Update on 2012 Hoops Recruiting

With the commitment of point guard Dominic Artis you might think UCLA's recruiting class is very solidified, but there is still quite a bit of uncertainty about UCLA's recruitment of "bigs"...

It was a strange day in Las Vegas Saturday – at least for UCLA and its coaches – when two of the top AAU teams the staff was following lost prematurely.

The Oakland Soldiers, with newly-minted UCLA commit, Dominic Artis, and a whole host of prospects, were eliminated in the first round of bracket play, as was Kyle Anderson, the 6-7 point forward and his team, the New Jersey Playaz.

Ben Howland and his staff had nothing to do Saturday night and had a chance to have a good meal, rather than one at Taco Bell.

The Soldiers' loss was a shocker. Having won the tournament last year, the talent-laden team was pretty loose, feeling like they were destined to do it again. The loss came at the hands of Branch West, coached by long-time AAU coach Bob Gottlieb. You could see the Soldiers didn't take the game seriously, which is a mistake since Gottlieb's teams are always one of the most well-coached and prepared teams in the west.

There wasn't much in terms of recruiting developments – other than Artis' commitment, of course. With it, UCLA takes another step in solidifying its recruiting class, and it's a big one, getting its first commitment from a high school point guard since Jerime Anderson committed to the Bruins as part of the 2008 recruiting class back in 2007.

So, UCLA has its long-awaited point guard to go with a shooting guard, Jordan Adams. It intends to bring in a five-man class, so the program is looking for three more (despite only having one more scholarship available).

Of course, the big fish is the #1 player in the nation, the 6-5 wing Shabazz Muhammad, from Las Vegas Bishop Gorman. His AAU team, Dream Vision, is still alive and play in the second round of bracket play this morning at 9:00.

There are rumors floating about Muhammad, that Kentucky has become his leader, mostly, but from what we're hearing UCLA is still the leader. We still have information that makes us believe ultimately hometown UNLV will be UCLA's biggest competiton for Muhammad.

If UCLA does, indeed, get Muhammad, then they will mostly be looking at bigs with the last two scholarships they want to give out, but there could be some scenarios where that isn't the case.

The biggest "big" targets continue to be William Goodwin, the 6-7 power forward who plays with Adams on the Atlanta Celtics; Brandon Ashley, the 6-8 prospect on Oakland Soldiers, and Anderson, the 6-7 point forward. We continue to hear that Arizona is the leader for Ashley, and Goodwin plays it very close to the vest. We had heard the day before in Vegas that Anderson and Muhammad are friends and have talked about playing their college ball together, and that would be at UCLA.

There is also Robert Upshaw, the 6-11 center on Dream Vision, who is someone that presents a unique situation – for any program recruiting him. Upshaw has had an up-and-down July, starting out slowly with a minor injury and then having what looked to be some motivation problems. That's the kind of stuff that will sour you with college coaches. But then, to the kid's credit, on Sunday he found some motivation and played easily one of his best games of the summer, looking not only like the excellent prospect he is but a future pro. How far his agility and athleticism has come is astounding. Howland was in the gym for the first half of the game and UCLA assistant Phil Mathews for most of the second, but it's uncertain at this point how aggressive UCLA will be in recruiting Upshaw. It's hard to figure in "fit" issues, but it's not as if he's a dime-a-dozen wing; there just aren't too many 6-11 future pros out there, on the west coast and even in the nation.

UCLA is sniffing around other bigs. They've tried with Grant Verhoeven, the 6-8 power forward/center from Visalia (Calif.) Central Valley Christian. He's easily one of the small number of best bigs in the west. UCLA has attempted to recruit him but he's not responding to UCLA's overtures.

They are looking into Josh Scott, the 6-8 power forward/center from Monument (Col.) Lewis-Palmer, who is verbally committed to Colorado, with UCLA's staff having taken in a couple of his games in Las Vegas. Ben Carter, the 6-7 power forward from Muhammad's high school, Bishop Gorman, might also be someone UCLA will consider.

It's clear that, up to this point, UCLA was sitting pretty confidently about Adams, Artis and, even to a degree, Muhammad. But the bigs recruiting is definitely not nearly as certain. UCLA looking around at bigs is definitely an indication that Howland and staff are very uncertain about Anderson, Goodwin and Ashley. From what we've heard, UCLA is in good shape with Anderson (but Anderson, in actuality, might not even be considered a true "big" because of his style of game). Remember, too, Goodwin has said he wants to play football in college and that could be a potentially stumbling block with UCLA. While many kids talk a good game, Goodwin is an eccentric enough personality to actually follow through on his intention to play both sports in college. UCLA looking at other bigs could be that it feels it might only get one from these three, or is uncertain it could even get one of them.

And then it will be interesting to watch Upshaw's recruitment. He has said he could wait until spring and if that's the case that's a long time with plenty of things yet to happen in his recruitment.

UCLA is still very much on Zena Edosomwan, the 6-7 power forward who plays for Belmont Shore, which also got bumped out of the Fab 48 tournament Sunday. Being a good student, a good "fit,", wanting to go to UCLA and someone who would be a four-year guy is looking a lot more appealing these days. Edosomwan struggled some when he went up against bigs like Grant Jerrett, the Arizona commit, and Ashley, but then again, if Edosomwan came to UCLA he wouldn't probably have much of a chance to play against those guys since both will probably go pro before Edosomwan would be a redshirt junior. Edosomwan is looking like a good fit, a guy who could come in, sit and develop for a couple of seasons, and then be ready to be a major contributor down the line. He's athletic, smart, and has shown the capability to improve, which he has done dramatically over the last year, and he's a hard worker.

It could be that UCLA very well could take only one big with the 2011 class and it wouldn't be a blow. If you project the roster, the Bruins could still have a good number of frontcourt players for the 2012-2013 season, and a few who could be with the programs for another year after that. So, UCLA could maybe opt to take another wing or guard.

Arnaud Moto, the 6-5 wing from Cameroon, who is out with an injury for the rest of July, appears to be the #1 wing/guard target this point, behind Muhammad. We've heard, though, that UCLA will be among his finalists and the Bruins have a shot. He'll also be the main target if UCLA doesn't get Muhammad.

Then there is Tyrone Wallace, the 6-4 guard, who has improved his stock with solid-to-very-good play in July. He has said he wants to wait until spring to decide, and that very well could get him a Bruin scholarship offer when all of this shakes out.

So, another day and you think UCLA's recruiting, with the commitment of Artis, might be a little more solidified, but actually there is still quite a bit left up in the air.

And that's taking the potential commitment of Muhammad a bit for granted, which shouldn't be done. He's the #1 prospect in the nation and a requisite amount of drama goes along with that, creating a situation where anything could happen.

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