Recruiting Notes from Vegas Tourney

College coaches make their first appearance at a spring event on Saturday at the Las Vegas Easter Classic, and you'd be surprised at what game Ben Howland saw first. Fairfax's Chace Stanback continues to play very well, presenting UCLA with a dilemma. Get all the latest on Bruin recruiting, right here...

Kevin Love, the 6-9 center from Lake Oswego (Ore.) High, made his first appearance Friday night, playing with the So Cal All-Stars.

The game wasn't much, with SCA having superior talent, and it broke down into a dunk-fest quickly. We do have some of Love's dunks on film, so they'll be coming your way soon.

In the SCA game on Saturday (which was the start of bracket play), there was a very good collection of college coaches in attendance. Now, don't forget, SCA has quite a few prospects, so they weren't all there necessarily to see Love play, but many were. UCLA's Ben Howland and assistant Kerry Keating watched, as did Duke's Mike Krzyzewski (also there to watch Duke-committed Taylor King playing on SCA) and coaches from North Carolina and Arizona.

UCLA had a good contingent of representatives beyond just Howland and Keating in Vegas. Arron Afflalo, Cedric Bozeman and Ryan Hollins all made appearances to watch SCA and the Rising Stars of America (featuring Chace Stanback and Darnell Gant, among others). Rico Hines coached Rising Stars. Afflalo sat with Howland for most of the SCA game.

With Howland and Keating in Vegas, UCLA assistant Ernie Zeigler was in Arkansas for a big AAU event, the Real Deal on the Hill, in Fayetteville. Howland will return to Los Angeles Sunday and Donnie Daniels (who we've heard is still very much in the thick of the race for the head coaching job at Pepperdine) will come to Vegas for Sunday.

What was interesting – and impressive – was the fact that Howland and Arizona's Lute Olson, on the first morning they can be out to watch prospects on Saturday, both attended the 16-and-under game of Travis Wear and David Wear, the 6-8 freshmen twins from Santa Ana Mater Dei. To be fair, there wasn't another game featuring any elite juniors or sophomores at the time, but it was still a strong indication of what elite prospects the Wear brothers are that they would draw both Howland and Olson out on their first morning to scout.

The Portland Elite Legends, featuring two of the best prospects in Vegas during the tournament, also drew big coaching crowds Saturday. The coaches were there, of course, to see Kyle Singler, the 6-8 junior forward from Medford (Ore.) South Medford, and Clarence Trent, the 6-6 sophomore from Gig Harbor (Wash.) High. All the usual coaching suspects were there as you would expect. Singler put on a show, again showing great agility and skills for someone his size. After a couple of days of wowing scouts before the coaches could watch games, Trent was pretty quiet in his first game Saturday in front of college coaches -- until he went up very high for a rebound, came down, and went back up very quickly and dunked over a few very tall defenders, which had jaws falling along the line of coaches sitting on the outside of the court. You can expect Trent to be a top 25 national-caliber prospect.

Stanback again looked very good Saturday in front of the college coaches. He could be close to 6-7, and he's just so advanced in his basketball skills and fundamentals. He almost never makes mistakes or commits turnovers, and he plays unselfishly and hard. Having always been thought of as a smooth player, he's showing very good quickness, especially handling the ball and on the dribble, which has been very impressive for someone his size. What some commented about, too, was his effort to play in all aspects of the game, showing great ability to rebound, block shots, pass and play defense. He's just so versatile – you can project him on the college level being able to play the 2, 3, some 4 and even providing you ball-handling responsibilities, while being able to guard at least 2-4.

Stanback, after the showing in Vegas this weekend, undoubtedly improved his stock. UCLA coaches were at both of his games, so they were witness to the impressive play. And as we reported Friday, Stanback, as of this week, was leaning heavily to UCLA, according to sources close to Fairfax. It will be interesting to see if Stanback played well enough that it would precipitate UCLA to accept a verbal commitment from him early, if Stanback wanted to commit. If Stanback continues to perform this way this spring, it could happen.

How could UCLA take Stanback's commitment, you ask? This is just us speculating, but UCLA would have to come to decisions on some issues.

As was reported Friday night, UCLA offered a scholarship to Russell Westbrook, the 6-3 senior guard from Lawndale (Calif.) Leuzinger. Westbrook went on an official visit to Arizona State this last weekend, completing his five official visits – to ASU, Creighton, Miami, San Diego and Wake Forest. As we've been reporting for months, he is very interested in UCLA and was waiting to see if the Bruins would offer, which they finally did this week. The word is that UCLA will meet with Westbrook and his family this week, as early as Tuesday.

The Westbrook offer probably came as a result of UCLA coming to some realizations about their backcourt issues. As we've maintained for a long time, if Jordan Farmar decided to go pro early, UCLA would have only one ball-handling guard on the team in Darren Collison. So, with Farmar going pro early becoming an issue this spring, along with Afflalo testing the NBA waters, it appears the UCLA staff thought it prudent to offer Westbrook – and it is. Westbrook is more of a two guard at this point, but he has good skills and probably would be able to take on ball-handling duties also. The best scenario would be UCLA getting Westbrook and Farmar and Afflalo staying, of course. This would enable Westbrook to have a year in the UCLA system as a freshman before Farmar could more realistically jump early to the pros after next season, his junior year.

But if UCLA takes Westbrook, what happens to the scholarship count – and how would they be able to take Stanback?

The big unknown in all of this is Marko Spica, the 6-9 post from Serbia that has signed an NLI with UCLA but isn't qualified academically yet. He'll take the SAT at the beginning of May, and theoretically, be able to take it again in June. Given how UCLA's situation has drastically changed since they got that NLI from Spica back in December, you can question how Spica might fit in at this point. Now, of course, if Spica is an elite prospect, he fits in regardless. It's hard to determine how good he is, based on grainy tape evaluation, but we've heard he's about the same level of a prospect as, say, Alex Stepheson (more skilled but not as athletic).

It doesn't seem that UCLA can afford to take both Westbrook and Spica. That would leave them only one scholarship for the 2007 class, which they certainly won't do since their highest priority is Love and Singler. So, it very well might be a case of taking Westbrook over Spica, but then it could get sticky since Spica has signed that NLI.

Let's say for whatever reason UCLA gets Westbrook and not Spica. It then would have two scholarships for the 2007 class, those earmarked for Love and Singler. It's safe to assume that UCLA will hold out for both of those two – which will keep UCLA's other prospects hanging on for an indefinite period of time (as long as it takes Love and Singler to decide). You know UCLA will hold out for Love as long as it takes, since he's the highest priority, being the low-post scorer UCLA needs desperately. UCLA will also, it's same to assume, hold out for Singler. He's just too good of a prospect, period.

So, if they then took a commitment from a third prospect in the 2007 class, they'd have 14 players committed to scholarships for the 2007-2008 season, which is one too many. Now we had said previously that with a prospect like Alex Legion, the 6-4 shooting guard from Beverly Hills (Calif.) Country Day, being the #11 prospect in the country, you can't turn him down if he wants to commit. And that probably still holds true.

But if Stanback continues to play this spring like he did this weekend, in our humble opinion, Stanback moves ahead of Legion as a priority, and is in that same category of being too good not to take. There are many reasons behind this: 1) Stanback, on talent alone, merits it. After watching him this weekend, he's conservatively a top 40 national prospect, 2) Stanback is a high-quality kid, from a very stable background, with a father that is probably one of the most level-headed parents of an elite prospect we've come across, 3) You're not going to have any early-NBA issues with Stanback (at least ones that aren't realistic), as opposed to Legion (even if they're not merited), or any other issues, in fact. While we've heard Legion is a good kid, there are some questions about him de-committing from Michigan and intending to leave his high school next year to play at Oak Hill Academy.

So, again, this is just us speculating, but it appears that, if Stanback wanted to come, you might have to take him, and risk going one over your scholarship limit.

It really comes down to which is the worse scenario – you hold off Stanback to see what happens with Singler, and you miss on both Singler and Stanback, or you go one over the scholarship limit and have to sort it out later. You'd have to think it's pretty likely that one or both of Afflalo or Farmar, or maybe even someone else (Luc Richard Mbah a Moute?) could legitimately go pro after next season and you wouldn't end up having to deal with the scholarship limit anyway. But can UCLA take the risk of possibly going one over the scholarship limit and hoping it sorts itself out?

UCLA could very well wait to see what happens in the next month, to see what actually transpires with Afflalo and Farmar and the NBA draft. If one of them makes what we consider a poor decision and does stay in the NBA draft, you might see a quick offer to Chace Stanback.

And as we speculated, it wouldn't surprise us if you saw one anyway.

We have more scouting reports, interviews and videos of the UCLA prospects in the Las Vegas Easter Classic on the way, including video highlights of Love and Singler.


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