As we've pointed out a few times, UCLA's point guard recruiting is critical to the future of Steve Alford's program. UCLA doesn't have a pure point guard on the roster, so getting one in 2014 is obviously important, and getting a good one is critical.
UCLA has offered two point guards, Josh Perkins, the 6-2 prospect originally from Colorado who will play his last season in Huntington (West Virginia) Hunting Prep, ranked #18 in the nation; and Jordan McLaughlin, the 5-11 prospect from Etiwanda (Calif.), ranked #24 in the nation.
The lynch pin here is Perkins, since he has set a date for an announcement on August 25th. UCLA was thought to be the leader, but the picture has been muddied a bit coming out of July. It's believed Perkins is considering UCLA, Kentucky, Connecticut, Gonzaga and USC, and you could make a case for any one of them that they could get him, given some of the information we've heard. He has said previously he intends to visit Kentucky and Connecticut before his deadline, and those visits will be key. As of right now, Kentucky hasn't offered Perkins, because they're waiting on Emmanuel Mudiay, the elite point guard prospect. Mudiay, however, might not decide until spring, and might have some eligibility issues, so that would make you believe Kentucky would possibly move on to Perkins as its next option. However, we've heard that Kentucky is very confident it's getting Mudiay and, even though he hasn't verbally committed, could possibly be confident enough to wait on him until spring. The fact that Perkins was injured (separated shoulder) in his first game in Las Vegas was perhaps good for UCLA, since it didn't allow Kentucky's John Calipari to watch Perkins extensively. But you can't predict what could happen on an official visit to Kentucky. Calipari could just decide to get his point guard recruiting finished and offer Perkins, only on the contingency that he take the offer. Perkins is also expected to visit Connecticut, but from what we've heard they're probably running fifth in the horse race.
The dark horse is Gonzaga. If you remember, he's already visited Spokane, and they've been recruiting him the longest. In Las Vegas, we heard that Gonzaga is doing well with Perkins. USC, perhaps is in fourth.
Combine Perkins' situation with McLaughlin and it becomes a bigger puzzle for UCLA. McLaughlin has said he wants to wait to decide, possibly until spring. That means if UCLA misses on Perkins they'd potentially be gambling on McLaughlin all the way to spring, which is a pretty bad scenario. It's known that McLaughlin's main schools are UCLA, USC, Gonzaga and San Diego State. There is very little information floating around about which way he's leaning among those four, but we do know that USC and San Diego State has been recruiting him particularly hard. He told us he has one visit planned so far, one to USC on September 7th. And then we heard from sources in San Diego that SDSU is doing well with McLaughlin.
Where does that leave UCLA? Pretty much on the edge of a precipice in regard to point guard recruiting. The Bruins were thought at one time to be the leader for both Perkins and McLaughlin, but it's uncertain now. It still makes logical sense for UCLA to be the call on Perkins, given his time frame of August 25th for a decision, but logic seldom has an impact on recruiting.
What makes the situation even more complicated is Robert Cartwright, the 6-2 prospect from La Canada (Calif.) Flintridge Prep, ranked #72 in the nation. Cartwright looked good in the last Eval period, with UCLA coaches, including Alford, watching many of his games. Cartwright doesn't have a UCLA offer, and just started recruiting him in July. Cartwright almost certainly has Stanford, which has offered, in the lead, while USC is in there but hasn't offered, along with Harvard, which is a real option for such an academically-minded kid. So, the question is: Should UCLA offer Cartwright? The Scout.com west coast recruiting analysts have spent a great deal of time considering who is the best long-term prospect among the three – Cartwright, Perkins and McLaughlin – and you could make a case for any of the three. Perkins is probably the most talented, but he has issues, with questions arising about his cockiness and attitude. McLaughlin hasn't shown the kind of athleticism this July he was known for previously, and is still a work-in-progress as a point guard. Cartwright has less of a ceiling than both of those two, but a higher floor – meaning he has more of the point-guard check list items than the other two, like leadership, toughness, and competitiveness. His potential, though, isn't as high as that of Perkins and McLaughlin.
Offering Cartwright and recruiting him aggressively, though, is only a positive thing. UCLA is already behind in his recruitment, and if UCLA offered him he wouldn't immediately commit. So you'd get the credit for offering without having to worry about him committing before Perkins' decision. Plus, like I said, UCLA is behind in his recruitment and if they even want to have a chance with him they would have to get on him hard, now. With point guard being so key to Alford's new regime it might be a matter that you offer Cartwright, recruit all three of the prospects really hard and take the first to commit. You'd hate to put all your eggs in the Perkins basket, be left empty-handed August 25th, and you hadn't offered Cartwright or recruited him aggressively, while Perkins holds off until spring. It wouldn't be good, either, if Perkins somehow decides to put off his decision, with that same scenario.
UCLA has also been showing interest in JaQuan Newton, the 6-1 guard from Philadelphia (Penn.) St. John Neumann, ranked #54 in the nation. We had heard UCLA was close to offering Newton but hasn't yet. We haven't seen Newton in person, but have heard he is more of a shooting guard right now, trying to make the transition to the point, while having a very good July. We believe UCLA considers him an option at point guard, and could possibly offer and pursue Newton to give them another option.
We'll see how Alford and his staff play it, with a big deadline on August 25th for Perkins' announcement.
The post-July Evaluation Period analysis of 2014 wing and bigs recruiting is coming soon…