Update on Hoops Recruiting

So much is happening in basketball recruiting, it's hard to keep up. It's a big weekend for UCLA, as many of its top targets are taking official visits to other schools that are UCLA's big competitors. How could all the dominoes fall over the next month with <b>Jon Brockman</b>, <b>Ryan Wright</b>, <b>Brandon Costner</b>, and the rest?

It's a big weekend for UCLA in basketball recruiting.

It's what you could call a Tri-Worry Weekend for the Bruins as three of its top targets take three big official visits to other schools.

Jon Brockman, the 6-7 power forward from Snohomish (Wash.) High, will visit Duke.

Ryan Wright, the 6-8 post from Mississauga (Ontario, Canada) Loyola Catholic, will visit Michigan State.

Brandon Costner, the 6-7 forward from West Orange (NJ) Seton Hall Prep, will visit North Carolina State.

Duke is indeed a very big competitor for Brockman, and sources indicate that Michigan State is probably the biggest competition for Wright and NC State the most formidable for Costner.

Probably the one most susceptible to actually commit to the school he visits this weekend is Costner. NC State has been on Costner for a long time and has recruited him very aggressively. But, if Costner comes away from the visit without committing to the Wolf Pack, UCLA's chances increase dramatically. While many have thought he would want to stay close to home and maybe attend Seton Hall, one of the finalists he's considering, there is an opinion that Costner wants to go away to school, which would leave UCLA, NC State and Kansas. At this point, Kansas could be considered the longer shot, having got on him the latest and having someone similar to him already committed in Julian Wright. He's schedule to visit Kansas Sept. 24th.

With Brockman, there are few actual known quantities and plenty of theories floating around out there in recruiting circles. So, based on both, here's our own theory. It's still believed that UCLA has a slight lead for Brockman, for a number of reasons. First, Brockman and his family are wary of him going far away to school, and UCLA, in their mind, is close. It provides him the clear opportunity for early playing time and, what's especially important, is the fact he'd be playing with very good, young guards, particularly the point guard, Jordan Farmar. Brockman clicked with both Farmar and Arron Afflalo when he was on his official visit to UCLA. Washington, obviously, has the attraction of staying close to home, but it might not satisfy Brockman enough in his desire to play for a higher-profile program, and to play with a good, young point guard.

Duke is the disrupter in all of this. While many have maintained that Brockman would never go that far away for school, you can't underestimate the allure of Duke and Mike Krzyzewski recruiting you. Because of it, there are many that believe Duke will come from behind and pull the upset and get Brockman.

On the other hand, the Brockmans are very grounded, down-to-Earth people who aren't necessarily starry-eyed. They could very well look at the situation clear-eyed – that Duke is indeed too far away for their tastes, that they wouldn't be able to see Jon play, as opposed to if he played at Washington or UCLA. Duke is also trying to spin the fact that they already have three post players committed in the class of 2005, Josh McRoberts, Eric Boateng and Jamal Boykin. Also, while you always have to figure in how big of an impact an official visit to Duke will have, this weekend might not have the same impact since the Brockmans won't see a game at Cameron Indoor Arena. While a trip to Duke is still very impressive, the aspect that really wows recruits is seeing a game at Cameron.

With Washington there is also the factor that, ultimately when it comes down to it, Brockman does what many recruits do and decides to stay home. He said in a recent interview that he could still visit Washington officially, but it's thought that might not happen and that he could make a decision once he's visited Duke this weekend.

So, in theory, for Duke to upset UCLA at this point, Brockman will have to be convinced of many things about Duke – particularly playing time and other factors – and then be able to get over the biggest factor of it being too far away from home, which is a big issue for the Brockmans. But if there's a school that can do the convincing necessary, it's Duke. With Washington, it's a matter of just how much Brockman feels there is a difference in "staying home" between Washington and UCLA. From what we've heard, he hasn't felt like there was much, especially given the advantages of UCLA being the higher-profile program, playing time and guards he'd be able to play with at UCLA. If Washington had gotten Brockman's AAU teammate and good friend, point guard Mitchell Johnson, we'd be calling it for Washington at this point. But Johnson committed to Stanford.

Ryan Wright will visit UCLA October 1st, after visiting Michigan State this weekend. UCLA and Michigan State are supposed to be the two biggest contenders, with Stanford running third. In fact, there are those close to the situation that don't feel that Stanford is a serious player in this. While there is always a chance a recruit could verbal on his official visit, it's pretty safe to believe that Wright won't on his visit to Michigan State and make it to his official visit to UCLA. Since summer, there have been some sources close to the situation that believed UCLA was the leader for him – that it offered the best chance of immediate playing time, a good environment and a good education, with the academics being the part that appealed to the parents and distinguished UCLA in comparison to Michigan State. Even though he told us he will visit Stanford October 8th, it's actually still undetermined whether Wright will visit Stanford at this point.

Also visiting on October 1st is a prospect from Cameroon, Alfred Aboya, the 6-7 post who plays at Tilton (NH) Tilton School. Aboya could also be included in that Worry Weekend, taking an official visit to Virginia this weekend. He also has a plan to visit Georgetown on October 15th. Aboya, when he had just come to the U.S. from Cameroon, had verbally committed to Georgetown, and then reneged on his commitment later, not really knowing what other schools had to offer. UCLA, through hard work, made into his serious contender list. If Aboya were just merely deciding between Georgetown, Virginia and UCLA by itself, it's thought that UCLA would be a distant third. But there is the factor that there is a fellow countryman from Cameroon also interested in UCLA and taking his official visit October 1st, Luc Mbah A Moute, the 6-6 wing who plays for Montverde (Fla.) Montverde Academy.

Mbah A Moute is, in our opinion, one of the most under-rated players in the country. He's a legit 6-6 and probably 215 pounds, with a great body who is a great athlete. He is a very good rebounder for a small forward, a very good defender who has exceptional quickness for his size. Offensively, he's still developing, particularly his outside shot, which has a hitch in it, even though it goes in more consistently than you would think. He does, though, handle the ball well. He's a tough-nosed kid that plays hard and with a lot of energy – in other words, a Ben Howland type of kid.

UCLA has offered Mbah A Moute, and is probably the highest profile program to do so, and it's thought UCLA is doing well with him. If he comes on his visit to UCLA and likes it, not only would UCLA have a very good chance with him, it could greatly influence Aboya.

We had reported previously that D'Andre Bell, the 6-4 wing from Pacific Palisades (Calif.) Palisades, would visit UCLA officially October 2nd, but we've learned that those plans are currently up in the air. Bell very well could visit UCLA October 8th.

Bell is another who could be included in the Worry Weekend, visiting what he says is his leader, Michigan State, this weekend. He visited Georgetown last weekend, and plans to visit Georgia Tech Sept. 25th. With Arizona missing on its wing targets, they've now stepped up their recruitment of Bell, and he'll probably visit Tucson on October.

With the commitment of Adrian Thomas, the 6-6 combo forward from Pembroke Pines (Fla.) Flanagan, to Miami, and Bell talking like he might want to leave home, Mbah A Moute is shaping up to be possible the most plausible option for UCLA at the small forward position.

We've also learned of two other arranged official visits to UCLA – well, actually, three.

Brayden Bell, the 6-9 center from Salt Lake City (Utah) Brighton, is scheduled to visit UCLA October 8th. Bell took an official visit to Ohio State last weekend. Home favorite Utah will also get an official visit and is thought to be the favorite at this point. Keep in mind, though, that UCLA has yet to offer Bell. Bell had an in-home visit with Utah the first week of September, one with Ohio State on Tuesday and is scheduled to have Ben Howland in his house the 21st. Pepperdine is also involved.

Jeff Pendergraph, the 6-9 center from Etiwanda (Calif.) High, is also scheduled to visit UCLA on October 15th, along with his teammate, point guard Darren Collison, who is committed to UCLA. Pendergraph is scheduled to visit Arizona State next weekend, Sept. 24th. He's already visited Pepperdine and is getting recruited by Utah and San Francisco but doesn't have visits set with them. You would think that if UCLA offers Pendergraph they'd have an excellent shot at getting him, especially with the possibility of playing with his teammate, Collison.

There is also the possibility that UCLA could get an official visit from Leo Criswell, the 6-8 forward from Kansas City (Missouri) Piper.

It will be interesting to see how this all plays out from a timing standpoint. UCLA, obviously has as its top priorities the frontcourt players it has offered and been recruiting for sometime – Costner, Brockman, and Wright. It has also offered Aboya. There are many scenarios that are potentially intriguing when it comes to how this could unfold, when someone could commit, and how that could potentially affect UCLA's other targets. The big domino in all of this is Brockman, not only because he's such a top priority, but because it's believed that after his official visit to Duke this weekend he might be ready to decide. If he commits to UCLA soon, it will be interesting to see how that impacts the recruitment of the other posts on the list. If he waits, and actually holds off until late October and possibly takes a Washington official visit, it could then open the door for Brandon Costner or Ryan Wright to possibly be the first to commit, which would also then potentially impact the others on the list. Costner could have his visits done by the end of September. But even if Costner goes elsewhere and then Wright commits soon, will it impact Brockman if he hasn't committed? What if all three of them hold off on their decision and Aboya, who visits on October 2nd, decides he wants to commit to UCLA? UCLA would, of course, love to have Brockman, Wright and Costner, but the odds of that happening – just from the standpoint that all three would want to share potential playing time – is remote. But it's very realistic to think that UCLA could get two of the three, since there is very much room on UCLA's roster for two of them. It would then be interesting to see how UCLA would handle it if Aboya indeed wanted to commit. You might think, though, that it's fairly safe Aboya will hold off and get to his visit to Georgetown October 15th.

So much does depend on Brockman as the first domino. If he commits to UCLA soon or decides to go elsewhere soon, most of the scenarios play out easily. But if Brockman holds off, say, through most of October before making a decision, it could complicate the situation with Wright, Costner and especially Aboya. It might not be that complicated with Wright and Costner, since UCLA would, of course, take them no matter what, but again, what do you with if Aboya wants to commit before Brockman has decided?

And then there is Brayden Bell and Jeff Pendergraph. If say, UCLA hasn't received a commitment from any among Brockman, Costner or Wright, do they offer Bell and Pendergraph on their official visits? Or does UCLA have to wait to see what Brockman, Costner and Wright do? And again, what if Aboya wants to commit pretty quickly and Brockman, Costner or Wright haven't decided. Do you hold off on offering Bell and Pendergraph? If you wait too long, Bell and Pendergraph might get impatient.

It's certainly going to be an interest next month or so for UCLA basketball recruiting.

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