UCLA 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.
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.
As of right now, there are a few specific possibilites for that fifth scholarship. A couple of months ago, it looked like it would definitely go to a frontcourt player, and most likely the type of face-up four that Howland prefers. But UCLA's recruitment of elite wing Malik Hairston is still alive, very much so, in fact.
UCLA has looked into the possibiity of a JC or a foreign player. There were a couple of JC frontcourt players UCLA investigated, but they ultimately didn't have the academics. UCLA is still currently looking overseas, but the foreign player market has changed since its heydey a few years ago. More and more foreign players are looking to go straight to the NBA, or play on their club teams until they're prepared to take a shot at the NBA. Also, it's now not uncommon for the NBA to draft a foreign player and he then remains in Europe playing on his club team to develop. All of this takes away from the pool of foreign players that are available to college programs.
One issue to watch is the possible abolishment of the NCAA's 5/8 rule. The 5/8 rule, enacted before the 2001/2002 season, for those who don't know, limits college programs from bringing in more than five players in a single year or eight in any two-year period. It was intended to keep college programs from quick turnover among its scholarship players. College coaches have consistenly expressed their displeasure with the rule, often times citing how it has restricted them from using all of the 13 scholarships available to a college basketball program. The rule could very possibly be abolished when the NCAA Management Council and is Board of Directors votes on it in April. If the NCAA does rescind it, college programs will have no limits on the number of players they can enroll in any year. If 5/8 is lifted, it would probably go into effect this August.
For UCLA, that presents some interesting possibilities. if 5/8 is lifted in August, UCLA, theoretically, could bring in as many players as it wanted next fall. If UCLA, say, opened up two more scholarships it very well could bring in two more recruits in fall -- possibly Malik Hairston and a post player. It could be difficult to pull off, since UCLA would have to take commitments from both Hairston and a post player possibly before it knew that the 5/8 rule was rescinded. But, if the NCAA did rescind the rule by April, and the two players UCLA might like to bring in by next fall are still not committed, it's a possibility. After all, the signing period runs from April 14th until May 19th, which could give UCLA enough time after the rule is rescinded to then sign a sixth player.
If the 5/8 rule is not rescinded, and UCLA doesn't give out a fifth scholarship, they'll then have four available to give to the class of 2005. There is a list of 2005 prospects up on the front page of the site under "BRO Showcase." Also, remember to click on any of the hot links attached to a player's name to go to his database profile and all the stories done on him in the network's archive.
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 three or four 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 well the entire summer would have been torture for the UCLA coaches, and would have made it desperation time to get a point guard. With his senior season, he has continued to show development, and is playing very well, to the point that many are calling him the best pure point guard in the country. He has a very good chance of being named to the McDonald's All-American team, and the recent rumor is that he's already made the team. He's averaging 27.5 points, 5.8 assists, 5.7 rebounds and 3.9 steals per game, while shooting 82% from the foul line. 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 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 gotten back on track for his senior season. 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. He has come out in his senior season and shown more of that warrior-like attitude, and his play has shown improvement since summer. He also has a good shot at the McDonald's All-American team. Afflalo is currently averaging 20.3 points, 5.4 rebounds, 3.8 assists a game, while shooting 44.6% from three and 73% from the line.
Lorenzo Mata, 6-8 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, and that range has continued to move out by this winter. 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 last 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. In his first attempt without a tutor, he came close to a qualifying NCAA SAT score, so it's expected, with the tutor, he wil achieve one. The latest is that he's doing very well with the tutor and is expected to get a qualifying score, and that his first semester grades were very good. So far in his senior year, he's playing extremely well, showing more skill development, averaging 22.6 points, 13.1 rebounds and six blocked shots a game. 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, 6-6 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. Since summer he looks to have grown another inch, and has been playing really well so far in is senior season, leading the Los Angeles City Section in scoring, averaging over 30 points a game.
Malik Hairston, 6-4 SG, Detroit (Mich.) Renaissance. A top ten national player that UCLA had been recruiting and thought, then, that they were finished with when they got the commitment from Josh Shipp. But Hairston then said he was still interested in UCLA, and would wait until spring to decide. So, UCLA continues to recruit him. UCLA needs a frontcourt player, but when you have an elite, potentially big-impact player like Hairston available and interested you'd have to take him. Hairston's recruitment has been somewhat of a circus. His longtime list included UCLA, Kansas, Michigan and Ohio State, but recently there have been reports that Oklahoma, Louisville and even North Carolina could get involved. Much has been rumored and speculated on which school he prefers, and it probably changes quite frequently. The very latest is that UCLA looks very good with him. In fact, there are many close to the situation that think UCLA is in the driver's seat. And it makes sense. UCLA and Ohio State were thought to be the semi-favorites for a while since they have assistant coaches on their staffs that are from Detroit that Hairston knows well (UCLA's Ernie Zeigler). Between those two, it's thought that Hairston's father prefers UCLA. Hairston loved California, and it's quite a bit easier to project that UCLA will be a sucsessful program before Ohio State. Kansas has a chance, but doesn't have a Detroit connection, which Hairston has said is a big consideration. Michigan, it's thought, hurt itself when it had Hairston's teammate, Joe Crawford, as a priority over Hairston. Hairston hasn't even visited Michigan or Oklahoma officially. He probably won't announce is intentions until late March. If UCLA did get him, it would make UCLA's class potentially top five in the nation.
Robert Rothbart, 7-0 PF, Sacramento (Calif.) Natomas. Very skinny but skilled, Rothbart is intriguing. Being 7-0 and able to shoot out beyond three is enough to get him interest from Arizona, Cal, Indiana and Missouri. He's visited all four schools officially, but has narrowed his list to UCLA, Arizona and Indiana. He isn't very aggressive, though, and stil has a long ways to go. But recent reports are that he's gained 15-20 pounds and is playing better. He's averaging 21 points, 15 rebounds, and five blocks a game in his senior season. Admittedly, though, he's accomplishing this in a fairly weak league. UCLA coaches have been to watch him practice and play in a game recently and Rothbart said he intends to take an official visit to UCLA after his season. Rothbart has said that UCLA has offered him a scholarship, but that's a bit premature. But, if UCLA doesn't get Hairston, or can miraculously sign 6 players because the 5/8 rule is rescinded, it's believed that UCLA likes Rothbart enough to offer him. It's also believed that Rothbart would commit.
Boris Meno, 6-8 PF, Northfield (Mass.) North Herman. Another wait-and-see prospect, Meno is originally from France and has good skills. Having previously been considered a mid-major, he's gotten the attention of some high majors this season who are looking for a skilled big man, including UCLA. Meno, though, hasn't done enough yet in his senior season to get UCLA aggressively recruiting him.
UCLA had officially tripped in Kevin Langford, 6-8 PF, Fort Worth (Tex.) North Crowley, in December. UCLA didn't offer Langford a scholarship, and he recently visited Cal, the Bears offered him and he verbally committed. While Meno is still a consideration, it now appears that UCLA's options for spring have been narrowed predominantly to Hairston, Rothbart or possibly a player from overseas.We'll have an update on the recruiting for the class of 2005 coming soon...