The latest word is that UCLA is pessimistic about Ryan Hollins, the incoming 6-10 center from Pasadena Muir, being granted eligibility this year. If you remember, Hollins had committed to St. Louis, but opted out of the National Letter of Intent (with St. Louis's blessing) when Lorenzo Romar took the head coaching job at Washington. By opting out of the NLI, NCAA rules dictate that Hollins sit out a year. The Hollinses have appealed and are awaiting the results of the appeal, which could grant him eligibility in fall.
On the bright side, if Patterson decides to leave UCLA, it would open up another scholarship to give. Right now, with just one scholarship, UCLA has been focused on point guards – specifically one point guard, Aaron Brooks, 5-11, Seattle (Wash.) Franklin. Brooks has emerged this spring and summer as one of the top 4-5 point guards in the country. He had an especially good ABCD camp, which cemented his rising stock even more. Brooks, though, participated in the Final Score.TV Invitational the last several days, and Head Coach Steve Lavin was in Seattle for the event to show Brooks love. Brooks, though, is more than likely done playing ball during the summer evaluation period – at least in this country. Brooks, more than likely, will make the USA Basketball 17-and-under team. We say more than likely since Oregon's head coach, Ernie Kent, is coaching the team, and Oregon looks to be UCLA's main competition for Brooks. The final cut for the team is in several days, and it's very unlikely that Kent wouldn't put Brooks on the team, especially since with his ABCD performance there's a good case to be made that he legitimately deserves it. But the word is that Lavin will travel to Venezuela (where the USA 17-and-under team will compete) to show Brooks international love, at least for a few days during the week of the 21st (the week of the Las Vegas Big Time Tournament).
The obvious word is that Oregon has probably the best shot with Brooks. He has already taken his official visit to UCLA. It would be pretty phenomenal if Brooks played with Kent on the USA team, interacting with him for a couple of weeks total, then took his official visit to Oregon in August or September on the heels of that bonding experience with Kent – and Brooks decided on UCLA. But once Lavin does get someone in his sights in recruiting he has a strong track record of bringing him home. Washingtonalso has emerged as a pretty strong contender – with hard-working Washington Head Coach Lorenzo Romar working the hometown school angle well.
Truly, even though many fans can't believe it, UCLA isn't really pursuing prospects aggressively other than Brooks. They have been dabbling in the wing market, but just dabbling. Trevor Ariza, 6-7 SF, Los Angeles (Calif.) Westchester, contacted UCLA a few weeks ago to tell them he'd like them to recruit him. He visited UCLA unofficially and has said that UCLA offered him. Ariza's stock has slipped to a degree, some schools having cooled on him a bit, and good sources indicate that's primarily what precipitated the call. Florida was always believed to be his leader, since it's the school his father attended and he has family there. And it will be interesting to see if Florida is still as hotly interested as they reportedly were previously. The theory is that, with stock slipping, it might be more attractive to Ariza to stay close to home, so he contacted UCLA and USC to gauge interest. USC reportedly is interested. Ariza is talented and very athletic, and has some great potential, but he needs coaching in his effort to make a transition into being a wing.
UCLA has shown some degree of interest in Sean Marshall, 6-5 SF, Rialto (Calif.) Eisenhower. Marshall has improved his stock since June, and did it nationally at ABCD last week. He's always been aggressive, driving to the basket and generally in the paint, but he's now refined his outside shot to the point that it's very consistent, making him so much more valuable. Marshall, it's said, has schools jumping on his bandwagon. There is one rumor that he might be sewn up for Colorado, but that's unsubstantiated. UCLA has only sniffed around Marshall so far.
UCLA has also expressed a bit of interest in Marcus Dove, 6-7 SF, Long Beach Millikan. Dove said that USC, Oregon, Arizona State, Boston College and Oklahoma State are the schools that have been recruiting him, which have offered and he's considering strongly. His dream school, reportedly, is Kansas, and he's indicated that if they offered he very well could commit. Kansas' Roy Williams and a Kansas assistant have been seen at many Dove games scouting him. UCLA hasn't yet thrown its hat into the ring.
UCLA is in the mix for one of the top 20 players in the country, Charlie Villanueva, 6-9 SF, Brooklyn (New York) Blair Academy. The locals are considered the big contenders for him -- Seton Hall, St. John's, Villanova. He has indicated that he'd like to trip to UCLA.
UCLA is also trying to keep some back-up point guard options warm. If things don't happen with Brooks, it's thought that things could resuscitate with Marcus Williams, 6-2, Mouth of Wilson (Virg.) Oak Hill Academy. If you remember, as far back as last summer the word was that Williams,who played his first three years at Los Angeles Crenshaw, was a heavy lean to UCLA, and that he had even verbally committed at one point. But then in spring, things went a bit south, and it looked like Williams and UCLA might go separate ways. Which they did, for a while. Recently Williams sat out a majority of the Nike Camp with a sprained ankle and has played just okay in other tournaments/camps since. In one game yesterday at the FullCourt Press tournament in Whittier, Williams had his shot going in pretty consistently, but looked a step slow. He also was deliberately holding his opponents by their jerseys and took a cheap-shot punch at an opponent's back. Williams has always been a bit, well, feisty. Connecticut, Louisville and Missouri are schools he's said he's interested in, along with USC. Arizona would be at or near the top of his list, but Arizona has only showed reserved interest. Sources at Arizona indicate that they'd like to see him more this summer after he didn't participate at Nike. Arizona, though, is thought to be considering him as a backup plan if they don't get Mustafa Shakur or Ayinde Ubaka. A source said that if they didn't get either of those point guards they might not take one. Williams has said that he'd like to wait until spring to decide.
UCLA also has on the deep back burner the option of point guard Khalif Ford, 6-0, Diamond Bar. Ford was emerging in his sophomore year as one of the best point guards in his class in the west. Then, in his junior year, he started forcing things far too much on the court, making many mistakes, and his stock plummeted. He then injured his knee and sat out most of spring. One of his first few times back was at ABCD. Initially reports were Ford didn't perform well in the first couple of days, but he played solidly for the last couple. It's really up in the air whether UCLA would ever move on Ford. It would have to be a combination that UCLA misses on Brooks and that Ford really plays exceptionally between now and next November.
There is a possibility that more scholarships could open up, but one or a few scenarios would have to take place. We spoke about Patterson, and that's a distinct possibility. T.J. Cummings really wants to go pro after next season and might do it despite conventional wisdom about his chances in the draft. If he did, UCLA would only get the scholarship to give next spring, which isn't going to help them sign another in November. It would only help them sign someone in spring, which UCLA has tended to do quite a bit of in recent years. It could also be a case where the pieces fall into place with Marcus Williams this way, since he wants to wait until spring to decide.
Another scholarship they could get back might come from Matt McKinney, the basketball/volleyball player who will be a freshman this year. He plans to redshirt in basketball, unless his body is absolutely needed or he is unexpectedly spectacular when he reports for practice in fall. But the theory is that McKinney could very well opt to just play volleyball. But who knows when he makes this decision – and when UCLA would get that scholarship available again.
The long-term recruiting outlook is one of possibly more scholarships becoming available for the stocked rising junior class. The high school class of 2004 is loaded with talent, both on the west coast and nationally, and UCLA would want to have as many scholarships as possible (actually five is the limit in any give year) to give. They'll have two, at least, with the departure of T.J. Cummings and Jon Crispin to graduation. If they don't use the one currently available, or the one that could become available if Patterson leaves, that's a possibility of two more. And then, there is a real chance that someone else on the roster could go pro early, opening up another, or they get back McKinney's ride. All of the scenarios make it very possible that UCLA will have as many five rides to give to the loaded 2004 class.