Depending on whether UCLA ultimately gives out a fifth scholarship to the 2004 class, the Bruins will have either three or four rides to give the class of 2005.
That's good news and bad news.
The good news is that, when you're trying to re-build a program, it helps to have a good number of scholarships available.
The bad news is that the 2005 class is particularly weak, both on the west coast and nationally. It could be the weakest class in the west in the last ten years. And even to compound the lack of talent is the fact that many of the players that have been recognized in the west as being potentially elite and of UCLA caliber could have academic questions. Also, the class lacks depth in big men, and many of the ones that are elite are in states like Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee, states that UCLA doesn't traditionally recruit well.
It's particularly bad luck for the new coaching staff. You're trying to re-build a program and have scholarships to give, and for the first full recruiting year you'll have as a staff there is slim pickings prospect-wise.
It also creates a bit of a dilemma for UCLA regarding 2005. The 2006 class is strong in the west and, from what we hear, solid nationally. It's extremely early to judge the 2007 class, which are current high school freshmen, but from the looks of it on the west coast, it should be a stellar class, if just the recruits we've recognized to date develop at an average rate.
If UCLA gives out four scholarships in 2005, it would then be able to give out four for 2006, which is good. But it would then be limited to two mere rides available for the class of 2007. And one ride is already filled by verbally-committed Taylor King, 6-6 FR CF, Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei.
So, if you're UCLA, what do you do with the class of 2005? Do you try to get some solid bodies in to your program quickly from the 2005 class? Or do you hold off on 2005 and provide yourself more rides to give the more talented classes of 2006 and 2007?
It could be an issue of one or two scholarships UCLA could carry over until 2007. If UCLA only gives out a total of four rides in 2004, and then didn't fill its available limit of four for 2005 and saved one or two, it could then have possibly six or even seven total scholarships available for the 2006 and 2007 classes. It could then have three scholarships to give to 2007 recruits instead of just one.
UCLA, no matter what, needs to fulfill some needs, though, with the 2005 class. It's primary need will be a true post player. Lorenzo Mata, the 6-9ish post that is verbally committed in the 2004 class, has some great potential, but is raw. There's also a bit of a worry if he'll be able to qualify academically. It would also serve UCLA to get a bigger center in the 6-10+ mold. Even though Howland's offensive system is geared for the power forward to be more like a small forward offensively, Mata could still move over and do time at the four. Even if Mata is strictly a five, UCLA still will desperately need another post in the 2005 class. After Ryan Hollins and Mike Fey graduate, Lorenzo Mata would be the only true post player on the roster.
Probably the second biggest need for 2005 would be a Ben Howland-type power forward, someone who can play like a small forward on offense but bang with the big boys on defense. Again, after Fey and Hollins, there would be no one else but Mata on the roster who can defend low-block players one-on-one.
Then, UCLA would also want to get another ballhandler in its backcourt, and will be targeting combo-type guards.
A high-scoring true three would also then be something UCLA could use in the 2005 class.
So, the needs are: a center, power forward, combo guard and a three, possibly in that order.
But keep in mind: If UCLA can get a truly elite player at any position, it would take that player over the positional needs. While you want to recruit to your needs, recruiting elite talent is a higher priority.
UCLA coaches will be back out on the recruiting road November 20th and, while they'll be looking for a 2004 prospect, they'll also be scouting 2005 recruits. With the new rules instituted a couple of years ago, they can officially begin recruiting 2005 recruits in January, and a 2005 recruit can begin to take official visits as of that time. So, really, with how sped up the recruiting calendar is, UCLA's coaches are currently pretty focused on the 2005 class.
Of course, this is not a comprehensive list, but some of the prospects we know UCLA will target. And, of course, other names will be added to this list as time goes on.
Tyler Hansbrough, 6-9, Poplar Bluff (Missouri) High. Hansbrough is the #3-rated player in the class of 2005 nationally. He has a great natural scoring ability around the basket combined with quickness off the floor. It's going to be a battle for him, with the likes of Kansas, Duke, Florida, Arizona and local Missouri all fighting for him. He could take an unofficial visit to UCLA sometime in the next few months.
Amir Johnson, 6-9, Los Angeles (Calif.) Verbum Dei. He's the almost perfect fit for UCLA. He's big, athletic, talented, and goes to a traditional UCLA-pipeline school, one in which a UCLA assistant, Donny Daniels, attended. However, he's only almost perfect since there are questions about his academics. Some close to him say he's fine academically. Others are skeptical. No one really knows at this point since any hard copy of his academic records are pretty scarce. He is a top ten player on many national lists. If his academics are even close, UCLA will be all over him, as will Arizona, Kansas and others.
Theo Davis, 6-9, Etobicoke (Ontario, Canada) Marian Academy. Considered one of the best and most athletic low-post players in the national class of 2005, Davis is springy and long. TheInsiders has him as the #17 prospect for 2005. He has good grades and thus becomes a high priority for UCLA. They'll be fighting some of the midwest powers for him, like Michigan State and Illinois, along with North Carolina and Syracuse.
Eric Boateng, 6-10, Middletown (Del.) St. Andrews. A big, talented Brit, Boateng was first discovered this last summer at the Nike Camp. He's long and quick off his feet and had the elite programs drooling over him. He reminds you a little more raw version of Jerome Moiso. The Bruins will try hard to get involved with him. He's not too savvy about American college basketball so he could have a cosmopolitan, open mind about recruiting. TheInsiders has him as the #12-ranked player in 2005.
Braeden Bell, 6-8, Salt Lake City (Utah) Brighton. The #2-ranked post prospect in the west, Bell has good size and very good skills. He could have academic questions.
Brett Hoerner, 6-10, Fullerton (Calif.) High. Hoerner is the guy you want to see really develop during his junior year and this coming spring since it'd be a slam dunk for UCLA to get him. He's said in the past that UCLA is his favorite school and where he wants to go. The snag is he'll have to show some development, and perhaps some physical development, for UCLA to offer him. He's extremely skinny, probably weighing 190ish, and hasn't yet had that aggressiveness switch turned on. But he has some very good tools – decent athleticism, good shot blocking skills, and fairly good post moves. He also has good grades, so if Hoerner gets bigger and better, it would be a great thing for UCLA.
Artem Wallace, 6-8 Toledo (Wash.) High. He's ranked the #1 power forward in the west for 2005. He's an import from Russia, with a tough, Russian-type of body and some very good developing skills. If he continues to develop and gets more aggressive, he has the tools to be a top 40 national player. Like Hoerner, Wallace likes UCLA, having taken an unofficial visit in August. If he continues to improve, UCLA will be all over him.
Jon Brockman, 6-6 Snohomish (Wash.) High. He's undersized for his position, especially since he is a true low-post and really hasn't shown so far in his development that he has three-type wing skills. Brockman, though, is a true banger – a kid who has outplayed other hyped prospects who are much taller. In a year when there aren't many elite post players, UCLA will watch Brockman, especially since he has very good academics. He could be among Stanford's big targets.
Zarron Cann, 6-6, Brandon (Flor.) High. Cann is another undersized post player that shows up on many national lists. He's the size of a small forward, but is pretty thick and athletic and holds his own defensively against players much taller. He has expressed an interest in UCLA before.
POWER FORWARD/SMALL FORWARD
Brandon Costner, 6-8, West Orang (New Jersey) Seton Hall Prep. The #21-ranked player nationally by TheInsiders.com, Costner has a great inside-outside game and the body to be able to guard post players – in other words, a great fit for Howland's system at the four. UCLA will recruit him heavily, fighting against North Carolina, Kansas, Stanford and others.
Julian Wright, 6-7, Flossmoor (Ill.) Homewood-Flossmoor. The #18-ranked player in the country, Wright can really score from the post or step out. He probably weighs 200 pounds and is still pretty thin – with the potential to get bigger. The Bruins are recruiting him and will have to contend with the midwest powers to get interest from him. He comes from T.J. Cummings' high school, so UCLA will try to use that connection.
Fendi Onubon, 6-7, Alief (Tex.) Taylor. Onubun is a bit of a tweener – having the size of a small forward with the game more like that of a power forward at this point. He does have a pretty bulky body, though, and can defend in the post. He could be among the top 40 in the nation, as many analysts list him. He likes Arizona, UCLA, Texas, North Carolina and others.
Lawrence Hill, 6-7 Glendale (Ariz.) Deer Valley. A pretty intriguing prospect, Hill is a Ed O'Bannon type power forward – lean, quick in the post and with a good outside jumper. He has the body of a small forward, but plays like a power forward. He has shown some promise in getting physically bigger and filling out, and if he continues to do so, he could be a good fit for a Howland offense. He's also a good fit since he's an excellent student.
Tasmin Mitchell, 6-7, Denham Springs (Louisiana) High. Considered by many the #1 prospect in the class nationally, Mitchell is a stud of an athlete who gets most of his work done around the basket – combined with a deadly three-point shot. It's a weak class and Mitchell probably wouldn't be among the top 10 players in the class of 2004, and not nearly the pro-type prospect of many in that class. He has said he likes UCLA among a list of five or so, but it's very unlikely UCLA would have a shot at him, for various reasons.
Others to Watch:
Davon Jefferson, 6-7, Lynwood (Calif.) High. Possibly could be talented enough, but could be academic issues.
Jamal Boykin, 6-7, Los Angeles (Calif.) Fairfax. In our opinion, as of now, he's a mid-major, but he's a good kid with good grades and UCLA will watch him.
Darrin Mahoney, 6-7, Heber City (Utah) Wasatch. Skilled big man who'd be good in Howland's system, but not athletic enough to play at this level yet. Someone to keep an eye on, especially if he grows or gets more athletic.
Mario Chalmers, 6-2, Anchorage (Alaska) Bartlett. Currently ranked the #1 point guard in the west in the class of 2005, he's also a top 25 player nationally. Chalmer is more of a combo guard, with the scoring mentality of a two guard dominating his game most of the time. He's athletic, quick, and has point guard instincts. UCLA is among his favorites, and they'll do battle with some big names for him.
Monta Ellis, 6-2, Jackson (Mississippi) Lanier. Ranked commonly among the top 20 players in the class of 2005 nationally, Ellis is very talented. He can really shoot and score, being one of the best drivers in this class, but he can also shift over and play the point with flair and great passing ability. UCLA will try, but you'd have to consider the Bruins somewhat of a longshot at this point for him.
Mike Mercer, 6-3, Snellville (Georgia) South Gwinnett. Mercer is probably a top 40 national caliber player who is more of a two guard than a point. But he handles the ball well and knows how to run a team, even though he primarily likes to score. UCLA has some ins with him because of assistant Kerry Keating and has a good shot.
Louis Williams, 6-1, Snellvilee (Georgia) South Gwinnett. How's this for a high school backcourt? You have Mercer, a top 40 national caliber player, and Williams, who is a top ten national player in the class of 2005 and probably the #1-ranked point guard. He, though, is an amazing scorer and athlete so he's labeled quite often a combo guard. UCLA doesn't have much of a shot with him but they'll try.
Chris Douglas-Roberts, 6-4, Detroit (Mich.) Cass Techical. A big, lean guard who has very good point guard instincts, Roberts is probably a top 50 national level player for 2005. UCLA assistant Ernie Zeigler has the Detroit connections on this one.
Kashif Watson, 6-1, Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman. The younger brother of Tennesee's C.J. Watson, Kashif could be more talented than his older brother. He's longer, more athletic and has a better body at this stage. Kashif has great natural ability, but will have to work on honing his skills more, particularly his outside shooting. He has a chance to emerge as an elite player in the west. Coach Kerry Keating was instrumental in bringing C.J. to Tennessee when Keating was an assistant there, so he has good connections with the Watson family.
Lamar Falley, 6-3, Las Vegas (Nev.) Durango. Another Vegas player who has a chance to be an elite high major, Falley has good size, athleticism, and pretty advanced skills to both score and distribute. UCLA coaches saw him in Vegas during the recent evaluation period. He's definitely one to watch.
Others to Watch:
Andre McGee, 5-10 Moreno Valley (Calif.) Canyon Springs. One of the quickest players in recent years in the west, McGee is very talented. But he's stuck a bit in between being a flashy scoring guard and being just 5-10. He has good grades, though, and he could still satisfy UCLA's needs for a combo.
Jonathan Gibson, 5-11 West Covina (Calif.) High. A true point, but probably just as quick as McGee, if not quicker. He could develop into a player good enough that UCLA has to seriously consider him.
Ryan Thornton, 6-0 Sacramento (Calif.) Capital Christian. Another player who is more of a true point, but he has shown flashes of such great talent, he might also develop enough that he's too good not to consider if you're UCLA.
Harvey Perry, 6-5, Las Vegas (Nev.) Cheyenne. Great size and good lead guard skills. He's truly in the 2004 class but will go to prep school and be held back to 2005. If academics are okay, could be one UCLA could get involved with.
Martell Webster, 6-6 SF, Seattle (Wash.) Rainier Beach. A top five player and, on many lists, the #1 player in the class of 2005 nationally (but take into consideration the class is down). Webster is long and weighs probably 215 ish but still looks relatively lean. In other words, he could physically develop into a beast of a small forward. Combine that with the best skills and scoring instincts on the west coast and you have the potential for greatness. He has said Arizona is his leader, but UCLA is making some in-roads. Here's a bonus to not getting Malik Hairston in the class of 2004; if they had, Webster probably wouldn't have considered UCLA. He has to improve his grades, but UCLA will recruit him very hard.
Tyler Smith, 6-6, Pulaski (Tenn.) Giles Country. A top 10 national player in the 2005 class, Smith is a big, physical three with good skills. He's so big he could actually develop into the scoring-type of four that Howland likes in his offense. No matter his position, he's an impact player. Keating, again, is using his established Tennessee connections to get UCLA in on Smith and they're doing well. In fact, they could be among his few leaders at this point and could take a visit sometime during this season or spring.
Joey Shaw, 6-6, Chandler (Ariz.) High. A really up-and-comer to watch. He showed nice signs last summer, but has really improved since and recently looked great at the Arizona Preps Showcase. He's long, very skinny, but very talented and athletic. And, believe it or not, he said he wants to leave the state of Arizona and UCLA was his favorite school as a kid. A complete recruiting update on Shaw is coming.
Joe Darger, 6-6, Riverton (Utah) High. Probably has the best shot in the west, Darger is a great talent that lacks the elite athleticism. But he's definitely someone UCLA will watch.
Marcus Williams, 6-5 Seattle (Wash.) Roosevelt. A very promising prospect with great size, body and skills. He'll probably be a top 75 national level prospect and UCLA will be watching him.
Kyle Spain, 6-5, Newark (Calif.) Memorial. A very good body with good skills, Spain lacks explosiveness off the floor, but he is still someone that could emerge as an elite prospect.
Micah Downs, 6-7, Bothell (Wash.) High. Definitely a player to keep an eye on, Downs is somewhat unknown but has all the tools. A kind of poor man's Mike Dunleavy, Downs is an explosive athlete, with great quickness for his size and good skills. UCLA is scouting.
Terrence Williams, 6-4 Seattle (Wash.) Rainier. Another from the state of Washington, Williams is a stud of an athlete with developing skills.
6-5, Los Angeles (Calif.) Westchester. A truly phenomenal athlete with a one of
those pliant, elastic bodies, Johnson is intriguing. His skills have developed
some, but he's still sporadic. If he continues to develop and mature, and
he has the academics, UCLA could get on him seriously and they'd have a very
good chance with him.
Others to Watch:
Brian Harvey, 6-5, Compton (Calif.) Dominguez. A great talent with poor academics.
Larry Gurganious, 6-4, Berkeley (Calif.) St. Mary's. A great athlete with developing skills.
Tyler Newbold, 6-4 Payson (Utah) High. Skilled and mature, but maybe not UCLA's caliber.
Marcus Carter, Jr., 6-4 Claremont (Calif.) High. An intriguing prospect who might also fulfill the combo guard role depending on how he develops.