At the moment, it's on the verge of signing one of the best prospects it's gotten in the last decade or so in Shabazz Muhammad. His commitment, combined with the already-committed Kyle Anderson, would give UCLA the #2- and #4-ranked players in the nation, which would be fairly unprecedented in terms of UCLA recruiting.
On the other hand, recruiting overall is in a bit of a funk. Even though getting Muhammad to go along with Anderson and Jordan Adams could very well catapult UCLA's class to #2 or #3 in the country, it still might not be sufficient enough to really fix UCLA's considerable recruiting needs, both short-term and long-term. And from what we're hearing, UCLA isn't looking very good with the west coast class of 2013.
We've analyzed ad nauseum why the UCLA program is in the state it is, so we're not going there again. Where we will go, however, is to provide you a Recruiting State of the Program.
As we've reported, UCLA is the odds-on favorite to get Muhammad, the 6-5 small forward from Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman. Muhammad is, truly, a program-changer-type of recruit, not only because of his talent, but because of the character and work ethic he'll bring. Anderson, the 6-8 "point forward" from Jersey City (New Jersey) St. Anthony's, is the same type as Muhammad, driven and focused. The combination of the two at UCLA could go a very long ways to changing the program's culture that was described in the Sports Illustrated article and its reputation. In our experience and knowledge of Muhammad, he's an Arron Afflalo-type of kid, but quite a bit more talented.
Before we get into more, we don't want to under-estimate exactly how big of an impact recruits like Muhammad and Anderson make on a program. Not only their talent on the court but their impact off it could very well turn the ship of Ben Howland's program around.
We included an analysis of what the roster could look like next season in a recent article with the addition of Muhammad to the 2012 recruiting class.
Having a successful 2012-2013 season, with Muhammad and Anderson leading the way, very much could be the driving force to turning around the program. One very successful season -- a run to the Final Four, say -- could put the lingering cloud of the SI article behind Howland's program.
But as is everything in life, it's all about timing.
While having Anderson and Muhammad could make a huge impact on next season, there are clear questions as to how even a very successful season would impact UCLA's program for the long-term. Much of it has to do with the early signing period for 2013 recruits. UCLA, as soon as it gets the 2012 class out of the way, will be recruiting the 2013 class between now and the Early Singing Period in November. Right now, we can clearly assert that, without getting into much detail, given the SI Article, UCLA is struggling to recruit the 2013 class. Because of the Early Signing Period, too, UCLA very well could have a Final-Four type season in 2012-2013 but the vast majority of the elite prospects in the nation could already be signed elsewhere by November, too early for a Final Four run to have enough impact to rehabilitate the reputation of UCLA and Howland for the 2013 class.
What are UCLA's options? There could be some elite prospects that choose, for one reason or another, to wait until spring of 2013 to make their college decision. Whether it would be a decision based completely on other factors, or that certain recruits specifically want to see how UCLA will be in the 2012-2013, is difficult to determine. More than likely you can probably bet that not many 2013 recruits that UCLA will actually be involved with seriously will wait until spring of 2013 to decide. You can hold up Muhammad and Tony Parker, the 6-8 center from Lithonia (Georgia) Miller Grove, as two examples of elite prospects seriously considering UCLA that waited until spring to decide, but those are two unusual circumstances, and even that much more unusual that they coincided (but not coincidental). Bottom line: UCLA might have a chance of convincing some elite recruits to wait until spring 2013 to decide, or they could get randomly lucky that that's the case, but more than likely the caliber of recruits that can have a big impact on an elite high-major program like UCLA will decide their college destination by November.
So, the impact of Muhammad and Anderson on the 2013 class, even if they propel UCLA to a big season in 2012-2013, might be considerably moot. In fact, if you're analyzing both sides of it, their presence could very well scare away 2013 recruits who would be worried about getting playing time on a roster with the two of them.
And the thing is: Howland bringing in a successful 2013 recruiting class is probably just as important as that of the 2012 class, given the state of the roster.
Right now, looking at the present personnel, if you count Muhammad, Anderson and Adams, UCLA projects to having just 9 players on the roster for 2013-2014. But you'd have to think that Muhammad would have a very good chance of being one-and-done. You'd also have to think that Josh Smith, UCLA's sophomore center, would be a very viable candidate for jumping to the NBA after next season, his junior year (As BRO reported yesterday, Smith is having his NBA Draft status analyzed for this spring's draft). In fact, if we had to take a guess, we'd say that it's very likely that both Muhammad and Smith leave UCLA after next season for the NBA Draft. That would leave UCLA with just 7 scholarship players for 2013-2014. There is also the possibility that Anderson would be able to make the leap to the NBA after just one season. We think it's not nearly as likely as Muhammad or Smith, but it is still a possibility. Without Anderson, too, UCLA would be down to six scholarship players. For the sake of laying out the most reasonable scenario, let's say that Muhammad and Smith go pro and Anderson stays, leaving UCLA with 7 players and 6 scholarships to give out to the 2013 class. Looking at the roster for just the 2013-2014 season, UCLA would have just three post players -- David Wear (SR), Travis Wear (SR) and Anthony Stover (SR). It wouldn't have a true point guard (we're counting Anderson as a "point forward" that would conceivably run the point on offense but guard a three of four). It would have the 6-8 Anderson, 6-4 Tyler Lamb (SR), 6-2 Norman Powell (JR) and 6-4 Jordan Adams (SO), all of which would be a stretch in guarding any smaller point guards.
Given that roster for 2013-2014, UCLA's recruiting needs would be considerable. Obviously, UCLA would need a smaller point guard type. Actually, it would probably need two. It would definitely need at least one post player but more realistically, two or three, especially since the Wears and Stover would be graduating after the season and the program would then be completely void of a post player. Even getting just two post players wouldn't really be enough. If you got just two, you'd have just two sophomore post players on the roster for the 2014-2015 season (usually it's thought that you need 6 post players on a roster). And it would need to stock up on some wings, since Lamb and Powell would be a senior and junior.
How can UCLA recruit to fill these needs for 2013, given the state we've said UCLA is in for recruiting the 2013 class?
It's a glaring question.
UCLA very well could have a very good shot at Ishmail Wainright, the 6-5 wing from Rockville (Maryland) Montrose. In fact, they're probably doing the best with him among all 2013 prospects. He would plug in as a wing, though, the spot, if there were any, that could have the most long-term "depth" of UCLA's roster (only because of Powell and Adams). In terms of centers and point guards for 2013, it doesn't look good. UCLA is still doing fairly well with Zach Lavine, the 6-0 combo guard from Bothell (Wash.) High. He had been close to committing to UCLA last fall but we've heard UCLA's dismal season and the off-the-court issues have made him open up his perspective. Lavine might not be a true point guard at this stage, but he probably projects as a point down the road, and he also projects to being able to guard a point guard, which makes him highly coveted for UCLA. In terms of posts, the west coast is vastly lacking in talent for 2013, and UCLA isn't doing particularly well with even the borderline-talented recruits, and isn't emerging as a frontrunner with any national prospects at this stage.
So, again, how can UCLA avert a recruiting disaster for 2013?
-- Perhaps the biggest "fix" would be to get Tony Parker in 2012. If UCLA gets Parker, its outlook for the post player depth chart looks quite a bit better. Parker isn't more than likely a one-and-done, and he would, at least, give UCLA a fourth post on the roster for 2013-2014. He would, though, possibly be a candidate to hop to the NBA after his sophomore season, but could even possibly be in college for three years. If that were the case, UCLA would at least have Parker, one lone post player, on the roster for 2014-2015.
We've heard that UCLA is still very much in it with Parker. UCLA was in his house for an in-home visit this week, and the word is that it is almost a daily shift for which program Parker favors. It's between UCLA, Ohio State and Duke.
-- Bring in some more recruits with the 2012 class. Even if UCLA gets Muhammad and Parker, it would still only have 11 players on scholarship next season, and could still give out two more scholarships. We haven't heard that UCLA is seriously close to moving on any other prospects at this time, however. It has to be said that, among UCLA's recruiting mis-steps in the last few years, it repeated its most common mis-step with the 2012 class, falling prey to the same pitfalls as it has in recent years -- thinking it was going to get national prospects, whiffing on them, and then seeing players that were good enough to play at UCLA and be potential 3-to-4-year all-conference types that wanted to come to UCLA go elsewhere. UCLA swallowed a bitter pill watching Spencer Dinwiddie have a very good freshman season at Colorado (Howland even admitted in a press conference this season he should have taken Dinwiddie). UCLA virtually repeated the same scenario in the 2012 class with Tyrone Wallace, the 6-4 guard from Bakersfield who's very similar to Dinwiddie (but perhaps a bit better) and whom UCLA passed on and watched commit to Cal. It did the same thing with Zena Edosomwan, the 6-8 post from North Hollywood (Calif.) Harvard-Westlake, who, like Dinwiddie, Wallace and Edosomwan, dreamed of going to UCLA, but was discouraged by UCLA's lack of interest. UCLA got on Edosomwan this winter, but it was too late; he is now so invested in going to Harvard (being the first top 100 player in Scout.com's history to go to an Ivy League school), he's going to go to prep school and re-classify to the 2013 class so he can gain Harvard admittance.
Where does this leave UCLA recruiting for 2013? In the same spot it has been for the last several years when it whiffed on national recruits and let good west coast recruits go elsewhere: Looking to fill in the recruiting gaps with any marginal high school prospects still left unsigned, transfers or JUCOs.
And as we've said, we haven't heard at this point that there is even a viable possibility among those options.
In other words, as we said at the outset of this piece, even despite getting Muhammad to go along with Anderson and Adams -- and even if UCLA did also get Parker -- its recruiting is in a very precarious state. So much will depend on how well Howland and his staff can quickly rehabilitate their program's image with 2013 recruits this spring and summer, without the benefit of 2013 recruits watching a potentially successful 2012-2013 season. Howland has had some big recruiting successes since he's been at UCLA, but he'll need a Herculean effort for 2013 to sustain his program, even if he gets Muhammad and Parker this spring for the 2012 class.