Love's commitment will have possibly the biggest impact on the UCLA program since it UCLA hired Ben Howland as Head Coach.
In terms of recruiting, Love's commitment creates an interesting situation. UCLA is now officially full with its scholarship limit for the 2007-2008 season. The only other player in the 2007 class that has a UCLA offer is Kyle Singler, the 6-8 forward from Medford (Ore.) South Medford, who is a top five player nationally (and not playing in Vegas this week). Love said at his press conference (which Bruin Report Online brought to you in its entirety) that he was now going to try hard to recruit Singler, his friend, to UCLA. While Love will certainly try, we've heard that the package deal isn't as compelling as you might think for the Singlers. UCLA will undoubtedly stick in there with Singler for some time, even though it's widely considered in college recruiting circles that Duke is clearly the leader.
If UCLA did, though, get Singler, it would be one over its scholarship limit, gambling that Arron Afflalo is going pro after next season.
If UCLA doesn't get Singler, you'd think, then, that it might stand pat with commitments from Love and Chace Stanback, the 6-6 wing from Los Angeles Fairfax. But, as we've reported, UCLA could very well make a move on 6-10 senior center Clint Chapman from Canby (Ore.) High. Ben Howland has spent time at the games of just four high school seniors this summer – Love, Singler, Stanback and Chapman. Monday, Chapman's AAU team, the Portland Panthers (which also features 6-11 junior Andy Poling), was bounced from the Big Time tournament here in Vegas, and probably luckily so for UCLA. Not only were Howland and UCLA assistant Kerry Keating at the game, but so was North Carolina's Roy Williams. Chapman has blown up this July, possibly doing well enough to earn himself a spot in the national top 50 players in the nation. There probably hasn't been more new buzz about a player nationally that Chapman, considering the fact that he went from a mid-major type to playing himself into elite high-major status. Naturally, Roy Williams and coaches from other national programs have been appearing at Chapman's game to check him out. So, it behooves UCLA that Chapman's team lost early. It also behooved the Bruins that Chapman didn't play particularly well in front of Williams and coaches of other national programs in that game Monday. It wasn't like last July when there was some buzz about west coaster center Deon Thompson. Thompson had played just okay for a couple of games and then Williams and other national coaches came to watch him, and he went off, having a performance that precipitated Williams' recruiting him, a North Carolina offer and Thompson's subsequent commitment.
UCLA would have a good chance with Chapman, who attended the UCLA Advanced Skills Camp and whose mom attended UCLA. As of right now, he's the darling of the rest of the Pac-10, with California, Oregon and others having followed him around in July. But if UCLA got serious and tendered an offer, things could change with Chapman.
Projecting UCLA's roster a couple of years down the line, UCLA could lose many post players over the course of two years (especially if Love goes pro after one season, which is very reasonable to expect). So, it could be worth it for UCLA to go over its scholarship limit and take Chapman if they could get him. He could possibly come in and redshirt his freshman year (Love's freshman year) and then, if Love went pro after a year, Chapman would compete with Alfred Aboya and Ryan Wright for playing time but, then, his redshirt sophomore year, be the only center left on the roster and be the starter.
In terms of the class of 2007, the situations with Singler and Chapman are really the only storylines here to follow.
UCLA now has a commitment from a top ten national prospect in the 2007 class in Love. To show that the Bruins are back as a national power it would go a long way to get another in the class of 2008, in the form of 6-2 guard Jrue Holiday from North Hollywood (Calif.) Campbell Hall. This is the kind of elite talent stockpiling elite programs do – potentially getting Love and Holiday in back-to-back classes. Holiday, this July, has clearly established himself as the top prospect in the west for 2008. There's no one else close at this point. Holiday has it all as a prospect -- great talent, off-the-charts athleticism, a great approach to the game and an unbelievable motor. He'll be able to play the two or one in college and it won't be long before he's playing in the NBA. We haven't seen a better junior guard prospect from the west in the time we've been doing this job.
Sources are indicating that UCLA is doing very well with Holiday, too, and is, at the very least among his two leaders, along with Arizona, with Washington a serious contender. Some close to the situation believe UCLA is the team to beat for him. As of right now, really it's been west coast coaches that have been at Holiday's every game, with just a smattering of national coaches. Holiday told us that, nationally, he'd like to hear from North Carolina, and even though it was reported that Roy Williams attended one of Holiday's games, Williams, as of yet, isn't showing Holiday the dedicated following-around that coaches do when they have tabbed you as a primary target.
As we've reported numerous times, one of UCLA's big priorities in 2008 will be a point guard, and the UCLA coaches are spending quite a bit of time scouting the primary candidates, Jerime Anderson from Anaheim (Calif.) Canyon, Larry Drew of Woodland Hills Taft, and Malcolm Lee of Riverside North.
As of Wednesday, Drew is the only one still alive in a tournament in Vegas, with his Pump N Run Elite team playing for the Adidas Super 64 championship this morning. Drew, in fact, has had Roy Williams following him around, with the UNC coach at every one of his games. It's the type of following-around we alluded to, one that goes beyond just scouting. From what we've heard, Williams is enamored of Drew and a scholarship offer wouldn't be a surprise.
We've said before that Drew could very well hold off on making a decision about college for sometime, and if North Carolina got seriously involved, it could put it off even longer. While we've heard UCLA is doing well with Drew, North Carolina's involvement would take it to a new level. And you can't forget Washington, the alma mater of Drew's mother, which many close to the situation feel could be at the top for Drew right now or at least right there. Bottom line – Drew isn't probably making a decision anytime soon, and with point guard being such a huge need for UCLA in the 2008 class, UCLA might not wait around for Drew, especially with the point guard prospects so close in talent level. In fact, while Drew had looked like he edged ahead in terms of being a prospect in early July, Anderson recently has made a run and made the race, once again, closer. Drew is the best scorer among the three, showing very good shooting touch this July and the ability to get to the basket. Lee hasn't shot that well this July, while we know Lee to be a very good shooter and thought him to be the best among the three going into the evaluation period. Lee, too, isn't a pure point guard, and could project as a two on the next level for many college coaches.
Anderson, on the other hand, has in the last couple of days stepped up his game. On Monday, against admittedly easy competition, Anderson had the best day's performance we've seen from among the three point guard prospects. He had easily the best half of one game we've seen among the three, getting 13 points, 7 assists and 5 steals in that half before not getting much playing time in the second because of a blowout. Anderson showed more aggressiveness in taking the ball to the hoop and finishing than he has before. Once he's in the paint, he's the best at dishing to a teammate. He probably is the best passer among the three and easily the best floor general. He showed better quickness off the dribble, and displayed it defensively. He is actually uncanny in getting deflections on defense with his quick hands. Also, something to consider: While many very athletic players can wow you in summer AAU ball, Anderson has shined the most with his high school team, in a real basketball game. Anderson might not get the national attention or ranking since almost all of the national analysts (save Frank Burlison) will probably never see Anderson in a high school game, where he flourishes.
Getting close to being done with the July evaluation period (we'll go back to L.A. for the Best of Summer tourney, and see all of these guys more), it could be that, given all of the factors, Anderson could emerge as UCLA's top point guard target. Lee hasn't done enough, probably, to emerge as the one (and, to be fair, he's been suffering from an injured ankle all of July), and Drew probably waiting a while (he said our BRO interview with him that he'd probably wait until after next summer to make a decision) probably won't help them. Also, Anderson possibly helping with recruiting Jrue Holiday since they're close friends could be the easy tie-breaker.
A note, though: Lee, at 6-3 and with the ability to score, could easily play either guard spots in college, and you could probably expect UCLA to stay very serious about him, especially with what will shape up to be a very competitive recruitment of Holiday.
Also, in terms of the class of 2008, UCLA coaches have been dedicated in watching the games of Luke Babbitt, the 6-7 forward from Reno (Nev.) Galena, and Drew Gordon, the 6-8 post from San Jose (Calif.) Archbishop Mitty. Babbitt has shown some real skills this July and, as a result, has a consistent contingent of elite college head coaches at his game. At one game this week, there was Howland, Williams, Rick Pitino, Lorenzo Romar, and Lute Olson. Gordon also has had coaches from elite programs at many games, with Duke coaches consistently attending. This July, though, has given Babbitt the clear edge over Gordon as a prospect. While Gordon is an excellent run/jump athlete, he needs to work on his skill set. He struggles to score and his handling and passing need to get better. Defensively, Gordon tends to play somewhat upright and he'll get beat off the dribble at times. He's very good at coming off the weakside to block shots. His rebounding has been up and down. He might be a little tired at this point, as he's not playing with the energy we've seen from him in the past. Gordon has the physical tools to become a very good player someday, but his overall skill set needs to get much better if he's going to play at a high level. As opposed to Babbitt, who might have the most advanced skill set of anyone over 6-7 in the country next to UCLA's new commit, Kevin Love.
Now, for UCLA to give out three or four scholarship for the class of 2008, it'd (again) have to probably go over its limit next year when recruiting the class. But you can probably expect UCLA's ideal class to be Holiday, Anderson, Babbitt and a post. That post could possibly be Chapman, who would fall to this class if he redshirted at UCLA. Right now, Chapman as a redshirt is by far better than any of the post players in the class of 2008. Andy Poling, who, as we said, plays with Chapman on the Portland Panthers, has had a good July, being more aggressive physically on both ends of the court, and he has a very good skill set for a 6-11 junior-to-be. He still has a ways to go to, but If UCLA doesn't get Chapman, you can probably expect Poling to be the 2008 post prospect UCLA would most likely pursue.
In terms of the 2009 class, it's all about the Wears – Travis Wear and David Wear, the 6-8 twins from Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei. Howland has been to most of the Wear's games here in Vegas, with them playing for their Mater Dei High School team. It's early, but everything seems aligned for UCLA and the Wears. They attended UCLA's camp, the Wear family likes UCLA and its program, and reportedly doesn't want them to go far from home, especially when you can get an elite program in your own backyard.
Talking about getting elite prospects year after year, if UCLA gets Love in 2007, Holiday in 2008 and then the Wears in 2009, it would be tough for the Bruins not to be among the country's best programs for years to come.