled offensive player. A kind of poor man's Tyler Honeycutt.
Kyle Anderson, 6-7, Patterson (New Jersey) Patterson Catholic. Considered an elite national prospect, he's so good with the ball many consider him a point guard. He recently visited UCLA unofficially, so the Bruins will have a shot.
Ryan Wright, 6-5, Palmdale (Calif.) High. A nice, well-put-together athlete.
Jordan Tebbutt, 6-5, Tualatin (Ore.) High. Another well-put-together player who can shoot from the outside, but could end up being a four man.
Victor Robbins, 6-4, Compton (Calif.) High. A big-bodied kid with good skills. Came to UCLA's camp.
Jordan Adams, 6-5, Mouth of Wilson (Virg.) Oak Hill. One of the better wings in the nation, UCLA has offered, but will be battling many east coast powers for him.
Isaac Hamilton, 6-4, Los Angeles Crenshaw. A skilled scorer who is also a good athlete, and one of the best shooting guards in the west for 2011.
Brandon Ashley, 6-8, Oakland (Calif.) Bishop O'Dowd. He's one of the best post players in the country, with very good athleticism and quickness. Howland has been to see Ashley, which is unusual, and is a testament to how highly UCLA regards him.
Robert Upshaw, 6-11, Fresno (Calif.) Edison. He's the best true center prospect in the west. He is still gawky and doesn't move smoothly, but he continues to improve at a very good rate and, when he finally grows into his body, he could be a big-time player. UCLA is showing him a good deal of interest.
Grant Verhoeven, 6-9, Visalia (Calif.) Central Valley Christian. Probably not quite at UCLA's level just yet, but has improved, and if he continues to improve he could be. Fundamentally sound and skilled.
Skylar Spencer, 6-7, Los Angeles Price. A long, nice athlete who is a good defender and shot blocker at this point, and has great upside.
William Goodwin, 6-7, Decatur (Georgia) Southwest Dekalb. A prospect getting national attention who recently said UCLA was on his short list of favorites.