Coming out of the July basketball recruiting evaluation period, not really a great deal changed from our update midway through the month.
UCLA still has three total scholarships to give. One is already spoken for, and UCLA is looking to fill the other two with a big and one wing, or two bigs, or maybe just one big while saving one ride for the 2007 class.
The one that is taken is earmarked for verbally committed James Keefe, the 6-8 power forward from Rancho Santa Margarita (Calif.) Santa Margarita. While Keefe's stock might have slipped a bit in spring with some national scouts when he played with an AAU team, he only cemented his status with many others this July, playing better with his high school team and having a good showing at the Adidas Camp. He's a top 30 national player in our minds.
Chase Budinger, the 6-7 small forward from Encinitas (Calif.) La Costa Canyon, is another very high priority for UCLA but, as we reported recently, it looks as if Budinger is leaning towward Arizona. He says UCLA is still in it, and is also considering USC. He has taken an official visit to UCLA, and unofficial visits to Arizona and USC. He told us that he was looking to commit in mid-August and most of the smart money is on the Wildcats.
Budinger, though, is the only wing UCLA has seriously recruited, with only bigs being the other prospects UCLA has offered.
Spencer Hawes, 6-11 center, Seattle (Wash.) Prep, probably improved his stock to be the #2 player in country. He said toward the end of July that he had cut his list to Washington, North Carolina, UCLA, Stanford and Connecticut. While Hawes would be the answer to UCLA's post dreams, it's a longshot that they'll get him. The leaders are Washington, Stanford and North Carolina, with the hometown Huskies probably the ultimate favorite. Because of the age requirement for the NBA draft, Hawes will have to go to college for a year, and he'll probably want to spend that year close to home, playing with friends at U-Dub. UCLA, though, has recruited Hawes dilligently, and looks to get an official visit out of him, probably in September. They'll try to sell him that he's the last piece to a Final Four puzzle, and they could very well be right.
Deon Thompson, 6-8 center, Torrance (Calif.) High, might have seen his stock increase more than any other prospect in the country during July, catapulting from fairly unknown (even though we touted him in the west), to probably a top 50 national prospect. He's such a great low-post scorer, and the second best we saw all summer behind Hawes. Since there just aren't many around the country, schools like Kentucky, Connecticut and Wake Forest offered last month, as did UCLA after Ben Howland watched Thompson tear up his AAU competition. The word is that North Carolina is recruiting him, but haven't offered him a scholarship. Thompson told us that UCLA "is a great fit," and that his mother would like him to stay close to home. For UCLA, hopefully that's the case, and the pull will be strong enough to fend off the elite national programs recruiting him. He will probably visit UCLA unofficially soon with his mother and his high school coach.
Alex Stepheson, 6-9, 220, North Hollywood (Calif.) Harvard-Westlake, had a fairly good July, rebounding and blocking shots well, and showing more development in his offensive post game. UCLA has offered, as has other national programs. Stepheson also likes Wake Forest, Connecticut, Arizona, Georgia Tech, Washington and North Carolina. UNC was the only school not to have offered, but the there are rumors they did recently. That's significant, since Stepheson has said that North Carolina would probably be his program of choice if they offered. UCLA is arranging to get an official visit with Stepheson, and he said that he'll narrow his list down to five fairly soon and visit those five.
UCLA is trying with Darrell Arthur, the 6-9 forward from Dallas (Tex.) South Oak Cliff, the top ten national prospect, but it looks to be a longshot. Arthur probably would be a straight-to-the-NBA guy if it weren't for the new NBA age-requirement rule, and is looking for a good one-and-out situation in college. He has had Texas and Kansas high on his list, but sources indicate he doesn't think that would be a good one-and-out fit. North Carolina could be the favorite at this point, and Indiana is making headway, along with locals Baylor and SMU. UCLA would have to get him to take an official visit to even have a shot, and that could be tough.
There might have been a very good chance that UCLA could move on Marcus Lawrence, the 5-11 point guard from Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman. But the word is that Lawrence, who was a bit iffy academically anyway, didn't do well in his last semester as a junior and UCLA might not be able to recruit him.
There is also a foreign player that UCLA is recruiting, a 6-8, skilled post player, for the 2006 class.