For the 2014 class, UCLA now has commitments from:
Kevon Looney, PF/C, 6-8, 210, , National Ranking: #14
Jonah Bolden, PF, 6-8, 190, , National Ranking: #30
Thomas Welsh, C, 7-0, 245, , National Ranking: 45
Gyorgy Goloman, PF/C, 6-9, 200, , National Ranking: NR
Projected to add:
Daniel Hamilton, SF, 6-6, 175, , National Ranking: #18
In terms of the scholarship limitation, as of right now, if Kyle Anderson leaves after this season, as is expected, but Jordan Adams and Zach LaVine stay (which we would expect, even though things can change), and UCLA actually get Daniel Hamilton, that gives UCLA thirteen scholarship players for 2014-2015, a full boat. If it wants to bring in any other prospects in this class, it will have to find scholarships, either through a player unexpectedly going pro, a player transferring or perhaps Bryce Alford foregoing his scholarship.
We fully expect UCLA not to be done with the 2014 class, with the intention of potentially adding Hamilton and one more to the class. From what we've heard, it's likely that UCLA will add Hamilton, the 6-6 small forward from Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco, the five-star prospect who is ranked #18 in the nation. Hamilton is currently committed to Connecticut, having signed a Grant-in-Aid that only binds the school and not the player. Hamilton is, of course, the younger brother of current UCLA freshman Isaac Hamilton, who is redshirting due to NCAA rules. The word around SoCal recruiting circles is that Daniel will end up joining his brother in Westwood, and the flip might happen sooner than later.
We also expect UCLA to look to add a point guard by spring. We feel they won't necessarily add someone just to add someone, but if there is prospect, either in the high school or JC ranks, or even a fifth-year transfer, that could come in and contribute, UCLA will almost certainly show interest. It's possible that a high school prospect emerges; it does happen during a senior year. But it might be a better fit that UCLA try to fill its point guard need with a JC or fifth-year transfer, filling a gap on a short-term basis to then have more of an opportunity for a 2015 point guard, or even 2016.
In Scout.com's currently team rankings, UCLA is ranked 7th, which seems about right, given the programs listed ahead of the Bruins and who they have committed. If UCLA did, indeed, add Hamilton, it could move up UCLA in Scout's rankings to probably third in the country, behind just Duke and Kentucky but ahead of Arizona, North Carolina, and Kansas. Unless Arizona adds an elite prospect, UCLA would almost certainly overtake Arizona in the Pac-12 as the #1 recruiting class in the conference for 2014.
In the 2014 class, UCLA desperately needed bigs. After this season it will lose Travis Wear and David Wear, and most like Kyle Anderson (who is a big defensively), leaving them with just two bigs on the roster for 2014, Tony Parker and Wanaah Bail. A college team usually needs about five bigs if it wants to be comfortable depth-wise for a season, and hopefully four that can actually contribute. Steve Alford and his staff definitely fulfilled the recruiting need for bigs, going out and getting four -- to bring them to a total of six for the 2014-2014 season -- but also probably three that have a very good chance of coming in and contributing immediately as true freshmen.
Breaking down how they all might fit in the front court next season, Parker is exclusively a five and, even though we haven't seen Bail much to evaluate him, he looks athletic enough to play both the four and the five.
In watching Looney last summer, he looked like he could play and guard both the four and the five. His best attribute that will immediately impact next year's team is his ability to rebound. He, arguably, could be the best rebounder in the national class of 2014, with great anticipation but also a toughness in going after boards.
Welsh is a pure five, of course.
Even though we haven't seen Bolden in person, we trust Josh Gershon's evaluation. Bolden looks like he' primarily projects to be a four, with the athleticism and build more suited to guarding a four, and with an effective game around the basket and a very nice outside jumper.
Goloman, in our opinion, would be a redshirt candidate. We haven't seen him, but heard he has good skills, but would still need to get stronger and more suited to the more physical American-style game.
With Parker, Bail, Looney, Welsh and Bolden, UCLA has a frontcourt that is, admittedly, very young, but talented, and one that gives it a great many options and mix-and-match possibilities. It would have some considerable versatility, with the potential to match up against bigger front lines but also play smaller and more athletic. Athleticism is a key, and this group might be the most potentially athletic of any UCLA frontcourt in a while. Parker has decent athleticism, Bail, if he can actually develop into a player, is clearly athletic; Looney isn't necessarily a fast-twitch guy, but he's above-average athletic for a post; and Bolden, from what we've seen on tape and heard, has good athleticism for a four.
Going into the 2014 recruiting season, the needs were bigs and, of course, a point guard. UCLA's efforts and subsequent failures to secure a point guard have been well-documented. It clearly is the deficit in this recruiting class, and one that does leave a hole in next year's roster. Bryce Alford is a point guard, but hasn't yet proven he's a UCLA-starting-level point guard. We know there is some sentiment that Isaac Hamilton could be used as a point guard but, having seen him quite a bit, we think he's best suited at the shooting guard spot.
Getting a good point guard, just even for the 2014 season (such as in a fifth-year graduate transfer), could be an enormous key to that season. UCLA's wing situation would have a great deal of firepower with Adams, LaVine, Hamilton, potentially another Hamilton and Norman Powell. It would be young, as we said, in the frontcourt, but talented and versatile. It would just need the point guard spot held down, ideally by someone, at the very least, with the athleticism to guard an opposing point guard and good passing vision to set up the team-full of scorers he'd have at his disposal.
Offense wouldn't probably be a problem in 2014-2015, but defense could still be the bugaboo. If it doesn't add a good defensive point guard, UCLA wouldn't have a player that can effectively defend an opposing point guard; it's what is forcing it to play what is probably too much zone this season, among other things. The wings on the roster are, as we said, great on the offensive side but lacking on the defensive side of the floor, and not greatly athletic. Powell and LaVine would easily be the best athletes, but neither have been really able to translate that athleticism to defense (It's still, of course, early for LaVine). Adams is what he is athletically and defensively, and the Hamiltons have never shown, at least in high school or AAU ball, that they're laterally quick or particularly inclined to play defense. In the frontcourt, we would hope that Parker and Bail would be one year improved defensively, but would then expect the freshmen to be typical freshman posts on the defensive end -- mostly lost and spotty.
Looking beyond just the 2014-2015 season, the talent on the roster would be promising. As we've said many times it wouldn't lack for perimeter offensive firepower, but its weaknesses would be interior offense and defense everywhere on the court. But it would be a young team and it would be mostly Alford's guys, so potentially he and his staff would be able to develop their defensive abilities and, most importantly, instill a commitment to defense that is clearly going to be the major key to UCLA's success under Alford.
The 2015 Recruiting Class
If UCLA did get the 2014 class described here, with Daniel Hamilton, it would set up a pretty interesting situation with the 2015 class.
UCLA would lose Powell, and if Adams didn't leave after the 2013-2014 season, you'd expect him to almost certainly do it after 2014-2015. You'd also expect LaVine to be a serious candidate to leave early after his sophomore season. It's, then, impossible to gauge how many scholarships UCLA would have to give to the 2015 class, but we would expect, with early defections, potential transfers and perhaps Alford giving up his scholarship, UCLA would have three, minimum, to give.
As we've said many times, the 2015 class in the west is loaded with talent and UCLA would want to take advantage of it. Interestingly, though, the class is loaded particularly in the frontcourt, and after cleaning up in the 2014 class with Looney, Bolden and Welsh, there isn't a huge amount of frontcourt room. UCLA would want to add probably just one and possibly two frontcourt players. With the roster it would have, it would give it some great flexibility. If, say, a big-impact big like Stephen Zimmerman wanted to jump in the boat, UCLA would certainly take him. If he were one-and-done, say, he could provide a huge boost to the frontline for that one year, but UCLA would seemingly have enough depth in the frontcourt to weather a one-and-done. You'd have to consider, too, that Looney and even Bolden could be early departure candidates (doubtful after their freshman seasons, but perhaps after 2 or 3 seasons). But there are enough talented bodies to be able to take on Zimmerman and not be devastated if he left after one year. Or, with the frontline talent it has on the roster, it could give it the flexibility also of bringing in a bit of a project, not needing the 2015 big to necessarily be an immediate impact guy.
Backcourt recruiting for 2015 would be the bigger priority. UCLA loses Powell, and more than likely Adams, so it leaves it needing at least one wing. If it loses LaVine, it would need two wings.
It would need a point guard regardless of what it ultimately ended up doing with 2014 point guard recruiting.
Tyler Dorsey, the five-star guard from Bellflower St. John Bosco, who is the #7-ranked prospect in the 2015 class nationally, is UCLA's top target. There is an on-going argument on whether Dorsey could play point guard, which is almost certainly his intention. We are pretty certain that UCLA is selling him on the pitch that he would be a "lead" type guard in UCLA's offense. They'll probably have to at least do that since programs like Duke are doing the same. Dorsey, in our opinion, is a very talented prospect, but wouldn't be optimizing his talent if he played point guard. But if you can get him you definitely take him, regardless of where he ends up playing. UCLA would seemingly have a very good shot at Dorsey since he's a high school teammate with the Hamiltons and close with them.
There is Aaron Holiday, the 6-0 guard from North Hollywood Campbell Hall, the #31-ranked prospect in the national class of 2015, and the younger brother of Jrue Holiday. Interestingly, we project Holiday to be a point guard down the line, and Scout has him ranked as one because of this, but he still is very much more of a shooting guard and would have to make the transition to point guard. So far this season, even though we haven't seen him yet, we've heard he is playing more with a point guard's mentality. We've heard that UCLA is the heavy favorite for him at this time.
Even though the 2015 class is talented, it doesn't have any clearly elite pure point guard types.
In the 2015 west coast class, among non-bigs, UCLA has also offered Cameron Walker, a 6-6 small forward, and Bennie Boatwright, a 6-7 face-up four. Both are accomplished scorers but neither are particularly elite athletes, which we'd like to see UCLA get on the perimeter to improve its defensive capability.
There are other players we think should be high on UCLA's recruiting board for 2015, besides the obvious Zimmerman, Dorsey, Holiday, Chase Jeter, the elite 6-8 post and Ivan Rabb, the elite 6-9 post. There are: Jeremy Hemsley, 6-2 guard, La Verne Damien, who is one of the best athletes in the west; Chance Comanche, the 6-11 post from Los Angeles View Park, who is a young-looking, long center reminiscent of Channing Frye; Marquese Chriss, a very bouncy 6-8 post from Elk Grove (Calif.) Pleasant Grove; Michael Oguine, a very athletic 6-0 lead guard from West Hills Chaminade who is a bit under the radar at this point and might not be there yet but is someone to watch; Justin Simon, a multi-dimensional 6-5 guard from Temecula; and Roman Davis, a long, 6-6 athlete from Los Angeles Windward.
Right now, overall, UCLA's future looks fairly bright, given the 2014 class it has succeeded in bringing in. Getting Looney, Welsh and Bolden definitely has changed the outlook for UCLA basketball under Steve Alford.