The UCLA Bruins got the news they have been waiting on a long time Sunday afternoon. Five-star forward Kris Wilkes not only committed to the Bruins, but he also moved UCLA to the No. 1 recruiting class in 2017.
Along with UCLA, Wilkes had offers from schools such as Indiana, Purdue, Illinois, Xavier, Ohio State, Arizona, North Carolina, Kansas, Connecticut, and others. The reason he racked up so many elite offers is simple: Wilkes has a tremendous upside and he keeps on improving.
One of the major reasons that Wilkes chose UCLA was because he was completely sold he will play entirely on the wing in Westwood, and at 6-foot-8 his potential there is off the charts.
Not only does Wilkes have a tremendous combination of size and athleticism for a wing, but he also has great length. Though his shoulders are somewhat narrow, which limits his measured wingspan, Wilkes has very long arms and should display exceptional versatility on both ends of the floor.
While Wilkes struggled to shoot the ball from the foul line during the summer, typically that has never been a concern for him. Throughout Wilkes’ high school career he has always been a solid shooter from the foul line, and he also has continually improved as a jump shooter out beyond the three point line.
Wilkes still needs to improve in that category, but his release looks smooth and consistent, and in time he should become someone who defenses will have to respect from beyond the three point arc.
What Wilkes does at a tremendous level is get to the rim, finish, and rebound. His near-elite athleticism combined with his physical tools and nice handle make him a load going to the rim. Once in the lane Wilkes is a tremendous finisher. He can finish above the rim and in traffic due to his length and athleticism, while also being a very solid mid-range jump shooter.
Also, Wilkes is a phenomenal rebounder. On basically every team he’s played on, Wilkes has been the tallest player on his team, so rebounding has been a non-negotiable. Wilkes rebounds at a very high level, and despite needing strength, he is more than willing to compete on the glass, and should be an excellent rebounder from the wing position.
Overall, Wilkes is probably a kid who will be an instant contributor as a freshman, but not someone who will be a one and done. Wilkes will need a year or two in the weight room, and he has to get more consistent with his perimeter jumper before he is a major threat to be a first round pick.
How Wilkes Fits at UCLA
UCLA has lacked a true small forward-type for quite a while, definitely in the four years since Steve Alford has been coach. So Wilkes will bring a dimension to the Bruin roster that they haven't had the luxury of recently. In college basketball today, there are very few legitimate 6-8 small forwards, and if they're truly elite athletes, they naturally present a match-up problem in the college ranks -- on offense, being too tall for smaller defenders, and if they have the foot speed, on defense having the length to shut down smaller wings. UCLA in recent years has commonly used players at the three spot that are probably more suited for the two-guard position, so Wilkes will give them that very valuable match-up advantage.