Update on Hoops Recruiting

It's a great time for UCLA basketball -- and UCLA basketball recruiting. UCLA has already gotten Kevin Love, and has two commitments from the class of 2008. Here's a look at UCLA's recruiting situation for the next few years, and the prospects UCLA has recognized as early targets...

With UCLA basketball currently ranked #1 in the country, there's no better moment than to look at UCLA's recruiting. UCLA is a pretty hot name in college basketball, and in recruiting right now, and it could possibly even get hotter as this year's squad continues to be ranked #1 and finishes off the 2006-2007 season with a deep run in the NCAA tournament.

To really get a good grasp of UCLA's recruiting situation, particularly the number of scholarships that will be available in future years, it's best to have a diagram to work from.

2007-2008                  Afflalo                                    Mata

2008-2009  Collison       Roll       Shipp  Mbah Moute  Aboya  Wright

2009-2010  Westbrook             Dragovic  Keefe

2010-2011                             Stanback                Love

2011-2012  Anderson (v)           Lee (v)

v=verbal

For the 2007 high school recruiting class, UCLA is obviously set with arguably the #1 prospect in the country in Kevin Love, the 6-9 post from Lake Oswego (Ore.) High; and 6-7 Chace Stanback from Los Angeles (Calif.) Fairfax, the #65-ranked player in the nation. With those two having signed National Letters of Intent, UCLA will fill its 13 scholarships for next season, the first time, actually, Head Coach Ben Howland will have all 13 rides filled on a roster.

It's well known, though, that Arron Afflalo could go pro after this season. It's been believed from sources around the program that it was pretty certain he'd go, regardless of his draft status. Bur recent comments from Afflalo have indicated that he could very well stay for his senior year. Afflalo said that he'd like to go down as something special in Bruin lore, so Afflalo staying for his senior year is now more of a possibility than it was just a couple of months ago.

If Afflalo did stay, it's difficult not to get excited about the 2007-2008 squad. It will return everyone from the currently #1-ranked team, but then add Love and Stanback. Love will give UCLA the inside presence it needs, and it's not a stretch to expect Love to average 13 and 9 as freshman, conservatively.

If Afflalo did leave, it makes another scholarship available for the 2007-2008 season. But with UCLA basketball scholarships now becoming such hot commodities, the staff needs to save rides for the 2008 high school class, and it would be unlikely that it would give out an additional scholarship to the 2007 class. It would have to be for a very elite player, either on the high school level or as a transfer. It would only be feasible for, perhaps, an elite center-type, since, in the next couple of years, UCLA could be lacking at that position. If Kevin Love does stay just one year, UCLA could lose Love, Mata, Mbah a Moute, Ryan Wright, and Alfred Aboya all within two years, and the posts left for the 2009-2010 season would be James Keefe (not a five), Nikola Dragovic (not a five, and arguably not a post), and whatever posts they could get in the 2008 class, and there aren't any true centers UCLA is seriously recruiting in that class (because, mostly, a lack of true centers available and a lack of available scholarships), and the 2009 class, which would be freshmen that season.

It does make for an interesting quandary in UCLA recruiting. Right now, if you look at the projected rosters, UCLA looks pretty frontcourt-heavy over the next couple of years, especially if Afflalo leaves next season. But with all its frontcourt depth, it still would lack a true, 6-10-plus center-type, and then would lose possibly five frontcourt players in two years, leaving them suddenly thin in the front court.

One possible move that could help would be to redshirt a player next year during Love's freshman year. The obvious candidate is Ryan Wright, the current sophomore. If he redshirted, he'd essentially move to the Westbrook-Keefe-Dragovic class, which would give more frontcourt balance to the classes. If Love did leave after his freshman year, the same year that Mata graduates, then Wright would be a junior in 2008-2009, fighting with Aboya for playing time, and then probably have the starting five solely his for the 2009-2010 season when he's a senior. A redshirt year could, also, greatly benefit Wright.

If UCLA did, in fact, use the scholarship that opens up this spring when or if Afflalo leaves early, it would be taking away the availability of a ride for the 2008 high school class, a class UCLA has limited scholarships to give as is. Right now, UCLA has two commitments from the class of 2008 – from Jerime Anderson and Malcolm Lee --- and if they gave another one out to the 2007 class that would currently put them one over the limit for the 2008-2009 season.

Of course, we're speculating in a vacuum here. So much can happen in the next couple of years in terms of available scholarships. Other players could leave the program early, or transfer. It's known that Josh Shipp wants to leave to the pros early, despite the fact he might not be ready. It's just speculation, but you would think that, if Nikola Dragovic doesn't see a great deal of playing time, he could opt to go back to play in Europe. Like we said, Love very well could leave after his freshman season, and almost certainly after two years. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute could leave early, as could point guard Darren Collison.

The UCLA staff is approaching its recruiting like its going to get some of these scholarships available to give. It doesn't appear that they know specifically, which would be clairvoyant of them, but they're assuming some will open up. It's interesting since, with the two commitments from Anderson and Lee, UCLA is, as of right now, full up for the 2008-2009 season. UCLA, however, is recruiting like it will get 4 scholarships to give to the 2008 class, which means two scholarships would have to become available. Where it gets sticky is that UCLA will not be sure it has those two extra scholarships available for the 2008-2009 season until the spring of 2008, but it has to recruit for that season, really, starting this spring. The fact that UCLA is, though, recruiting to give out four scholarships makes it pretty clear that they're confident they'll have them available.

So, with that in mind, here are the current, clear candidates for the 2008 high school class. Remember, it's only winter of 2006, so other prospects could emerge, especially nationally in the spring and summer.

Jerime Anderson, 6-1 PG, Anaheim (Calif.) Canyon. COMMITTED. He's UCLA's pure point guard of the future. He's currently ranked #37 in the class nationally. With the possibility of Collison leaving early, UCLA needed to make sure it had the point guard position nailed down, and it does with Anderson.

Malcolm Lee, 6-4 CG, Riverside (Calif.) North. COMMITTED. Lee committed recently, giving UCLA more backcourt insurance. He has tremendous upside, currently ranked the #33 player in the nation. He has point guard skills, but continues to grow and might end up a small forward. If so, he'd be Cedric Bozeman with a jump shot.

Jrue Holiday, 6-3 SG, North Hollywood (Calif.) Campbell Hall. The biggest target for UCLA since, well, Kevin Love. The #3 player in the class nationally, Holiday has it all, and can play the 1,2, or 3. UCLA is pulling out all the stops, but is in a battle with Washington, Arizona and North Carolina. Ben Howland went to three of Holiday's games in a week recently. The Campbell Hall coach joked that Howland has a parking place at the school.

Luke Babbitt, 6-8 PF, Reno (Nev.) Galena. The #24-ranked player nationally, Babbitt is very heady and skilled. He's not a five, by any means, and UCLA might have enough 4 types in the next couple of years, but it's a case, with a lack of true centers out there, you take the best talent, and that's Babbitt. UCLA probably wouldn't have any reservations playing him as one of their posts, without a true center. The word is that UCLA and Gonzaga could be leading for him, but Arizona is going to put up a fight. UCLA coaches have been to a couple of Babbitt's game so far this season.

Drew Gordon, 6-8 PF/C, San Jose (Calif.) Archbishop Mitty. A great athlete and still a bit raw skills-wise, he's ranked the #10 player in the country. UCLA was on him early, but the recruitment has cooled. North Carolina and Duke are hot on him, as are the regulars in the west.

Clarence Trent, 6-7 PF, Gig Harbor (Wash.) High. A great-looking prospect, with very good athleticism. Physically kind of like Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, but even springier, and more scoring ability. UCLA is only lightly involved at this point, while Washington is going after him hard, with the likes of Arizona and Kansas innvolved. He could have academic issues.

Edgar Garibay, 6-9 C, Compton (Calif.) High. If you count Gordon as a center, than Garibay is probably the second best in the west for 2008. Has a good frame, and good skills for a big, while he needs to get better with his back to the basket. A good, but not great, athlete. The word is that Louisville is hot on him, and he recently took an unofficial visit there. UCLA has been out to watch him so far this season.

Larry Drew, 5-11 PG, Woodland Hills (Calif.) Taft. The #20-ranked player in the country, Drew is quick and skilled. UCLA offered this fall, he said he wanted to wait, so UCLA, needing the PG spot nailed down, took a commitment from Anderson. The word is that Drew wanted to go to UCLA but – you snooze you lose. UCLA is still hanging around, and Drew still has interest, but with two perimeter players already committed, and UCLA's top priority Jrue Holiday, it'd take some unforeseen circumstances that would get a scholarship available for him.

Brendan Lavender, 6-4 SG, Mesa (Ariz.) Mountain View. Fairly unknown, one of the best shooting guards in the west for 2008. UCLA knows about him and is watching, but there's a scholarship crunch.

2009 Recruiting

Even though it's early, this recruiting class, of current high school sophomores, could be one for all-time for UCLA.

UCLA is recruiting this class now, but will focus predominantly on them next winter and then in the spring of 2008. If things go as you might expect, UCLA could be coming off a great season in 2007-2008 and could have even greater momentum to take into recruiting than it does now. Combine that with UCLA having 4, or maybe even 5, scholarships, it has the makings of a huge class.

Travis Wear, 6-9 PF, Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei. A little further along in development than his brother, and he moves a bit better. He and David, though, have the potential to be elite players. They're still growing, and could end up 6-10+. Travis is a Kyle Singler-type.

David Wear, 6-9 PF/C, Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei. David could end up more of the baseline post of the two brothers, even though, right now he's probably a half inch shorter.

There are those tied-in to recruiting in Southern California who are familiar with the Wear situation that think they'll go to UCLA. They're close to their family, who probably doesn't want them to go far, and the parents are solid and sensible, who want their sons to get good coaching.

Renardo Sidney, 6-9 C Lakewood (Calif.) Artesia. The consensus #1 prospect in the country, he has an NBA body and athleticism. He transferred into Artesia, actually being his first time playing for a high school team. He has been to UCLA's campus and he has said UCLA was his favorite. A player with such a spotlight and attention, however, will always have pitfalls surrounding him, and it will be a matter of whether the situation can keep from getting messy if UCLA stays seriously involved. He's a very good bet to be one-and-done. If UCLA backs away, expect USC to step right in.

Reeves Nelson, 6-6 SF, Modesto (Calif.) Modesto Christian. One of the best young prospects in the west, combining great athleticism, a good natural feel and toughness. He came to UCLA's camp last spring and UCLA has been on him early and hard.

Elijah Johnson, 6-1 PG Las Vegas (Nev.) Cheyenne. The best point guard in the 2009 class in the west, Johnson has good size and athleticism with good skills. If he has good enough academics, watch for UCLA to make him a priority.

More Potentially Elite:

Jared Cunningham, 6-1 PG/SG San Jose (Calif.) San Leandro. Came to UCLA's camp.
Rome Draper, 6-5 SG/SF Etiwanda (Calif.) High. Very skilled, but academically ineligible in high school, so not a good sign.
Anthony Marshall, 6-2 SG Las Vegas (Nev.) Mojave. Talented, but will UCLA need a 2G?
Chase Tapley, 6-1 SG/PG Sacramento (Calif.) High. Talented combo who has a chance.

More:

Rodney Black, 6-2 SG Moreno Valley (Calif.) Canyon Springs
Colin Borchert, 6-8 PF Glendale (Ariz.) Mountain Ridge
Jerry Brown, 6-5 SF San Francisco (Calif.) Sacred Heart
Jordan Finn, 6-4 SG Etiwanda (Calif.) High
Jordan Hamilton, 6-6 SF/PF Los Angeles (Calif.) Dorsey
Tim Harris, 6-3 SG San Jose (Calif.) Valley Christian
Justin Hawkins, 6-2 SG Woodland Hills (Calif.) Taft
Stephon Lamar, 6-0 PG/SG San Diego (Calif.) St. Augustine
Jordan Mackie, 6-2 SG Los Angeles (Calif.) Dorsey
Robert Smith, 5-10 PG Perris (Calif.) High


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