UCLA now has four verbal commitments from the class of 2004, with no more scholarships officially available. However, UCLA's Head Coach Ben Howland has indicated that there would be one more scholarship available if they could get a commitment from a fifth player.
As of right now, there are a few specific possibilites for that fifth scholarship. If it's given, it definitely will go to a frontcourt player, either a true post or a face-up four type. It's an longshot that anything will happen with that scholarship until much later this season, if not until spring, if it happens at all. The small list of specific prospects that could fill this ride are listed below. If it's filled, it very like could be from a prospect not on this list but one that could emerge this season, or by possibly a foreign player.
UCLA's class as it stands now is quality, with the Bruins filling some considerable needs. With four top 100 players, and two (Farmar and Afflalo) who are consensus top 40 national types, UCLA's class, as it is, will be among the top 15 in the country, and possibly better. If it adds a high-impact fifth player, it could be among the top five classes in the country conservatively.
If UCLA doesn't use the fifth scholarship for this class, they'll then have four available to give to the class of 2005. We'll be publishing an early look at the 2005 prospects very, very soon.
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.
Josh Shipp, 6-5 SG, Los Angeles (Calif.) Fairfax. He committed to UCLA a few days after his official visit September 26th. He had a great Nike Camp in July, where he hit a majority of his jumpers and threw down impressive dunks and impressed the national scouts. He's not overly quick, and needs to pick up his intensity at times, but he's developed into a good shooter and a very smart player. Shipp made the top 100 national rankings by TheInsiders.com and has been ranked as high as a top 40 national player on some lists. He's a solid player and a good kid (with good academics). He chose UCLA over Oregon, Washington and Boston College. With Afflalo and Shipp, UCLA fills out its needs for wings in this class.
Randolph Morris, 6-10 C, Fairburn (Georg.) Landmark Christian. One of the top five centers in the country, UCLA remains in contention, albeit a longshot. Morris, a big, physical, true center, has been thought to be leaning heavily to Georgia Tech, where his older brother is a team manager. If there was a school that could upset Georgia Tech it was thought to be Kentucky, which he visited during Midnight Madness. Recently his final five have been identified as Georgia Tech, Kentucky, Louisville, UCLA and Georgia. He'll visit Georgia Tech this weekend (Oct. 24th). Louisville, which supposedly is out of scholarships, is supposed to get a visit, and he has a visit to UCLA scheduled for November 7th. There would have to be some doubt as to whether he'll get to that visit. The center could sign in fall, or wait until spring, or sign in either signing period and still put his name in the NBA draft, which experts think is a real possibility for him. Any way you look at it, UCLA is a longshot for him.
Tello Palacios, 6-8 PF, Centereach (New York) Our Savior New American School. Palacios is a top 40 national prospect that was a bit forgotten this 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. He recently decided not to make a decision about a school this fall but wait until spring. The schools vying for his attention are Baylor, Connecticut, Florida, Florida State, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisville, Ohio State, Pittsburgh, St. John's, Syracuse, and UCLA. Some of those schools are out of scholarships for this recruiting class, which could make the jockeying for Palacios interesting. UCLA would be considered a longshot, being across the country, compared to the other schools on his list.
Al Horford, 6-8 PF/C, Grand Ledge (Mich.) High. A very springy, quick and long-armed athlete -- a kind of 6-8 version of Andre Patterson is a good way to describe him -- Horford verbally committed to Michigan and then reneged on his verbal. He's been exploring other options and UCLA was listed as a possibility. Florida is thought to be the leader, but it was also thought he would have committed by now to the Gators. He visited Florida for Midnight Madness. Ohio State, Iowa, Georgia and UCLA are trying to get official visits.