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.
The other recent issue has been scholarships -- getting some back, in fact. Of course, UCLA had one open up when Arron Afflalo declared for the NBA.
The other developments since our last update was Ryan Wright, UCLA's sophomore post, announcing he'll transfer after this year, and Alex Legion, the 6-4 shooting guard from Mouth of Wilson (Virg.) Oak Hill Academy, committing to Kentucky after visiting there last weekend.
That gives UCLA 11 scholarship players for next season, with two scholarships open. As of right now, though, there aren't any prospects we've heard of that are possibilities for the 2007-2008 season.
If 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 6-10 post from Lake Oswego (Ore.) High; and 6-7 Chace Stanback from Los Angeles (Calif.) Fairfax, the #65-ranked player in the nation. The roster is, admittedly, a bit thin at guard, and Josh Shipp's recent surgery on his hip contributes to some uncertainty. But if Shipp returns to health, UCLA should still be fine, barring an injury bug, for the 2007-2008 season.
So, we turn our attention to the 2008 class.
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
2009-2010 Westbrook Dragovic Keefe
2010-2011 Stanback Love
2011-2012 Anderson (v) Lee (v)
v=verbalWhile 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 already lost Ryan Wright, and could lose Love, Mata, Mbah a Moute, 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 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.
The question had been where UCLA could get its additional scholarships to possibly fill that void. With recent developments the scholarship situation changes not just for next season, but particularly for the 2008 class. Now, with Wright leaving and Legion going elsewhere, the perspective on the 2008 class comes more into focus. We have been saying that scholarships would open up, and alas, Wright's did. Now, UCLA has a total of three scholarships to give to the 2008 class, with two of those rides filled by verbal commitments from Jerime Anderson and Malcolm Lee. With Darren Collison considering entering the draft this season, it's thought to be a pretty good bet that he'll enter the draft after next season. You would then think UCLA could have another scholarship open up from the chance of Josh Shipp, Luc Mbah a Moute or Kevin Love going pro after next year, or a possibility of another transfer. 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.
The UCLA staff is approaching its recruiting like its going to have more scholarships available to give. From what we've heard UCLA's intention is to give out a total of five scholarships for the 2008 class, which includes Anderson, Lee, hopefully Jrue Holiday, and then to two bigs. All it would need is for two scholarships to open up from the above scenarios, which, at this point, seems reasonably likely. If not, and say, just one more opens up, UCLA is looking to fill it with a true center type.
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, Washington is also thought to be strong for him, but 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. Derozan says he's verbally committed to USC, but will also consider other schools.
Tyrese Breshers, 6-6 PF, Los Angeles (Calif.) Price. Breshers is the dilemma of the class. He's a 6-6 post, which is undersized 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 good skills and a good 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. If UCLA gets a true, 6-9+ post, Breshers could be that fifth scholarship.
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.
Romero 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.
J'mison Morgan, 6-9 C, Dallas (Tex.) South Oak Cliff. Morgan is a big body, probably weighing about 265, with good athleticism and decent skills. He looked good at the Kingwood Classic in Houston and it's believed UCLA is gauging interest. Other schools are starting to jump on the bandwagon, like Kansas, Alabama and Kentucky.
Tyler Zeller, 6-11 C, Washington (Ind.) High. The brother of current Notre Dame sophomore Luke Zeller, Tyler has grown and stretched out in a year, moves well for a guy his size and has skills. He looked good on the Indiana Elite team that beat the Pumps in the final of the Kingwood Classic, with Howland looking on. At this point, there's no knowledge about whether Zeller would be interested, but UCLA will probably put in a call.
Brandenburg, 6-10 C, St. Louis (Missouri) De Smet Jesuit. Physically picture
James Keefe but about an inch or so taller. Brandenburg runs very well for his
size, too, but is pretty raw skills-wise. He'd probably be a project at UCLA's
level, but there has been some interest from Brandenburg, so UCLA is scouting
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. Offered.
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. Offered.
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 and Kingwood playing for the Pump team, alongside Anderson, Holiday and the Wears. Offered.
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