Notes From First Evaluation Period

With the first July evaluation period in the books, we reset where UCLA is with many of its top prospects and how the next few weeks and months could go...

UCLA has gone national to a large extent with 2015 recruiting, and we've talked at length about the benefits and drawbacks of it as a strategy. In short, there is certainly a larger talent pool when you recruit the entire country than when you recruit primarily out of the West, but the issue is that it's much more difficult to convince out-of-region kids to come to UCLA than it is to convince someone already in the West. Tracy and Greg have written this multiple times, and it's held true -- UCLA is at its best when it recruits the West as its primary focus and cherry picks nationally for those with a tangible UCLA connection.

Now, UCLA under Steve Alford has gone for more of a national approach than a regional one, and so far the results have been mixed. Last cycle, UCLA did land Kevon Looney, the elite power forward from the Midwest, but struck out on a few handfuls of national prospects that the Bruins pursued extensively, perhaps at the expense of recruiting local prospects more heavily.

What UCLA has seemingly done to adjust this cycle, and it's a smart move, is to target adidas kids a little more heavily. Jaylen Brown, arguably UCLA's No. 1 target in the 2015 class, is a longtime adidas player, and we've heard UCLA is doing well with him. As we reported last week and Brian Snow confirmed today, Brown will visit UCLA unofficially after adidas Nations, and there's some talk that Brown could end his recruitment early. From what we've heard, UCLA is the leader right now, but Brown is likely going to blow up even more significantly this summer, and every national program is going to prioritize him. Landing Brown would be a coup, and if it happens in August or September, could build some momentum heading into November with several other top prospects still on the board.

Prince Ali.
One of those is Prince Ali, the four-star shooting guard who decommitted from Connecticut. Ali says that the Bruins are among the two schools recruiting him the hardest, along with Michigan. Now, Ali is a Nike kid, but from what we've heard, he does have a connection to the Los Angeles area, with family out here. UCLA watched him extensively this past week at the LeBron James Skills Academy, and he'll likely be one of their top priorities over the next two periods as well. Unfortunately, he likely won't be in Las Vegas for the final period, which will potentially necessitate Steve Alford taking a day to head to Louisville in the final period. Again, we're hearing UCLA is doing well, and is possibly even the leader.

Some rumblings coming out of the first period indicate that UCLA has developed a very good relationship with shooting guard Eric Davis, another Nike kid. While we're skeptical that UCLA will be able to pull him away from Michigan State, and pull an elite Nike kid to UCLA that doesn't have a real connection to the area, UCLA spent a good amount of time watching him last week at LeBron, and should spend a lot of time watching him next week at the Peach Jam.

Those three likely constitute UCLA's main backcourt priorities in the 2015 class, and as it stands right now, you'd have to say that the Bruins stand a decent chance to get Brown and Ali, and maybe better than a puncher's chance with Davis. If UCLA is able to get two of those three guards, along with Aaron Holiday, it'd considerably shore up what will be a depleted backcourt.

UCLA has four scholarships currently to give to the 2015 class (including Holiday). It is very frontcourt heavy and particularly thin in the backcourt so a 2015 recruiting class consisting of elite backcourt players would create a good roster balance for the 2015 season.

In the front court, UCLA would ideally like to bring in one recruit, and its chances are a bit murkier at this time, but at this time last year, we'd have said the same thing and the Bruins did end up with Thomas Welsh, Kevon Looney, Jonah Bolden and Gyorgy Goloman. As it stands, though, it's difficult to say that UCLA is in the lead for any of its main targets.

Carlton Bragg, the elite power forward, from what we've heard, has Kansas, Illinois, Kentucky, and Ohio State in his top four, in some order, and it'd be difficult for UCLA to break into that group. Caleb Swanigan, the big prospect from Indiana, will likely visit UCLA, but, again, from what we've heard from sources around the recruitment, the Bruins could be on the outside looking in, with the likes of Michigan, Michigan State, Indiana, and Kentucky among his leaders.

UCLA did offer small forward Brandon Ingram after watching him the first week. While he is an adidas athlete, he's a North Carolina native, and all of the major local schools are on him, along with Kentucky, Kansas, and Louisville. We're skeptical UCLA will be able to make real headway.

Diamond Stone.
Diamond Stone, the center from Wisconsin, is very likely to be a package deal with Malik Newman, the elite shooting guard. The issue for UCLA is that the Bruins are not in the mix for Newman, which makes Stone less of a possibility. If the package deal gets broken up, then Stone may be more viable, but from what we've heard, this could be one of those packages that actually does end up sticking.

Chase Jeter, the center from Las Vegas, has been a heavy lean to Duke for quite some time, and it's very, very unlikely UCLA could break the Blue Devils' hold on the five-star, although some think UCLA could be running second.

With Stephen Zimmerman, the teammate of Jeter and five-star center in his own right, we've heard more this past week that indicates Kansas is in the lead. This recruitment has been a bit volatile though, so we'd have to say UCLA still has a decent chance.

Ivan Rabb, the power forward from Northern California, likely has some combination of Arizona, California, and a variety of national programs in his top list. As we said before, if UCLA can stay in his top five and get an official visit, that would be a big deal, but we're beginning to doubt it will happen.

We've heard more this past week that Chance Comanche, the five-star center from Los Angeles, likely has Arizona in the lead, with USC also in the mix. Steve Alford did put in some face time with Comanche, though, and Ed Schilling also watched his games, so the Bruins will clearly try to break into that top group, but as of right now, they trail.

As we saw last August, though, UCLA may have a chance to pivot to some local prospects if they do miss on national guys. While there aren't many obvious big men in the West that UCLA isn't already on, there are some guard/wing types UCLA could pivot to, like Rex Pflueger and Cameron Walker. While we don't think Walker is a great prospect, Pflueger has a chance to be a good one, and has developed considerably in the past year. He's on the same AAU team as Zimmerman and Rabb so UCLA will spend some time watching him this summer. If UCLA gets indications that Brown is starting to waver or learns that Davis is likely staying close to home, Pflueger would make sense as a secondary option. The Bruins would have some ground to make up, though, with Pflueger already earning offers from USC, Connecticut, Florida, Virginia, San Diego State, Notre Dame, and others.

In 2016, from what we understand, UCLA does still lead for T.J. Leaf, the elite forward from San Diego. Indiana will try, and Arizona is in the mix as well, but we've heard there are some factors that could keep him closer to home, including family health. There are several other 2016 prospects like De'Ron Davis, Eron Gordon, Thon Maker, and Payton Pritchard, among others, that we hope to get a better feel for over the next two weeks.

The 2015 cycle is certainly going to be an interesting one. If UCLA is once again able to pull out a successful class, which would, given who they're pursuing, involve closing on two of Brown/Davis/Ali and one of the elite bigs on the list, the results would be impressive. The question for some may still be whether the results validate the process, and if recruiting nationally is a long-term sustainable strategy, but if the results are there, the conversation will remain moot.

Offers Out

A few offers did go out after the first weekend, including the one to Ingram.

UCLA offered 2017 point guard Troy Brown out of Las Vegas, and he is already an early five-star and the No. 1 point guard in the country. The Bruins join Arizona, USC, and UNLV among schools that have already offered.

In addition, the Bruins offered 2016 small forward V.J. King out of Akron, Ohio. He already has major attention from Arizona, Louisville, Ohio State, and Wisconsin.

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