With the recent developments of some players leaving the program (Jonah Bolden, Kobe Paras), it changes the outlook for 2017 recruiting.
With three commitments in the 2017 class, before the departures UCLA didn’t have room for any more. But now, it does. Interestingly, even with the departures of Bolden and Paras, UCLA still only has one scholarship to give.
Of course, you should figure in the early departure of Lonzo Ball, the five-star guard, after his freshman season. His parents have publicly said the plan is for him to play one year at UCLA and then jump to the NBA. Whether that’s practical is another matter and won’t be determined until after the upcoming season. But then again, an impractical decision could be made. Often times when players make the decision about leaving college early for the NBA it historically has been an impractical decision. With the parents publicly stating Lonzo will go to the NBA after one year you’d think that, even if his one-and-done prospect is questionable, they could be of the mindset for him to leave.
There’s also an outside chance that, say, T.J. Leaf leaves after one season.
Regardless of the machinations, bottom line is that there’s a good chance someone on the 2016-2017 roster leaves UCLA after this season, and the UCLA staff is recruiting like it has that in mind. It’s also a matter of there always being potential transfers, after any season. Put those factors together and UCLA is looking for more than one recruit to add to its 2017 class despite having just one scholarship available.
If you look at the projected depth chart, there are some clear needs. The backcourt is thin, and if you figure in that Lonzo Ball does leave, it’s distressingly thin. It clearly could use a small forward type – the kind UCLA hasn’t had in, well, recent memory. At the very least it needs any kind of wing, especially with it being questionable whether LiAngelo Ball can play at this level as a wing. If he can’t, you have one pure wing on the roster in Prince Ali. And Prince Ali was close to transferring out of the program after last season, so you'd have to think he might be a candidate to do so at a later date, especially if he doesn't get the playing time he wants.
In the frontcourt, once you widdle it down to the players that are certain contributors, it’s not greatly deep. There are four players on the above roster you project to being in any rotation – Thomas Welsh, Ike Anigbogu, Leaf and Jalen Hill – so getting at least one more frontcourt player would be prudent. It’s especially so for depth, too, when there will be three graduating seniors from the frontcourt after the 2017-2018 season.
So, the ideal additions to the 2017 class would be a wing and a big. That would put them one over the scholarship limit. If UCLA happened to venture to going over by two scholarships, another wing or backcourt player would be the next priority -- but probably the best player available regardless of position.
Jaylen Hands is the #4-ranked point guard in the 2017 class and a long-time UCLA commit. It would be interesting to see how a commitment from the nation's #1 point guard, Trevon Duval, would impact Hands' situation with UCLA.
Jalen Hill is also a longtime UCLA verbal commit, a true center type who is a bit raw but a great athlete -- ranked #67 overall in the class of 2017.
LiAngelo Ball, the younger brother of Lonzo, is a good outside set shooter, but limited athlete.
TARGETS LEFT ON THE BOARD
Cody Riley (featured in video above) told Scout last week that UCLA remains the leader in his recruitment, with the other programs involved being Connecticut, Kansas, Oklahoma and USC. While UCLA leads, the only program getting any buzz as a potential contender is USC, which is attempting to get in the mix. Still, Riley has been vocal that UCLA is his leader for a long time.
While UCLA hasn't really spent much time in this recruitment, Trevon Duval is listing the Bruins and there's been a buzz surrounding UCLA's involvement. Duval plays high school and AAU on UnderArmour sponsored programs, so there's a natural reason for the rumors. Villanova, Oregon, Indiana and Arizona were a handful of the several schools following Duval in July.
Other schools in the mix for Kris Wilkes are Xavier, Michigan, Ohio State, Illinois, UConn, Washington, Arizona and North Carolina. He's supposed to cut his list soon, and it's believed UCLA will be on the list and in line for an official visit.
With several players at the same position on the roster or committed, Brandon McCoy could be a tough pull for UCLA, but the Bruins are still involved. Others in the mix include Arizona, Michigan State and USC.
The UCLA legacy Chuck O'Bannon Jr. is believed to be an independent kid and his family's history may not have a big impact on his recruitment. Texas, N.C. State and USC are amongst the schools that the Bruins are battling here.
There's no clear favorite here for D.J. Harvey and it's a seemingly fluid recruitment but Notre Dame and Villanova appear to be the schools on Harvey's list which UCLA would likely spend the most time battling with to ultimately land him.
The three teams to beat for Malik Williams are Louisville, Indiana and Michigan State.
Kentucky is believed to have a big lead here for P.J. Washington, though UCLA, Arizona and Texas are some of the several others trying to change that.
The leaders for Brian Bowen appear to be Michigan State, Kentucky and Creighton.
Louisville and Ole Miss are two of the main teams involved but Alex O'Connell's father played for Duke and if the Blue Devils offer, that's the team to beat. O'Connell told us he was on UCLA's campus Thursday, even though he was unable to talk to coaches due to NCAA rules.
The clear team to beat for Gary Trent appears to be Duke.