The second evaluation period of July starts Sunday, July 21st, and just about every college coach in the country will be in Las Vegas, with three concurrent tournaments taking place. There will be around 500 teams in Las Vegas among the three events, and just about every recruit in the nation, including all of the guys UCLA is recruiting or scouting.
For the 2008 class, obviously, UCLA has commitments from four excellent players, comprising a class that many are calling the best in the country. The Bruins are still looking to give out a fifth scholarship, to one more post player, and the staff is spending the July evaluation periods trying to nail down viable candidates.
During the first period in July, UCLA's scouting list of 2008 big men changed just about day by day, and we kept you up to date daily. It's a case for many programs, including UCLA, of some players emerging and college coaches getting a sense of what's out there and realizing who they need to be on. There probably won't be as many names added to UCLA's list of potential big men as a result of the second evaluation period in July, but there still could be some guys UCLA notes.
UCLA, so far, has one scholarship offer out to one non-committed recruit that they have a chance of getting. Then, after that, there's a sizeable list of prospects they're scouting. Again, this list will probably change merely in the next couple of weeks. These last two weeks of the evaluation period could determine, for UCLA, whether they do decided to offer and pursue certain players or drop them from their list.
J'mison Morgan, 6-9, Dallas (Tex.) South Oak Cliff. He's at the top of UCLA's want list for bigs in 2008, and has a UCLA offer. He told Scout.com's Dave Telep that he's trimmed his list to five schools: Kansas, Texas, Baylor, Alabama and UCLA. He said, "It'll be about the relationship I have with the players and coaches." Official visits are next on his agenda. Recently his mother listed schools her son was interested in and she didn't include UCLA.
Ralph Sampson, 6-10, Huntsville (Ala.) Butler. Sampson looked better as the LeBron James Academy progressed, far more active around the basket, particularly in rebounding. It was good enough to probably make the UCLA coaches continue to watch him throughout July. He still is fairly passive, and when he went up against the best posts in the camp they more or less had their way with him. But everyone who knows him says he's come very far, the light is just starting to turn on and believe he'll continued to improve dramatically. It's a matter of trying to project how good Sampson could be, say, after a redshirt year. Will he continue to develop like he has in the last year? These next two weeks could determine whether UCLA continues to recruit Sampson or not.
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. He's ranked the #15 center in the nation for 2008, and Stanford, Wisconsin and Illinois have reportedly already offered him.
Kevin Jones, 6-8, Mount Vernon (New York) High. Jones as really stepped up so far this July and many colleges are watching him, including UCLA, and he now has offers from Syracuse and Kentucky. Jones has a combination that obviously would appeal to Howland: he's athletic, tough, a good rebounder and is a good student.
Olek Czyz, 6-7, Reno (Nev.) High, came to UCLA's Camp for a couple of hours and was impressive. A great athlete, he just started getting high major attention this spring. UCLA could look seriously at him if they don't get a traditional five type. He's been ripping it up in the spring and summer events, and now has offers from Kentucky, Duke, Florida, Kansas and Louisville. There could also be an issue of academics.
Colton Iverson, 6-9, Yankton (South Dakota) High. Iverson is one of those guys who is showing solid play so far this July and the high majors are coming out. In fact, Washington State and Nebraska have offered. He's on UCLA's to-scout list for the next two weeks.
Tim Williams, 6-8, Antioch (Calif.) High. All the west coast mid-majors know about him and are trying to keep him quiet. Now the high majors are starting to watch, and we'll see if any offer. We consider him at least a Pac-10 level player.
Xavier Gibson, 6-9, Dothan (Ala.) Northview. Gibson was not aggressive throughout the LeBron James Academy, and didn't do much. He has the athleticism and length, but didn't display it much. Reportedly he's doing quite a bit better at the Peach Jam in the last few days. We'll see if UCLA continues to scout him.
Assane Sene, 6-9, South Kent (Conn.) High. UCLA is scouting Sene. Originally from Senegal, he showed flashes at the NBA Players Camp in June.
Festus Ezeli, 6-9, Nigeria and Sacramento. Ezeli is getting some attention from high majors. He's an interesting story -- being an excellent student who's already graduated from high school and is taking JC classes. He's a big body and athletic, who really has very little idea how to play basketball. UCLA will watch him for the next two weeks, but unless there are some considerable signs that he's further along than the way it looked in the beginning of July, we doubt that Ezeli has the talent to be someone UCLA will recruit. We have heard, however, that Connecticut could be offering him.
UCLA's Committed Players for 2008
There isn't much left for UCLA's committed guys to prove. Most importantly, they're committed to their school of choice, and after that anything else really pales in comparison. However, most of the post-high school awards, like being a McDonald's All-American, are based on their performances in the July evaluation period before their senior year, so you could say they're playing for that.
Jerime Anderson, 6-1 PG, Anaheim (Calif.) Canyon. The #29-ranked player in the nation had a tremendous performance in the Adidas It Takes 5ive tournament in Cincinnati, being the unofficial MVP of the Pump N Run Elite team that won the inaugural event. For many coaches and scouts who were there, it left little doubt about Anderson being one of the best point guards in the country. Another good showing in the late July period should cement him as a top 30 player and perhaps move him up some, into the potential McDonald's All-American range.
Malcolm Lee, 6-4 CG, Riverside (Calif.) North. Lee doesn't get quite as noticed because he plays on an AAU team, Inland, that doesn't find itself in as many high-profile summer games as other top AAU teams. Lee was thought to be one of the best guards at the Reebok U camp in early July. Currently ranked #17 in the nation, his play hasn't hurt his chances at the McDonald's game.
Jrue Holiday, 6-3 SG, North Hollywood (Calif.) Campbell Hall. Currently ranked the #5 player in the nation and the best two-guard, Holiday has the McDonald's game sewn up. There is really no reason for him to be playing except that Holiday is so competitive. He has been in a bit of a shooting slump in July, so we'll see if he gets that back in the next two weeks. Holiday and Anderson, of course, both play for Pump N Run Elite, so the UCLA coaches will again spend a great deal of time watching their future backcourt.
Drew Gordon, 6-9 PF/C, San Jose (Calif.) Archbishop Mitty. Gordon suffered a broken bone in his hand in late June and sat out the first July evaluation period. He said he expected to be able to play in Vegas, but at the end of the LeBron James Skills Academy he said there was still some swelling in his hand and planned to go back home and get another x-ray. We'll see if Gordon does actually play in the next two weeks. As we've said, Gordon has already earned the really important stuff -- a scholarship to UCLA -- and would only really be playing for post-high school accolades at this point. He's currently ranked #30 in the country, and sitting out the rest of July would make it difficult for him to be chosen as a McDonald's All-American.
There are many prospects in the 2009 that UCLA will show interest in, and this isn't a comprehensive list, but this is primarily the prospects in the junior class we think UCLA will spend the most time watching the rest of July.
Travis Wear, David Wear, 6-9 PFs, Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei. It's easy to watch the Wears during July since they also play on the Pump N Run Elite team. As we've chronicled, the question with the Wears at this point is whether they'll play in the post. They're really remarkable talents, but so far in their high school careers they have tended to float outside -- and it's crazy to say, since they are only 16, but it's starting to get a bit late in their development. One of the biggest curiosities for the second July period is if the Wears do play more inside for the Pump team.
Reeves Nelson, 6-6 SF/PF, Modesto (Calif.) Modesto Christian. Nelson also plays for the Pumps, but we've heard he might sit out Vegas with a lingering foot injury. The biggest impact that has, really, is on the Pump team, which loses their best rebounder. It's not a coincident that the Pumps won in Cincinnati with Nelson but lost at the Three Stripes tourney in L.A. a few days later without him (they were also missing Jerime Anderson and Arizona commit Jeff Withey). He's one of UCLA's top priorities in 2009.
Hollis Thompson, 6-6 SF/SG, Los Angeles Loyola. Thompson showed at the LeBron James Academy that he is worthy of some lofty national ratings in the 2009 class. UCLA has watched every one of his games so far this July and it's a good bet they will for the rest of the month. We've heard that Duke could be making Thompson a top priority. It will be interesting to see if Thompson gets a UCLA offer after July.
Daniel Orton, 6-9 C, Oklahoma City (Okla.) Bishop McGuinness. Orton was one of the best junior posts at LeBron. UCLA coaches have watched him quite a bit and it seems Orton is going to be a post target for 2009, at least initially.
Elijah Johnson, 6-1 PG Las Vegas (Nev.) Cheyenne. The best guard in the 2009 class in the west and probably the country, Johnson can play either the one or the two, which could make him a very good fit at UCLA for the 2009 class.
Michael Snaer, 6-4 SG, Moreno Valley (Calif.) Rancho Verde. Snaer obviously impressed the UCLA coaches at the UCLA Camp at the beginning of July. He plays on the same AAU team as Malcolm Lee (Inland Reebok) so UCLA coaches will get many opportunities to watch him.
Jordan Hamilton, 6-6 SF, Compton (Calif.) Dominguez. Hamilton got a lot of early hype nationally, but is now starting to show a more complete game that could be worthy of it. He can really shoot from the outside, but when he passes the ball, sets up teammates, rebounds and defends, he potentially is that elite prospect. He recently said UCLA was on his short list of favorites.
Brendan Lane, 6-8 PF, Rocklin (Calif.) High. Lane has emerged as a potentially elite high major, and is getting scouted by all the major programs in the country. His size and athleticism are very intriguing. UCLA coaches have been seen at his games, and will probably continue to watch hiim the rest of July.
Victor Rudd, 6-8 SF/PF, Sylmar (Calif.) High. A very talented kid who will be as good as he wants. He came to UCLA's camp and looked impressive, even if at times his effort waned. His led his team to the championship of the Adidas Three Stripes tourney in L.A.
Greg Smith, 6-8 C, Fresno (Calif.) Edison. Another player not hard to follow since he plays on Pump N Run Elite, Smith is a kid to definitely watch. He could have the most potential of any post player in the west for 2009, with a great, wide body, probably weighing 235 already with room to put on more muscle, plus huge feet and a youngish face, which are signs he could continue to grow. He's just beginning to learn how to play but shows flashes. He was on UCLA's campus for an unofficial visit July 4th.
Renardo Sidney, 6-9 C, Lakewood (Calif.) Artesia. The consensus #1 player in the class of 2009 nationally. UCLA has yet to offer him, however, and it's unsure if they will.
Jared Cunningham, 6-2 PG/SG San Jose (Calif.) San Leandro. Cunningham, like Jerime Anderson, is a player you need to see a few times to appreciate. He's still very young and doens't overwhelm a game, but his development in the last year, both athletically and skills-wise, has been dramatic, and he still looks like a baby, which means there could be plenty left to develop. Other high majors, particularly Pac-10 schools, are starting to show interest.
With the 2008 and 2009 classes more of a priority, most college coaches won't spend a great deal of time watching 2010 prospects. But these are the two guys we know UCLA will make an effort to go out and watch.
Jeremy Tyler, 6-9 C, San Diego (Calif.) High. He stepped onto the national stage for the first time really in early July and proved he's an elite prospect for the 2010 class. He's already a high priority for UCLA.
Kendall Williams, 6-2 PG, Rancho Cucamonga (Calif.) Los Osos. Williams came to
UCLA's camp and was one of the most impressive prospects there, with great
athleticism, skills and savvy for his age. For Vegas, Williams
will play in the Main Event on the West Coast All Stars 16s, in the
16-year-old division , which also features Hollis Thompson. This
means neither Thompson or Williams will play aganst the top teams
in the higher division, but they will play together, which could be good if
you're a school that ultimately wants both of them. It also makes
going out to watch them in Vegas quite a bit easier.