Update on Hoops Recruiting

With the commitment of the #20-ranked player in the nation, Drew Gordon, the UCLA recruiting outlook changes considerably. Here's an update on how it stands now, how many scholarships UCLA is looking to give out, who are the top remaining targets, and which big men UCLA is now looking at nationally...

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. UCLA has definitely, this April, pushed to get involved with more national recruits, especially big men, for the 2008 class.

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.

UCLA also got another scholarship back when Ryan Wright, UCLA's sophomore post, announced he'll transfer after this year. UCLA now, with the scholarship's of Afflalo and Wright available, has to rides it could give to the 2008 class.

Really the only possibility we've heard about is UCLA possibly sniffing around Beas Hamga, the 6-11 post from Cameroon who attends Decatur (Ill.) Decatur Christian.  Hamga came to the States and was classified as a 2008 prospect, but now has enough credits to graduate this spring, so many programs have been scrambling to get involved. He originally committed to Iowa, but now Kentucky and Indiana are getting involved, along with UNLV and Nex Mexico. He'll take an official visit to Kentucky this weekend, and then could visit the other schools mentioned. He's interested in New Mexico since former Iowa Head Coach Steve Alford now coaches there.  Hamga is a good-sized, long-armed athlete who would be a solid addition to UCLA's roster. UCLA, obviously, is thinking it could possibly get involved since it undoubtedly would have a Cameroon connection with Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Alfred Aboya.  There are many that think he'll commit to Kentucky after this weekend, and it's uncertain whether UCLA will get seriously involved at this point.

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. Next year's 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.

2007-2008                                                                    Mata

2008-2009  Collison       Roll       Shipp  Mbah Moute   Aboya  

2009-2010  Westbrook             Dragovic  Keefe

2010-2011                             Stanback                        Love

2011-2012  Anderson (v)           Lee (v)           Gordon (v)

v=verbal

The verbal commitment of Drew Gordon, the 6-9 post from San Jose (Calif.) Archbishop Mitty, was particularly significant, since UCLA could be thin in the frontcourt if you project down the line two years.  If Kevin Love does stay just one year, with 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 have been James Keefe (not a five), Nikola Dragovic (not a five, and arguably not a post). But now with Gordon, UCLA's projected roster is looking quite a bit better, and more balanced, with his commitment doing wonders for UCLA's recruiting for 2008. First, it gives them another top 30 national player. It then shores up their long-term frontcourt depth issues. It also, then, gives them the capability of being more selective in looking for another post player for 2008. UCLA would prefer to get a true, 6-10-plus center-type to go alongside Gordon.

UCLA intends to give out five scholarship for 2008 -- that is with the verbal commitments from Jerime Anderson, Malcolm Lee, and Gordon, they'd like to get one more big and then Jrue Holiday.

Now to do this, UCLA will need a couple of scholarships to open up by the fall of 2008, but it doesn't seem like the UCLA staff is too worried about it. With Darren Collison considering entering the draft this season, it's thought to be a pretty sure 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.

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 April were very content with their choice to take Anderson.  In fact, we're hearing that, as a result of his April play, he will probably move up in the national Scout.com rankings.

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. Lee continued to cement his rep as a top-20 national prospect by his play in April.

Drew Gordon, 6-9 PF/C, San Jose (Calif.) Archbishop Mitty. COMMITTED.  Gordon, Ranked the #20 player in the country, is quick off the floor, a very good shot blocker, and physically tough. His offensive game has developed, now having a good-looking short jump hook, but his offensE and his overall defense have a long ways to go (in fact, development under Howland was one of the reasons Gordon cited for picking UCLA). With his ability to run for his size, and his overall athleticism, and the fact that he's young for his class, Gordon has great potential. UCLA was on him early, and it looked for a while he'd go to North Carolina if they offered, but then also the prevailing Internet sentiment, which turned out to be erroneous, was, in the last few weeks before his commitment yesterday, that it was between Arizona and Washington. But North Carolina never offered, and UCLA beat out their two Pac-10 brethren for him.  

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. 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.  During April and the evaluation tournaments, there was plenty of talk that UCLA was, in fact, leading for Holiday. If the Bruins did, in fact, get him, the #3 player in the nation, it would cement their chances of being considered one of the top few recruiting class in the nation for 2008, with the #3 player in the nation and four top 30 national prospects. It would also give Howland the three backcourt players he wants -- and wanted from the beginning -- a bit reminiscent of Howland, in his first class, getting Jordan Farmar, Arron Afflalo and Josh Shipp.

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, where the UCLA coaches saw him, and they're now trying to get involved with him.  Other schools are starting to jump on the bandwagon, like Kansas, Alabama and Kentucky.

Trey Thompkins, 6-10 PF/C, Mout of Wilson (Virg.) Oak Hill. Thompkins is currently ranked #14 in the nation. He's a long athlete, with a good offensive skill set, that has continued to develop, and took some big steps forward this April. UCLA saw him last month and has now gotten involved, and will have to contend with Florida, Georgia, and possibly North Carolina. He has said recently that he'd like to visit UCLA, so the Bruins will have a shot.

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.  UCLA is trying to get involved but, at this point, there's no knowledge about whether Zeller would be interested.

John 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 him.

Michael Dunigan, 6-9 C, Chicago (Ill.) Farragut Academy. The #36-ranked player in the nation, Dunigan is a tough, strong inside guy that has the likes of Florida, Georgetown and Indiana on him. UCLA is looking into the situation and whether they'd have a chance to get involved.

Al-Farouq Aminu, 6-9 Post, Norcross (Georgia) High. The #8 player in the nation, Aminu is a tough, athletic stud.  He can really get off the floor quickly, which he uses to dominate the glass, playing above the rim. He's being pursued by all the big names in the country and UCLA is trying to see if they can crack into that crowd.

Larry Drew, 5-11 PG, Woodland Hills (Calif.) Taft. The #29-ranked player in the country, Drew is quick and skilled. UCLA offered last 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.

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. 

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.

Christian Morris, 6-9 C, South Kent (Conn.) High. Morris is a huge kid, probably weighing 270 pounds at least. He is an immovable wall inside, but also has a relatively soft touch around the basket on offense.

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, 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:

Michael 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 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
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 




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