Basketball Recruiting Update, July 16th

The sands of basketball recruiting are ever-shifting in July, and here's the outlook for this week: Some news on Mike Fey, UCLA could be sniffing around for point guards, and an early look at some possible targets in the rising junior class...

Mike Fey, the 6-11 center prospect from Olympia (Wash.) Capital, who signed last November but didn't qualify academically this spring, should sign another NLI this November.

This is key, to get Fey locked up again. With a rising high school senior class that lacks big men, Fey is a big commodity and the likes of Washington and Fresno State have already started recruiting him pretty heavily. The indications are, though, that he wants to still be a Bruin. Fey will more than likely enroll at a JC and take classes but not play basketball, while still attempting to achieve a qualifying test score

While things might be getting clearer with Fey, things might be getting a little hazier with Erazem Lorbek, the 6-9 PF prospect from Slovenia. The word is that UCLA is doing very well with him, but the issues that always surround foreign players could come into play with Lorbek, too: the issue of whether he'll turn pro, whether he would actually be determined to already be a pro, and getting him academically accepted. UCLA will more than likely not know all of the details until fall. Assistant Coach Jim Saia will be in Europe during the second-half of the July evaluation period to scout Lorbek and scout out the situation more fully.

With Fey in the fold, it's pretty certain two of the main targets for the remaining four scholarships UCLA can give are Evan Burns, 6-7 SF, Los Angeles (Calif.) Fairfax, and Hassan Adams, 6-4 SR SG, Los Angeles (Calif.) Westchester. Any west coaster who follows high school basketball already knew that Adams is big-time, but now the national scouts – as well as national coaches – have discovered him. He had a great week at the Nike Peach Jam, leading all scorers at the tournament with a 23.8/game average. UCLA will try to work the local angle with Adams while fending off all of the national recruiting attention he'll receive. They have an uphill battle since Adams has indicated that Cal, not UCLA, was his leader.

The prospects targeted for that last available scholarship could be changing a bit. With some uncertainty around Lorbek, at least for a few months, UCLA might want to get its recruits locked up earlier than that. And, if indeed Fey gets locked up by signing a NLI, UCLA might want to give its last scholarship to a point guard. While there are more point guards in the rising junior class with talent, there isn't a Baron Davis in that class, and a few in the rising senior class are just as good, if not better, than the point guards in the rising junior class. Ashanti Cook, 6-0 SR PG, Los Angeles (Calif.) Westchester, might be emerging as a strong candidate for that last scholarship. He's played very well this summer, and UCLA is starting to notice. Also, C.J. Watson, 6-1 SR PG, Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman, could also emerge as the target for that last ride. Or both Cook and Watson could be offered and UCLA would take whomever commits first.

If Lorbek then indeed was cleared to play in college and committed to UCLA, there wouldn't be a scholarship for him, but it would still be a great situation to be in. Put it this way: If Lorbek wanted to come and was able to do so, more than likely Lorbek would be a Bruin also. It would just take some creative scholarship and 5/8 rule juggling.

Another interesting twist is the possible future of Kevin Bookout,  6-8 PF, Stroud (Okla.) High. The word around recruiting circles for a while is that, in the end he'd end up at Oklahoma, which is the local school where his older brothers attend. And that still could end up being true. But Bookout is a standout three-sport athlete, being among the nation's best in basketball, track and baseball.  The new word is that Bookout, a potential Olympian in the throws for track, is intrigued with coming to UCLA to be coached by UCLA track head coach and throw coach, Art Venegas, who is considered the best throw coach in the country.  The latest is that Bookout wants to see UCLA on a track visit. Now, the other twist here is that Bookout could very likely be drafted next spring in the baseball draft. In fact, unless something unforeseen happens, it's a likelihood. So, theoretically, Bookout could do what football player Ricky Manning did -- sign a baseball contract and play baseball during the summer, but then play other sports at UCLA. Bookout could, conceivably, then play basketball and track at UCLA and not cost either sport a scholarship. Bookout is one of the best low-post players in the country, one you would give a scholarship to in a flash. But if you could get him to play for you without giving up a ride, it would be the gift of the decade.  Not to dampen hopes too much, but there is some talk that Oklahoma will go out and hire a throw coach with a big reputation just to get Bookout.

While touching on the subject of rising juniors, here are a few to watch that UCLA already has on its list for next year:

Kris Humphries, 6-7 JR PF, Minnetonka (Minn.) Hopkins. Humphries is an athletic, lean front-court kid with toughness, skills and athleticism. He has indicated he likes UCLA quite a bit. He looked good at the Nike Camp before he was injured, but was reported to be playing well at the Peach Jam.

Omar Wilkes, 6-2 JR SG, Los Angeles (Calif.) Loyola. Who wouldn't want to see the name "Wilkes" on the back of a UCLA jersey again? It's obvious that UCLA is in love with Omar, as is everybody else. He has probably the best feel for the game of a high schooler on the west coast, regardless of class.

Ayinde Ubaka, 6-1 JR PG, Oakland (Calif.) High. He debuted in Fresno during Memorial Day, showing an enormous amount of quickness and talent. Most scouts were waiting to see him this summer, just to confirm that Fresno wasn't a fluke. Well, it wasn't. Ubaka is the best combination of size, speed, quickness, passing and ball-handling among the rising junior point guards. If he gets a consistent jumpshot, he has the best chance among any of them to be among the top 40 players nationally. During Memorial Day, when asked if he had a childhood favorite school, Ubaka said, "UCLA."

Marcus Williams, 6-2 JR PG, Los Angeles (Calif.) Crenshaw. Williams has grown a couple of inches in a little over a year and now has high-major size for a point guard. He seemed to lose some quickness during the growth spurt, but it also seems to be coming back. His ball-handling as improved considerably, and he's probably one of the best long-range shooters in the rising junior class.

David Padgett, 6-10 JR C, Reno (Nev.) High. One of the most promising junior big men in the country, Padgett is also a good student, so he's getting stalked by Stanford so far this summer. He took an unofficial visit to Stanford this spring. Arizona's Lute Olson also has a good, long-time relationship with Padgett's father. Padgett, though, has said UCLA is on his short list.

Ekene Ibekwe, 6-9 PF/C, Los Angeles (Calif.) Carson. Having grown a couple of inches in a year, Ibekwe is still learning how to get control of his body and not very strong. But he is very athletic and has some very nice skills. He could end up the best big-man prospect on the west coast in his class. He has said in the past that UCLA is his early favorite.

Trevor Ariza, 6-7 JR SF, Los Angeles (Calif.) Westchester. Ariza has also grown a couple of inches within the last year. He's now very effective inside and outside, with some sneaky, athletic moves. Many national scouts already consider him a top 50 national player in his class and if he continues to grow and get stronger, the sky's the limit.


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