It's A Whole New World

With the quick commitment of the #1 shooting guard in the west, Arron Afflalo, Ben Howland has already started to prove -- in less that two weeks on the job -- that UCLA has the potential to be a huge power in college basketball recruiting...

It took five days for Ben Howland as UCLA's new head coach to get a commitment from the #1 shooting guard in the west and one of the best in the country.


Five days.


Howland was announced as the new head coach April 3rd, he started recruiting Monday April 7th and Arron Afflalo committed Saturday, April 12th.


Afflalo went from not listing UCLA to committing to UCLA within a week.


Within that first week as UCLA's head coach, Ben Howland also visited the #1 point guard in the west, Woodland Hills Taft's Jordan Farmar.  Farmar also wasn't listing UCLA before April 3rd. Now, good sources say that UCLA is among Farmar's top three schools and might be the team to beat for him.


Reports are that UCLA is on the short list of schools for the #1-ranked player in the country, point guard Sebastian Telfair from Brooklyn (New York) Lincoln High School. 


Whoever thought it could be this easy?


Actually, many did. In fact, many on this site have maintained it for quite a while.


Actually, we've been maintaining for years that as soon as UCLA got a head coach with a reputation as a good coach -- that combined with UCLA's natural advantages would make UCLA one of the most formidable recruiting powers in college basketball.


Well, the UCLA administration has certainly done its part and gone out and gotten a good coach.  Around the basketball offices, it's all business now. No phone calls lasting for hours with reporters. No talk of flying to baseball games or getting restaurants to hold open their kitchen for the coaching staff. No watching Montel Williams in the afternoon.   Remember that classic description of the UCLA basketball offices when a writer a couple of years ago described how hard the staff worked? "Lunch is for wimps."  That might actually be how it is now in the UCLA offices.


On the same day that Howland was named the UCLA coach, you would think he would have been overwhelmed and pressed for time. After all, there was the press conference, endless media interviews, meeting with his team, calling the members of his old team, etc.  But within a few minutes of being introduced to the basketball office staff, Howland asked for the fall and winter grades of the players on the current roster. And he wanted it in ten minutes.


Many around the athletic department heard the story, chuckled and said to themselves: "It's a whole new world."


In fact, that's really all we've been saying to ourselves for the last two weeks: "It's a whole new world." We find ourselves breaking out and singing that corny Disney tune of the same name from Aladdin (MaverickBruin might want to take a shot at some alternative lyrics).


UCLA got a commitment from one of the best players in the west who wouldn't have even considered the Bruins if a coaching change hadn't been made.


It's a whole new world.


The head coach, within a couple of days, visited probably the three best players in the junior class in the Southland – Afflalo, Farmar, and Irvine Woodbridge center David Burgess.


It's a whole new world.   


We spoke with an assistant of an east coach power today. He said he thought that they could beat out every team involved with a certain recruit in the junior class – except UCLA.  He said that, for now on, they'd probably have to settle on getting the best players in the west who UCLA decided not to recruit because of scholarship limits or lack of a need at that position,  or because UCLA got a better player at that position nationally.


It's a whole new world.


There were the dozens of times in the past several years that we've heard various Pac-10/west coast assistants utter the phrase:  "If UCLA ever gets a coach..." and end the phrase with something like "...damn," "look out," or the ever-popular "it's over."


Are you humming that corny tune yet?


We reported a few weeks ago that an assistant coach from a very strong program in the west was interested in getting the best combo guard he could, and asked about a certain player.  But when the west coast scout he was speaking with said to him, "Well, one problem. I think the kid likes UCLA and they're going to have a coach now." The assistant coach said, "Oh, right. Things are going to be different. I forgot." That player was Arron Afflalo.


Watch Ben Howland actually visit the schools of some of the best sophomores in Southern California in the next couple of weeks.  The fact that he knows who they are is revolutionary enough.


So, is there anyone left out there doubting that UCLA has natural advantages in recruiting and all it needed was a good coach that worked hard?


We acknowledge that it's still very early, and one commitment from one recruit does not a dynasty make.  But it's also time to acknowledge all those who, through the dark ages, recognized the potential recruiting power of UCLA.  And  it's probably safe to say at least that it's just the beginning of a whole new world in UCLA basketball recruiting...

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