With the 2011-2012 season entering its last few weeks, it makes you want to look ahead to potentially better times -- the 2012-2013 season.
Last fall, we published a projected depth chart for 2012-2013. Quite a bit has changed for UCLA in terms of recruiting and future depth since then, and there will probably be more changes between now and the end of the school year.
When we projected that depth chart there was an issue of whether UCLA would have enough scholarships to accommodate the entire projected roster. But as is so often the case, things happen, and it doesn't appear to be an issue at this point.
UCLA has eight current players projected to return to the roster for next season. That enables UCLA to give out 5 scholarships to the 2012 class. So far, UCLA has signed two players to NLIs -- Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams. So, it currently has room for three more spring signees.
We've also heard that there is a decent possibility some of the players currently on the roster might not return for the 2012-2013 season. We won't go into details or name names, but we wouldn't be reporting it unless we had strong information that indicated it was a good enough possibility.
With so much in flux it makes it very difficult, then, to put together another projected depth chart, and, as I said, we don't want to name names of players who could potentially leave the program.
Suffice it to say, UCLA will have enough room to bring in as many players as it wants, with 3+ rides open for next fall. It's just a matter, at this point, of whether UCLA seals the deal for the elite prospects it's pursuing, and if there are any other 2012 prospects it will offer a scholarship and pursue seriously.
So much, of course, hinges on what Shabazz Muhammad, the elite small forward from Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman, will do. It's safe to say that, if UCLA gets Muhammad, the recruiting class is "made," and the outlook for the 2012-2013 season, when UCLA re-opens the new Pauley Pavilion, is dramatically better.
It's not a secret that Ben Howland's program has struggled over the last almost-three seasons. In that time, his combined record is 51-40 and, unless this year's team miraculously wins the Pac-12 tournament and gets an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, Howland will have missed on going to the Big Dance in two of the three seasons.
And that's not even counting the 2008-2009 season, which many consider a disappointment also, when the Bruins were bounced from the NCAA Tournament in the second round. In fact, in the four seasons since the last Final Four appearance, UCLA has gone to the Tournament only twice and never got further than the second round.
Again, it's not a secret to conclude that the program has been struggling, at least to a degree, for the last four seasons. We've analyzed it ad infinitum, and that's not what this piece is about. It is about, however, the fact Howland's UCLA program is deeply invested in Muhammad and, if he picks UCLA, his fate as a Bruin. Getting a player of Muhammad's caliber will greatly impact Howland's future in Westwood, and has the capability of breathing new life into a struggling program.
It's pretty well-documented that, if UCLA does get Muhammad, it will be the odds-on favorite to get Tony Parker, the 6-8 post from Lithonia (Georgia) Miller Grove. As we reported recently, we've heard that Muhammad and Parker have both given pretty solid indications that they are coming to Westwood. Of course, so much can happen in the two months or so before the Spring Signing Period. But as of now, that's what we're hearing from sources close to the situation.
That would leave one more open scholarship for the fall of 2012. UCLA has been recruiting two local prospects, 6-8 power forward Zena Edosomwan, from North Hollywood (Calif.) Harvard-Westlake, and 6-1 guard Brendyn Taylor, from Los Angeles (Calif.) Fairfax.
UCLA has offered Edosomwan, and the most recent word on him is that, being such a good student, he's heavily weighing the option of going to Harvard. If he does get admitted into Harvard it could be too compelling for him to pass up. Cal, Texas and USC have also offered and are pursuing him. UCLA got in late with Edosomwan, scouting him last summer but then scaling back its interest until recently when it offered him.
UCLA coaches have been watching Taylor quite a bit this season. He doesn't have a UCLA offer, but he might earn one by the spring. Taylor is a decently athletic guard who is more of a two, but has the ability to guard an opposing point guard, so he could be a good fit alongside Anderson (who will probably run the point on offense but guard the opposing 3 or 4).
UCLA has also shown interest this season in Amedeo Della Valle, the 6-5 shooting guard from Italy who plays at Henderson (Nev.) Findlay Prep. Della Valle has stated UCLA has offered him, but we are uncertain if that's a formal offer. Della Valle has sometimes handled the point position, but he's by far more of a shooting guard, with a good shooting touch but limited athleticism. We've also heard that he's Arizona's if they want him.
There are some other 2012 prospects UCLA has looked into but no one they've actually pursued seriously up to this point.
If UCLA does get the recruiting class we project, it would look like this:
Shabazz Muhammad, 6-5 small forward, #2 Player in the Nation
Kyle Anderson, 6-8 point forward, #4 Player in the Nation
Tony Parker, 6-8 center, #20 Player in the Nation
Jordan Adams, 6-4 shooting guard, #75 Player in the Nation
That class would probably propel UCLA to the #2 class in the nation.
Next Up: How this kind of influx of talent would greatly change next year's team...
Update on the 2012 Recruiting Class
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