UCLA Prospects in Evaluation Period

Jul. 24 -- We provide our take on the UCLA prospects we saw this week in Las Vegas...

Jackson might have been the most impressive player we saw all weekend. He's a very good, smooth athlete, and has the ability to explode from the perimeter in just a couple of dribbles to get to the hoop. He was able to get basically anywhere he wanted on the court anytime he wanted, and he was equally adept driving with his left or right hand. He has a nice stroke out to three, and looks to have the athleticism to be a good defender down the road. He's definitely a score-first point guard at this point, but with the changing nature of the game, that's not necessarily a bad thing. He was probably the most obvious pro we saw among UCLA prospects this week. In speaking to people around the recruitment, this seems like a Duke vs. Stanford battle, with Duke probably having the upper hand right now.

Hands didn't have the best couple of games when we watched him, but his potential as a prospect is obvious. He still looks like a baby -- if you walked into a gym without knowing him, you'd think he was 13 or 14 years old. Physically, he has a lot of room to grow and fill out. He's a good athlete, and already shows good vision and passing ability. He showed a nice stroke from the perimeter as well. It sounds as if UCLA has the slight lead at the moment, what with three of his teammates already committed to the Bruins, but it doesn't sound like Hands is going to end his recruitment soon.

Hill was probably our favorite of the Compton Magic group. The recent UCLA commit plays with a ton of energy, and affects the game on both ends despite not being a particularly polished prospect at this point. He is very active on the glass, and shows a nice instinct for how the ball is going to carom off. He has very little perimeter shooting game at this point, but he compensates for that by being a willing passer when he's pulled outside -- which is key, because he's always playing alongside another low post in Ike Anigbogu. He is a good athlete, and as he continues to refine his game, we'd bet he becomes a fan-favorite at UCLA. Right now, he's a five, but if he can develop a little bit more of a face-up game, we could see him playing some four at the next level. He told us he is completely done to UCLA, and is actively recruiting Jaylen Hands.

We also really liked Anigbogu, who's shown some nice progress in even just the last few months in terms of his offensive game. He actually hit a couple of mid-range jumpers in the games we saw, and was more effective than we've seen him on the low block. His calling card, though, is obviously his defense, where he has a big effect. He's a good shot-blocker, and already shows a nice feel for positioning himself to avoid fouls while still affecting shots. Developing the same feel on the offensive end will be key, as he was called for a handful of offensive fouls in the games we saw. As with Hill, Anigbogu has said he's completely done with his recruitment.

From the Compton Magic group, we aren't as high on Paras as we are on the two posts and Hands. For the positive, he is a very good shooter with a nice, quick stroke, and his vertical athleticism and good height means that his shooting skill is something that will obviously translate to the next level. On the negative side, he doesn't show much interest in other aspects of the game besides shooting and the occasional trail block. Positional defense is going to be a challenge for him since he isn't a very good lateral athlete, but he also doesn't show a real willingness to play defense (and it stands out on the Compton Magic, which is a well-coached team that actually plays some defense). He has one obvious skill at the UCLA level -- his ability to shoot -- but he has to learn to play harder on both ends.

We like Ball a lot, and think he has the potential to be a very good player in his one year at UCLA. But the hype surrounding him heading into his one season at UCLA does seem a little outsized, and might actually be a disservice to him. He's a very good passer, with excellent vision, and good size to see the entire court. He's just an above-average athlete, though, and while he makes shots at a good clip, he has a funky shooting motion that may not translate to the college level. The style his team plays continues to be the biggest concern, though, with full-court outlet passes accounting for, conservatively, at least 25% of the possessions his team has. There is going to be an adjustment period for him when he comes into college, and since he's only going to be in the program for a year, you have to hope that he adjusts very quickly. Again, we think he's going to be a good player at UCLA, but it might be wise to temper expectations a little for him.

The other Ball brother didn't have a great game when we saw him, and just wasn't hitting shots as well as he normally does. He is a streaky shooter, but when he's on, he can hit threes at a really nice clip. He doesn't do much else at a very high level, with a body that just doesn't have much athletic potential.

This was one of our first opportunities to check out O'Bannon, and we liked him. He has a nice stroke and is a pretty good athlete -- not the kind of athlete that his dad and uncle were, but a decent one. His approach could use a little bit of work -- as it stands right now, he likes to shoot it a lot on offense. When he elected to pass, he showed nice vision and feel, but those moments were a little too rare. Defensively, he has the potential to be a decent defender, with good length, but, again, isn't an elite-level athlete. When we talked to him it was a little funky -- he rattled off a list of schools that were recruiting him hardest, and UCLA wasn't on it. We then pressed him a little bit about the Bruins, and he was pretty effusive about them, so we're not sure if that was simple oversight or if he's looking at other schools more at the moment.

Howard was impressive in the game we saw. He has a really quick release on his jump shot and can hit threes in a variety of ways, both in catch-and-shoot opportunities and off the dribble. He has a squat, filled-out body at this point, so you'd question his overall athletic upside, and he's just a decent athlete as it stands. IF UCLA could somehow convince him to come as a second point guard in a class, that would probably be his ideal fit at that level, but he could probably start at several lower Pac-12 teams.

Brown is a big point guard, at all of 6'4 or maybe even 6'5, and he actually plays a good amount off the ball during AAU. He's just an average athlete, but he has very good vision. He showed a nice stroke from three. He'll need to continue to work on his ball-handling, as he's tall and can be prone to a high dribble. He told us it's a priority for him to play point guard in college. As with O'Bannon, we had to prompt him to mention UCLA, but once he did, he was pretty effusive about the Bruins. We'll see how serious UCLA is about him going forward, but it looks like Hands is the 2017 point guard priority, which we tend to agree with.

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