Hoops Recruiting Update

As we get closer to the early basketball signing period in November, the list of UCLA's targets for the class of 2004 has narrowed. This weekend will prove to be a critical one, with a pivotal official visit, and another recruit taking his last visit to another school...

UCLA has three scholarships earkmarked for the class of 2004, with only one more officially available. However, UCLA is operating like they will have five scholarships to give to this class, and are aiming to get a commitment from two more players.

With Mata filling the role of the true low-post player, it gives UCLA some flexibility in what to do with the last two rides it wants to give out. The Bruins are definitely looking toward filling one of those rides with a true wing. The other ride might ideally go to a scoring, face-up four man, but could also very well be given out to another post player if there was one good enough who wanted to commit that had good academics. 

The other potential scenario is UCLA filling its last two scholarships with two more frontcourt players.  If two of them want to commit before a wing does, UCLA very well could take them and call it a day.

There is also the possibility to consider that UCLA leaves a ride open and waits until spring to see if there are any other prospects worthy of interest.

COMMITTED PLAYERS:

Jordan Farmar, 6-2 PG, Woodland Hills (Calif.) Taft. Thank the Lord. UCLA's committed point guard had a stellar spring and summer and cemented his place as one of the top two or three point guards in the country and a likely top 25 national recruit. In the summer he showed that he's everything the UCLA programs needs – a real point guard with great leadership skills, intelligence, maturity and good academics. It's a completely different world to ponder if Farmar had actually committed to Florida back in spring like he was close to doing (watch the video interview). Watching him play this well this entire summer would have been torture for the UCLA coaches, and would have made it desperation time to get a point guard. He could be the biggest get for the UCLA basketball program since Baron Davis.

Arron Afflalo, 6-5 SG/SF, Compton (Calif.) Centennial. He had a solid summer, playing well at the ABCD, leading the camp in scoring, and then struggling somewhat in the Big Time playing on a team that didn't play well together. His shot was inconsistent for most of the spring and summer, but it's not a big worry since he's shown to be a better shooter in the past and has a very nice stroke. With good academics, Afflalo is a huge piece of the puzzle to getting UCLA back to where it needs to be over the next several years. Not only is he talented, but Afflalo is a warrior, much like Farmar, and he'll bring the needed toughness.

Lorenzo Mata, 6-9 PF/C, South Gate (Calif.) High. He's a great fit as a player -- the kind of true low-post guy that UCLA needs. He's big, athletic and plays hard.  And he's only played organized basketball for a few years and is just at the beginning of his basketball learning curve.  Physically, he's gotten bigger and has the body that could continue to fill out. From a talent standpoint, Mata right now is one of the best shot blockers in the west, is quick off his feet and rebounds well. Offensively he has great potential, going from having nearly nothing offensively to showing some great natural scoring moves out to 12 feet or so this summer.  He went from being practically unknown to a top 70 national recruit, at least.  And you have to give the kid a great deal of credit, too, for making a commitment to UCLA a reality for himself.  Not coming from a great academic background, or a school that's known for its academics, Mata didn't do much academically for his first two and a half years in high school. But when he got motivated halfway through his junior year -- and was told that going to his dream school, UCLA, was a possibility, Mata applied himself. He replaced a number of core classes in his spring semester, and did so again this summer. His GPA improved considerably and made it possible for UCLA to accept his verbal commitment.  Among prospects that don't have stellar academics, he's the type of student-athlete UCLA will invest in -- a kid who has shown that he's motivated to put in the work academically and improve.  He'll still need a passing SAT score to qualify, but he's studying with a tutor and is expected to achieve one.  If we had to project, we think that Mata, with his background story, incredible upside, and penchant for playing hard combined with his sometimes awkward appearance, will quickly become a Pauley Pavilion favorite.

TARGETS:

Malik Hairston, 6-4 SG, Detroit (Mich.) Renaissance. He emerged this spring and summer as one of the best wings in the nation and a consensus top ten national recruit. UCLA was thought to be a co-leader with Ohio State, but since his visit to UCLA on September 12th, the word is that UCLA has fallen down Hairston's list.  He took an official visit to Kansas last weekend and the Jayhawks could be making a strong run. Michigan State and Kentucky are also involved, but look like they could be too late to the game. Howland visited Hairston a day after his official visit to UCLA and the visit reportedly went well. The word, though, is that UCLA could be too far away for Hairston's tastes.

Maarty Leunen, 6-8 PF/SF, Redmond (Ore.) High. Leunen received an offer from UCLA about mid-July, after the UCLA coaches had seen him enough during the summer evaluation period. He's considering the Bruins as well as Gonzaga, Oregon, and Oregon State. He's the type of player that would fit into Howland's system well -- a skilled, face-up four. He does have just average athleticism and size, though. He'd be a solid get, someone who knows how to play and is a good kid.  Leunen officially visited Westwood Sept. 12th, the same weekend as Malik Hairston.  He visited Gonzaga this last weekend, and will take a mid-week visit to Oregon on the 23rd, and then finish with an official visit to Oregon State on Sept. 26th.  There are those that believe Leunen is more a small-school type of guy, but he's said himself that he grew up a UCLA fan and likes the big city environment of Los Angeles.  There is some talk in recruiting circles that UCLA looks pretty good with Leunen.  Ben Howland will be having an in-home visit with Leunen soon after his official visit to Oregon.

Josh Shipp, 6-5 SG, Los Angeles (Calif.) Fairfax. He had a great Nike Camp in July, where he hit a majority of his jumpers and threw down impressive dunks. But then he came back to the west coast and came back to Earth. He's not overly quick, and needs to pick up his intensity at times. Shipp recently made the top 100 national rankings by TheInsiders.com. He's a solid player and a good kid (with good academics). UCLA offered him September 14th, and he also has offers from Washington and Oregon, and a conditional offer from Stanford if he improves his verbal score on the SAT. Many thought that Shipp would commit when UCLA offered, but he took his official visit to Oregon last weekend. He did tell us that UCLA has a slight edge.  The Shipp could hit the fan when takes he takes his official visit to UCLA Sept. 26th. With UCLA having an edge, and with UCLA maybe not looking good for Hairston, will the Bruins put on the fullcourt press to get Shipp to commit? You would expect they would, and there's a good chance he could commit on his visit this weekend.

Joakim Noah, 6-10 C, Lawrenceville (New Jersey) Prep. A Ryan Hollins look-a-like, he really improved his stock this summer, showing good athleticism and improving skills. All of the new recruiting attention as a result of the summer has him a bit turned around and uncertain about favorites, but UCLA might have a chance with him and they're showing interest.  The son of tennis star Yannik Noah, he is a well-traveled, international kind of kid who wouldn't be phased by going across the country to school at UCLA. He has indicated that Maryland, Florida and UCLA would be his top three. He was supposed to visit Maryland on the weekend of September 19th, but it will be rescheduled because of Hurricane Isabel. If UCLA gets indications that they have a good shot at Noah, will they take commitments from both Leunen and Shipp after the weekend of the 26-28th, when Shipp visits UCLA and Leunen completes his visits?

Tello Palacios, 6-8 PF, Centereach (New York) Our Savior New American School. Palacios is a top 40 national prospect who was a bit forgottent his summer since he didn't play in the U.S. during the evaluation period. A native of Colombia, he returned home for most of the summer. He's considered one of the most skilled big men in the class, and quite athletic.  UCLA is in the mix for him, along with Florida, St. John's, Pittsburgh, Iowa State, N.C. State, Illinois, Louisville and Florida State. UCLA Head Coach Ben Howland had an in-home visit with him earlier in the month of September.

Lee Cummard, 6-6 SG/SF, Mesa (Ariz.) High. A true sleeper who is under-rated nationally, Cummard is one of the best players in the west. He's athletic, has one of the best strokes, is a great passer, plays his butt off, and has good academics. He's Mormon, so he'll go on his Mission apparently right out of high school. UCLA is interested, and he'd be recruited with an eye on coming in the fall of 2006. He has indicated he could take trips to Arizona State, Oregon State, BYU, UCLA and Oregon before deciding.  He tripped to BYU on Sept. 19th, Arizona State October 4rd and Oregon State October 10th.  Arizona State has been thought to be the leader for a while, with his family wanting him to stay close to home. BYU recently has been rumored to be also toward the top of his list, due to his Mormonism.

Players that are now off the UCLA recruiting board for one reason or another: C.J. Giles, 6-10 C, Seattle (Wash.) Rainier Beach; Randolph Morris, 6-10 C, Fairburn (Georg.) Landmark Christian; Davis Nwankwo, 6-9 C, North Bethesda (Mary.) Georgetown Prep; David Burgess, 6-10 C, Irvine (Calif.) Woodbridge; Al Horford, 6-8 PF/C, Grand Ledge (Mich.) High; Marshall Brown, 6-6 PF, Austin (Tex.) Johnson; Shane Foster, 6-5 SR SF, Kenner (Louisiana) Bonnabel; Mohamed Tangara, 6-9 PF/C, Durham (North Carolina) Mt. Zion; Cornelio Guibunda, 6-9 C, Stamford (Conn.) King & Low-Heywood Thomas School; Jarhon Giddings, 6-9 C/PF, Blacksburg (Virg) High.


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