In regard to 2008: It's interesting how the situation can change in recruiting so quickly.
Just a few months ago, we published a story here on UCLA's future basketball recruiting that speculated, and very reasonably, that UCLA would probably have three to four scholarship to give to the class of 2008.
If you project out now to the class of 2008, things look a bit different. Given all of the developments – namely UCLA taking Russell Westbrook in the class of 2006, to go along with James Keefe and Marko Spica – and the commitment of Chace Stanback in the class of 2007, the complexion of scholarships for 2008 looks much different.
If everyone who is committed to UCLA qualifies academically and stays all four years, and if UCLA gets a total of three commitments in the class of 2007, the Bruins would now only have one scholarship to give to the class of 2008.
There would be three juniors – Westbrook, Spica and Keefe – and three sophomores, Stanback and two others.
That totals 12 scholarships.
Now, of course, as any good recruitnik knows, things almost never stay the same in terms of scholarship availability over the course of a couple of years (like I said, it's changed drastically in just a couple of months since we last wrote about the class of 2008). More than likely, UCLA will have some scholarships open up and be available for the 2008 class by the time that class first can sign National Letters of Intent in November of 2007. They could come from a variety of sources, such as 1) players going pro early (possibly Mbah a Moute or Shipp?), 2) a player not qualifying academically (Spica?), 3) someone transferring (who knows?) or 4) UCLA doesn't actually get three recruits in the class of 2007.
Given all of those possibilities, it's pretty safe to assume that UCLA will have at least three scholarships to give out to the class of 2008, and possibly four. And actually, given the way UCLA's recruiting is evolving, having more scholarships available are essential because UCLA will have a definite need at point guard and in the frontcourt for the 2008 class. Point guard is, of course, a big need. Collison would be a senior by the time the 2008 high school class are freshmen in high school, so UCLA needs to find its next point guard in that class. Luckily, the class is fairly loaded with point guard talent in the west.
Perhaps just as big a need is for a "big." Let's pretend that UCLA does in fact get Kevin Love in the 2007 class. They're looking good for frontcourt players in the 2007-2008 season, with Lorenzo Mata as a senior, Mbah a Moute, Wright and Aboya juniors, Keefe and Spica as sophomores and Love (and possibly Kyle Singler) as freshmen. That's a loaded, talented frontline roster.
The problem is the next two seasons. As we laid out above, there aren't a great deal of scholarships available and UCLA will lose quite a few frontline players in the next two subsequent seasons, the 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 seasons. Mata will have graduated in 2008, so he won't be there in 2008-2009 season. And you'd have to consider that Love, if he came to UCLA, could very well be a one-and-out guy and also be gone. It's also very reasonable that Mbah a Moute might not be around for his senior season. And, then, what if Spica doesn't come to UCLA? If all of these scenarios actually transpire, which you would have to think is considerably likely, for the 2008-2009 season UCLA would have as its post players Wright, Aboya and Keefe, and a freshman frontcourt player from the high school class of 2008.
Duke, North Carolina and other elite programs have had to adapt to the current environment in college basketball of players leaving early for the pros and really disrupting their rosters. And now that UCLA is recruiting among the elite in the country, they'll be a program that will also have to deal with it. On one hand, it's a problem that is a bi-product of great success, but it's still a problem.
UCLA is dealing with it right now, with the potential loss of Jordan Famar and/or Arron Afflalo to the NBA early. And, if it gets Kevin Love, Kyle Singler and, say, Alex Legion or Chace Stanback, it will continue to have to deal with it in the forseeable future.
The best way to counteract NBA-jumping decimating your roster is to try to bring in 3-4 players a year and avoid excessively big classes or very small classes. UCLA's current freshmen class consists of six players (including Shipp), including three frontcourt players. First, the fact that you have so many on scholarship in one year limited how many you can get in subsequent years. Then, getting someone like Love, say, and him leaving early, leaves you losing many players in the frontcourt, players you were unable to really prepare to replace because there weren't available scholarships, and then the one guy you did get as a frontline player also leaving.
The combination of the current freshmen class having six players, and the possibility of Love potentially leaving early for the pros makes it essential that UCLA get a post player in the 2008 class. And if they perhaps have four scholarships to give, UCLA probably would have to dedicate two of them to frontline players.
And while the west coast looks good for point guards in 2008, it's a bit skimpy in terms of post players.
So, here's a rundown of the guys we've recognized as top targets for UCLA in the 2008 class, and those we think could emerge potentially as top targets. Of course, this list is going to change, and probably soon, as UCLA gets into the July evaluation period, and more names will probably be added to the list.
Click on the links to each player to get more extensive evaluations and recruiting information.
Jrue Holiday, 6-3 SG, North Hollywood (Calif.) Campbell Hall. He's among the elite prospects in the west, regardless of class, and is already one of the top guys on UCLA's board for 2008. Go into the archives (click on the link of his name) and read everything we've written about him, especially lately and you'll know why. The beauty of Holiday is the fact he is really a combo guard, and might actually project as a point guard in the NBA. He's a top 25 national caliber player. UCLA hasn't offered yet, but has been recruiting him very aggressively for a while, and you can probably expect the Bruins to offer Holiday by the end of this summer.
Jerime Anderson, 6-2 PG, Anaheim (Calif.) Canyon. Right now it appears that Anderson could be UCLA's top point guard target in the 2008 class. UCLA coaches have spent a good amount of time at his high school and Anderson, in an interview we did recently, said UCLA was recruiting him the hardest. He also is childhood friends with Holiday and the potential of the two going to school together could influence each of their decisions. In that recent interview, Anderson admitted UCLA is his leader, and it will be interesting to see if UCLA offers Anderson fairly soon. He's a top 40 national type.
Larry Drew, 5-11 PG, Woodland Hills (Calif.) Taft. Perhaps the only thing that makes Drew potentially point guard 1A in the west behind Anderson is his size and smaller frame. But Drew showed recently in the Pump Spring Classic that he's becoming a very good point guard. UCLA has been scouting and recruiting Drew for sometime, and the Bruins are thought to be doing very well with him. Another top 40 national caliber player and currently ranked #23 in the Scout.com rankings of the 2008 class.
Malcolm Lee, 6-3 CG, Riverside (Calif.) North. Lee perhaps has the most potential of anyone listed here. He still looks very young and could have some growing to do. Right now, he has the ball-handling skills and court sense to be a point guard, but also the scoring ability to be a two guard. This versatility could make him fit into UCLA's plans very well. He could combine with any of the other guys listed here, whether they're point guards or shooting guards, to form a very formidable backcourt. UCLA has been on Lee for a while, and watched many of his AAU games in April. He's a top 40 national caliber type.
Brandon Jennings, 6-0 PG, Compton (Calif.) Dominguez. Jennings is consistently rated higher nationally than the other guys listed above him on this list, but that's a bit misleading. No question that Jennings is talented – very quick, with a flashy passing ability and very good skills. But he also doesn't have a great point guard feel, with his game is more about himself than his teammates. His style of play and the situation might not make him such a good fit for UCLA. He intends to transfer to Mouth of Wilson (Virg.) Oak Hill Academy next year, as much to keep his academics in order as part of a process to get him to Connecticut. Arizona could very well be a player in this, too. Unless Jennings defies the conventional recruiting wisdom out there, and rebuffs everything leading him toward Connecticut, or possibly Arizona, and decides he wants to go to UCLA, the Bruins will more than likely opt for another point guard.
Other Perimeter Players to Know About:
Korie Lucious, 5-11 PG, Milwaukee (Wisc.) Pius Xi. Considered a top 40 national guy, UCLA has shown interest.
Patrick McCollum, 6-1 CG, Tacoma (Wash.) Mt. Tahoma. He's emerging as one of the best guards in the west for 2008 and will make many national top 100 lists. He can really score, and is a very good shooter, but can distribute and play like a point guard. With so many guard prospects in 2008 in SoCal, it'd be surprising if UCLA went to the Northwest, but McCollum is someone to watch.
Ameer Shamsuddin, 6-0 PG, Portland (Ore.) Benson Tech. He hasn't improved as much as you would have liked since last summer, but still a very good prospect, with a great point guard body, good passing ability and decent skills.
Elston Turner, Jr., 6-4 SG, Roseville (Calif.) High. Looked really good this April, with a good body and very good ball-handling and shooting skills. Not explosive as an athlete but has an excellent feel. We've likened him to Arron Afflalo. UCLA coaches watched a couple of his games in the last few weekends.
FRONT COURT PLAYERS
Drew Gordon, 6-8 PF, San Jose (Calif.) Archbishop Mitty. He's shaping up to be the elite "big" in the west for 2008. He has an NBA body, with excellent athleticism, a great feel for rebounding and blocking shots, and his low-post offense continues to improve. UCLA coaches spent time at his high school during the basketball season and this spring. The word is that UCLA is high on his list. Even though he's not a center, he'd be a tough match-up as UCLA's low-post player. He's a top 25 national caliber player. He could attend UCLA's elite camp in June.
Luke Babbitt, 6-8 PF, Reno (Nev.) Galena. One of the most skilled big men in the west, he has very good low post moves and can shoot out to the stripe. He's not greatly explosive, but all in all, still an elite high major prospect and a top 25 national caliber guy. He attended UCLA's elite camp last year and more than likely will again this year.
Andy Poling, 6-10 C, Portland (Ore.) Westview. Poling has very good skills for being so young, and good footwork, but at this point lacks the strength to be able to be effective consistently against elite competition. If he continues to get bigger and stronger, he could be the exact longer-term type of center UCLA is looking for in the 2008 class.
Jeff Withey, 6-10 C, San Diego (Calif.) Horizon. Along the same lines as Poling, but more raw in his skills, Withey has good athleticism for such a young big man. UCLA's been showing Withey interest.
Corbin Moore, 6-9 C, Los Alamitos (Calif.) High. Definitely one to keep an eye on, Moore, as of right now, is the best post player in the 2008 class in Southern California. It's not necessarily saying much since it's pretty lean out there, but Moore has good mobility for his size and good skills, while he needs to continue to develop his back-to-the-basket game. SoCal recruiting people are monitoring Moore to see if he blows up, as is UCLA.
Others Potentially on UCLA's List:
Terrelle Pryor, 6-6 SF, Jeanette (Penn.) High. Currently the #6-ranked player nationally in the class of 2008, Pryor recently de-committed from Pittsburgh, and says he's exploring all his options. A longshot for UCLA.
Clarence Trent, 6-7 CF, Gig Harbor (Wash.) High. A great athlete with good skills, Trent made a case for himself as one of the best in the class of 2008 in the west this April when he looked good in various tournaments. Many elite programs will be involved and it will be interesting to see if UCLA makes an attempt.
Bawa Manuri, 6-11 C, Madison (Ala.) Madison Academy. An import from Africa who has an NBA body but is raw. He has expressed interest in UCLA but would have to be considered a longshot.
Paul Williams, 6-3 SG, Detroit (Mich.) Renaissance. Another player from the Detroit AAU team, the Family, which UCLA assistant coach Ernie Zeigler knows well. Williams is a fairly good athlete with good skills and someone to watch.