UCLA desperately needs to sign a point guard. The feeling in the program is that Kyle Anderson intends to go pro after one season and, even if the NBA feedback isn't conducive for that, you'd have to still be worried about it. A player prematurely jumping early to the NBA has crippled UCLA before.
And it would in this case because if Anderson did go pro UCLA wouldn't have a point guard on the roster for the 2013-2014 season.
The problem is, at this stage, coming out of July, there is neither many point guard prospects in the west or nationally, nor is UCLA really doing particularly well with the ones they are recruiting.
So that creates another dilemma. UCLA needs to anticipate it could very well whiff on the point guard prospects it's recruiting. In doing so, it needs to perhaps look at other scenarios -- like LaVine possibly playing point guard as a true freshman if 1) Anderson goes pro and 2) they don't get a true point guard in 2013. It wouldn't necessarily be the worst-case scenario; LaVine very well could be just as good running the point as a freshman as any of the point guard targets on this list. In entertaining this as a possibility, a priority then would be finding a guard prospect who could 1) be athletic enough to match-up defensively with any opposing point guard, and 2) bring some kind of offensive skill to the table.
And what if Anderson does return for his sophomore season? He's running the point offensively, you then lost Larry Drew to graduation and then you definitely need a guard in the 2013 class who can defend opposing point guard.
It seems like it makes logical sense to find an athletic combo or lead guard in the 2013 class, but UCLA isn't really pursuing any aggressively at this time, putting all of their eggs in the basket of the point guards listed below.
Remember, too, defending the point guard spot is critical for Ben Howland's program. Defending the ball and getting opposing teams out of their offense as much as possible is the basis for everything Howland tries to accomplish on the floor.
Tyler Ennis, 6-2, Newark (New Jersey) St. Benedict. The word is that Ennis is going to Syracuse and, if not, Louisville is the program running second. UCLA is trying, having sent a coach during July all over the country to watch Ennis. In fact, assistant Phil Mathews went to Ontario, Canada, on the last weekend of the Evaluation Period, to watch Ennis.
Here's the thing with Ennis anyway -- while he might be a true point who would be able to probably best run the offense as a true freshman, he's not greatly athletic and would probably be a defensive liability. So, in the scenario laid out above, in which Kyle Anderson leaves after one season, what would you rather have: Ennis as a true freshman running the point, probably being passable offensively at the position but struggling defensively? Or LaVine running the point, and probably being a little less passable offensively but by far better defensively, plus then you also have another freshman who can take some of the burden of defending opposing point guards off his plate, or have Norman Powell, who isn't ideally suited to guard a point but would be a junior veteran by then, matching up defensively against the opposing point guard?
At the very least, it seems pretty close to a wash. It's mostly a wash because any true freshman running the point in UCLA's offense is probably going to struggle some. The only true freshman who played point guard under Howland at UCLA is Jordan Farmar, and he did struggle as a freshman. Darren Collison, an NBA point guard, didn't do it, and wasn't capable of doing it. One of the 12 best players in the world, Russell Westbrook, couldn't do it as a freshman.
But both Collison and Westbrook were athletic enough to at least defend the point guard position.
Rysheed Jordan, 6-3, Philadelphia (Penn.) Vaux Roberts. We haven't ever seen Jordan, or don't remember him if we had. But sources we trust say Jordan is a very good athlete, but not a pure point guard. Just because he's an athlete we tend to like the possibility here, since he reportedly would be athletic enough to defend the point guard spot. The problem is we're hearing UCLA isn't currently among his favorites, those are Maryland and Xavier. Perhaps when UCLA now, after the Evaluation Period, starts recruiting him aggressively that will change. But so many east coast programs were able to follow around Jordan all of July, better than UCLA since, well, remember, UCLA is based on the west coast.
Roddy Peters, 6-3, Forestville (Maryland) Suitland. We have seen Peters and liked him. He's long and pretty athletic, and showed that he'd have a very good chance of defending the point guard spot well with the combo of his quickness, length and energy. He's at the beginning of his learning curve in being a point guard, but he definitely has that kind of feel and approach on the offensive side, too, showing a very nice passing ability and instinct for setting up teammates. UCLA hasn't offered, however, and was a player they discovered during July, so the Bruins are getting on him late. What will undoubtedly be an issue that could slow down UCLA's recruitment of Peters was the fact he injured his shoulder in Las Vegas, so the UCLA coaching staff didn't really get a look at him. We'll see if Howland proceeds to recruit him from here without having seen him that much.
Other Combo/Lead Guard Options:
Stevie Clark, 5-10, Oklahoma City (Okla.) Douglass. Clark isn't a true point guard but can really shoot it and score, while also has the capability and athleticism to guard the position. UCLA was set on taking Clark if he were going to come in as a 2012 recruit, but the Bruins have seemed to cool on him as a 2013 prospect. It's a bit curious as to why, though. We understand that UCLA believes it wants a pure point guard for 2013, but it's looking more and more like that's going to be a longshot. So if Clark was someone they wanted to take in 2012 as an alternative to a true point guard, it makes sense to consider him as an alternative to a true point guard in 2013. But, as we said, UCLA didn't seem to show him much attention in July.
Marcus Allen, 6-2, Las Vegas (Nev.) Centennial. Allen is a phenomenally athletic prospect. He is explosive, quick, with great feet, and can elevate and finish like he's going up an elevator. With that athleticism he can be a menace defensively; I saw him in Vegas literally shut down an opposing point guard when he wanted to. On top of that, he's not by any means limited offensively. He's a scorer, being able to take it to the basket with an explosive step and elevate. He's a good shooter, and is money in mid-range off the dribble. He also has some point guard feel, being a good passer. His handle is probably the aspect of his game he'd have to really improve if he were to be a point guard, but Allen knows, if he's going to play at an elite level -- or be a pro -- he's going to be a point guard and knows it's what he needs to develop. You don't ever want to make this comparison, and I'm doing so with the highest degree of disclaimer: He is a bit Westbrook-esque. Now, please, don't ever throw this in our faces later if Allen doesn't make the Olympic basketball team. Westbrook was a special case; we, admittedly, didn't even project him to be the level of player he is today. But what we're saying is that Allen is the same type of player as Westbrook, similar size and athleticism at the same stage of their career, but we'll even say that Allen is probably more developed skills-wise at the same stage. He's definitely a better shooter than Westbrook was and, heck, Westbrook still isn't a great ballhandler. He's also similar because he, up until this point, always played point guard leading up to this point in his career, and has some point guard orientation to the game. But here's where Allen differs from Westbrook: Allen has a 4.8 GPA.
There are some stumbling blocks in UCLA recruiting Allen: 1) A UCLA coach only saw Allen play once this July, and it was assistant Scott Garson and not Howland. Howland usually needs to see a player -- extensively -- before a UCLA offer can be tendered; 2) Allen has been thought to be a package deal with his twin brother, Malcolm Allen. We talked to him during July and he said that wasn't necessarily the case, that if opportunities presented themselves to him he'd consider going somewhere different than his brother. The Allens' mother is a Stanford grad, but there could be some issues -- namely scholarship limits -- for Stanford to take both of the brothers. The thought is -- if the twins will divide up, then, UCLA could have a legit shot, especially since up to this point they've only been receiving mid-major attention.
Brandon Randolph, 6-0, Playa Del Rey (Calif.) St. Bernard. Randolph is another very good athletic combo-type guard. He's not on the level of Allen, a bit shorter and not as top-end athletic, but he still is very capable athletically of defending the point guard spot. UCLA coaches did see him a few times this July, but it's doubtful they'll pursue him.
Bottom line on UCLA's recruiting of 2013 point guards: If it can pull off Ennis or Jordan -- or even Roddy Peters -- great. But it doesn't look likely at this point, and UCLA seems to not be prepared at all for striking out with them, and finding other alternatives (like an athletic combo guard) in case they do. It's strikingly similar to recent years when UCLA went out nationally to recruit point guards and struck out, with no alternative plan. That (and Dominic Artis backing out of his commitment last fall) has led to UCLA not getting a point guard commitment from a high school point guard since Jerime Anderson five years ago.
An analysis of 2013 wing and post recruiting is coming soon...