Notebook: Bruins’ Building Blocks

May 6 -- In our weekly Notebook feature, the national team explores creative and broad topics from the grassroots hoops realm. This week, we direct our attention to UCLA's strong start to 2016 recruiting...

UCLA running hot

It's a down year for talent on the West Coast in 2016, but UCLA has done a strong job guaranteeing itself a successful recruiting class in a year where many Pac-12 schools already are looking outside of the region for any hope of securing a satisfactory group of players.

The Bruins jumped out to a quick start by securing five-star Lonzo Ball. The point guard from Chino Hills (Calif.) is one of the most versatile talents in the country and certainly one of the best passers that high school basketball has seen in several years.

UCLA's next 2016 commitment was Kobe Paras, a wing out of Los Angeles Cathedral. Paras is very athletic and gifted, with the skill and physical tools to ultimately become a good player. His approach, motor and commitment to defense will determine how successful he ultimately will be.

Steve Alford and company then struck again this week, landing a commitment from Ike Anigbogu (pictured above), a center from Corona (Calif.) Centennial. Anigbogu is one of the nation's premier defenders and shot blockers who is quickly moving in the right direction offensively. His upside is significant.

Ball's offensive ability and Anigbogu's defensive ability are sure things for UCLA. If the Bruins can add another piece to the puzzle, they'll solidify one of the top recruiting classes in the country in 2016.

— Josh Gershon

Bolden ready to leap into elite status?

During the two April evaluation periods, I witnessed a handful of sensational performances. But from my point of view, no player shined brighter than 6-foot-11 center Marques Bolden.

Playing for Jeff Webster’s Proskills Elite crew, Bolden was nothing short of dominant during the two games I watched him at the EYBL Lexington event. Those performances were particularly promising given his development over the past 12 months.

Bolden boasts the size and skill to challenge for top-10 status

This time a year ago, Bolden was a backup for the Texas Titans and played behind the likes of Texas A&M-bound senior Tyler Davis and Vanderbilt signee D’Jerry Baptiste. Bolden played sparingly, but it was easy to see the potential. By July, he was starting to play more and his tools started to show.

Now, however, he’s tracking as a potentially elite center prospect in the 2016 class. At 6-foot-11, Bolden has an impressive frame with wide shoulders and lengthy arms. His body is starting to fill out and he’s able to play physically and outmuscle the opposition as needed.

Bolden particularly stood out on the offensive end. In the first of the two games I saw, he went 11-for-12 from the field, dropping in right jumphooks and overpowering defenders to get easy buckets.

My next viewing the following day, he continued to show the right hook but also worked in multiple lefty hooks as well, and he added a mid-range jump shot and played with terrific overall poise, energy and confidence.

Bolden currently ranks No. 14 in the 2016 class, but based on what I saw in the EYBL that’s too low. He’s moving his way up the list and into elite status.

Bolden Scout that Duke, Kentucky, Kansas, Louisville, Texas, Baylor and TCU are recruiting him hard, but he also noted “there are a lot more.” Some of the nation’s best are already on him and based on his performance that isn’t a surprise. Look for his recruitment to generate additional heat in the coming weeks.

— Evan Daniels

Williams gives Heels multi-faceted boost

North Carolina’s recruiting took an uncharacteristic — if not surprising — downturn in the wake of last fall’s investigation into the prior academic scandal, and the Tar Heels for the first time in many years entered May without a single signee from the graduating class.

That’s why Kenny Williams’ announcement for UNC this past weekend accomplished more than give the program an ace, multi-year shooter — it lifted the program’s spirits.

Williams could become a three-year starter at UNC

After missing on multiple players, including those close to home such as Brandon Ingram (to Duke, no less), fortunes finally smiled on the Tar Heel program.

Oddly enough, Williams himself had counted among the misses. The Richmond-area native picked VCU last fall, but when Shaka Smart left for Texas this spring he reopened his recruitment. That enabled the Tar Heels to renew their pursuit, and ultimately they outdueled Virginia and others to land one of the country’s most dangerous marksmen.

Ultimately, his presence on the court is what fans outside the UNC radius will remember. But for those attached to the school and embedded within NCAA investigation purgatory — resolution appears to be many more months away — Williams choosing the Tar Heels offered a glimpse of hope and eventual finality to what has been an ugly and embarrassing period for the entire university.

Along with preferred walk-on Luke Maye, Williams’ importance to the program extends beyond his ability to make shots. In this instance, it’s the coaching staff’s ability to convert that stands out every bit as much.

— Rob Harrington

Illinois flashes depth in 2017 class

The state of Illinois has long been known as one of the best producers of talent in the country. However, the 2016 class presently doesn't include one top-40 national prospect, and quite honestly that’s very surprising. But that brief downturn in talent will change in a big way in 2017.

Leading the way in the state is five-star C/PF Jeremiah Tilmon, but he has a ton of talent behind him in the class. Nojel Eastern, DaMonte Williams, Charles Payton, Joey St. Pierre, Justin Smith, Christian Negron and others will all be in the mix for four-star status when the rankings are updated and expanded.

This depth was on full display this past weekend at the Spiece Run N Slam. It was like there was a never ending supply of high-major targets spread among multiple teams.

— Brian Snow

Evan Daniels, Brian Snow, Josh Gershon and Rob Harrington contributed to this article

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