Hoops Recruiting 2004

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 years.


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 best. 


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 ago. 


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.



Charlie Villanueva, 6-9 PF, Blairstown (New Jersey) Blairstown Academy. 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. 


2004 Point Guards


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 program.

Sebastian Telfair, 5-11, Brooklyn (New York) 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, Oakland (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, Kansas, 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, Los Angeles (Calif.) Westchester.  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. Oregon, 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 recruitment.


A Guess – A Player UCLA Might Get Involved With:



2004 Post Players:


David Burgess, 6-10, Irvine (Calif.) 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.  Utah, Louisville and Gonzaga are recruiting him, and possibly North Carolina.  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 commitment.

Hector Hernandez, 6-8 PF/SF, Denver (Col.) 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 Oklahoma, Kansas State, Colorado and others have shown interest.  He's from Chihuahua, 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).

C.J. 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. 


Chris 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.


Robert 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 With:


Davis 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 Forwards:

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, Detroit (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 UCLA.  Illinois, Michigan and 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, Studio City (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, Cal, Washington, USC, Connecticut, Florida and 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. 

Brandon Rush, 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.


A Guess – A Player UCLA Might Get Involved With:


Maarty 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.  Cal, Oregon, 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 summer. 


A few things to consider:


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 targeting...


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