In that piece, we alluded to the state of UCLA's recruiting for 2013. A poor year on the court in 2011-2012 and the negative publicity of the Sports Illustrated article have made recruiting the 2013 class for UCLA tough. To be candid, UCLA wasn't doing particularly well with 2013 west coast recruits even before the SI article, and it is in a particularly challenging situation now.
So, here's the lay of the land for UCLA 2013 basketball recruiting, and how we could see a path to success, even though it might be a fairly tough one to achieve.
As we laid out in that piece, UCLA could have upward of 6 or 7 scholarships to give to the 2013 class. We do believe, however, that even if UCLA does indeed get Shabazz Muhammad and Tony Parker this spring to add to the 2012 class, the Bruins could also take at least one more player for next fall. With Muhammad and Parker, UCLA would still only have 11 players on scholarship for 2012-2013, so it's not difficult to foresee Ben Howland, someone who ever year has wanted to fill out his 13 scholarships (but hasn't actually been able to), intend to sign one or two more prospects this spring. Now, those players could end up at UCLA from various sources - a JUCO transfer, a four-year transfer or even a high school senior who had committed elsewhere that opened up his recruitment. We really can't get into listing all the potential transfers, for various reasons, but will touch on a couple below.
Let's say, then, UCLA does get one more player this spring that will be on the roster in 2013-2014, and assume that UCLA would have just five scholarships available for 2013.
Given UCLA's image issues, and the lack of talent on the west coast, it could be very tough for UCLA to find five players of elite caliber to fill out those rides, at least by the November Early Signing Period.
There is a reasonable and achievable scenario that could, though, happen over the next year to enhance UCLA's chances to bring in a stellar 2013 class.
But first we have to lay out the entire current situation of UCLA recruiting for 2013.
The talent on the west coast is clearly down for 2013. There isn't one clearly elite high-major true center. There is, really, not one clearly high-major true point guard. And the talent at the other positions is thin. Of course, players will emerge this spring and summer (they always do) but at this time, compared to any given year, there is a starkly thin amount of talent on the west coast for 2013.
It severely hurts UCLA, then, that it has little or no chance with arguably the top five players in the west.
#2 -- Jabari Bird, the athletic wing, has never shown much interest in UCLA, and much of that could stem from his AAU team, the Oakland Soldiers (the AAU team of the Gordons), which hasn't exactly been pro-UCLA.
#3 -- Isaac Hamilton, the sharp-shooting two-guard, is a player that UCLA and Howland have shown a great deal of interest, but he isn't very interested in UCLA, according to good sources.
#4 -- Christian Wood, a skilled, long, power forward, is already verbally committed to UNLV, and wouldn't come close to having the academics for UCLA regardless.
#5 -- Stephen Domingo, a scoring small forward, hasn't ever shown interest in UCLA.
There might be only two more players in the west worthy of a UCLA scholarship.
In other words, the Bruins are going to have to go outside of the west, clearly, to be successful in recruiting 2013. And that presents challenges. We've seen how UCLA has generally done in recent years when it's recruited nationally -- not well. UCLA did get Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams in 2012, and could get Tony Parker, but that would be a unique case of Shabazz Muhammad, the best player in the nation, being a draw to UCLA for those other players. It's an unusual situation, and one that doesn't pertain for 2013 -- where one highly elite national recruit functions as a pied piper to attract more recruits to UCLA.
Given all of this, how will UCLA fill all of those rides for the 2012-2013 season?
There is an identifiable path.
Step #1: Sign 1 (or 2) More in Spring 2012
Trey Zeigler, the 6-5 small forward who is transferring from Central Michigan, is a possibility. Zeigler is leaving CMU after his father, Ernie Zeigler, was let go as the CMU head coach. Ernie, of course, is the former UCLA assistant under Howland, so UCLA is a natural destination to consider. Zeigler recently took an official visit to Duke, and is listing Michigan, Michigan State and Pittsburgh as well (Here's a story concering the latest on Zeigler). We believe UCLA will want Zeigler, since there's the connection with Howland, the program needs to fill scholarships, Zeigler has solid college experience and he's a good kid from a good family.
You can probably expect UCLA to be involved in the Alex Oriakhi sweepstakes. Oriakhi, the 6-9 center, is transferring from Connecticut and, because of the NCAA sanctions against Connecticut, will be granted immediate eligibility to play as a senior for next season. He's going to have a huge amount of programs on him, so it remains to be seen if UCLA will have a chance with him. Of coure, Oriakhi doesn't help UCLA with its 2013-2104 roster.
There are a number of other transfers that have become available already, and more that will in the next couple of months, and you can expect UCLA to be involved with those that are good players with solid academic backgrounds.
Step #2: Sign 2-3 Elite Prospects in November
This isn't unrealistic. Getting five UCLA-level prospects, given UCLA's image right now, is probably unrealistic, but two or three isn't.
Again, UCLA has all spring and summer to identify and aggressively recruit more prospects, and that certainly will happen.
But here are the guys that, as of now, are UCLA's most realistic chance at fulfilling step #2.
-- Ishmail Wainright, the 6-5 small forward from Rockville (Maryland) Montrose, is the #36-ranked player in the nation for 2013, and UCLA is doing well with him, perhaps being his leader.
-- Zach Lavine, the 6-0 combo guard from Bothell (Wash.) High, the #75-ranked player, was close to committing to UCLA last fall, but held back. He's opened up his recruitment a bit but UCLA is going after him very aggressively as a top priority.
-- Semi Ojeleye, the 6-6 small forward from Ottawa (Kans.) High, is the #49-ranked player in the nation. UCLA assistant Korey McCray has an in-road to him.
-- Dakarai Allen, the 6-6 small forward from Sacramento (Calif.) Sheldon, is the #81-ranked player nationally. UCLA was slow to start recruiting him, but as soon as he showed he could score in his junior season UCLA picked up its recruitment of him.
Other Elite Prospects:
-- BeeJay Anya, the 6-8 center from Hyattsville (Maryland) Dematha, is the nation's #12 player and #1 center. He had listed UCLA on a short list last summer, but his list has expanded and the word is that UCLA will be a long shot.
-- Allerik Freeman, the 6-4 shooting guard from Charlotte (North Carolina) Olympic, has mentioned that UCLA is now on him, but Kansas and Villanova are his strong leaders.
Then there are others that could really be beneficial to UCLA if they emerged this spring and summer:
-- Brandon Randolph, the 6-1 point guard from Playa Del Rey (Calif.) St. Bernard, is currently ranked the #87 player in the country. He's an explosive athlete, but still raw as a point guard.
-- Jelani Mitchell, the 6-4 combo guard from Pasadena (Calif.) Muir, will get a good, long look this spring and summer from UCLA, who has already been out to see him during the season. He could be the next Spencer Dinwiddie/Tyrone Wallace.
-- Tanner Lancona, 6-8 post, Las Flores (Calif.) Tesoro, will get overly recruited since he's one of very few high-major post prospects in the west. UCLA will definitely take a look.
-- Elliot Pitts, 6-3 shooting guard from Concord (Calif.) De La Salle, has a chance, with a good stroke and decent athleticism. He'll definitely be on UCLA's scout sheet.
-- Jordan Bell, the 6-8 power forward from Long Beach (Calif.) Poly, is the #85-ranked player in the nation. He's a great athlete with little or no skills and a long ways to go. Pac-12 programs will more than likely be all over him, since there's such a dearth of bigs in the west.
Special Category: The Iffy Guys
There are players that UCLA has shown a decent amount of interest in that we feel wouldn't be good for UCLA, for a number of reasons. UCLA very well might end up with some guys on this list.
-- Roschon Prince, the 6-6 small forward from Long Beach Poly, probably isn't UCLA's level, but the Bruins might be on him.
-- Chance Murray, 6-2 shooting guard, Los Angeles Price, has a good outside shot, but lacks athleticism. We're skeptical UCLA would take him.
-- London Perrantes, 6-0 point guard from Encino (Calif.) Crespi, is a guy on one hand you could see UCLA taking -- namely because there just aren't many point guards in the west, or even nationally, and he had a good high school season. On the other hand, he's not very athletic, so it will be interesting to see if that holds back a UCLA offer.
Tyree Robinson -- 6-3 shooting guard from San Diego Lincoln, is the #82 player in the nation. He has a good outside shot, which we can see appealing to Howland. He has been offered by UCLA football and he's a package deal with his brother, which could scare away UCLA basketball. He could, though, with his brother, be a guy who could walk on to the basketball team as a scholarshipped football player.
Tyrell Robinson, the other 6-3 twin shooting guard who is trying to play some point guard, but isn't. Probably not UCLA's level.
Nigel Williams-Goss, the 6-3 guard from Henderson (Nev.) Findlay Prep, plays for the Pump AAU team, and you could see UCLA falling into recruiting him, but he's probably not athletic enough to be effective at the high-major level, especially as a point guard, the position he consistently plays.
As said above, UCLA could end up with 2 or 3 signing NLIs in November among the names on this list, or others that are added to the list in spring and summer. As you can see, there really is a lack of true point guards and centers on this list. It's going to have to be a matter of UCLA going out across the globe to find some -- somewhere -- in the west if someone hopefully emerges, nationally or internationally.
Step #2: Have a Great 2012-2013 Season
With two or three signed in November, UCLA could have 2 or 3 spots remaining. If it then had a great season, say a Final Four-type run, it could then put all of the bad mojo from this season behind it. As we all know, winning tends to make everything okay. If UCLA wins and is successful in 2012-2013, it could perhaps then have a chance with some recruits that are still available by spring of 2013.
Step #3: Sign 2-3 in Spring 2013
So much will be different in terms of UCLA recruiting by spring 2013 that it's impossible to predict. You can definitely, though, say that the program will be in a completely different place than it is now -- either having resurrected itself under Howland because of a good 2012-2013 season, or not, and Howland's job is in jeopardy. Let's assume it's scenario #1. UCLA, then, would be hoping there were a few recruitable elite-level prospects still available by spring that UCLA would have a chance of getting. Even if there aren't McDonald's All-American-level prospects available, there usually are some unsigned high majors available. A successful season and a rehabilitated UCLA image, along with the new Pauley Pavilion, should give Howland a good edge in recruiting them.