In the 2008 class, UCLA now has commitments from three perimeter players and one post player and, as we've reported before, will now focus on finding one more post to fill out a five-man class.
And getting post players, if you analyze future rosters, definitely becomes a priority – not just in the class of 2008, but for 2009.
Looking at projected depth of future rosters, it truly is amazing how well stocked and versatile UCLA's backcourt will be. Holiday, the 6-3 guard from North Hollywood (Calif.) Campbell Hall and currently the #5-ranked player in the nation for the class of 2008, and Malcolm Lee, the 6-4 guard from Riverside (Calif.) North who is also verbally committed to UCLA, will be able to play multiple positions in college, each being able to play point guard, shooting guard or small forward.
That type of versatility – in two players – really gives UCLA some backcourt depth on its future rosters and shifts its recruiting priority towards bigs – which now is looking like a glaring need.
If you look at the projected roster for the 2008-2009 season, UCLA could have only three true post players on its roster, Alfred Aboya (senior), James Keefe (junior) and Drew Gordon (freshman). That is, if Kevin Love, the 6-10 phenom who will be a freshman this fall, doesn't stay for his sophomore season and goes to the pros, which is a distinct possibility. Having just three post players makes for a very thin frontcourt, and we're sure Ben Howland, who always feels he can't have enough big guys, wouldn't be happy with it. Bringing in another post player to the class of 2008 is imperative, but the availability of players who are, say, 6-8+ and good enough to come in and play at the high-major level is the question.
UCLA will hotly pursue J'mison Morgan, the 6-10 center from Dallas (Tex.) South Oak Cliff, but it could be an uphill battle. It was a blow that Morgan didn't come to UCLA's Camp, and it will be interesting to see if they have a legitimate chance, fighting Kansas and Georgetown, among others, who are in strong with him.
There has been a little talk in recruiting circles that UCLA is trying to get involved with Ed Davis, the 6-8 post from Richmond (Virg.) Benedictine who is currently the #2-ranked player in the nation, but that would be a very tough battle, with North Carolina, Connecticut and local Virginia the far-ahead favorites.
UCLA will spend the July evaluation period (which begins Thursday, July 6th) scouting other potential big men. On the list of guys UCLA will scout is Ralph Sampson, the 6-11 center from Huntsville (Ala.) Butler, who had planned to come to UCLA's Camp this week but was a last-minute scratch. It's regrettable he didn't make the camp since it would have gone a long way in proving whether UCLA would deem him good enough to offer a scholarship. The connection is Sampson's uncle attended UCLA. There is John Brandenburg, the 6-10 center from St. Louis (Missouri) De Smet Jesuit; Christian Morris, the 6-9 center from South Kent (Conn.) High; and Drazen Zlovaric, the 6-9 post from Serbia and Cleveland (Tenn.) High. UCLA will also watch Tyreese Breshers, the 6-6 post from Los Angeles (Calif.) Price, who might not wait around for a UCLA offer and commit to one of the schools that has offered him, choosing among Washington, Boston College, Washington State and Miami.
There could possibly be others that UCLA recognizes this July.
If UCLA doesn't get a commitment from another post player in November (the early signing period), it will almost certainly keep looking throughout the season for another potential post to emerge by the late signing period in April.
If you had to find a criticism of UCLA's recruiting, it would be its inability to go out nationally to find worthy post players. UCLA has done incredibly well recruiting the west, but there are times, with bigs, when there just aren't enough prospects who can play at UCLA's level in the west. Right now, it's definitely the case, with the available talent of post players in the 2008 and 2009 west coast classes being particularly thin. Scott Duncan, the new assistant, since he got the job in April, has been making an effort to scout and recruit more nationally, but it's a considerable task since UCLA was very behind in terms if national big man recruiting for the 2008 class.
The issue and need for post players gets even more glaring on the projected 2009-2010 roster. We'll assume Love won't be at UCLA for his junior season, and that would leave just Keefe (senior) and Gordon (sophomore) as the only posts on the roster. The backcourt is stocked, with generally 2 to 3 guys able to play the 1, 2, or 3 spots. It would especially grow into a huge need if UCLA, in fact, didn't get another post player in the 2008 class.
Looking at the 2009 class, UCLA very well could have 4 or 5 scholarships to give, and would need at least two frontcourt players. On top of UCLA's want list is David Wear and Travis Wear, the 6-9 prospects from Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei. UCLA has offered the Wears and it's though that UCLA is the leader for them. The only minor issue with the Wears is whether either one, or both, would play the five spot. It would be very tough if they wouldn't – meaning both of them would be fours, giving UCLA an overload of power forwards without a center. That would especially compound if Reeves Nelson, the 6-7 power forward from Modesto (Calif.) Christian, also wanted to come to UCLA with the Wears (UCLA has also offered Nelson). Three power forwards, to go along with Keefe, Gordon and even Nikola Dragovic (who we think is a four and not a three), would make it Power Forward U. The Wears have great potential to play the five in college, with very good skills around the basket, even though they tend to float outside in AAU ball. This week at UCLA's camp, David Wear looked particularly good in the post, able to use his quickness to score inside. The Wears, too, continue to get bigger. Last year they were about 6-8 at UCLA's camp and this year 6-9, and they're filling out and getting stronger.
There is Renardo Sidney, the consensus #1 player in the nation for 2009. UCLA has yet to offer Sidney a scholarship, and it will be interesting if they do. As we've said before, a player with such a spotlight 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. 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 or not to opt for a 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.
Another prospect to watch in the 2009 class is Greg Smith, the 6-8 post from Fresno (Calif.) Edison. Smith is a big kid, probably weighing 230 pounds already, but has huge feet and a young face, which are the signs he could keep growing. He's strong, physical and athletic for his size. In the spring, he played with the Pump AAU team in the Cactus Classic that also had UCLA-committed Holiday, along with the Wears and Nelson.
UCLA will almost certainly take a shot at some of the top post players nationally in the class of 2009, like #3-ranked Derrick Favors, the 6-9 center from Atlanta (Georg.) South Atlanta, and #4-ranked Demarcus Cousins, the 6-9 center from Birmingham (Ala.) Erwin. But you'd have to consider UCLA longshots for them.
UCLA has been doing some initial sniffing around of Keith Gallon, the 6-8 and 300-pound center from Humble (Tex.) Atascocita.
In terms of perimeter players for the 2009 class, we won't give you a long, comprehensive list of players UCLA is watching, but you can be sure that at the top of the list now is Hollis Thompson, the 6-6 wing from Los Angeles (Calif.) Loyola, probably Michael Snaer, the 6-4 guard from Moreno Valley (Calif.) Rancho Verde, and Elijah Johnson, the 6-1 combo guard from Las Vegas (Nev.) Cheyenne. Thompson and Snaer looked particularly good this week at UCLA's Camp and it wouldn't be surprising if UCLA offered them a scholarship.
For the 2010 class, there is, of course, Jeremy Tyler, the 6-9 post from San Diego (Calif.) High, who UCLA has offered and is among the top three players in his class nationally. Also, as a result of a great performance in UCLA's camp, you can expect UCLA to start to seriously pursue Kendall Williams, the 6-2 combo guard from Rancho Cucamonga (Calif.) Los Osos. Williams will easily be one of the elite guards in the west for 2010 and probably nationally, with great athleticism and skills. He's also reportedly a good student, with a 3.6 GPA.
BRO and Scout.com will be on the road covering all the events of the July evaluation period, and all of the prospects mentioned above and more.