Ben Howland and the new staff have two big commitments to date, which is astounding given the state of the program they inherited and it's not even July. They'll be looking to fill at least two more by fall. Here's the pre-summer evaluation period recruiting list, including their local, west coast and national targets...
Generally UCLA's new coaching staff
has a bit of a tough road ahead of it in recruiting. While they're getting some great initial
feedback on the recruiting front, and already got a commitment from the best
player in Los
Angeles in Arron Afflalo, there are some stark realities
they'll have to face as they map out their recruiting for the next couple of
The main reality is that the new
coaches have an academic situation that they have to deal with at UCLA. The program has had some marginal
students in recent years, and some fairly embarrassing situations in regards to
a few recruits struggling to qualify. The UCLA academic committee wasn't very
fond of this with the old coaching staff, and the new coaching staff has
inherited the angst. As a result,
the coaches will be more or less forced to take academics into considerable
consideration, even moreso than usual. What it translates into: It's unlikely UCLA will recruit a player
that is marginal academically. Even if he's qualified by NCAA standards, UCLA
academics now is putting a premium on kids that display an ability to succeed
academically at UCLA.
In today's recruiting landscape,
that will limit your talent pool considerably. The new UCLA coaches now will have more
in common with Stanford when it comes to a recruiting pool than they will, say,
Arizona. At least, in the short term.
Another stark reality is the fact
that the 2004 and 2005 classes on the west coast are average talent-wise, at
Also with the 2004 class, the new
coaching staff is coming in very late in the game. With the new NCAA rules,
where programs can start officially recruiting players in January of their
junior year, the recruiting process has generally sped up in recruiting. A few years ago if UCLA had hired new
coaches at the same time of year it's very probable that they could have gotten
involved seriously with a good amount of recruits during the July evaluation
period. While they still probably
will have that capability, the number of 2004 recruits UCLA will be able to get
involved with in July will be less, since so many of the recruits are further
along in their recruiting process now than they would have been a few years
Combine all of these factors, and
the UCLA coaches have a challenging recruiting situation.
With Sean Phaler getting out of his National Letter of Intent, UCLA currently has four scholarships available. It's unlikely they'll sign anyone else from the class of 2003, but here are the marginal possibilities.
, 6-9 PF, Blairstown
. Villanueva is a big-time
talent, with a sleek, long NBA-type body. He can play inside but has the skills
and mobility to play the 3. He put his name into the NBA draft and the word is that he'll stick with it. Even if he doesn't, he's a longshot to come to UCLA.
Kris Humphries, 6-9 PF, Minnetonka (Minn.) Hopkins. The McDonald's All-American who committed to Duke has gotten out of his National Letter of Intent, parting ways with the Blue Devils. The word is that it stemmed from his family's desire for him to go pro early. It's thought he'll go to Minnesota, but UCLA has contacted him.
So, we can mostly shift our
attention to the 2004 class.
As stated above, UCLA currently has four
scholarships to give, with a commitment from Afflalo filling one of those
slots. It's impossible to predict
if that number will stay the same, but it's quite possible that UCLA could have
as many as five scholarships to give to the 2004 class. In addition to Afflalo, who is a
shooting guard, in order of necessity, UCLA would pursue a point guard and a
center, and then probably a power forward and a wing equally.
Jordan Farmar, 6-1, Woodland Hills
(Calif.) Taft. COMMITTED. Farmar was UCLA's #1 point guard target and the new coaching staff went out and stole him from Florida, Arizona and Gonzaga. It's a fantastic get, for a number of reasons. First,
he's an L.A. kid, and the new
coaching staff really wants to put a priority on re-establishing the mindset
that local kids should stay home.
Secondly, he's among the top 5-6 point guards in the country, and when you go out to look at the other point guard
possibilities in this class there are very little nationally that are
light-years better than Farmar, that have good academics and aren't either
committed somewhere already or already very far along in their recruiting
process. Thirdly, Farmar is pretty good. Now, he's not a big, immediate impact
guy on the level of Baron Davis, and we wouldn't want to hype him up to be that.
But he is a true point guard, with great point guard instincts, combined with
some very good skills. He's a
four-year type of quality kid that Howland needs to re-build the UCLA
Sebastian Telfair, 5-11,
Lincoln. UCLA will more than likely back out of their recruitment of Telfair with the commitment of Farmar. Even if Telfair was interested, it's unlikely UCLA would take him and risk losing Farmar, who is the four-year, solid point guard the program needs. The Telfair recruitment is going to
be an extreme circus anyway. He believes
he can jump straight to the NBA so he very well could commit to a school in
November but then put his name in the draft next spring. If he committed to UCLA, and then did
that, and UCLA lost Farmar, and lost Telfair, it'd be a disaster for the Bruins.
Quentin Thomas, 6-2,
(Calif.) Tech. Thomas is intriguing as a prospect, with
a great body, athleticism and quickness for his size. He has the potential to end up the best
point guard in the 2004 class on the west coast down the line. He has said that he and his family were
UCLA fans for years. Schools like Cal,
Oregon and others are
involved. Thomas, though, is just
an average student for a prospect and will have to improve his academics to
qualify. It's highly unlikely that, given the commitment of their #1 point guard target, Farmar, that UCLA would continue to recruit Thomas. They might, though, want to stay in good standing with him, in case he doesn't qualify and goes JUCO or prep school. By Farmar's sophomore year, he'll more than likely be the only point guard on the team unless they bring in another in the class behind him.
Gabe Pruitt, 6-2,
He verbally committed to USC. No matter, Pruitt will take trips and will still be recruited by schools other than USC.
today Pruitt is a combo guard, but
has great point guard instincts and feel. He's also very skilled, but just needs
to get bigger physically and toughen up some. He, though, has the potential to
really be an elite guard. UCLA will
stay involved with him.
North Carolina and
Maryland are also
possibilities. With Trevor
Ariza qualifying, UCLA could very well feel fairly stocked on the front line, and
think about bringing in one center and three guard/wings, which very well could
include Pruitt. Keep an eye on this
A Guess – A Player UCLA Might Get
2004 Post Players:
David Burgess, 6-10,
Woodbridge. While many observers think that UCLA
should go after bigger game at center than Burgess, we're of the opinion they're
wrong. If you look at the centers
nationally in the 2004 class that have academics and UCLA could have a chance
with, there aren't many. And there are many that would argue that Burgess could
be a much better prospect for UCLA in the long run than many of the more hyped
national names. Burgess, for one,
is a true center. He doesn't float
out past the paint. He plays with
his back to the basket. He likes to block out and rebound (he led ABCD in
rebounding last year). He's
physical and tough. And he has good
skills around the basket. Many have
questioned his athleticism, but he continues to change physically, slimming down
and getting more athletic as he gets older. Burgess is also a good student.
Louisville and Gonzaga are
recruiting him, and possibly North
The word is that Burgess does like UCLA quite a bit, and is in the early
stages of planning his official visit to Westwood. Many feel he could be UCLA's next
Hector Hernandez, 6-8 PF/SF,
Lincoln. Very intriguing player, Hernandez
probably has the best skills of anyone over 6-8 in the west, and he'd measure up
pretty well nationally, too. He's a
consistent three-point shooter, can put it on the floor, has a mid-range game –
basically has it all. Defensively
he's a tweener, probably having to guard a 4, and offensively he's probably a
3. He's also not very explosive off
the floor. But the skills are just
too attractive for UCLA not to look into him. In fact, UCLA has called Hernandez
after he played in the Pump Easter tourney. They'll scout him more and could get
involved. With his size and skills
he has a chance to be, conservatively, a top 75 national player. He said that
Colorado and others have shown interest.
Mexico, and has only been
in the U.S. for
two years. He has solid grades and will take the SAT again (the first time he
took it he could barely speak English).
Giles, 6-9 PF/C, Seattle (Wash.) Rainier
Beach. He's long
and pretty athletic, and runs really well for his size, and is a good shot
blocker. He also has some good developing skills, with a pretty nice
stroke. As he gets bigger and
stronger, and keeps developing in the post, Giles has a chance to be an elite
prospect. USC was thought to be the
heavy favorite, but recently the indication is that he's open. Washington,
Oregon and ASU are involved, too, and UCLA has contacted him and
will scout him this summer.
Miles, 6-10 C/PF, Provo (Utah) Timpview.
One of the best big men in the west and potentially a top 75 player
nationally, Miles has some real potential. He has a great body, with wide
shoulders, the type that could hold quite a bit more weight and muscle. He also is a good athlete while having a
really nice shooting touch. He likes to play outside a bit and is still getting
comfortable playing in the post.
But there just aren't too many 6-10 kids who can shoot like Miles
around. He's probably more of a
power forward right now, and might be better suited at the 4 in college. UCLA
has made inquiries. The word is
that the odds have him staying in Utah, though.
Josh Smith, 6-8 SF/PF, Powder
Springs (GA) McEachern. Considered a top ten player nationally, Smith is truly a
gifted player. He has a body that could play power forward in college, but the
skills of a wing. And he's
freakishly athletic. He very well
could be a candidate to jump to the NBA directly out of high school, especially
since the word is that he's not good academically. He has expressed an interest
in UCLA in the past but it's an extreme longshot.
Brian Johnson, 6-8 PF,
Arlington (VA) Bishop Denis Jay
O'Connell. This could be a case of
UCLA being too late – and it being a longshot to begin with. Johnson is a top
ten player in the class nationally and has the likes of Duke,
North Carolina (probably the
leader) and other elite programs pursuing him hotly. He has expressed interest in UCLA and
has indicated recently that UCLA has contacted him. A longshot, though.
Rothbart, 7-0 PF, Cupertino (Calif.) Monta Vista.
Very skinny, Rothbart has some good skills – and thus likes to play on
the perimeter. And thus why he's considered a power forward. Stanford is all over him, since he has
good academics, and Cal is also pursuing.
He's tripped to Cal officially, and will also visit
Missouri. UCLA isn't
involved and probably wouldn't be unless Rothbart really steps up in summer or a
number of UCLA's other targets fall through.
A Guess – A Player UCLA Might Get Involved
Nwankwo, 6-9 C, North Bethesda (MD)
Georgetown Prep. Athletic shot blocker with good springs,
Nwankwo is the target of just about every major program that requires strong
academics. He's already officially tripped to Stanford and, of course, local
Georgetown is involved. When looking
out at the national landscape, looking for elite players with grades that UCLA
could recruit, Nwankwo could be a likely candidate.
2004 Shooting Guards/Small
Arron Afflalo, 6-4 SG, Compton (Calif.) Centennial. COMMITTED. He committed a week after Ben Howland had the head coaching job. He's a long-time Bruin fan who didn't have UCLA on his list because of the last coaching staff, but as soon as Howland got the job it sealed the deal. He's the #1 shooting guard on the west coast and one of the top five or so in the country, with a great outside stroke, the ability to create, and a great court sense.
Malik Hairston, 6-5,
(Mich.) Renaissance. Hairston is one of UCLA's prime targets,
for a few reasons. First, he's played himself into the category of one of the
best small forwards in the country. He lit up some recent spring
tournaments. Secondly, UCLA
assistant Ernie Ziegler, a former Detroit AAU coach, has some connections. Hairston also has good grades. So, he's the total package for
Missouri have offered, and he's
sure to get more attention this summer, but UCLA is said to be in very good
shape with him. Ohio State could be the leader, but Hairston has said the one official visit he knows he's going to take is to UCLA. It might not take
five open scholarships for UCLA to take Hairston if he wanted to come. It might
not even take four open scholarships.
Marshall Brown, 6-6 SF, Austin (Tex.) Johnson. He's played well in recent camps and his stock has continued to move up. Considered probably one of the top five small forward in the country, with great athleticism and improving skill set. He has said that Texas would be his favorite, but their scholarships are filled up. So, his top schools are now Oklahoma, Missouri, UCLA and Kentucky, with probably Missouri leading.
Bryce Taylor, 6-3 SG,
(Calif.) Harvard-Westlake. The natural question is: How could
Taylor come to UCLA if the Bruins
already have Arron Afflalo? Well,
Afflalo is already 6-5ish and seemingly getting bigger every week. He very well
could end up guarding Pac-10 small forwards and
Taylor could play right alongside
him at the 2. It's possible. And
the word is that UCLA thinks it's possible.
Oregon could be the leader
for him, while Indiana,
Kansas are involved. He'll trip to
Florida next weekend with Farmar
and probably Cal later this month.
David McClure, 6-6 SF,
Stamford (CT) Trinity Catholic. McClure impressed many during his junior
year and played himself into some offers from the likes of Duke and Notre
Dame. He's considered a heady,
skilled wing – who has the essential academics in order. He has expressed
interest in UCLA in the past, and UCLA will probably check him out. He could be
too entrenched in his recruitment with other schools.
, 6-6 SF, Kansas City (Missouri) Westport. The younger brother of JaRon and Kareem Rush, Brandon is making a name for himself in his own right. He's very athletic, and has some nice skills, and looks physically like he could continue to get bigger. He has indicated an interest in UCLA, along with Kareem's alma mater, Missouri, Oklahoma and Kansas.
Guess – A Player UCLA Might Get Involved With:
Leunen, 6-8 PF/SF, Redmond (Ore.) High. A
sleeper on the west coast, Leunen has burst onto the scene, and done so
impressively enough that some coaches from big-time programs came to see him
during the recent contact period.
Oregon State and Gonzaga have reportedly offered. Leunen recently told us that Duke
has made contact, as well as Arizona and Utah. He has good
size and some exceptional skills. UCLA will more than likely scout him this
A few things to
As stated above, this is just a
pre-summer list. You can almost
bank on at least a couple of players being added to this list as the spring and
summer progress. It would be
particularly beneficial for UCLA if some recruits blow up this summer,
especially west coast recruits, and UCLA then has the opportunity to get on them
at approximately the same time as the other elite programs.
Given the recruiting situation,
UCLA finds itself in fairly good shape.
If, say, UCLA has five scholarships to give (and we're not going to
detail out how the scholarships might become available; we've done that numerous
times and it's speculative at this point), there are some possible combinations
of players that could make up a very signficant recruiting class. A class of Afflalo, Farmar, Burgess, and
Hairston, and then throw in one of, say, Heytvelt, Hardin, or Hernandez, and you
have a pretty impressive class. It consists potentially of probably two top 25
national players, and probably at least four top 40 players.
Coming up we'll have a list of the
players in the 2005 class that UCLA will probably be