Coming off two Final Four appearances in two years, UCLA has built a very good buzz in recruiting circles. More people are now considering UCLA an elite program, and that makes recruits -- especially west coast recruits -- automatically put UCLA on their list. The way it works in recruiting, too, is what you do today usually resonates for a couple of years after, so with two such good years for UCLA, you can expect recruits coming up in the next several years to be mentioning UCLA quite often among their favorites.
Of more immediate concern is the state of UCLA's recruiting in the near future. UCLA's recent success has definitely helped it in getting into the minds of the recruits in the 2008 and 2009 classes. But there seems to be some limits to it, particularly in national scope. Having gone to two Final Fours in two years, it doesn't seem like there is generally a commensurate amount of interest from national recruits. UCLA, also, hasn't seemed to pursue as many recruits nationally, and has focused primarily on the west coast. There is the theory that UCLA, when it's rolling, could probably just pluck the best guys from the west every year and contend for Final Fours, but you'd also like to see UCLA's recruiting influence stretch more nationally. So, one matter of interest this spring and summer is to see if UCLA will try to take advantage of its higher profile and recruit more nationally.
With the loss of ace recruiter Kerry Keating, UCLA has replaced Keating with Oregon assistant Scott Duncan, who is a very hard-working recruiter and should be an asset to UCLA's recruiting efforts. It was key that Coach Howland hire someone not only good, but in time for the Kingwood Classic tournament April 20-22, at the very least. It's key that Duncan gets active in the current evaluation period; with college basketball recruiting so sped up, the spring evaluation period is commonly the time when recruitments of the rising senior class are established and, many times, the basis for decisions by many recruits.
The other recent issue is, of course, the loss of Arron Afflalo to the NBA. There is a very outside possibility that Afflalo could return to UCLA, but it's highly unlikely; he'd have to not hire an agent (which we've heard he'll do) and then also not get drafted. So, we'll just figure that Afflalo is definitely gone to the NBA.
That leaves one open scholarship for next basketbal season.
There aren't many possibilities to fill it. Alex Legion, the 6-4 shooting guard from Mouth of Wilson (Virg.) Oak Hill Academy signed a National Letter of Intent for Michigan back in November. But with the firing of head coach Tommy Amaker and the hiring of former West Virginia coach John Beilein, some of Legion's people had sent out feelers to various programs, including UCLA, checking on whether they'd be interested if Legion could get out of his NLI. In most cases, a program would allow a recruit in this case to get out of his NLI. The most recent report, though, is that Legion very well could be sold on Beilein and want to honor his NLI to Michigan. Even if he did, in fact, get out of his NLI, he could also opt to go elsewhere, like Connecticut. It's believed that UCLA would probably want Legion, since Howland has to be worried a bit about having just three guards on his roster for next year after losing Afflalo. Bottom line, though, it's probably a bit of a longshot that Legion would come to UCLA, given all of these factors.
There aren't any other possibilities currently that we're aware of for another recruit in the 2007 class.
With scholarships pretty tight now at UCLA, there is also the issue of eating up another ride that could go to the 2008 or 2009 classes. Afflalo's schoarship would be available for the 2008 class, but if UCLA gave it out to fill its roster to 13 scholarships for the 2007-2008 season, it would also then be already filling the ride than would have then been available for the later classes. In other words, if UCLA took another player in the 2007 class, on paper, it would have just one scholarship to give to the 2008 class, and it already has two recruits verbally committed.
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.
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=verbalIf UCLA doesn't add to its incoming class for 2007, sitting pat looks pretty good. UCLA arguably has coming in 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.
So, we turn our attention to the 2008 class.
While it looks like, next season, UCLA could be a little skimpy in the backcourt compared to the frontcourt, when looking down the line, with the guys on the roster and those verbally committed, UCLA could be lacking in the frontcourt in the future. 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 (mostly because of 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. 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. But there are some issues in redshirting. For one, what if Love stays two years? Wright, then after redshirting, would only then have one year -- his senior year -- to have the 5 position to himself.
A question, though, for the 2008 class is: Where will UCLA get its additional scholarships? If everything stays status quo, UCLA has already filled its available scholarships for the 2008-2009 season with verbal commitments from Jerime Anderson and Malcolm Lee. UCLA is actively recruiting more players in the 2008 class, so it will clearly need more scholarships.
The most likely scenario is that Darren Collison leaves after next season. Collison could put his name in the draft this year and test the waters, but sources close to the situation believe he'll return for his junior year. But those same sources believe he'll be ready to make the jump after next season.
It's known that Josh Shipp wants to leave to the pros early, and could put his name into the draft this season to test the waters also. It's believed by most NBA scouts that the feedback he'd get is that he wouldn't be drafted and that he'd return to UCLA for his redshirt junior year. But Shipp, it's believed, wouldn't want to stay after next season; he considers himself a junior now anyway, and, probably similarly to Afflalo, would feel it's just merely time to move on, despite the fact he still might not be ready and wouldn't do well in the 2008 draft.
Also, 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 there is the possibility that Luc Richard Mbah a Moute could really come into his own in his junor year and leave early.
The UCLA staff, like we said, is approaching its recruiting like its going to have more 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. Where it gets sticky is that UCLA will probably 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 still early, so other prospects could emerge,
especially some national names this 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 #42 in the class nationally, but with a very good showing in the Real Deal on the Hill, and a continued good showing this spring, he could definitely move up. 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. The word is that the UCLA coaches, after watching Anderson in Arkansas this last weekend, were very content with their choice to take Anderson.
Malcolm Lee, 6-4 CG, Riverside (Calif.) North. COMMITTED. Lee is really key for UCLA, giving them even more peace of mind in the backcourt since he can play either the one or the two. He has tremendous upside, currently ranked the #19 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.
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. Howland was a
regular at Holiday's games this last season (the Campbell Hall coach joked that
Howland has a parking place at the school), and the word is that UCLA improved
its chances with him as a result of its run to the Final Four. It's thought some
of his family wants him to play with his older brother, Justin, who is committed
to Washington, and that the Huskies lead, but that some want him to stay home.
North Carolina can't be counted out, however.
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 #20 player in the country. UCLA was on him early, but the likes of North Carolina and Duke have now been on him. It's thought that he could want to go to North Carolina, and it will be interesting to see if the Tar Heels get to him. If they don't, there are some close to the situation that believe UCLA could pull him out.
Larry Drew, 5-11 PG, Woodland Hills (Calif.) Taft. The #29-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. Drew, though, is still listing UCLA and the Bruins are still recruiting him, trying to figure out how they could take him. The offer is off the table, for now anyway. North Carolina looks to be his destination if UCLA doesn't re-offer.
Demar Derozan, 6-5 SF, Compton (Calif.) High. A very bouncy athlete that has, previously, been pretty raw skills-wise, but really showed improvement in his junior season. He's getting more pub nationally, since national scouts tend to over-inflate athletes, but Derozan has a chance if he continues to put in the work to improve his skills. As of now, UCLA is watching him, and if a couple of other recruits fall through in the 2008 class could get very active with him.
Tyrese Breshers, 6-6 PF, Los Angeles (Calif.) Price. Breshers is the dilemma of the class. He's a 6-6 post, which is undesized for the elite high-major level. But he's so darn good. He also has very long arms and is quick off his feet, which makes him play considerably bigger than he is. He has very good skills and a great touch around the basket and is an excellent shot blocker So, he might be the next, say, Craig Smith or Deon Thompson, guys who were either undersized or out of shape, or both, that UCLA missed on early who went elsewhere. Breshers has made it pretty clear that if UCLA offered, he'd be a Bruin.
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. He had a very inconsistent junior season and UCLA went out to watch him a number of times, and Garibay could be falling off the list. He'd have to have a big comeback in AAU ball for UCLA to get excited.
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.
Osby, 6-8 SF/PF, Meridian (Mississippi) Northeast Lauderdale. The #9-ranked
player in the class nationally, Osby is a national guy UCLA could get involved
with. He is, though, deeply involved with some other schools already. He's
friends with Renardo Sidney, who is originally from Mississippi, and Osby
attended a UCLA game this season with Sidney.
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, to give, 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. The belief is that UCLA is leading for him and his brother, and any serious contention might come from North Carolina. But more than likely the Wear family will want to keep them close to home.
David Wear, 6-9 PF, 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. His skills progressed quite a bit this year, too. If the twins continue to get bigger and assert themselves physically, their potential is unlimited. As said above, the twins are close to their parents, who are solid and sensible, and 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. As of now, UCLA is recruiting him. He's supposed to transfer to Los Angeles Fairfax next year. 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. He's blowing up a bit this spring, with a great performance in the Real Deal on the Hill playing for the Pump team, alongside Anderson, Holiday and the Wears.
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. He could want to leave the west, however, and there could be other issues that might keep him from being a UCLA prospect.
More Potentially Elite:
Snaer, 6-4 SG, Moreno Valley (Calif.) Rancho Verde. Snaer has a good body
and good athleticism, a pretty good shot and handles it well. He's also the
backcourt mate of Malcolm Lee on their AAU team, Inland.
Jared Cunningham, 6-2 PG/SG San Jose (Calif.) San Leandro. Came to UCLA's camp last June, and has really matured physically since. He reminds you of a young Gabe Pruitt. Watch for him to have a chance to really move up in UCLA's eyes, and on national recruiting lists.
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. Marshall is very talented, and has a great feel for the game while playing very hard. He's a bit undersized for a two, and doesn't look like he'll grow much more.Jordan Hamilton, 6-6 SF/PF Los Angeles (Calif.) Dorsey. Hamilton is getting some early hype by national scouts, but he'll have to continue to improve his mentality and approach to the game to be elite.
Chase Tapley, 6-1 SG/PG Sacramento (Calif.) High. Talented combo who has a
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
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
Avery Bradley, 6-3 SG, Tacoma (Wash.) Bellarmine Prep