With the return of Evaluation Periods in April, this last weekend was a hectic one for college coaches around the country, including the UCLA coaches.
Coaches were allowed to attend AAU events from Friday night to late Sunday afternoon, and with so many events scattered around the country it made it difficult to spend any decent amount of time in any one place.
UCLA Head Coach Ben Howland was in Seattle Friday night, Minneapolis Saturday and then Las Vegas Sunday (And that was after a week of being on the road watching players at their high schools).
It's significant that the first day of the Evaluation Period Howland went to see Zach Lavine, the 5-11 combo guard from Bothell (Wash.) High, play in a Seattle tournament. UCLA definitely needs a point guard type in the 2013 class, and Lavine has always been a top priority.
Howland then joined up with UCLA assistant Phil Mathews in Minnesota for the Nike EYBL, which easily had the most talent of any event in the nation. Some of the UCLA recruits that were there:
Ishmail Wainright, 6-5 SF, Rockville (Maryland) Montrose Christian. He remains one of UCLA's top targets for 2013.
Semi Ojeleye, 6-6 SF, Ottawa (Kans.) High. UCLA is among his few favorites.
Marcus Lee, 6-8 C, Antioch (Calif.) Deer Valley. Emerging as one of few elite high major bigs in west. UCLA will be on him.
Kendrick Nunn, 6-1 SG, Chicago (Ill.) Simeon. Great-shooting athlete.
Jordan Bell, 6-7 PF, Long Beach (Calif.) Poly
Tyree Robinson, 6-3 SG, San Diego (Calif.) Lincoln
Tyrell Robinson, 6-3 SG, San Diego (Calif.) Lincoln
Parker Jackson-Cartwright, 5-7 PG, Los Angeles (Calif.) Loyola. Was very good in Minneapolis. UCLA was thought to be leading previously but it appears he's opened up his recruitment some.
Stanley Johnson, 6-4 SF, Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei. Showed well over the weekend. UCLA covets him. He told Scout.com that he's in the early stages of the recruiting process but mentioned the entire Pac-12, Kentucky, Texas, Syracuse, and North Carolina as schools that have displayed interest.
UCLA assistant Korey McCray was in Las Vegas throughout the weekend, and assistant Scott Garson was in Los Angeles for the Double Pump Boys Hoopfest.
Since we were in Las Vegas, here's our review of some of the prospects McCray saw throughout the weekend and Howland saw Sunday.
Isaac Hamilton, 6-4 SG, Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco. Hamilton is a good shooter, and that has gone a long way in getting him highly recruited by elite programs. If you're a program that's looking for a good outside shooter, he's your man. If you're looking for an athlete, he's not necessarily. He also is out of control at times, trying to force the game without a great feel. We're not saying by any means that Hamilton isn't a good prospect, but that he might not be the #24-ranked player in the nation. When it comes to UCLA and Hamilton, it's a strange situation. Sunday morning, when Howland first arrived in Las Vegas, his first stop was to watch Dream Vision and primarily to see Hamilton. So, UCLA clearly is prioritizing Hamilton. But we've heard from a couple of reliable sources that Hamilton isn't seriously considering UCLA at this time. Perhaps it's a matter of Howland feeling they can get involved, or that they believe they are already.
Dakarai Allen, 6-5 SF, Sacramento (Calif.) Sheldon. And herein lies the dilemma. Who is a better prospect, overall and for UCLA, Hamilton or Allen? Allen is perhaps the polar opposite of Hamilton. He isn't a good shooter. His stroke isn't broken by any means, but it takes him a long time to get it off and it doesn't go in as much as you'd like. He, on the other hand, is a good athlete. Not great, but good. He could easily guard the 3 and the 2 in college, but that's if his body doesn't go the way of a power forward. We would suspect he'll stay in the 6-5 range and remain agile enough to guard the 2 and 3. He also, though, has a very good feel for the game and is a good passer. And interestingly, he also has a pretty good handle, even with his left hand. So, really, if Allen had even just a fairly good jumpshot he'd be ranked among the handful of best wings in the nation. We've heard that UCLA has shown some interest in Allen, but Howland didn't show to his game Sunday afternoon.
Solomon Poole, 6-0 PG, Jacksonville (Fla.) Parker. The #26-ranked player is a very good athlete, with a built-out body. Because UCLA lacks athleticism, you'd like to see the Bruins get him merely because of that. We were told he doesn't have a great feel, but in the game I watched he ran the team well and made some nice passes. We're hearing he's leaning heavily to Georgia Tech, but that if something falls out there UCLA would have a chance.
Elliot Pitts, 6-4 CG, Concord (Calif.) De La Salle. Pitts has the feel and vision of a point guard, and very good skills, and can shoot it. He's probably a shooting guard in college, and he has a slight frame, and is just a decent athlete, which might scare off some programs. He may not have the upside of some of the better athletes in the class, but he knows how to play and he makes shots from all over the court. He's among the top two guards in the west for 2013. Hr dsif California has offered him a scholarship, and also has interest from UCLA, Georgetown, Colorado, Stanford and Washington State.
Jaron Hopkins, 6-3 guard from Chandler (Ariz.) Basha. One of the best athletes in the west, Hopkins has a chance to play multiple spots at the next level. His decision-making needs to improve if he's to play the one, but he has the size and athleticism to defend possibly one through three at the next level. He's only a fair shooter at this time, but he's terrific at getting to the rim. He needs some coaching and polishing, but there's a big upside here. Just simply being a great athlete that can guard three positions sets him apart. He's the kind of kid UCLA has recruited much recently and, from we hear, as of right now, Arizona isn't recruiting him too seriously.
Tre'Shaun Lexing, 6-6 SF, Tacoma (Wash.) Lincoln. We saw him play a game and a half and it was pretty much an eye-opener. There aren't too many times a player can completely surprise you by the spring/summer going into his senior year -- to this extent, when you realize he might be among the top five prospects on the west coast for his class Lexing has a great body and is a good athlete. He combines that with an advanced skill set, with a pretty lefty jumper, with a range out to 3, and then an excellent handle. He's too strong and quick for most threes or fours, and with that handle he can get into the paint pretty easily and, once there, he can definitely finish with athleticism and creativity. What really makes him exceptional, too, is his passing ability. He likes taking his defender off the dribble, penetrating and then dishing, and does it well. He was pretty much a revelation -- to find a player who is so clearly an elite high major, playing at such a different level than those around him. Perhaps the one worry would be the fact that he's fairly built-out right now, and whether he might end up growing into a power forward. But even at the four he'd still be a great prospect. He told us he has offers from Washington State, Gonzaga and Cal Poly and is being recruited by Santa Clara and N.C. State, so he's relatively unknown, too, among college coaches. He also is reportedly a decent student. Howland was at Lexing's game Sunday, watching Isaac Hamilton.
Malik Pope, 6-6 SF Sacramento (Calif.) Capitol Christian. A long, slender and baby-faced young wing, Pope has a very high ceiling. He's an exceptional passer, with outstanding vision, and he plays the game the right way. He moves very well for his size and it's quite possible he's still growing. He handles the ball like a guard and, while he didn't shoot a lot of jump shots, his stroke looked fine. He's got a chance to be among the top prospects in the west for 2014.
Namon Wright, 6-4 SG, Los Angeles (Calif.) Pacific Hills. A prototype two guard, Wright has the size, athleticism, skills and feel to play at a very high level. He's a good shooter to the stripe and he can finish strong at the rim over size. He's one of the younger players on his travel team, and doesn't always get a ton of shots/minutes as a result, but he's one of the elite prospects in the west for 2014.
Payton Daystrup, 6-8 post, Mesa (Ariz.) Mesa Mountain. Easily one of the few best post prospects in the west with tremendous upside -- great body, pretty athletic and decently skilled for a soph.
Stephen Zimmerman, 6-10 C Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman. Perhaps the best prospect in the west regardless of class, Zimmerman is extremely long, agile and skilled for his age. He handles the ball very well for a young big and he runs like a deer. He plays hard consistently and shows a very nice feel for the game. With huge feet and extremely long arms, it's quite possible he's still growing. He's got a chance to be one of the elite prospects in the country for 2015. He's going to be the subject of a huge recruiting war -- and UCLA should have the inside track since his mom is a Bruin and he comes from a dyed-in-the-wool Bruin family. Howland was at his game Sunday, making it a priority, sitting center court.
Nick Pete, 6-7 PF/C Hemet (Calif.) Tahquitz. A long and young-looking prospect, Pete moves very well for a young big. He's got a terrific frame, with good feet and hands. He's not real skilled at this time, but he's one to watch in 2015.
The primary prospects playing in Los Angeles were:
Brandon Randolph, 2013, 6-0, CG, Playa Del Rey (Calif.) St. Bernard. He's a very good athlete that could possibly solve UCLA's semi-long-term issue with finding a good defensive point guard. The question is whether he is actually a point guard or not, and whether he could grow into one. He definitely likes to shoot the ball quite a bit. UCLA is evaluating him.
Jordan McLaughlin, 2014, 5-11 PG, Etiwanda (Calif.) High. He's beginning to emerge as serious competition to Jackson-Cartwright for being the best point guard in the west for 2014. He got raves at the Pump event, as the best prospect there (even though that wasn't saying much since there wasn't much talent). UCLA is definitely all over him and would be ecstatic with either Jackson-Cartwright or McLaughlin as its point guard for 2014.
A note: One of the most significant developments that many were discussing in Las Vegas -- and which does affect UCLA recruiting -- is the falling out between the Pumps and Adidas. Adidas essentially has dropped the Pumps, even though the Pumps will contractually still be able to use the Adidas name of "Three Stripes" on a tournament. But other than that, there is no affiliation remaining. It's significant for a couple of reasons: 1) The Pumps are seemingly going to put on events that directly compete with Adidas events, like they did this last weekend, which further fractures the AAU landscape and 2) It was highly convenient for UCLA that the Pumps were for many years putting together teams of elite prospects in Los Angeles under the Adidas banner. It's not that the Pumps ever steered a prospect toward UCLA, which they don't do since it's not really in their interest to do it, but it was advantageous for UCLA in many ways. It made kids comfortable with Adidas, which is what they'd be wearing and using at UCLA; It, like it's stated above, it brought elite players together in L.A.; It got those players close with each other, which then made it easier for them to envision themselves going to UCLA with other Pump alumni. With the Pumps backed by Adidas, they were able to put on fairly high-level tournaments locally, enabling the UCLA coaching staff to see Pump players and other elite players from around the nation often. And there are many other advantages. That now will no longer really be the case. The Pumps will still function, and put together teams and put on events, but -- like it was this last weekend -- their teams weren't nearly as stocked with talent as they once were, and neither will their events be.
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