Some News on Hoops Recruiting

In the middle of the second July Evaluation Period, there are some developments in the recruitments of Isaac Hamilton, Marcus Lee, Jordan McLaughlin, and others...

UCLA Head Coach Ben Howland has been in North Augusta, South Carolina, for the Nike EYBL Finals at the Peach Jam for the first three days of the second July Evaluation Period.

Yesterday, Howland watched California Supreme, which features Marcus Lee, the 6-9 post from Antioch (Calif.) Deer Valley and Parker Jackson-Cartwright, the 5-8, 2014 point guard from Los Angeles (Calif.) Loyola. They went up against UCLA target Semi Ojeleye, the 6-5 forward from Ottawa (Kans.) High.

We said yesterday on the BRO Premium Hoops Message Board that Lee could be UCLA most must-get recruit for 2013. Needing two post players, and with a scarcity of them in the west and nationally, Lee, who is a truly elite athlete and prospect, would definitely have to be at the top of the want list. We've heard, however, that Cal and Duke are the current leaders, and will be tough to beat. Cal is the hometown school and they've established a long relationship with Lee, and Duke is the nationally elite school that, sources indicate, Lee is enamored with.

Assistant coach Phil Mathews watched Cal Supreme, with his son, Jordan Mathews, playing for the team, and performing very well. With Mathews really improving his scoring ability there is more speculation about whether UCLA would take the 6-2 shooting guard, but we're hearing that it won't happen.

UCLA is recruiting Tyler Ennis, the point guard from Newark (New Jersey) St. Benedict Prep, and he's playing in the Peach Jam, but we continue to hear that long-time leader Syracuse is still the team to beat and that Louisville might have the best shot at supplanting them.

UCLA's prime wing target, Isaac Hamilton, the 6-4 shooting guard from Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco, is sitting out the second July Evaluation Period, which is actually good. He impressed many onlookers during the first period at the Adidas Invitational in Indianapolis, and helped his stock, and Dream Vision decided to drop out of the NY2LA tourney in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to let the players rest and heal.

We have heard some conflicting information about Hamilton. We had reported a couple of months ago that some influences close to Hamilton would steer him away from UCLA, and we heard those influences still exist. But, on the other hand, he is playing for Dream Vision, which is run by Ron Holmes, the father of Shabazz Muhammad and generally a pro-UCLA organization. So, there are some contrary forces in play with Hamilton. We feel that since UCLA has made and will continue to make Hamilton such a high priority it could overcome the anti-UCLA influences. Also, we believe that Hamilton is a bit skeptical about UCLA's style of play, and if they look good in China -- the offense looks a bit looser, more transition-oriented and gets Muhammad some shots -- it will go a long way with Hamilton.

We heard that Howland watched Johnathan Williams, the 6-9 post from Memphis (Tenn.) Southwind. UCLA has been trying to get involved with Williams.

Howland also took in the Oakland Soldiers, with Tyrell Robinson and Tyree Robinson. The Robinsons will take football scholarships wherever they go, and will then walk on to basketball. In UCLA's case, it's known that UCLA's football program covets the twins, and could fit them into the football recruiting class as a wide receiver (Tyree) and a safety/linebacker (Tyrell).

Stanley Johnson, the 6-5 wing from Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei, also plays for the Soldiers, and he reportedly had a very good performance Thursday in front of Howland. UCLA has already offered Johnson.

Jarell Martin, the 6-8 post from Baton Rouge (Louisiana) Madison Prep, was supposed to be on New Orleans Elite yesterday in the Fullcourt Press Cream of the Crop, but he was a no-show.

We watched Brandon Randolph, the point guard from Playa Del Rey (Calif.) St. Bernard, in the Pump Best of Summer tournament, and are even more convinced he's a player UCLA should be recruiting and keeping warm. Right now there isn't a true point guard -- nationally or on the west coast -- that is both 1) good enough to play at UCLA and 2) that UCLA has a good chance of getting. UCLA, also, has a history of missing on national prospects, particularly point guards (what's the last point guard UCLA actually brought in? Zeke Jones. Besides Zeke, it missed on so many national point guard prospects it recruited over the course of 4 years). And now, UCLA has Kyle Anderson, the 6-8 point forward who will probably function like a point guard on offense but will be unable to guard a point guard. They also have Zach LaVine, the 2013 committed combo guard who would also be able to function as a point guard on offense, if need be. It, then, makes sense, to recruit some prospects who are in the 5-11 to 6-2 range that could, at the very least, guard a point guard, and at the very best be able to function as a lead guard. What you would look for, if this were your intention, was a great athlete who could guard a one, and then whatever offense he brings you, great. If he has some point guard skills, doubly great. Randolph is a guy in this category. He is an exceptional athlete, with a great body and explosiveness. He showed some exceptional athleticism in finishing at the rim Wednesday. Offensively he is quick and can break down defenders very well and really get to the rim. He is continuing to get better with his point guard skills, distributing the ball and running an offense. He, also, is potentially getting recruited by Harvard, so he's a good student, and we've heard he's a great kid off the court.

The same goes for Marcus Allen, the 6-2 guard from Las Vegas (Nev.) Centennial, who is similar to Randolph in being a very good athlete who isn't a true point guard. Allen, though, is a better shooter than Randolph, something that UCLA highly regards at this point. He's also an exceptional student.

Again, if you can't get a capable true point guard, and you have enough scholarships to give, wouldn't it be smart to take a player like Randolph or Allen, who can fulfill a need you are definitely going to have, and that's guarding opposing point guards? Then, UCLA looks likely to get either 2014 point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright or Jordan McLaughlin. Bringing in Randolph or Allen isn't going to scare away either Jackson-Cartwright or McLaughlin, since they recognize them as mostly combo guards, but again, it gives you an athlete who can guard the opposing point guard regardless. Plus, when has UCLA filled their 13 scholarships in any given year? This seems like a no-brainer. UCLA needs to, at least, keep recruiting Randolph and Allen in case they miss on the national point guards they're recruiting.

Wednesday McLaughlin showed his amazing athleticism. He's definitely not an All-Airport type, he doesn't impress you physically when you first see him. He probably is just barely 5-11 and isn't overly impressive in his body. But he has one of those lithe, flexible bodies that can move any direction. He combines that with such good ball-handling, quickness and creativity that he is spectacular at taking defenders off the dribble. His dribble and crossover don't come more than a foot off the ground, and then he can explode, with some serious hops, in finishing at the rim. Combine that with a great outside shot and this is what a truly elite prospect looks like. Playing for Prodigy, Cameron Murray's AAU team, he hasn't gotten much exposure nationally, and national programs haven't had the chance to watch him -- yet. Right now, besides UCLA, USC and San Francisco, other west coasters are clueing in -- like Arizona, Washington and Gonzaga. We could see Arizona making him a huge priority very quickly.

So, there's the question: McLaughlin or Jackson-Cartwright? Who do you take? UCLA looks to be doing very well if not leading for both. You'd like to take both, but they have indicated they both want to play point guard and wouldn't want to go to the same program. The standard answer would be: whoever commits first. McLaughin, with his bigger size and that athleticism, has more upside than PJC. But then, you'd have to think there's a chance for him to jump early to the NBA, and more than likely PJC, who is 5-8, is a four-year college player. We've heard that PJC has planned an unofficial visit to UCLA in August with his parents.

Bottom line: It's a good problem to have if you're UCLA. Arizona, too, would look to be in a good spot to get whichever prospect doesn't go to UCLA.

UCLA assistant Scott Garson spent the first day of the Second Evaluation Period in Los Angeles, but then yesterday in Las Vegas to watch LaVine playing in the Big Foot Tournament. LaVine reportedly twisted his ankle, but recovered later in the day. Garson returns today and will be at the L.A. tournaments.

Howland will return to L.A. Saturday morning. And we've heard that assistant Korey McCray will return from the Milwaukee tournament and be out a bit at the L.A. events over the weekend also.

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