In our last assessment of basketball recruiting, we covered pretty thoroughly the positions and recruits UCLA was targeting for the 2009 class.
But now, this fall, college coaches have been able to go out and scout since mid-September, and UCLA coaches have been all over the country looking for more possibilities in the 2009 class.
UCLA will for certain have four scholarships to give for 2009, and could have more. They will have loaded up on perimeter players with the 2008 class, so they're primarily looking at 4s and 5s for 2009.
But since you are the new UCLA that has to deal with players leaving early to the pros, you have to also consider an early defection from the 2008 class. If you're an NBA GM, and you're looking for a point guard with the spring 2009 NBA draft, you might think that Jrue Holiday has a long ways to go to be an NBA point guard, but you wouldn't be able to deny his potential and ability. And would you take someone who is currently more polished but less talented? It's something to ponder, especially for UCLA. Because, in this what-if scenario, if Holiday went pro after his freshman year, you'd only have three guards on your roster for the 2009-2010 class (Russell Westbrook, assuming he doesn't go pro early, Lee and Anderson), if you didn't, in fact, take a guard with the 2009 class.
Also, even If Holiday stays at UCLA for his sophomore season, UCLA could still, in fact, have five or more scholarships to give for 2009: If Kevin Love goes pro, and/or Westbrook, or someone leaves the program. So, it's a pretty good bet UCLA will be taking perimeter players in the 2009 class as well.
And UCLA has been out recruiting wings pretty aggressively since the contact period started.
First, let's go over the guys we've been telling you that UCLA has been pursuing.
The Usual Suspects
Travis Wear, David Wear, 6-9 PFs, Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei. The twins are very talented, and really showed improved skills this July. Their outside shooting, particularly David's, is getting to the point where you can consider them very reliable three-point shooters. They continue to get bigger physically and, with two years left of high school, could very well end up 6-10 and 240 by the time they are freshmen in college. Which leads you to the next point on the Wears -- about whether they're posts or not. In our mind, there's no question they'll be post players in college, even if they don't get to 6-10. Right now, they play like threes, floating on the perimeter and coming into the paint occasionally. These are all probably concerns that will work themselves out, though, with the twins probably playing more and more in the post in the next two years of high school and AAU ball. They'll have to play the post for Mater Dei this year, in fact. The word in regards to recruiting is that they're leaning heavily toward UCLA. They more than likely won't want to go far for college, being close to their family. Arizona looks to be the biggest competition, probably. They're rated #26 and #27 in the national class of 2009. Both have been offered scholarships by UCLA.
Reeves Nelson, 6-7 PF, Modesto (Calif.) Modesto Christian. Nelson sat out most of the July period with bone spurs in his ankle, and still hasn't returned to action. Nelson is the perfect Ben Howland player -- a tough warrior who loves to be physical and rebound. And he's very good at it. He's one of UCLA's top priorities in 2009. Being a power forward right now, there is a chance Nelson could develop into a small forward, but we think more than likely he's a four on the college level -- and a very effective one. The word on Nelson is that he also is leaning toward UCLA. It would be interesting to see how it would work out if UCLA got three commitments -- from the Wears and Nelson -- from guys who are all essentially four men. As we said, it could all work out, with at least one of the Wears being able to play some five in college, and Nelson possibly being able to guard a three. Nelson is currently ranked #30 in the nation for 2009, and is being pursued by Duke, North Carolina and Texas, among others. UCLA has offered Nelson.
Hollis Thompson, 6-6 SF/SG, Los Angeles Loyola. Thompson showed this July that he is worthy of some lofty national ratings in the 2009 class, specifically that #11 ranking by Scout.com nationally. He's one of the best shooters in the west for 2009, and has very good quickness and agility for his size. His feel for the game is, also, exceptional, moving so well without the ball and being a great passer. UCLA watched just about every one of his games this July. We've heard that Duke could be making Thompson a top priority. On top of that, Georgetown is making a huge push for him, and his family has consistently been pro-Georgetown, and the word is that recently they're even more. UCLA has offered, and Thompson has been on campus this fall and to two footbal games. The feeling is that, while Thompson is the perfect UCLA kid, this one could be tough, with the big push for him to go to Georgetown.
The Other Guys On UCLA's Radar
UCLA has gone out this fall to find more elite guys to add to their 2009 recruiting list. They've been targeting primarily big men and now, most recently, wings. Recognizing that they'd like to fill out the class with a wing, and with Hollis Thompson looking like a considerable battle, the UCLA coaches have been aggressively getting out there to find other options. With limited prospects in the 2009 class in the west, particularly big men, the Bruin coaches have been very active this fall around the country.
Elijah Johnson, 6-1 CG, Las Vegas (Nev.) Cheyenne. Probably the best guard in the 2009 class in the west and among the handful of best in the country (ranked #12 overall for 2009), Johnson can play either the one or the two, which could make him a very good fit at UCLA for the 2009 class. He sat out some of the July evaluation period with an injured ankle. UCLA coaches showed at his game, to only find him not playing. Because of his talent and versatility, Johnson is a guy that could fit into UCLA's 2009 plans very well. Academics have been said to be a concern, but if Johnson can get by that hurdle, he could be a top priority. He's currently ranked the #21 prospect in the country for 2009.
Stephan Van Treese, 6-9 C, Indianapolis (Ind.) Lawrence North. An athletic post player that is currently the #40 player in the nation for 2009, Van Treese has all of the physical and athletic tools to be a very successful high-major college post. His skills are still coming along, but he plays with toughness and physicality in the post, and has good quickness and hops. He's someone UCLA has shown interest in this fall, having visited his high school to watch him. Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio State and more having already offered him, and it's thought that it could be a tough battle to get him away from the Midwest powers.
Milton Jennings, 6-9 post, Summerville (South Carolina) Pinewood Prep. Jennings, currently ranked the #35 prospect in the 2009 class, is one of the hotter names around right now. The fact that he's really developed recently and looks to have some considerable upside, being prety young-looking, has gotten many elite programs on him. Here's a recent update Scout.com did on Jennings: Q & A With Milton Jennings. UCLA coaches have been to see him so far this fall a couple of times, they've offered him a scholarship and are going after him hard. As of right now, UCLA is among his leaders, but it will be interesting to see if they can get him away from the east coast powers.
Mason Plumlee, 6-11 post, Arden (North Carolina). Plumlee has very good skills for his size, and is a very good student, so UCLA has bee showing him a great deal of attention this fall. His older brother is going to Stanford, so the Plumlee family isn't adverse to sending their kids across the country. Again, though, UCLA is trying with a kid across the country, and one in North Carolina. You have to admire UCLA's brashness about going into North Carolina and trying to steal one from the North Carolina powers-that-be but, heck, Duke and UNC have been doing it with California kids for sometime. UCLA has offered Plumlee and the thought is that the Bruins actually have a decent shot with him.
Xavier Henry, 6-6 SG, Oklahoma City (Okla.) Putnam City. Henry is the #3-ranked player in the 2009 class nationally. The lefty combines excellent athleticism with a very potent jumper, and can score from anywhere on the floor. He's big, already probably about 210 pounds, and can be over-powering physically. All of the big-named prospects are on him, including Kansas, North Carolina, and Texas. His parents played at Kansas, so they're considered the favorite, and UCLA is thought to be one of the programs on the outside looking in.
Nolan Dennis, 6-5 SG, Richland Hills (Tex.) Richland. Dennis, the #23 ranked player in the class of 2009, is thought to be one of the best shooting guards in the country, with good size and skills, and a particularly good court sense. Florida, Georgetown, North Carolina and Indiana are among the competitors and UCLA is considered a longshot even though they're trying with him.
Noel Johnson, 6-6 SG, Fayetteville (Georgia) Fayetteville County. Another big national name at shooting guard, Johnson is considered one of the best shooters in the nation. Ranked #28 nationally, he has plenty of attention from many big names, like Florida, Kentucky, and Ohio State. He has mentioned UCLA.
Renardo Sidney, 6-9 C, Lakewood (Calif.) Artesia. The #1 player in the class of 2009 nationally. UCLA has yet to offer him, however, and it's unsure if they will. He didn't generally look good in Las Vegas, playing soft and selfishly. It's really one of the most interesting situations in UCLA recruiting in recent years -- a very talented player with clear NBA potential, ranked the #1 player in the country, in UCLA's backyard, at a position of great need, and UCLA isn't aggressively pursuing him. As the saying goes, there are "fit" issues. We think at least some of those would have to be resolved for UCLA to take Sidney and that's not saying it couldn't happen. Sidney attended the UCLA/Notre Dame football game.
Jordan Hamilton, 6-6 SF, Compton (Calif.) Dominguez. The #15-ranked player in the nation, 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 has said UCLA was on his short list of favorites, but the Bruins haven't offered and are still in the consideration mode, with some "fit" issues and possibly academic issues, too.
Greg Smith, 6-8 C, Fresno (Calif.) Edison. Another player not hard to follow (for us or for the UCLA coaches) 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. This July was a major step forward for him, showing more aggressiveness around the basket as he got more familari playing against such high-level competition. If he gets just another inch, to 6-9, he's a beast. He might very well get beast status without that extra inch, if he continues to improve. He was on UCLA's campus for an unofficial visit July 4th. While UCLA might look around nationally for a true five, Smith might be the guy. He's ranked #59 nationally. There could some limitations academically, however.
Brendan Lane, 6-8 PF, Rocklin (Calif.) High. Lane, the #68-ranked player for 2009, 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 watched him in July, but what moderate interest there was has seemed to waned -- from both sides.
Michael Snaer, 6-4 SG, Moreno Valley (Calif.) Rancho Verde. Speaking of interest waning, it looks like that's also the case with UCLA and Snaer. He came to UCLA's camp in June, which was a very good sign, and he's the AAU teammate of UCLA commit Malcolm Lee. Snaer, who is #65 nationally, also Howland's type of guy -- with a good body, physical and is a good defender. But something has slipped in interest, from both sides.
Victor Rudd, 6-8 SF/PF, Sylmar (Calif.) High. #66 nationally, Rudd is 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. He led his team to the championship of the Adidas Three Stripes tourney in L.A. As of right now Rudd is a guy on UCLA's monitor list.
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. Ranked #56 in the nation, Cunningham, in fact, is rumored to be leaning heavily toward ASU. UCLA has more or less stopped recruiting him.
Tyler Griffey, 6-8 PF, Ballwin (Missouri) Lafayette. #51 in the nation, Griffey's a skilled four man with a good body and athleticism. He's shown some interest in UCLA.
Kenney Hall, 6-9 C, Stone Mountain (Georgia) Redan. #63 in the nation, Hall is a long-armed post with some potential. He came to UCLA's camp, having been from the San Fernando Valley originally. UCLA coaches watched him in July and have been out to see him this fall.
Anthony Stover, 6-9 C, La Canada (Calif.) Renaissance Academy. Stover has some potential and UCLA is watching him. He came to UCLA's camp and flashed some ability, to go along with a long body that looks like it cound continue to grow. He a little soft at this point, and skinny, but someone to watch on the west coast for 2009.
Daniel Orton, 6-9 C, Oklahoma City (Okla.) Bishop McGuinness. Orton is considered one of the best post players in the nation, and he had shown interest in UCLA -- and it was mutual. However, we're hearing that academics could keep UCLA from recruiting him.