2006 Hoops Recruiting Update

UCLA is pretty focused in its recruiting for the class of 2006, with just a couple of post prospects, 6-8 Deon Thompson from Torrance and 6-9 Alex Stepheson from Harvard-Westlake, its prime targets. What's UCLA's status with each, and are there other options?

As it gets closer to the November basketball signing period, UCLA's recruitment of the 2006 class is still focusing on the same group of prospects as it was a few weeks ago.

Of course, UCLA has a commitment from 6-8 power forward James Keefe, of Rancho Santa Margarita (Calif.) Santa Margarita, a top 40 national player.

It would ideally like to give out one more scholarship, to a post player.

Alex Stepheson, the 6-9 post from Studio City (Calif.) Harvard-Westlake, has been on UCLA's campus a couple of times in the last week or so to play in the pick-up games and speak with the coaches.

The #58 player in the country, Stepheson will officially visit Georgia Tech this weekend. The big visit is North Carolina next weekend. And he has a plan to officially visit Connecticut on the 23rd.

The prevailing sentiment around the recruitment is that the kid is enamored of North Carolina. But many believe if he doesn't commit on his visit to Chapel Hill that weekend or soon after, UCLA would have a good shot with him. From what we've heard, his family appreciates the benefits of Stepheson staying close to home.

UCLA is shooting to get an official visit out of Stepheson, possibly for the weekend of October 7th, when the football team is home against Cal.

Deon Thompson, the 6-8 post from Torrance (Calif.) High, took an unofficial visit to Kentucky last weekend. From reports, the trip went well, but some sources in Kentucky are indicating that they feel UCLA is a tough competitor for Thompson. Thompson is in consistent contact with UCLA's coaching staff, and was scheduled to come up to campus this week for an unofficial visit but he couldn't make it. It's planned for him to come to campus next week.

This weekend Thompson, who is Scout.com's #22 player in the nation in the class of 2006, will visit Gonzaga, next weekend Connecticut, and North Carolina on September 30th. He's also scheduled to visit Kentucky officially on October 14th for Midnight Madness, but it will be interesting to see if Thompson thinks the unofficial visit he took to Kentucky last week will suffice. If so, UCLA very well could get an official visit that weekend. Arizona State is probably the other candidate for an official visit.

Thompson is the type of kid that tends to sway toward whatever is the last school he spoke with, but the time he's spent on UCLA's campus in the last several weeks has helped UCLA, with Thompson getting comfortable with the players and the program. Sources close to Thompson say he sees the advantages of staying close to home and his family.

It will be interesting to see how the recruitments of Thompson and Stepheson play out, with both very well affecting the other. If Stepheson commits to North Carolina on or right after his official next weekend, it could very well exclude North Carolina as an option for Thompson. Also, while both are seriously considering out-of-town schools, sources close to both recruitments say both Thompson and Stepheson are wary about losing the option of going to UCLA, and wouldn't want the other to take the UCLA scholarship.

UCLA will almost certainly only take one of the two, and not both.

There's a good probability that UCLA ends up with either one of the two of Thompson or Stepheson, with Thompson probably being the best bet at this point.

But if it's not looking likely in October for either of them, watch for UCLA to possibly go to some other options. They are actively trying to get involved with Matt Hill, the 6-9 center from Lincoln (Neb.) Southeast. Hill has already visited Utah officially, and will take an official trip to Purdue this weekend, and Texas next weekend. UCLA has an in-home visit with him scheduled for the middle of September, and hopes to be able to convince him to take an official visit to UCLA. UCLA got on Hill late, toward the end of the July evaluation period, and is trying to play catch-up with him. He's a talented player, with a good feel and good touch, who just needs to get stronger. He's now the #74-ranked prospect in the nation, according to Scout.com.

Also, UCLA still is keeping the foreign player option open. We've told you about a 6-8-ish skilled post, and UCLA is still recruiting him. There is also a 6-10 foreigner UCLA has been investigating. It could develop to the point where either, or both, visit UCLA officially, if it looks like the Bruins aren't going to get either Thompson or Stepheson.

UCLA also could trip in Jamie Vanderbeken, the 6-10 post from Belleville (Ont., Can.) Quinte in October.

If UCLA didn't get either one of Thompson or Stepheson, it could also very well choose to hold the scholarship, giving it three scholarships for the 2007 class, which would be good since 2007 is shaping up to be a talented class, at least in the west.

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