It's always an iffy proposition to try to anticipate how many scholarships the basketball program will have for a recruiting class a couple of years away.
Right now, if UCLA gives out all of the scholarships it has available for 2006, it will only have one scholarship open for the 2007 class, and that one is already earmarked for Taylor King, the 6-7 forward from Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei.
But, things change.
UCLA has three scholarships to give to the class of 2006. It's already received a verbal commitment from James Keefe, the 6-8 power forward from Rancho Santa Margarita (Calif.) Santa Margarita. It will be looking for a true center type with one of the other scholarships.
And then it's unknown what UCLA will do with the third remaining scholarship for 2006. If a clearly elite player, regardless of position, wants to come to UCLA you can bet the Bruin coaching staff won't hesitate. As of now, UCLA is looking pretty good in terms of depth at each position for the 2006 season (if in fact no one leaves the program). It could possibly use more help on the perimeter, ideally a quick, sharp-shooting guard or a clearly elite small forward. But if UCLA feels there isn't a player it particularly likes in 2006 that it can get, it could very well keep that third 2006 scholarship for the 2007 class.
That would then give UCLA two scholarships to give for 2007 - one more besides the one earmarked for King.
Also, it's impossible to know if any players will leave the program - or leave early for the pros - by then.
In the meanwhile, UCLA is scouting and evaluating the 2007 class. There are clearly some elite prospects in 2007 that they would have a chance with and have already shown interest. These are probably guys that, if they wanted to come, UCLA would probably take.
But as of right now, there is still quite a bit that needs to happen to get a better grasp on the situation for recruiting the class of 2007.
Until then, here's a look at some of the prospects that have been identified early as targets in the class for UCLA.
CLEARLY ELITE FOR 2007
Taylor King, 6-7 SF/PF, Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei. King has improved physically, slimming down, which has improved his quickness, mobility and hops. It also could be that he's still physically maturing. As a sophomore so far this season he has taken it another level from his freshman year, averaging 25 points and 10 rebounds a game. He's put on a couple of shooting clinics, in front of big audiences, such as the 8 threes he hit against Seattle Rainier Beach, finishing with 35 points. His shot has continued to get more consistent, and he's pushing his range out further. He already has a great low-post feel, able to post up with either hand and to go along with that feathery outside jumper, and great passing ability. There's a question of where he'll play in college, but if he keeps improving at this rate it won't much matter. He'll conservatively be a top 25 player in his class nationally.
Kevin Love, 6-8 PF/C, Lake Oswego (Ore.) High. Love is probably the best low-post prospect in the west right now , regardless of class. His skills are better than most of the post players in the Pac-10 right now; in fact, he probably would be starting for UCLA this year. Not only very sophisticated in his low post moves, but he loves to bang, is aggressive and has a mean streak. The son of former Duck and NBAer, Stan Love, he's a top ten national player for 2007. If he continues to get bigger physically, he'll have the chance to go to the NBA out of high school. But he hasn't gotten much bigger since his freshman year. And he's somewhat limited athletically, which could also keep him from doing the NBA jump. Head Coach Ben Howland and his assistant coaches have been on Love from early on. Oregon would have to be the early favorite, and he'll get bombarded by the country's elite programs. Love is close to Taylor King, and has family in Southern California.
Jerryd Bayless, 6-1 CG, Phoenix (Ariz.) St. Mary's. Bayless is easily the best guard in this class in the west. He's explosive, quick, can really handle it, sees the court and can break down defenses. His shot is just good, and continues to improve. Of course, Arizona has to be on him, but they did already take a commitment from a junior point guard from Texas, Nic Wise. Bayless, though, in our opinion, is a better player, which could present a dilemma for Arizona. Bayless is a top 25 national player and will have all of the nation after him. He's also a very good student. He broke his wrist this season and is hoping to return in time for the spring AAU events.
Kyle Singler, 6-6 SF, Medford (Ore.) South Medford. With advanced skills and knowledge of the game, Singler is a talented young player, with a good stroke and passing ability, all in a very good body for a sophomore. He'll also get looks nationally, probably projecting as a top 50 national prospect in the class.
Omondi Amoke, 6-5 SF, Oxnard (Calif.) High. Amoke is emerging as one of the best prospects in the west. He has a great body, well-built, but with room to put on more muscle. He also has a great inside-outside game, very comfortable posting up, but also at home on the perimeter, particularly with a good handle. His outside stroke looks good and continues to improve. Previously unknown outside of the west right now, he'll more than likely emerge as a top national player this spring and summer and get heaped with attention. He has said that UCLA and Arizona are his long-time favorites.
Gary Johson, 6-7 PF, Houston (Tex.) Aldine. Johnson is one of the few national level players that UCLA has clearly been recruiting early in the 2007 class. He's a top 25 national player in his class, Johnson is a good athlete with a pretty advanced feel for the game, and is a good student. If UCLA does get seriously involved it will be fighting off some major competition like Texas, Arizona and even North Carolina and Duke.
GUYS WITH A VERY GOOD CHANCE
Alex Jacobson, 6-11 C, Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei. He transferred from St. John Bosco, and is actually the correct age for his grade, which is unusual these days. He's got a good body, that could obviously hold more weight, and has a very good basic grasp of the game, with a nice stroke. He's still growing into his body and his quickness and agility improve just about every time we see him. He continues to get more aggressive, too, which is key. If he continues to develop at this clip, he'll clearly be a high-major big man prospect in this class.
Chace Stanback, 6-5 SG, Los Angeles (Calif.) Fairfax. Stanback is one of the
best-looking young prospects in Los Angeles. He is long, wide-shoulder, with a
body that could hold more weight, athletic, and has one of the prettiest outside
jumpers in the city. Reportedly is a good student, too.
Clint Amberry, 6-8 PF/C, Huntington Beach (Calif.) Ocean View. He's a big kid, with a good body and frame, and his skills took a major step forward as a freshman a year ago and continue to improve. He also got control of his body much better in the last year. UCLA is trying to line up youngsters, and Amberry is one on the list. He attended UCLA's camp last June. He'll have to continue to improve, and get bigger physically, to get recruited at the elite high-major level.
Tyrone Shelley, 6-5, San Diego (Calif.) Crawford. Shelley is perhaps one of the best prospects in the west for 2007, with a great basketball body, athletic and long, with good lateral quickness for his length. His skills are coming along, and he has a great natural scoring instinct. A potential top 50 national player, he had to sit out a majority of this season for transfer violations.
Jamelle Horne, 6-6 SF, San Diego (Calif.) Hoover. Came on the scene last summer, showing off a great body and good athleticism with some pretty advanced skills for his age. Potentially an elite high major.
Zane Johnson, 6-6 SF, Phoenix (Ariz.) Thunderbird. Johnson has a very well-roundedgame for a sophomore, with a good stroke, ball-handling and passing. He's just an average athlete, but has a good natural feel, especially as a rebounder. He's more than likely a high major and someone to watch.
Quinton Watkins, 6-4 SG, Compton (Calif.) Dominguez. Watkins is one of the best athletes in the west, with great explosiveness and a great body. He has an okay stroke at this point, but also has the potential to be a great defender. He was ineligible for a portion of his freshman season at Bellflower St. John Bosco, which isn't a great sign. If he develops some consistent skills, he's a potential top 40 national player.
Drew Viney, 6-4 SG/SF, Villa Park (Calif.) High. As he's gotten bigger and more mature physically, Viney has taken his advanced skills with him. He's got high-major hops to go along with a very nice stroke. He still looks like he's growing into his body, and could end up quite a bit taller. He truly has emerged this year as a high-major prospect as a sophomore.
Kenton Walker, 6-7 PF, Scripps Ranch (Calif.) High. A transfer from Indiana, Walker has come a long way from when we saw him a few months ago. He has a very good body, with long arms, and good athleticism. His skills are still coming along, but he's got a good natural stroke from the free-throw line. The best aspect of Walker is his great natural feel around the basket, and his natural instinct for rebounds. He'll be a high-major prospect.
Justin Holiday, 6-5 SF, North Hollywood (Calif.) Campbell Hall. One of the better athletes in the class, with great lateral quickness for his size. He's uses his quickness to be an effective slasher and defender. Not as skilled as others on this list, like Amoke or Stanback, but athletically has possibly more potentially.
MORE TO WATCH
Austin Daye, 6-4 SG, Irvine (Calif.) Woodbridge, looks like the best example of a kid who will grow, being very skinny and looking like a baby. He's already grown a couple of inches in the last year while he still looks young. He might have the best feel for the game of anyone in his class, with a great passing and scoring ability. It also helps that he's the son of ex-Bruin Darren Daye.
Daniel Hackett, 6-4 SG, Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco. Probably rivals Taylor King as the best outside shooter in the class. The lefty can really stroke it. He also has a very good feel for the game, and is an excellent passer, playing point guard for most of his life. His athleticism is limited, which could keep him from the elite high-major level.
Isaiah Jenkins, 6-2 PG/SG Los Angeles (Calif.) Westchester. He has good size, a strong body and is a good athlete while he handles the ball well. He's very assertive for a youngster. He attended UCLA's June Camp.
Venoy Overton, 5-8 PG, Seattle (Wash.) Franklin, is probably the second best sophomore point guard prospect in the west (if you consider Bayless a point guard). He's still pretty small, but has a good frame, with long arms, and looks like he could still grow considerably. He can really shoot, has great vision, good quickness and great poise for his age. He'll have to get bigger, but is, of course, still pretty young.
Kamyron Brown, 6-1, Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei. Someone to definitely keep an eye on, Brown has grown considerably in the last year. His brother, Kyle, is about 6-4, and Kamyron could get bigger. He has a very good natural feel as a point guard and a good passing instinct. Brown also has good quickness for his size.
Isaiah Thomas, 5-8 PG, Tacoma (Seattle) Curtis. Thomas is emerging as one of the best point guards in the northwest as a sophomore, with good quickness and a very good overall feel for the game.
Jamelle McMillan, 6-2 PG, Seattle (Wash.) O'Dea. Since he's the son of former NBAer Nate McMillan, it's not a big surprise that Jamelle has an excellent feel for the game. He has very good size and frame, plays within himself, is good defender, and is pretty athletic.
Tim Shelton, 6-5 SF, Fresno (Calif.) San Joaquin Memorial, had a very effective freshman season, but has had to sit out his sophomore season due to transfer violations. He has a body that projects possibly more as a baseline player, which could hurt him if he doesn't grow. His older brother, senior, Titus Shelton, who committed to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, is 6-7 and thick. Tim has better perimeter skills at this point, though, and he's someone to just keep an eye on.
Jesse Woodard, 6-0 PG, Compton (Calif.) Centennial. Woodard is getting a great deal of hype, which isn't necessarily a good thing for him, giving him so much to live up to over the next few years. Woodard is a pretty good player, with a good natural feel and passing ability. However, he looks very physically mature for his class (being a year older), and has just average quickness. The question is how much upside there is, but he's someone to watch.
JayDee Luster, 5-7 PG, San Diego (Calif.) Hoover, is a naturally flashy player, who is great on the break, is a good passer, and can hit his outside set shot. He is, though, very small (5-7 being generous), and would have to grow considerably to be considered an elite high major.
Dane Suttle, 6-3 SG, Los Angeles (Calif.) Westchester, is a fluid, long, good athlete. He lacks explosiveness just yet, but has superior skills and composure, and with an average projected amount of development will probably be a high major. Attended UCLA's June Camp, and made an appearance at a UCLA exhibition game.
Wendell McKines, 6-5 SF/PF, Richmond (Calif.) High, is a man among boys. He's physically developed so he might not grow much more, but right now he's getting it done inside, dominating weaker opponents.
Pierce Brooks, 6-6 CF, Woodland Hills (Calif.) Taft. Brooks is stuck in the middle of being a small forward and a power forward, and the way his body goes will decide it. He has good skills, but is a bit slow-footed. If he grows a couple of inches, and he very well might, having size 16 shoes, he has the makings of a nice frontcourt player. But he hasn't grown much in the last year or so, so he'll probably settle in to being a small forward. Also a good kid, and close to Jordan Farmar.
THE 2008 CLASS
UCLA could have quite a few scholarships available for the current high school freshmen class. You could bet at least three, if not four.
It's very early to label high school freshmen as UCLA prospects, but here are a few that are really standing out so far:
Jin Soo Kim, 6-7 SF, Van Nuys (Calif.) Montclair Prep. Imported from Korea, incredibly skilled, Kim would be a great fit at UCLA. He's been trained to be a basketball player so extensively there are some questions whether he'll be academically-minded enough, though. Some Korean influences around him also want him to go pro out of high school.
Brandon Jennings, 5-11 PG, Compton (Calif.) Domiguez. Quick and fairly skilled for a freshmen, he just needs to fill out some and get stronger.
Martez Walker, 6-7 SF, Birmingham (AL) Central Park. Identified early on as one of the top players in the class, Walker has expressed interest in UCLA.
Demar DeRozan, 6-4 SF, Compton (Calif.) High. One of the best athletes in the class, so far.
Larry Drew, 5-10 PG, Woodland Hills (Calif.) Taft. The son of former NBA player of the same name, he, of course, has a great natural feel and passing ability.Oscar Bellfield, 6-2 SG, Woodland Hills (Calif.) Taft. Talented, with pretty advanced skills for a freshman.
Auri Allen, 6-8 C, Los Angeles (Calif.) Verbum Dei. A big bodied kid who's getting hyped too much early. Allen, though, has a chance, with good agility.
Ben Aird, 6-8 C, Bountiful (Utah) High. One of the early best posts in the freshmen class in the west.
Nathan Garth, 5-10 PG, Sacramento (Calif.) Capital Christian. Skilled and with a naturally great feel.
Jrue Holiday, 6-1 PG/SG, North Hollywood (Calif.) Campbell Hall. The little brother of the Justin Holiday in the 2007 list, Jrue has good size and a knack for the game at this stage.
Andy Polling, 6-8 C, Portland (Ore.) Westview. Identified early on as a potentially elite post from Oregon.
Jaime Serna, 6-7 PF/C, Mission Viejo (Calif.) Capistrano Valley. Another of the best young posts in the west, Serna has a great natural instinct with his back to the basket.