UCLA Notes from Kingwood Tourney

UCLA's recruiting priorities shape up at the Houston Kingwood tournament this weekend, with UCLA coaches obviously targeting a few choice prospects like 6-10 junior <b>Spencer Hawes</b>, 6-7 junior <b>Chase Budinger</b>, and 6-9 sophomore <b>Kevin Love</b>...

it's looking like the hottest priorities for UCLA basketball recruiting are Spencer Hawes, 6-10 junior center from Seattle (Wash.) Prep; Chase Budinger, 6-7 junior small forward from Encinitas (Calif.) La Costa Canyon; Kevin Love, 6-9 sophomore center from Lake Oswego (Ore.) High, and Kyle Singler, the 6-7 sophomore small forward Medford (Ore.) South Medford.

UCLA Head Coach Ben Howland attended just about every one of each of their games this weekend.

The Portland Elite Legends, which features Love and Singler, in fact, won the Houston Kingwood Tournament Sunday, beating a team from Indiana, SYF Players, that included 6-7 junior Jamil Tucker.

The Legends beat SYF in the final without Kevin Love, who sat out most of the game with cramps, which is understandable, since it was their fifth game of the day.

Singler, in fact, was injured during the game, and he also sat out for a portion.

Love and Singler, obviously, were the players that carried the Legends to the championship. But the team is coached so well by Troy Berry, and play as a team, that they stand out distinctly in AAU ball.

And they win championships as a result.

Kevin Love is probably the #1 overall prospect on the west coast, regardless of class. He's just unstoppable with how advanced his post moves are, his feel for the game, and his skill level.

UCLA is supposed to be among the five or so leaders for Love. Curiously, the word is that Oregon isn't at this point. It's going to be tough, though, because Love will be able to go wherever he wants, of course, and you'd have to think that Oregon ultimately will be a big player in his recruitment.

Singler is far and away the best wing in the west, regardless of class. He's not only big and athletic, but very skilled, combining great shooting and passing ability. He's one of those players that seems like he's just playing on a different level than everyone else on the court -- kind of like Paul Pierce did in high school.

Probably the second-best prospect in the west, though, is Hawes, who proved to be one of the best center prospects in the nation this weekend. He's not only skilled, but athletic, with very quick feet and a great passing ability. It's believed that North Carolina is going to be the toughest competition for Washington with Hawes, with UCLA, Arizona and others trying to wedge in there. Coaches from UCLA, Washington, North Carolina, Arizona and Duke were at most of his games.

Hawes will visit UCLA officially in early June. It's planned to be on the same weekend with Chase Budinger.

Budinger is roomates with UCLA commit James Keefe when playing on their travel team, SoCal All-Stars. Keefe and Budinger have become close and that helps the Bruins. Keefe will probably also be up on campus that visit weekend, and you'd have to assume also being around that weekend will be UCLA's committed local players, Darren Collison and Mike Roll, as well as the returning freshmen.

Many schools will be trying hard with Budinger, but it looks, right now, to be a UCLA-Arizona battle. UCLA has much on its side to sell -- the best volleyball program in the country, staying local, playing with Keefe, an emerging elite program, etc. Arizona will sell Lute Olson and his history of putting players in the NBA.

Budinger had an up and down tournament for SCA. He struggled Saturday night against the Portland Panthers, who feature Phil Nelson, another elite small forward (as well as Robert Sacre, a 6-9 sophomore center UCLA is recruiting from Vancouver). It wasn't that Nelson dominated him, it's just that Budinger struggled to get space offensively with better defense played against him. He was very effective Sunday morning, though, and played well, hitting his outside shots and crashing the boards with his athleticism. SCA lost after leading against a team from Indiana, Blessed IJN, for most of the game.

Taylor King, the 6-6 soph small forward who de-committed from UCLA, played just okay for the weekend. King plays hard, and gets so much garbage points as a result. His shooting range is spectacular, but his shot selection is poor at times, and hurt SCA some this weekend. North Carolina's Roy Williams came to Houston Sunday and attended SCA's game, to watch King, among others.

Ray Hall, the 6-9 junior center from Denver (Col.) Mullen, played better here. He looks like he's in better shape and has improved stamina (he's probably lost some weight but still weighs 285 pounds). He had a couple of good games, but also some where he wasn't very effective. At least one of Coach Howland or assistant Kerry Keating were at most of Hall's games.

Taylor Harrison, the 6-9 center from San Clemente (Calif.) High, didn't get much playing time with So Cal All-Stars. He was a late addition to the roster, so he's coming off the bench. Saturday night, Harrison didn't play in the second half of a game at all. SCA also has become somewhat of a run and gun team, and Harrison isn't touching the ball when he is on the floor. The lack of playing time must have been fairly frustrating for both Harrison -- and UCLA -- since Howland was at every one of his games but didn't get to see him much.

UCLA didn't offer Harrison when they visited with him at his high school last week. He's leaning toward Cal and still wants to commit, and could very well do so on his official visit to Berkeley next weekend. UCLA will try to persuade Harrison to hold out, at least until he can attend UCLA's camp in late June. Harrison really has grown to like the atmosphere of Berkeley, though.

James Keefe, UCLA's committed junior, didn't touch the ball much himself and has kind of fallen into a role player on SCA. While he hasn't asserted himself as much as he could, it's hard on a team that's degraded like this one has. I would suspect some national recruiting gurus will move Keefe down in their national rankings after the last two weekends, but that will be based on a poor evaluation situation.

Daniel Deane, the 6-8 junior power forward from Salt Lake City (Utah) Judge Memorial, played okay. He doesn't appear to have improved his post game in the last year or so, which is what he really needed to improve, still not posting up well and without any developed moves. He has, in fact, taken his game further away from the basket, looking to face up and shoot, threes in particular. UCLA coaches watched a few of Deane's games.

Alex Legion, the 6-4 sophomore from Beverly Hills (Mich.) Detroit Country Day, who is expressing interest in UCLA, is the real deal. He's a great athlete, with great leaping ability and quickness, and good skills. He's actually the elite type of athlete UCLA could use. Robert Sacre, the sophomore post who is 6-9 to 6-10 from Vancouver (Can.) Hansworth School, is a real prospect, with a great body. UCLA coaches were at a couple of his games Saturday.

Jamil Tucker is a 6-7 junior small forward from Gary (Ind.) West Side who has expressed interest in UCLA. He led his team, SYF, to the Kingwood final against the Legends.. He is pretty thick and is just a good athlete, but not great. He has good offensive skills, with a good shot and ability to put the ball on the floor. Defensively could be a question -- whether or not he could guard a quick small forward. But he is big enough to guard a four, probably, at about 215 pounds right now. It doesn't appear, though, that UCLA will pursue him aggressively at this point.

Right now, UCLA looks to be focusing on Hawes and Budinger in the 2006 class, while still showing serious interest in Hall and Harrison, despite not offering Harrison yet. It's probably pretty logical to expect UCLA to also recruit Jamie Vanderbeken, the 6-10 junior center from Belleville (Ontario, Can.) Quinte seriously. After Hawes, there is a lack of clear-cut elite big men, and the Bruins are looking everywhere for one that they'd have a chance to get.

We'll have more, complete evaluations on UCLA recruits from Kingwood, recruiting news, some video highlights and photo galleries coming soon...

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