UCLA 2017 Hoops Recruiting Update

Jul. 31 -- Coming out of the July Eval period, here's where UCLA recruiting stands, focused on the 2017 class...

Coming out of the July Evaluation Period, UCLA hoops recruiting looks like it’s in pretty good shape. It’s essentially done in recruiting the 2016 class, and it has two commitments in the 2017 class.

The biggest recruiting priority right now is to fill out the 2017 class with the kind of prospects UCLA needs to sustain success at a very high level. It has an entire other recruiting cycle and until the Signing Period of November, 2016, to do it.

It’s difficult to anticipate how many scholarships UCLA will ultimately have available to give to the 2017 class, since we’re so far ahead of the curve for 2017, and so much will happen between now and November, 2016, or even April, 2017.

To get an idea, though, you first have to start with how the depth chart projects for the 2017-2018 Season.

UCLA Depth Chart - 2017-2018
PG
SG
SF
PF
C
Aaron Holiday (JR)Prince Ali (JR)Jonah Bolden? (SR)Gyorgy Goloman (SR)Thomas Welsh (SR)
Lonzo Ball? (SO)Kobe Paras (SO)Alex Olesinski (JR)Ikenna Okwarabizie (SR)
LiAngelo Ball (FR)Ike Anigbogu (SO)
Jalen Hill (FR)



With the two commitments for 2017, that’s 12 scholarships already earmarked for the 2017-2018 season. But you can make a pretty safe assumption that Jonah Bolden, the talented wing/stretch four, will be a candidate to leave UCLA early and not make it to his senior season. The reasoning here is based on Bolden, who is from Australia, previously making strong indications that his intention is to go pro as soon as possible, and given the level of college player who has put his name in the draft in recent years, it’s very plausible Bolden does after either the next two years. Lonzo Ball would be a sophomore in the 2017-2018 season, but his family has publicly made it clear that Lonzo will be a one-and-done and play just one season at UCLA. There is also the possibility that Thomas Welsh, the 7-footer, could be an early-jumper-to-the-NBA candidate. Welsh has tremendous potential, and made U19 USA Men’s Team, which won the gold medal at the FIBA U19 World Championships earlier this month. He, like Bolden, will have two seasons to potentially develop and go pro early – before the 2017-2018 season.

With those three early-jumper candidates, and there always being a possibility of someone transferring out, especially over the course of two years, it’s pretty certain UCLA will have one additional scholarship to give to the 2017 class, and even a good bet they’ll have two to give. Combining with the one currently available, that would make two or three scholarships likely available for UCLA to give, for a total of four or five to the 2017 class.

Given that, here are the remaining recruiting needs for UCLA with the 2017 class. The prospects listed here don’t represent a comprehensive list of those UCLA is recruiting for 2017, but the main targets.


BIGS

The Bruins have made a great start in stocking its future frontcourt. UCLA has a real jump on the future of their post players with the commitments of Ike Anigbogu for 2016 and Jalen Hill for 2017. Anigbogu is ranked in the top 10 at center in the nation, and #38 nationally, for 2016. Hill is also ranked in the top 10 at center for his class, and #25 nationally. Both are true posts, but they could definitely play alongside each other. In 2017, Welsh could still very well be in the program and ahead of them, and there would also be Ikenna Okwarabizie, the JC transfer who would be a senior in 2017.



UCLA is also the rumored leader for 2017 post Cody Riley, the 6-7 prospect from Chatsworth (Calif.) Sierra Canyon. Riley is the #4-ranked power forward for 2017, and #24 nationally. He’s more of a back-to-the-basket type than a face-up four, but he’s a very strong inside presence and a great rebounder.

If UCLA were to get Riley, the trio of Anigbogu, Hill and Riley would be a very talented group. The three, too, play together on the AAU team Compton Magic, so they’re not only very familiar with each other’s games but Anigbogu and Hill are recruiting Riley.

With Okwarabizie, Gyorgy Goloman and Alex Olesinski on the roster for 2017, if UCLA got Riley that appears to be the extent of the bigs the Bruins would be able to take from the 2017 class.

UCLA is also trying with the #1 prospect in the nation DeAndre Ayton, the 6-11 center from San Diego (Calif.) Balboa; the 7-0 center prospect from San Diego Morse, Brandon McCoy, who is ranked #23 in the nation; Zach Brown, the 7-1 prospect from Miami (Fla.) Senior, the #20-ranked prospect in the nation; and Billy Preston, the 6-9 post from Dallas (Texas.) Prime Prep. The word is that UCLA has a decent chance with McCoy, but almost no chance with Ayton or Brown. Preston, originally from the west, is an interesting situation; we’ve heard he’s still interested in UCLA, and UCLA has interest, even though there have been some questions about “fit issues” for Preston.


WINGS

As of right now, UCLA is recruiting like it will have scholarships for Hill, Ball, a point guard and then one more. That “one more” could be a big, or it could be an elite wing. If it fills out that fourth scholarship with a big, say Riley, the mindset right now is to not take another wing besides Ball, unless it’s a super-elite one that wants to jump in the boat. In other words, if it got a post with that fourth scholarship it would probably stand pat with Ball. It’s a questionable strategy, given that it’s uncertain if Ball is a UCLA-level prospect and it would be a year after Kobe Paras came to UCLA, with it also being questionable if Paras is a UCLA-level prospect. If you look at the projected depth chart above, if Paras and Ball aren’t UCLA-starter-level, the backcourt projects to be very under-stocked and thin.

The ultra-elite wing UCLA is recruiting in the 2017 class is D.J. Harvey, the 6-4 prospect from Hyattsville (Maryland) DeMatha who is ranked #9 in the nation, and UCLA has very little chance to get.

It seems pretty likely that UCLA will probably have five scholarships to give to the 2017 class, and that they obviously need another good wing in that class, but as of right now, UCLA isn’t recruiting with that mindset. They’re approaching it with four scholarships earmarked for 2017 and the mindset that they’ll stand pat with Ball if they can’t get Harvey, or someone of Harvey’s caliber.


POINT GUARD

The one objective in the 2017 class that is clearly evident is the need for a point guard. And right now there is a big target out there:

Hands is the #18-ranked prospect in the nation, the 6-2 prospect from Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei. He’s a talented player, with a very good feel and passing ability, who projects to being a true point guard. The buzz from the last evaluation weekend in Las Vegas is that Hands is leaning toward UCLA. That’s good, since getting a point guard of Hands’ caliber is the make-or-break element of the 2017 class. UCLA has missed dreadfully on true high school point guards going all the way back to Howland’s last several years – an uncanny phenomenon, given how UCLA is definitely one of the programs in the country you could call “point guard U.” (We’re excluding Aaron Holiday from this since he’s not a pure point guard).



It also is something that the UCLA staff absolutely should get done. Hands plays on the Compton Magic, the AAU program with deep connections to UCLA. Its head organizer, Etop Udo-Ema, was seen around Vegas decked out in UCLA gear head-to-toe. Paras, Anigbogu, Hill and Riley all play for Compton Magic, right alongside Hands. It would be a supreme upset if UCLA doesn’t get Hands.

If it doesn’t, the other options at point guard are a bit less certain.

Brown is a promising prospect, a bigger point guard type at about 6-4, currently ranked the #5 prospect in the nation overall. But UCLA seems like it’s in his second tier of schools, behind the likes of Louisville, hometown UNLV, Stanford and Cal.

UCLA is also trying with Trevon Duval, the #1 point guard prospect nationally in the class of 2017, the 6-3 prospect from Newark (New Jersey) St. Benedict. The word is that he intends to visit UCLA after Adidas Nations this week, and perhaps that can vault UCLA to among the schools Duval is considering. Trae Young, the nation’s #27 ranked prospect, the 6-1 point guard from Norman (Okla.), is another target, but UCLA is pretty clearly behind the likes of Duke, Arizona and others for Young.

It’s definitely still very early for the 2017 class, so there’s a possibility that UCLA could improve its chances with many of the prospects listed here.

But here are things to keep in mind over the next two years of recruiting the 2017 class:

-- With the commitment of Hill, UCLA’s future frontcourt looks pretty good. It if got Riley it would be excellent.

-- UCLA, if it doesn’t somehow get a super-elite wing, will stand pat at SG/SF with Ball, which leaves the projected wing depth chart looking questionable.

-- Hands, or a point guard with the equivalent level of talent, is essential to the 2017 class being considered a good one, given UCLA’s need at the position.




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