2013 Hoops Recruiting
Basketball recruiting is about to heat up. The July Evaluation Period is right around the corner and there are some other events on the near-horizon that will feature many UCLA prospects, including the Pangos All-American Camp this weekend in Long Beach.
We've already covered so many of the prospects that UCLA is recruiting and watching in the class of 2013, but it's always helpful to go over it again, just for clarification.
As of right now, UCLA has three scholarships to give to the 2013 class. But you can pretty safely anticipate that Shabazz Muhammad, the incoming freshman, will be a strong one-and-done candidate. And then, there's a very good chance that it will be the last year for Josh Smith, the junior center. There is also the possibility that Kyle Anderson, the skilled freshman, could jump early, depending on his season.
UCLA, then, is recruiting like they'll have probably five scholarships to ultimately give to the 2013 class. Even if they don't, it's smart for the Bruins' staff to think that way, since you'd rather have put in the time and over-recruit than get caught with so many open scholarships and no one to give them to.
There is still one more possibility with the 2012 class -- and that's Tony Trocha, the 6-10 center from Colombia who spent time at Houston (Tex.) St. Thomas this past school year. He is currently classified a junior and part of the 2013 class, but he's trying to get re-classified for 2012. If that's the case, he could be taking some quick official visits this spring, with UCLA, Kentucky, Providence, Oregon, and Texas A&M as possible visits. We've heard there could be some issues with him qualifying, but there is still a real possibility it could happen.
In terms of the 2013 prospects, UCLA's targets, at least at the present time, are coming more into focus. UCLA is clearly targeting a handful of players, guys they've offered and are going all out for at this time.
If we guess that UCLA doesn't get Trocha, since there are a few "ifs" in there that have to come through, UCLA's recruiting priorities for 2013 are pretty clear, with three positions at the top of the list.
Point Guard -- The position is the highest priority since, after Larry Drew graduates next spring, the Bruins really don't have a true point. Anderson can fulfill the role on the offensive end of the floor but, at the very least, the Bruins would need someone who naturally matches up defensively against the opposing point guard. And then how long do you have Anderson? It's why LaVine (featured below) is such a big recruit for the Bruins since he can play point guard as well as shooting guard. He's not labeled a "combo guard" because he's one of those players that really isn't either a point guard or shooting guard, he's the other type that can clearly play both positions. LaVine is so valuable because then UCLA could opt for either a point guard or a shooting guard to go along with LaVine, if that's the way the chips fall. Either a guard who can defend the opposing point guard or a true point guard would be ideal to go along with LaVine.
Power Forward -- In looking at UCLA's projected depth chart for the next couple of years, it could be without a power forward type on its roster within two years. Travis Wear and David Wear will be juniors next season and Anderson could very well leave early for the NBA, at least by the end of his sophomore year.
Small Forward -- Muhammad is really the only true college small forward on the roster, which would leave UCLA without one if he jumps to the NBA after next season. It's all about defense, really, having options to match up against opposing players, and if UCLA doesn't have a true small forward -- one who can defend an opposing true small forward -- then someone on the team is playing, and defending, out of position, which always puts you at a disadvantage.
PROSPECTS THAT UCLA HAS OFFERED
Zach LaVine, 6-3 CG, Bothell (Wash.). As we said above, he could be UCLA's most important target at the moment. He showed this last weekend at a Bay Area tournament that he is an elite prospect, and capable of playing both the point guard and shooting guard positions. He also showed the capability of defending either spot, which makes him even more valuable -- especially to UCLA, which, personnel-wise, might be having to figure out some match-up issues with the unique Kyle Anderson on the roster for a while. We interviewed LaVine recently and he volunteered pretty plainly that UCLA is the heavy favorite for him, and it sounds like he could be making a final decision by August. He's slated to visit UCLA unofficially this weekend, when he's in town for the Pangos Camp, and you'd have to think there is some possibility he could pop.
Ishmail Wainright, 6-5 SF, Rockville (Maryland) Montrose Christian. Even though we haven't seen him in a year, he would fulfill the small-forward priority. He remains one of UCLA's top targets for 2013, but we haven't heard lately how the Bruins stand with him.
Marcus Lee, 6-8 post, Antioch (Calif.) Deer Valley. Lee has emerged as one of few elite high-major bigs in west, and UCLA is on him pretty hard, and apparently doing well. Lee is not only valuable to UCLA because he is such a great, athletic prospect, but because of that athleticism he projects to being able to defend either a power forward or center in college. He could easily play alongside Tony Parker in UCLA's hypothetical line-up of the future.
Jabari Parker, 6-7 CF, Chicago (Ill.) Simeon. The #1 player in the nation, UCLA is trying with him, but every elite program in the country is the competition and we don't have any reason to believe that UCLA has a real chance with him. Perhaps the fact that he apparently has some family ties in SoCal, but that's about it.
Isaac Hamilton, 6-4 SG, Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco. We had heard for a while that Hamilton wasn't seriously considering UCLA. He recently took an unofficial visit to campus, and we haven't heard if that changed his mind at all. Hamilton is an offensive-minded player -- a good shooter, who also likes to put the ball on the floor. His primary drawback is that he's not a great athlete, and isn't the best defender, but that, and the fact that he doesn't particularly favor UCLA, hasn't stopped the Bruins from recruiting him heavily.
Semi Ojeleye, 6-6 SF, Ottawa (Kans.) High. He's a well-built good athlete with the ability to score that UCLA is clearly targeting.
Kendrick Nunn, 6-1 SG/PG, Chicago (Ill.) Simeon. Nunn is not only a great shooter but a very good athlete. While he has more of an approach to the game as a shooting guard he's very capable of guarding opposing point guards, which makes him a top priority for UCLA.
Tyler Ennis, 6-1 PG, Newark (New Jersey) St. Benedict Prep. After watching him briefly this last weekend, we're skeptical about his upside since he isn't a particularly good athlete, but we know that UCLA is recruiting Ennis aggressively,
Xavier Rathan-Mayes, 6-2 SG, Huntington (West Virginia) Huntington Prep. Another east coast prospect we saw this last weekend and, similarly, we question the athleticism, even though he is a pure scorer that can really put up points.
Allerik Freeman, 6-4 SG, Charlotte (North Carolina) Olympic. We haven't seen him, but it's clear UCLA likes him. He reportedly has a point guard feel and passing ability, and has Duke, Kansas and Ohio State on him. UCLA has a connection through assistant coach Korey McCray, which is signficant since it was critical in the Bruins getting Parker and Jordan Adams.
Devin Williams, 6-8 PF, Cincinnati (Ohio) Withrow. We haven't seen him, but know UCLA has offered and is on him pretty strongly.
Analysis: As we've written previously, if UCLA could get a combination of three of these players committed and signed by the November signing period it would be considered a huge win. There was some negativity surrounding the program after last season and the release of the SI article, but the good publicity the program got for having one of the elite recruiting classes in the country in 2012 after it signed Muhammad and Parker in spring has seemingly reversed that trend some. It would really signal that all the bad pub had been pretty much averted if it did, in fact, sign three of these elite, national prospects.
Just speculating, but a core class of LaVine, Lee and a small forward type (Wainright, Ojeleye) would be a huge one. If they could throw in a great athlete as a guard (say, Nunn), then it would be cork-popping time.
OTHER TOP PROSPECTS
Dakarai Allen, 6-5 SF, Sacramento (Calif.) Sheldon. The only reason he's not in the top group is because UCLA hasn't offered him. The reason being: Allen's offense is still not as as advanced as other prospects. But here's the thing -- he's a very good athlete who could defend the small forward position, and it's not as if he has no potential for offense. His shot isn't broken, and has the potential to be good. And he's a great passer and puts the ball on the floor well. In our opinion, he'd be a great addition to a UCLA five-man class, giving the Bruins the defensive small forward they need on the roster, at the very least. He's visiting UCLA unofficially this weekend and, while we don't expect UCLA to offer just yet (they probably need to see him more in July), the visit could help to solidify the relationship.
Jaron Hopkins, 6-3 guard from Chandler (Ariz.) Basha. Hopkins would be another west coast prospect we'd love to see UCLA get more involved with. He's an exceptional athlete, with great quickness, who is probably more of a shooting guard but has the athletic tools to defend any opposing guard. He has offers from the Pac-12 and others, and Arizona recently offered, which could be difficult to beat. He's supposed to visit UCLA this weekend when he's in town for the Pangos Camp.
Tosin Mehinti, 6-10 C, Decatur (Georgia) Greenforest Christian Academy. From Nigeria, Mehinti is raw but has a good body and athleticism. He is only starting to emerge and is considered a project, and UCLA is watching him.
Solomon Poole, 6-0 PG, Jacksonville (Fla.) Parker. He's the point guard for the Atlanta Celtics, the former AAU team of UCLA assistant Korey McCray. We haven't heard that UCLA is really involved that much, and have also heard that he's probably Georgia Tech's to lose.
Elliot Pitts, 6-4 CG, Concord (Calif.) De La Salle. Pitts is a skilled guard, with some point guard feel but good scoring ability. He's a bit slight in his frame, which has made some programs wary, but he has offers from Cal, Arizona State and Boston College. He's the type of player that would probably take a couple of seasons to develop physically, but then be very good on the Pac-12 level, and he has decent quickness that lends itself to being a good defender.
Brandon Randolph, 2013, 6-0, CG, Playa Del Rey (Calif.) St. Bernard. A very good athlete who is probably more of a shooting guard than a point guard. He can really fill it up, shooting or off the dribble, and he has the chance to be a great defender.
Jelani Mitchell, 6-4 CG, Pasadena (Calif.) Muir. An intriguing prospect that is skilled and has good athleticism -- and a body to grow into. He has a point guard feel but will probably grow into a shooting guard, while being able to defend both positions. He tends to defer quite a bit and not assert himself on the AAU scene, which could keep UCLA from recruiting him seriously.
London Perrantes, 6-0 PG, Encino (Calif.) Crespi. A pure point guard who has a good feel and passing ability, along with solid skills. Perrantes has limited athleticism, which has limited his suitors. UCLA has shown some interest. It'd be interesting to know if Perrantes would ultimately want to come to UCLA, where he could get recruited over. But, on the other hand, being a pure point guard he could be a big role player for the Bruins, and then you never know: There's always the chance that he could be the only real point guard on the roster and be a big contributor down the line.
Tyree Robinson, 6-3 SG, San Diego (Calif.) Lincoln
Tyrell Robinson, 6-3 SG, San Diego (Calif.) Lincoln. Both Tyree and Tyrell are good athletes that don't have a pure feel for the game, but have some talent. They are probably destined to take football scholarships, which would make them walk-on bonuses for any basketball program. At this time it looks like the twins are leaning pretty clearly to Washington.
Kendall Smith, 6-0 PG, Antioch (Calif.) Deer Valley. A good, pure point guard with good athleticism, Smith has yet to get a scholarship offer, but that will probably change after July. He's the high school teammate of Marcus Lee, so UCLA recruiting him couldn't hurt with Lee.
TreShaun Lexing, 6-6 SF, Tacoma (Wash.) Lincoln. One of the most under-recruited players in the west, the lefty Lexing has exceptional skills -- a nice outside stroke and ball-handling ability. UCLA has only had very mild interest to date.
Analysis: For the past several years, UCLA has spent quite a bit of time recruiting nationally to then ultimately strike out with its national targets. It then found itself circling back toward west coast prospects it could have gotten, but it was generally too late (witness Spencer Dinwiddie or Zena Edosomwan). It will be interesting to see, after finally being successful on the national recruiting stage with the 2012 class, if things have changed and UCLA actually has some cache now with national prospects. If it does, it comes from UCLA assistant Phil Mathews' recruiting abilities and assistant Korey McCray's national connections. Kyle Anderson also could pay off as a good recruiter himself. We're still a bit skeptical, though, thinking that the 2012 class was mostly the result of the Shabazz Muhammad Pied Piper Effect and more an exception than the norm for UCLA. Either way, it would still be prudent to continue to recruit west coast prospects -- those that UCLA hasn't offered yet, like Hopkins or Randolph or even Perrantes. We're skeptical that UCLA will, and could see UCLA getting caught up, again, in the national prospects, only to later be left holding the empty national-prospect bag. Hopefully UCLA will, in fact, get at least a couple from the national list for 2013. But the irony of it all is: a prospect like Hopkins is probably at least as good as a long-term prospect as Ennis or Rathan-Mayes. It's just that the two east coasters have gotten so much more exposure than someone like Hopkins, who doesn't play on a prominent AAU team. He's also not as developed offensively, but is a far better athlete. And Hopkins becomes that much more of an attractive prospect when you factor in that UCLA more than likely has a much better chance of getting him than the national prospects. We'd really like to see UCLA get involved, to the point of offering Allen and Hopkins, and recruit guys like Randolph, Lexing, Perrantes, Pitts and Smith sufficiently enough that they'd be able to have then as real options.
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