With so much opportunity, and UCLA without a commitment – and so much dire need in the class -- the clock is clearly ticking on UCLA's 2014 recruiting class.
The priorities are a point guard, two bigs and then wings.
Getting a point guard, obviously, is an absolute must. With this being UCLA, without a point guard on the roster for 2014, and a good amount of able point guards on the west coast available, you would think this would be an easy sell, but UCLA will almost certainly emerge from the July Evaluation Periods without a point guard commitment.
We believe that UCLA stand a very good chance of getting Josh Perkins, the 6-2 prospect originally from Colorado who is going to transfer to Huntington (West Virginia) Huntington Prep. Steve Alford recruited Perkins while he was at New Mexico; in fact, Perkins has already used one of his official visits on New Mexico. Logically everything points to UCLA: the schools at the top of the list are UCLA, Kentucky and Connecticut, and he has made a date of an announcement as August 25th, his birthday. He hasn't visited Kentucky yet and they haven't offered. He hasn't visited UConn, but they have offered, and the plan is for him to visit both by August 25th. Obviously, if Kentucky offers, the Wildcats would be expected to be the leader. You would think if the choice came down between UCLA and UConn that the Bruins would prevail. As of right now, it'd be a surprise if Kentucky offers, since they're waiting on other elite point guards ahead of Perkins. So, really, it should be UCLA.
One thing of concern: Perkins has been a bit problematic as of late. There are reports of him not having a great attitude at different events and attempting to play too flashy. There's an opinion that his recruitment blowing up – making him a top 25 prospect nationally – has gotten a little bit to his head. Hopefully that's something that is just a matter of maturity and he'll grow out of it.
It will be a month of UCLA holding its breath as Perkins visits both Kentucky and Connecticut. What if Kentucky decides it can't wait on Emmanuel Mudiay, or whether he's actually eligible (former graduates of his school, Dallas Prime Prep, have been deemed ineligible)?
If UCLA doesn't get Perkins, and he announces for another school on August 25th, then things aren't good for the Bruins. Also, if he, for whatever reason, decides not to announce on August 25th, things wouldn't be good for the Bruins.
The other target UCLA has offered is Jordan McLaughlin, the 5-11 prospect from Etiwanda (Calif.). McLaughlin also has said that Gonzaga and San Diego State are the other two schools that are prioritizing him, beside UCLA. As of now, it's really uncertain which way McLaughlin is leaning. We had heard a while back that UCLA was his leader, but we haven't heard anything lately. McLaughlin has said he's in no hurry to commit, and could even wait until spring to decide. McLaughlin, too, hasn't looked like the same kind of prospect this July as he has previously, but it could be due to injury.
As we've said before, there hasn't been a time when recruiting of one position has been more critical to the UCLA program that point guard recruiting for 2014. If UCLA went into September empty-handed, it would be in complete point guard scramble mode, desperate for one, which wouldn't be a good way for Alford's regime to kick off its recruiting efforts. If it went past the November signing period, well, that would be white-knuckles time.
UCLA has started to recruit Robert Cartwright, the 6-2 prospect from La Canada (Calif.) Flintridge Prep, but hasn't offered. In the second Eval Period, UCLA assistant Ed Schilling has attended most of his games (also because post prospect Thomas Welsh is on Cartwright's AAU team). UCLA assistant David Grace called Cartwright in the downtime between the first July Eval period and the second. The problem is UCLA hasn't seriously recruited Cartwright and they're behind. He's been offered by Stanford, and Cal and others have been on him a long time, so UCLA is playing catch-up. UCLA hasn't done much to get in with his AAU coach, Dave Benezra, who will have some influence in the recruitment. Cartwright's parents both went to UCLA, so you would think that would be a plus, but the fact that UCLA has pretty much not recruited him up to this point resonates, as it would with any prospect and family.
So, the situation will be this coming out of July: UCLA will be recruiting Perkins, McLaughlin and Cartwright, without having offered Cartwright. It will hope it gets good news August 25th from Perkins. If it doesn't, it hopes McLaughlin defies what he's been maintaining and looks to commit. If not, they hope they can pivot to Cartwright, perhaps offer at that time, and maybe get a commitment there. But as we said, the boat might have sailed for Cartwright, from what we're hearing.
In other words, point guard recruiting is in a precarious spot.
UCLA really hasn't shown much interest in this July Eval Period in other point guard prospects. UCLA reportedly was showing interest in Dominic Magee, a 6-2 combo guard prospect from Louisiana, before the July Eval periods started, but the staff has been so stretched they haven't really seen him. Magee has been playing in the Pump Tourney in Anaheim since Wednesday but UCLA hasn't watched him. UCLA was supposed to be showing interest in JaQuan Newton, the point guard prospect from Philadelphia, who is AAU teammates and friends with Isaiah Whitehead, the top 25 shooting guard, but UCLA's recruitment of Whitehead has fallen off. The word is that Whitehead isn't seriously considering UCLA anymore.
UCLA has been focused mainly on four wings:
Justise Winslow, 6-6, Houston (Tex.) St. John's. Winslow has been telling UCLA they're among his leaders, but the pretty accepted word in the Winslow recruitment is that Duke and Arizona were the leaders, so perhaps UCLA has been running third. Yesterday, too, the news broke that Kentucky had offered Winslow and it's easy to assume that the Wildcats will be a contender in his recruitment. Alford has a connection to the Winslow family, so we'll see if he can perform some recruiting magic here. We still have to go with the prevailing sentiment we've heard in recruiting circles, and that's UCLA is on the outside looking in.
Rashad Vaughn, 6-4, Henderson (Nev.) Findlay Prep, originally from Minnesota. UCLA has been on Vaughn pretty hard since spring, but we've heard they aren't among the leaders. In fact, good sources out of Minnesota have indicated that Michigan State is the leader. He won't decide until spring, but it the word is that Vaughn has started to make it clear privately who are his leaders, and UCLA isn't on the short list.
Trevon Bluiett, 6-5, Indianapolis (Ind.) Park Tudor. UCLA assistant Schilling is his former high school coach, and there are some other ties to the UCLA staff. Bluiett is guesting this weekend with Indiana Elite, mostly to get a trip out to California. UCLA is probably a legit contender for him, even though the word is that Illinois and Michigan are his leaders and have been recruiting him aggressively for a long time, and that he ultimately might not want to leave the Midwest.
Stanley Johnson, 6-5, Santa Ana Mater Dei. Johnson has become a national target, with Kentucky, Kansas, Duke and Arizona going after him hard. What we hear on who leads alternates between Kentucky, Arizona and USC. There are many close to the situation that believe USC has done a really good job recruiting him and that he'll want to be the man at USC. Lately we've heard that Arizona looks really good for him. While UCLA has prioritized Johnson, we haven't heard that the Bruins were ever his leader.
UCLA has spent a great deal of time watching those four in the first two July Evaluation Periods, and the wing recruiting gets a little uncertain after that.
Namon Wright, 6-3, Los Angeles Pacific Hills. Wright has a UCLA offer, and the UCLA coaches have watched him in July (mostly because he has played on the same AAU team as 2015 target Stephen Zimmerman). Wright is a very good prospect, a very good athlete, who has good quickness on offense and can defend on defense. His shot has been a bit cold this spring and summer so many programs had cooled on him, including UCLA. Wright, though, has been shooting well in the second Eval Period, so you can probably expect some programs to pick up their recruitment of him. We'll see if UCLA is among those.
Trey Kell, 6-3, San Diego (Calif.) St. Augustine. If you're looking for shooters, and it looks as if UCLA is prioritizing them, Kell is the best shooter in the west for 2014. He has a pretty, pure stroke, and has commonly hit 5 to 7 threes per game in July. He's a limited athlete, which keeps him from being recruited at the highest level, but most of the Pac-12 is on him. UCLA had shown some initial interest but has yet to watch one of his games in July.
Kameron Chatman, 6-6, Long Beach Poly. Chatman is perhaps the best all-around long-term prospect in the west for 2015. He has great length and good quickness, can guard a couple of different positions, and is still very skinny and physically developing. Having been a guard previously, he has good ball skills, vision and passing ability. UCLA hasn't recruited him as of yet, but the word is that they've been threatening to for some time. Chatman is originally from Oregon, and will return there for his senior season in high school. Oregon is on him hard, and could be the team to beat, but Arizona, Michigan and UConn have been on him hard for a long time.
Brekkott Chapman, 6-7, Roy (Utah). Chapman is on the lower end of the high majors, with good skills, but limited athleticism and physicality. UCLA's coaches, when they were at New Mexico, were recruiting him, so they know him well. He visited UCLA a couple of months ago, and the word is that UCLA is his favorite; if they offered, he'd commit.
UCLA has been pursuing many national post prospects, and spent a considerable time watching them during the first two Evaluation Periods.
Myles Turner, 6-11, Euless (Tex.) Trinity. UCLA coaches knew Turner before he blew up into a national top-five prospect, and they're hoping that connection is strong enough to weather the onslaught of elite programs that have now made him a priority. Right now he has a list of 26, which includes Arizona, Texas, Kansas, and others, and he said he'll cut his list to 10 at the end of July. Kentucky and Duke haven't offered but they're watching Turner.
Kevon Looney, 6-8, Milwaukee (Wisc.) Hamilton. UCLA has been following the five-star post all of July so far, but Looney, before the second Evaluation Period, said he had a list of 10 schools he's considering, and UCLA wasn't on it: Michigan, Florida, Duke, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Georgetown and Stanford. He said he'll cut his list to five at the end of July, and perhaps UCLA can sneak onto it.
Craig Victor, 6-8, New Orleans (Louisiana) St. Augustine. UCLA watched Victor quite a bit during the first Eval Period, but not so much in the second. The word is that Victor has made indications as to the schools he's favoring, and UCLA isn't on the list. Going into July Arizona was considered the favorite.
Leron Black, 6-7, Memphis (Tenn.) White Station. The nation's #5-ranked prospect has had UCLA coaches at his game, but he just recently listed Arizona, Florida, Connecticut, Baylor, Tennessee, Memphis and Louisville as the schools he's still considering.
Reid Travis, 6-6, Minneapolis (Minn.) De La Salle. Travis has had a great July, really showing off his scoring skills and toughness around the basket. He is a big priority of hometown Minnesota, and he's visited Gonzaga already. He just recently said he wants to visit UCLA August 31st, for UCLA's football game against Nevada. Travis is a D-1 quarterback prospect, too, with football offers (Minnesota, Boston College, Iowa, Rutgers), and he's said he probably will only play one sport in college, and isn't sure which one. The thought is that Michigan State might lead, but that UCLA definitely has a chance.
Thomas Welsh, 6-11, Los Angeles Loyola. UCLA offered Welsh in the down time before July, and has been at his games in the July Eval periods. He's played well, and UCLA has stepped up its interest, calling and talking to Welsh before the second Eval Period. The issue with Welsh is whether UCLA's interest is too late. Cal has been on him hard for a good long time, and they probably lead. Stanford has also been involved for a while, even though they have yet to offer (really just a formality with the Stanford admission process). USC, who has offered, is also a contender. It will be interesting to see if UCLA, after a late start on him, can keep the local kid, the prospect who had been a UCLA fan for a while, having attended many games over the last few years.
Michael Humphrey, 6-9, Phoenix (Ariz.) Sunnyslope. Humphrey was considered a mid-major until he blew up at the Reebok Camp in the first Eval Period, and that garned him some attention and offers, including one from UCLA. He plays for Arizona Magic, which is the AAU program where UCLA assistant David Grace used to coach, so there is a big connection. It's though that UCLA leads the likes of Gonzaga, Arizona, Arizona State, Texas, Colorado and Stanford, because of that connection, but the feeling is that Humphrey will take at least some official visits before he decides.
Idrissa Diallo, 6-9, Los Angeles Cathedral. Diallo has been out all of July with a broken elbow. UCLA has offered, and despite not showing well in April, it's thought that the Bruins are still seriously involved.
Isaac Haas, 7-0, Hokes Bluff (Ala.). Grace has a connection to the big man, and he has said he'll visit UCLA August 30th. He also has visits set up for Purdue (August 23), Texas A&M (Sept. 6) and Alabama-Birmingham (Sept. 13), and has said that Wake Forest, Wichita State or Virginia could get the last visit.
Chinanu Onuaku, 6-10, Upper Marlboro (Maryland) Riverdale Baptist. A new post name is Onuaku, who UCLA has started showing interest in July. At this point, Maryland is supposed to be very far along in his recruitment, and Miami, Pittsburgh and Virginia are on him aggressively, too.
Other things to consider about 2014…
You hate to over-use the word, but UCLA's scholarship situation is also a precarious one. UCLA needs bodies for the 2014 class, or they'll be very short of them for the 2014-2015 season. But, the way the scholarships work out, if they load up too much for 2014, they won't have very many to give to the incredibly loaded 2015 class in the west. If they give out just four rides for 2014, and Anderson goes pro, they'll only have two scholarships to give to the 2015 class. That doesn't count Steve Alford's son, Bryce Alford, potentially giving up a scholarship, or anyone leaving the program. It will tough for UCLA to resist giving out 4 or even 5 to the 2014 class, but it would regrettable if they don't have at least 3, or even 4, to give to give to 2015 and take advantage of the talent in that class.
2015 & 2016
Having to make up ground in 2014, and using a very broad, national approach, UCLA hasn't had much time to watch or scout 2015 or 2016 prospects, especially those in the west, during July so far.
UCLA has watched many of the younger prospects who were on the same teams as UCLA's 2014 targets in the first July Evaluation Period, like Ivan Rabb, and then have prioritized and followed Stephen Zimmerman, the nation's #1 prospect for 2015. Some 2015 players have emerged as potential elite prospects, such as Jeremy Hemsley, the 6-3 shooting guard from LaVerne Damien; Ray Smith, the 6-6 small forward from Las Vegas; and Justin Simon, the 6-4 guard from Temecula (Calif.) Temecula Valley. UCLA's Schilling was at the Battle of the Beach, where he did get to watch a good collection of younger west coast prospects all in one day, like 2105 center Chance Comanche, and 2016 power forward T.J. Leaf, from El Cajon (Calif.) Foothills Christian, whom UCLA recently offered. But UCLA coaches haven't seen perhaps the #1 prospect in the west for 2016, Lonzo Ball, the 6-3 guard from Chino Hills (Calif.) who has been playing in the Pump events.
It will be interesting to see if the UCLA staff can get out more to see the young west coast prospects during the third July Evaluation Period, when a vast majority of UCLA's recruits are in one place, Las Vegas. That begins this Wednesday.