Hoops Recruiting: Targeting Juniors

With the prospects in the current high school senior class dwindling, UCLA looks to be turning to the high school junior class this contact period...

Among UCLA's top six targets from a few weeks ago, the pickings are dwindling.

Bracey Wright, 6-2 SG, The Colony (Tex.) High, verbally committed to Indiana. He was a strong lean to the Hoosiers for the last several months. UCLA was still trying up until the end, believing if they could get Wright out for an official visit, it could sway him.

Kelenna Azubuike, 6-5 SG/SF, Tulsa (Okla.) Victory Christian, has said he's eliminated UCLA from consideration. He'll chose between Illinois and Oklahoma on Thursday, the good money on Oklahoma.

That leaves four of the Big Six left on UCLA's board.

Hassan Adams, 6-3 SG, Los Angeles (Calif.) Westchester, has emerged as UCLA's #1 recruiting target. With three rides available, and if Mike Fey qualifies (which you would expect, given how many times Fey will have to attempt to pass the SAT before spring, when he would come into the program), the real need is for a shooting guard. Adams, a potential McDonald's All-American, fits the bill. Adams took an official visit to Kansas this last weekend. UCLA coaches, reportedly, were in the Adams' house Sunday night for an in-home visit, after he returned from his KU visit, the first in-home visit the UCLA coaches conducted during this contact period. Adams is thought to have Cal and Arizona at the top of his list, with UCLA and Kansas fighting to make up for getting in on him relatively late. Kansas was Adams's dream school growing up. Adams will visit Arizona officially Oct. 12th for Midnight Madness, and Oregon on Sept. 28th. He then could visit Tennessee in early October and Boston College in late October. Tennessee and Boston College could get visits since they've been involved with Adams for some time. The intention right now is not to visit UCLA officially, which could really damage UCLA's chances. But there is hope that UCLA could get an official visit in October, in place of the Tennessee or Boston College visit.

UCLA coaches went to visit Evan Burns, 6-6 SF, Los Angeles (Calif.) Fairfax, on Monday at his school. Burns still is considered a spring signee since it will take until then to determine whether he 1) puts his name in the NBA draft, and 2) qualifies academically. Burns can't visit UCLA officially until the school has received his transcript and he has supplied the school with an SAT score. Burns has yet to take the SAT or ACT. If Burns goes to college, UCLA is still the strong favorite.

UCLA coaches have an in-home visit arranged with Brad Buckman, 6-8 PF, Westlake (Tex.) High, later this week. UCLA, as well as many other schools, are considered longshots for Buckman, who is a very strong lean to Texas.

Everything is still on hold for Erazem Lorbek, the 6-9 PF from Slovenia. Lorbek will take the SAT for the first time after January and has indicated he wishes to visit UCLA and North Carolina officially. He'll be capable of signing in spring.

A couple of other names have popped up on UCLA's recruiting list, that of Matt Haryasz, 6-10 C, Page (Ariz.) High, and Julius Lamptey, 6-11 C, Oklahoma City (Okla.) Northeast.

UCLA started calling and mailing Harasz in mid-August, according to Haryasz's father. Earlier this month, Mr. Haryasz, when asked if UCLA had a chance at getting his son, said, "UCLA has gotten in late and we're not sure how serious UCLA is about recruiting him, so it's difficult to say." Harasz officially visited ASU this last weekend, and was scheduled to take an official visit to Stanford this weekend, but it could be postponed. Stanford and ASU are generally considered Haryasz's leaders, with Stanford probably the favorite. He had an in-home visit scheduled with Loyola Marymount on Monday, and upcoming with New Mexico (9-18), San Diego St. (9-19) and ASU (9-24). UCLA is trying to arrange an in-home at this time. Haryasz received quite a bit of attention from schools around the country, including North Carolina and Kentucky, but those schools stopped recruiting him when Haryasz made it pretty clear he didn't want to leave the west.

UCLA has, in the last couple of weeks, begun to recruit Lamptey seriously. Lamptey is considered a top 75 player nationally, with a big body (weighing 310 pounds), good skills around the basket and good rebounding skills. Lamptey recently said that he's considering Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Illinois, Georgia, and UCLA. UCLA is trying to get an official visit out of Lamptey and might have a good shot at securing it. The word is that it will be difficult to get him out of the state of Oklahoma, though.

Also, there is still a chance that UCLA could offer Matt McKinney, 6-8 CF, Santa Ynez (Calif.) High, a scholarship. McKinney is considered the #1 volleyball player in the country and at least a mid-major basketball prospect. McKinney wants to play both sports in college, even though it would be extremely difficult, given not only that it's just plain difficult to play two sports, but that the basketball and vollyeball seasons overlap. McKinney is getting recruited by smaller schools that have offered him a basketball scholarship and will allow him to play both sports, schools such as Pepperdine and UC Santa Barbara. UCLA hasn't offered McKinney a basketball scholarship and would ideally like him to come to UCLA as a volleyball player, walk on to the basketball team and possibly earn a basketball scholarship that way. A few issues here: 1) UCLA only offers a ¾ scholarship for volleyball players in the freshman year, which puts UCLA at a disadvantage against programs such as Pepperdine, Santa Barbara or USC, who offer full rides for volleyball players in their first year. At UCLA, McKinney's full volleyball scholarship would kick in his sophomore year. 2) If McKinney chooses to come to UCLA for volleyball, he has to wait to go out for basketball for two years. If he then goes out for the team as a junior, and is good enough to contribute to the team, that is, if he gets in a game, his scholarship then goes against the basketball scholarship limit.

It's a pretty big decision for a young man to make. McKinney has a bright future in volleyball, where he could potentially make a very good living eventually. On the other hand, he loves basketball. McKinney also, while he probably doesn't have NBA potential, has improved drastically in the last year in basketball. If he played basketball seriously, many believe he could be very good, possibly on the level to be able to contribute significantly at UCLA. But if he plays both sports, the time it demands will impact his development in both sports.

On the Junior Front

UCLA is using this contact period to scout and contact a few prospects in the current high school junior class. UCLA coaches have plans to go out to see a practice at Crenshaw High School, where 6-2 junior combo guard Marcus Williams plays. Williams has said UCLA is his early favorite (a recruiting report on him is forthcoming).

UCLA coaches have plans to get out to Villa Park High School in Orange County, to see 6-9 PF Sean Phaler, who has UCLA and Stanford as his two favorite schools.

Also, Head Coach Steve Lavin is scheduled to visit Oakland High School, to see Ayinde Ubaka, 6-1 JR PG. Ubaka probably has the most potential of any point guard on the west coast in his class, and is currently ranked #1 among junior point guards on Prep West Hoops. UCLA is Ubaka's dream school and is definitely the team to beat if UCLA recruits him hard. Sources close to Ubaka had said previously that his academics weren't great, but the latest word is that they're not that bad (current GPA in the 2.7 range) and that his father will not allow him to play basketball unless he maintains a 3.0 GPA.

While in Oakland, Lavin is planned to swing by Oakland Tech High School to watch one of the best juniors in the nation, Leon Powe, 6-7 PF. Powe is a long-armed, athletic beast. He currently has Cal with a big lead, having favored the local school for a while, and also likes Duke, UCLA, Kentucky, North Carolina and Louisville.

Assistant Coach Jim Saia will more than likely visit the high school of the consensus best junior center in the west and one of the best in the country, David Padgett, 6-10, Reno (Nev.) High. He'll also visit the school of Chris Humphries, 6-7 PF, Minnetonka (Minn.) Hoskins. Humphries is one of the top 10 or so power forwards in the junior class nationally, and has expressed interest in UCLA in the past.

These are, by no means, the only schools of juniors UCLA will visit during the current contact period, but just a small section of the UCLA coaches itineraries.

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