Coach Steve Alford spent his first moments at AAU basketball as a UCLA head coach at the Nike EYBL watching Stanley Johnson, the 6-5 small forward from Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei, play with the consistently best AAU team in the west over the last few years, the Oakland Soldiers. The Soldiers were down by halftime, and Johnson didn't have a good first half, but he showed some considerable grit and the Soldiers came back to beat a loaded Mac Irvine Fire team (who, though, was playing without Jahlil Okafor). Johnson is a talented kid, whose best trait is probably his will to win and consistency with how hard he plays. He told us after the game he still had the same seven schools on his list, he had already met with UCLA coaches at his school during the Recruiting Period, and was looking forward to taking his official visits to UCLA and USC at the beginning of May.
Playing for Mac Irvine Fire was Marcus LoVett, the 6-0 2015 point guard from the L.A. area who is home-schooled. LoVett is a very talented kid, with some nice skills, particularly strong ball-handling ability who also sees the court very well. We've heard there could be some complications in his recruitment and we'll see if he's a good fit for UCLA.
Ivan Rabb, the 6-8 2015 post, from Oakland (Calif.) Bishop O'Dowd, is his teammate on the Soldiers, and perhaps the #1 prospect in the 2015 class in the west. He's long and explosively athletic, and has started to develop a nice left on offense. We've heard that the new UCLA staff has vaulted into the sweepstakes for Rabb.
Alford stayed on the same court for the second game, to watch California Supreme, which features Zylan Cheatham, 6-7 2014 post, Phoenix (Calif.) Westwind Prep; Payton Dastrup, 6-9 2014 post, Mesa (Ariz.) Mountain View; Iziahiah Sweeney, 6-2 2014 SG, Compton (Calif.) High; and Aaron Holiday, 6-1 2015 PG/SG, North Hollywood (Calif.) Campbell Hall. Cheatham is interesting, with a good body and good athleticism. He's a bit slight, and narrowed-shouldered, but he plays hard. You have to give credit to any kid who clearly recognizes that it's his first exposure of the AAU season to college coaches and he's playing with inspiration – because you wouldn't believe how many don't. Cheatham, right now, is definitely on UCLA's list, but he'll either have to really show he's clearly a UCLA-level prospect or they discover, say in July, that there just aren't enough available bigs in 2014. Sweeney is a nice athlete who can really defend, with an improving outside jumper – and also on UCLA's list. The word is that Dastrup could be going on his Mormon mission right out of high school. Holiday is a big-time prospect, and we've heard that UCLA is going to make an effort to reach out to former UCLA players, and some contact with his older brother, Jrue Holiday, could really help to seal the deal for the little brother.
Alford then watched Justise Winslow, the 6-6 2014 small forward from Houston (Tex.) St. John's, the #1 small forward in the country. Winslow looked good, with an already-college-ready body. The previous UCLA staff was recruiting Winslow aggressively; if you remember, Winslow took an unofficial visit to UCLA for its unveiling of Pauley Pavilion. The new staff has made contact with Winslow, according to sources close to him, and he's still very interested in UCLA. A big attraction for Winslow is academics, coming from a very academic family. There's a good chance Winslow could visit UCLA's campus after the EYBL event.
Also on Houston Hoops is Kelly Oubre, the 6-6 2014 wing from Richmond (Tex.) George Bush. The lefty had some nice moments Friday night. The previous UCLA staff was recruiting Oubre, and the new one has continued to. Oubre could visit UCLA's campus with Winslow.
Next up for Alford was 2014 6-4 SG/SF Trevon Bluiett, from Indianapolis (Ind.) Park Tudor, playing with Spiece Indy Heat. Blueitt, the #49-ranked player in the nation, has good skills and a good feel, with a pretty thick body. He, of course, played for UCLA assistant Ed Schilling at Park Tudor this last season.
Playing for ICP Elite, a Portland team, was Kameron Chatman, the 6-6 2014 SF from Long Beach (Calif.) Poly. He moved from Oregon this last season, thus the reason he plays for ICP. He had to sit out the season (except for one game, actually) due to eligibility isues with the transfer, and he actually looked a little rusty Friday. He has a very nice body, long and lean, and it's good to see that he's put on some thickness in his shoulders. He flashed some nice skills and passing ability. He's definitely on UCLA's list.
Alford was joined by new assistant David Grace, and they watched the New Jersey Playaz, particularly 6-2 2015 guard Isaiah Briscoe, from Union (New Jersey) St. Benedict.
Grace also watched the Boo Williams team, which is from Virginia, and actually was the first organization in which Grace coached, so he has a deep connection with Williams. A player to watch on that team is 7-0 2016 post Thon Maker, from Martinsville (Virg.) Carlisle.