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, at least with the 2008 class. 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 has been, and will be, to see UCLA 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. New assistant coach Scott Duncan, who was always known as a hard-working recruiter, has gotten the program more involved with national recruits for 2008, as has assistant Donnie Daniels.
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, will have two open scholarships for the 007-2008 season. UCLA sniffed around Beas Hamga, the 6-11 post from Cameroon who attends Decatur (Ill.) Decatur Christian, but Hamga committed to UNLV. Other than that, UCLA hasn't been involved with any potential 2007 prospects.
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.
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=verbalThe 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 having lost Ryan Wright, it could then lose Love, Mata, Mbah a Moute, and Alfred Aboya all within two years. The posts left for the 2009-2010 season would be James Keefe (not a five) and 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, of course, Jrue Holiday.
Now to do this, UCLA will need a couple of scholarships to open up by the fall of 2008. Currently if you count the three verbal commitments, UCLA is full-up for the 2009-2010 season. But it doesn't seem like the UCLA staff is too worried about scholarship availability. 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 that we've identified so far this spring.
Jerime Anderson, 6-1 PG, Anaheim (Calif.) Canyon. COMMITTED. He's UCLA's pure point guard of the future. He's currently ranked #26 in the class nationally, using a really good showing during the April evaluation period to move up from #46. 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.
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 #13 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 #23 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, 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, with Holiday having eliminated Arizona and North Carolina. The long-held theory is that some of his family wants him to play with his older brother, Justin, who is committed to Washington, but that some want him to stay home. During April and the evaluation tournaments, there was plenty of talk that UCLA was, in fact, leading for Holiday. Since, the overwhelming sentiment is that Holiday is going to be a Bruin. He was on UCLA's campus last week and all reports indicate the unofficial visit went very well. Holiday watched the team workouts, then hung out with some players, which included Jordan Farmar, and then went to dinner with them. Holiday will drop off his brother at Washington this weekend and give the Huskies another in-person shot at him. It's thought that he could make his decision soon after, possibly before the July evaluation period. If the Bruins did, in fact, get Holiday, 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 a total of 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. The #37-ranked player in the nation, 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 which inspired them to get involved. Other schools are starting to jump on the bandwagon, like Kansas, Alabama and Kentucky. Morgan has said UCLA is on his list of favorites and that he wants to visit Westwood officially.
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. In fact, with UCLA showing interest, Zeller has yet to mention the Bruins.
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 #20-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 #5 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.
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 doesn't get that true 6-10ish center, they could opt for Breshers. He was on UCLA's campus in the first week of June.
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 can really shoot the ball now, both on the catch and off the dribble, which has given his game great dimension. It's moved him up the national rankings, to #34, but with continued performances like those this spring he has a chance to move into the top 20 nationally. As of now, he is verbally committed to USC, but it's a soft verbal, with Derozan saying he wants to check out all his options. UCLA is recruiting him, but hasn't offered, since it would prefer another big for the 2008 class. There are reports that North Carolina recently offered him. The plans for him to visit UCLA's campus this week fell through, but he's supposed to be visiting soon. It's thought that, if UCLA wanted Derozan, it would have a very good chance of getting him. The thought of another top 20-caliber player added to potentially Holiday, Anderson and Lee would make UCLA's 2008 class one of the best in terms of perimeter players in recent years.
Romero Osby, 6-8 SF/PF, Meridian (Mississippi) Northeast Lauderdale. The #22-ranked player in the class nationally, Osby is a national guy UCLA has sniffed around. 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. It's unlikely UCLA could get seriously involved.
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. UCLA has shown some interest.
Drazen Zlovaric, 6-9 PF/C, Cleveland (Tenn.) High. Zlovaric is a native of Serbia who has spent one year playing high school ball in the U.S. He's very athletic and skilled, able to shoot out to the three-point line but is also good around the basket. He has the likes of Cincinnati, Texas, Wake Forest and others after him. He's a very good student.
Jeff Withey, 6-11 C, San Diego (Calif.) Horizon. Currently the #46 player in the nation and the best post player in the west for 2008, Withey has improved his game in the last year. He's stronger and plays more physically, and with more effort, which has made him far more effective around the basket. He was always athletic, so he's capable of playing above the rim, and his skills in the post have improved. He verbally committed to Louisville, but just recently opened up his recruitment. It's believed Arizona has to be the leader, with his trainer who is now managing his recruitment, Trent Suzuki, having close ties to the Arizona program. When Withey de-committed from Louisville, UCLA coaches called him, and they'll see if there's a legitimate chance with him.
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.
The UCLA camp this year, held at UCLA July 1-3, looks like it's shaping up to
be big in terms of 2009 and 2010 prospects. Many on this list from the west
coast will probably attend.
Travis Wear, 6-9 PF, Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei. It's arguable every time the Wear twins step on the court who is better. Travis is a little bigger (by about a half inch), and showed a little better early on, but David has been looking very good recently. Travis and David, though, have the potential to be elite players. They're still growing, and could end up 6-10+. Both probably need to develop their post games and get stronger to ensure they're elite high-major recruits. The belief is that UCLA is leading for Travis 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 is 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 but hasn't offered him a scholarship. He's a very good bet to be one-and-done. Also, it could be tough taking Sidney and both of the Wear twins, and the twins are a package deal. So, it could be one of the biggest recruiting issues of Howland's UCLA career: Whether to opt for an potential NBA-lottery-pick-type talent like Sidney, with the potential pitfalls that could come with that, and the potential that he's one-and-done, or the Wears.
Nelson, 6-6 SF/PF, 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 blew up a bit this spring, with a great performance playing
for the Pump team, alongside Anderson, Holiday and the Wears. The issue
with Nelson could be whether he develops the skills he'll need to be a small
forward. Right now, he's a power forward and a good one, and he's strong enough
to push around high school competition. But at 6-6ish, he's probably undersized
for power forward in college. 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.
More Potentially Elite:
Hollis Thompson, 6-6 SG/SF, Los Angeles (Calif.) Loyola. Thompson perhaps blew up more than any west coast 2009 prospects. He has great potential, with a long, lean body that still looks very young, and very good quickness and athleticism. This spring he showed vast improvement in his skills, with a much improved shot and ability to put the ball on the floor. If there is a 'UCLA type" of player out there, it's Thompson -- going to a good academic school like Loyola and carrying a 4.1 GPA. He's supposed to be visiting campus soon and will come to UCLA's camp in the beginning of July.
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. He's attending UCLA's camp again this year.
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.
Rome Draper, 6-5 SG/SF Etiwanda (Calif.) High. Very skilled, but academically ineligible in high school, so not a good sign.
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.
Jamil Wilson, 6-6 SF, Racine (Wisc.) Horlick. A top 20 potential prospect that UCLA has shown interest in early.
Shawn Williams, 6-6 SF, Duncanville (Tex.) High. Another potentially elite wing for 2009 that UCLA has shown interest in.
David Loubeau, 6-8 PF, Davie (Fla.) Westlake Prep. A prospect who really emerged this spring, showing ability to play inside but also step out and score. UCLA has shown interest.
Lane, 6-7 PF, Rocklin (Calif.) High
Victor Rudd, 6-7 SF, Sylmar (Calif.) High
Tyler Haws, 6-4 SG, Highland (Utah) Lone Peak
Chase Tapley, 6-1 SG/PG Sacramento (Calif.) High
Peyton Siva, 5-11 PG, Seattle (Wash.) Franklin
Greg Smith, 6-8 C, Fresno (Calif.) Edison
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
It's really too early to get any kind of true list for freshmen.
For now, there's really only one name on this list:
Jeremy Tyler, 6-9 C, San Diego (Calif.) High. He's probably the best post player in the west since Kevin Love, with skills, smarts and athleticism. He'll probably be a top 5 player in the national class of 2010. UCLA has been on him early and hard. In the BRO interview with his coach/mentor, it was made apparent that UCLA is doing very well with Tyler early.
Others to Know: