Basketball Update: News and Recruiting

Sophomore power forward T.J. Cummings has made big strides, and with the fall evaluation period coming, UCLA arranges its in-home visits, and is getting active about the high school junior class...

T.J. Cummings is probably the biggest news of the annual August pick-up games in the men's gym. He's bigger, having put on some considerable muscle in his upper body, particularly his shoulders and arms. He's also playing very tough around the basket, with an assortment of athletic baseline moves and rebounding with ferocity. While he looked a bit last year like he was limited athletically, Cummings appears to have physically developed more, and looks explosive off the court.

Good recruiting effort: Former UCLA point guard Earl Watson is proving to be a good recruiter for the program. As a few local high school prospects have made their way to the Men's Gym in the last month, Watson has not hesitated to tell them how he enjoyed the UCLA program in his four years. He didn't just spin it, but told the prospects how the UCLA coaches are good to the players, and will stay behind you and support you in your entire stay at UCLA – as opposed to some of the horror stories of other coaches running off players, etc.

Speaking of recruits on campus, in the last several weeks a few junior prospects have dropped by to play in the pick-up games and drop in to the coaching offices, including Sean Phaler, 6-9 PF, Villa Park; Marcus Williams, 6-2 CG, Crenshaw; and Ekene Ibekwe, 6-9 PF, Carson. This is in addition to David Padgett, 6-10 C, Reno (Nev.) High, stopping by in late July.

Starting September 9th, college coaches can visit high school senior prospects in their homes. To our knowledge, UCLA coaches have arranged in-home visits so far with Bracey Wright, 6-2 SG, The Colony (Tex.) High and Hassan Adams, 6-4 SG, Los Angeles (Calif.) Westchester. It might be a little bit difficult to plan a in-home visit with Erazem Lorbek, the 6-9 prospect who lives in Slovenia. UCLA is still in the process of setting up visits with Kelenna Azubuike, Tulsa (Okla.) Victory Christian; Brad Buckman, 6-8 PF, Westlake (Tex.) High; and possibly Evan Burns, 6-7 SF, Los Angeles Westchester.

The word is that UCLA's chances with Hassan Adams are steadily improving. Apparently, Adams' mother has some preferences, namely that he stay close to home and goes to a school with a good education. The other schools Adams is considering are Cal, Arizona, Kansas, Tennessee and Boston Colllege, so the proximity issue might eliminate a few of those on its own.

The feeling is that UCLA's chances are slipping with Azubuike as of late, but it could just be a temporary lull. The general word was that UCLA could have been among his small list of leaders, if not his leader, a couple of weeks ago.

Perhaps the biggest recruiting news is that Mike Fey, the 6-11 center from Olympia, Washington, who didn't qualify academically last spring, appears to be very solid in his commitment to UCLA. The word is that Fey is (or will be very soon) attending Los Angeles Harbor College, which is just a few miles down the 405 from Westwood. He will take a few classes while attempting to achieve a qualifying test score and hopefully then enroll at UCLA in spring. There will be a total of eight times that either the SAT or ACT will be offered between now and spring, and the word is that Fey is studying very hard. He doesn't need to improve his score by much, so prospects are good that Fey will be a Bruin by spring. He has spurned other recruiting overtures since his NLI was voided last spring, and plans on signing another NLI to UCLA this November.

It's a new deal when it comes to recruiting in September. Traditionally, during the September contact period there were a number of AAU tournaments that college coaches could attend. But because of a new rule that went into effect this month, college coaches will only be able to attend events during the fall contact period that are, essentially, high school-related events, or sanctioned by the local high school entity (such as the CIF in California). This more or less renders many of the annual fall AAU events obsolete. So, during the contact period that begins September 9th, UCLA coaches will mostly be spending time at specific high schools, watching specific recruits working out with their high school teams. Not only will UCLA coaches spend time on the campuses of the seniors they're recruiting, but will more than likely spend some time on the road visiting the practices of junior recruits. You can expect a UCLA coach to be out to Villa Park to watch Sean Phaler in September, as well as at Carson to watch Ekene Ibekwe, and at Crenshaw for Marcus Williams. Also, expect to see a UCLA coach in Oakland, watching Leon Powe, the beastly 6-7 junior power forward from Oakland Tech and talented point guard Ayinde Ubaka from Oakland High School, and then probably swinging by Reno to get a glimpse at David Padgett. A junior that has shown quite a bit of interest in UCLA is Kris Humphries, 6-7 JR PF, Minnetonka (Minn.) Hopkins, so UCLA coaches more than likely will be visiting Minnesota in September.

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