With the unusually limited April evaluation period, UCLA coaches spent the month scrambling to see as many prospects as possible. The Bruins are waiting to see exactly how many scholarships they actually have available for the 2008-2009 season. It's generally accepted that Love will not return. The good money is on Westbrook not returning, but Shipp and Mbah a Moute coming back. So, like we said above, UCLA really can't move ahead with any kind of plans for another incoming player and is truly in a waiting game – at least until it gets a better indication as to the futures of the guys who put their name in the draft. If UCLA does have another scholarship to give, here are the possible additions to the team for next season: J'mison Morgan, the 6-10 center who has signed a NLI with LSU. While there have been reports that Morgan will stick with his commitment to LSU, we've heard the door is still ajar. If Morgan did, in fact, get his release from LSU and wanted to come to UCLA, the Bruins almost assuredly would take his commitment without any consideration for scholarship numbers and figure it out later. Morgan is that good. If UCLA did get Morgan as their fifth guy in this class, it not only would cement it as the best recruiting class in the nation, but one of the best in the last decade. Malcolm Thomas, 6-8 forward, transfer from Pepperdine. Thomas came to UCLA's campus for an unofficial visit recently. Thomas is thought to be a promising player, with good athleticism, but he's probably a power forward, a position UCLA has filled pretty well for the next several years. It will be interesting to see, if UCLA does have an open scholarship and Thomas is perhaps the only option left, if UCLA does, in fact, take him. Remember, a transfer would have to sit out a year before becoming eligible so Thomas couldn't help the team next season. Academics could be an issue. There could also be the possibility of another transfer.
So much has changed in the last month.
There is quite a bit being made of UCLA needing to upgrade its talent to win a national championship.
You could say Ben Howland is systematically doing that. After getting the Gatorade National Player of the Year a year ago in Kevin Love, UCLA got this year's Gatorade Player of the Year in Jrue Holiday. UCLA signed the consensus #1 recruiting class in the country for 2008 (Scout.com's 2008 Class Recruiting Rankings).
The class includes Holiday, the 6-3 combo guard from North Hollywood (Calif.) Campbell Hall, the #3 player in the nation and a McDonald's All-American; Jerime Anderson, 6-1 PG, Anaheim (Calif.) Canyon, the #28th-ranked player in the nation; Malcolm Lee, 6-4 CG, Riverside (Calif.) North, #22 in the nation and McDonald's All-American; and Drew Gordon, 6-9 PF/C, San Jose (Calif.) Archbishop Mitty, #31 in the nation.
So, where does that leave the class? Is UCLA done? Or will it look to sign more in the spring signing period?
UCLA, having signed three perimeter players, has been looking everywhere for bigs. But there just aren't many available bigs that can play at the elite high-major level, in the west or even nationally.
If UCLA is going to add another recruit to the class of 2008, it could be also be a matter of a waiting game.
We've heard that Nikola Dragovic and Alfred Aboya will return.
So, if UCLA loses just Love, it will have a full roster of 13 scholarships for next season. If they lose one more, they would have one scholarship to give.
The Bruins are waiting to see exactly how many scholarships they actually have available for the 2008-2009 season.
It's generally accepted that Love will not return. The good money is on Westbrook not returning, but Shipp and Mbah a Moute coming back.
So, like we said above, UCLA really can't move ahead with any kind of plans for another incoming player and is truly in a waiting game – at least until it gets a better indication as to the futures of the guys who put their name in the draft.
If UCLA does have another scholarship to give, here are the possible additions to the team for next season:
J'mison Morgan, the 6-10 center who has signed a NLI with LSU. While there have been reports that Morgan will stick with his commitment to LSU, we've heard the door is still ajar. If Morgan did, in fact, get his release from LSU and wanted to come to UCLA, the Bruins almost assuredly would take his commitment without any consideration for scholarship numbers and figure it out later. Morgan is that good. If UCLA did get Morgan as their fifth guy in this class, it not only would cement it as the best recruiting class in the nation, but one of the best in the last decade.
Malcolm Thomas, 6-8 forward, transfer from Pepperdine. Thomas came to UCLA's campus for an unofficial visit recently. Thomas is thought to be a promising player, with good athleticism, but he's probably a power forward, a position UCLA has filled pretty well for the next several years. It will be interesting to see, if UCLA does have an open scholarship and Thomas is perhaps the only option left, if UCLA does, in fact, take him. Remember, a transfer would have to sit out a year before becoming eligible so Thomas couldn't help the team next season. Academics could be an issue.
There could also be the possibility of another transfer.
The number of scholarships UCLA will have available for the 2009 class is very uncertain at this point. With Michael Roll redshirting and being a senior in 2009-2010, Westbrook not returning for his senior season, Holiday <i>returning</i> for his sophomore year, and UCLA not getting anyone else for the 2008-2009 season, the Bruins would have five scholarships available. It's at least a decent bet, however, that Holiday doesn't make it to his sophomore season, or that someone else leaves the program, so there could be more than five to give.
Whether they have five -- or four, six, or more -- they will be fairly deep with perimeter players with the 2008 class, so they're primarily looking at 4s and 5s for 2009.
But as we said above, UCLA could have quite a few open scholarships in the next couple of years. And also, if you project out the roster, UCLA more than likely would definitely need at least one perimeter player, if not two.
It's definitely a new era for UCLA, having to deal with the potential of many players leaving early for the pros. But UCLA has to be honest with itself if it's not going to get caught particularly under-manned. For instance, If you're an NBA GM, and you're looking for a point guard with the spring 2009 NBA draft, you might think that 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 (assuming Westbrook isn't around for his senior year and Roll is a redshirt senior, and then you also have Lee and Anderson), if you didn't, in fact, take a guard with the 2009 class.
After watching the Bruins this year, when you could make a case that one more good perimeter player might have been the missing piece of the puzzle, it'd be surprising if UCLA didn't at least take one perimeter player in 2009.
So, with so many scholarships potentially open, you can assume UCLA will be recruiting like they have at least five scholarships to give to the 2009 class, which could include two perimeter players.
The following players are guys we know UCLA has been involved with so far in the class of 2009. The list changed some from the beginning of April to the end.
Reeves Nelson, 6-7 PF, Modesto (Calif.) Modesto Christian. COMMITTED. Nelson is the perfect Ben Howland player -- a tough warrior who loves to be physical and rebound. And he's very good at it. Seeing him this spring, it's clear that Nelson will be a power forward in college. Nelson is currently ranked #30 in the nation for 2009, and was being pursued by Duke, North Carolina and Texas before committing to UCLA. He had a great junior year, playing only 3/4s of it, averaging 26 points and 14 rebounds.
Renardo Sidney, 6-9 C, Lakewood (Calif.) Artesia. Sidney is widely considered the most talented player in the class of 2009 nationally. UCLA is recruiting him aggressively now and, if he can qualify academically, UCLA will take him. He's getting recruited by some of the biggest programs in the nation, including Kansas and Memphis, while USC and Arizona State are definitely in it for him. Sidney has indicated that he would greatly prefer to stay close to home in L.A., go to a college with a reputation like UCLA, and to a program where he'd have a chance to win a national championship.
Lance Stephenson, 6-5 SF, Brooklyn (New York) Abraham. The #1 small forward in the country, Stephenson has indicated he might want to be a package deal with Sidney, since they're tight. Package deals almost never come to fruition, but Stephenson visited UCLA's campus when he was in L.A. for a recent tourney playing with Sidney's AAU team.
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 #21 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. If he can get through UCLA admissions, expect UCLA to make Johnson a priority.
Brendan Lane, 6-8 PF, Rocklin (Calif.) High. Lane has emerged as an 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 monitoring him for the last year and recently picked up their recruitment of him, having offered Lane a scholarship. Stanford, Kansas, Cal and USC seem to be the others most interested. UCLA has now put on a full-court press this spring and we'll see how that affects Lane's opinion. We've heard it will probably come down between UCLA and Stanford, but the departure of Trent Johnson from Stanford could have an impact on that.
Greg Smith, 6-8 C, Fresno (Calif.) Edison. Smith might have upped his stock more than any west coast player this April. He went from being the guy with the most potential to proving he's an elite high major prospect. He has 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. Even if he stays at 6-8, he's still a potential beast. He's been on UCLA's campus for an unofficial visit. If he can qualify academically, expect UCLA to make him a top priority. Arizona just recently offered him.
Daniel Orton, 6-9 C, Oklahoma City (Okla.) Bishop McGuinness. He's the #3 best center in the country, and a big body with good athleticism. UCLA coaches, particularly Howland, went out both evaluation weekends in April to see him play. The probem is his academics, but if he qualifies, expect UCLA to offer him.
Xavier Henry, 6-5 SG, Oklahoma City (Okla.) Putname. The #2 shooting guard in the country, he played with Orton on the same AAU team this spring, and the UCLA coaches were at most -- if not all -- of their games. It's thought to mostly be a Kansas/Memphis recruiting battle, but UCLA is trying.
Avery Bradley, 6-2 SG, Tacoma (Wash.) Bellarmine Prep. He's another who dramatically improved his stock during April. He's always been a great athlete, and a very good slasher, but he complemented that with some good outside shooting this spring. If he can consistently shoot, Bradley is an elite prospect. He also plays very hard and has the chance to be a great defender with his athleticism. UCLA is getting warmed up to him, along with many elite high majors across the country. Ben Howland visited Bradley's school to see him during the last couple of days of the April evaluation period. Academics could be an issue.
Anthony Stover, 6-9 C, La Canada (Calif.) Renaissance. Long and lanky, with some good athleticism, Stover has continued to develop and is a high major prospect at this point, with some of the most potential of any prospect in the west. What's very promising is he looks like he's continuing to grow, and his thin body is getting wider, too. He came to UCLA's camp last summer, and high majors are starting to get serious. He's also attractive because he's a very good student. He's someone UCLA is looking at seriously and could offer by the fall. Stanford has been recruiting him hard for a while so the Cardinal will probably be UCLA's main competition -- that's if they get serious about him. Arizona just recently offered him.
DaShonte Riley, 6-11 C, Beverly Hills (Mich.) Detroit Country Day. UCLA took shots at many national bigs this season, and generally missed on them. Riley, who is one of the best centers in the nation for 2009, ranked #16th nationally overally, hasn't eliminated UCLA, but he's considered a longshot, like the others.
Nolan Dennis, 6-5 SG, Richland (Tex.) Richland Hills. Dennis is the #6-ranked shooting guard in the national class of 2009. He has all the big names after him, like North Carolina. UCLA is taking a shot and they've gotten some feedback that they could have a chance, albeit it an unlikely one.
Stephan Van Treese, 6-9 C, Indianapolis (Ind.) Lawrence North. An athletic post player that is currently the #39 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 still listing UCLA as a school of interest, but we've heard it's unlikely he'd come out west to Westwood.
Michael Snaer, 6-4 SG, Moreno Valley (Calif.) Rancho Verde. Snaer is one of the best wings in the west -- a a good athlete, with a very good body, and he uses it to play good defense. Where he's becoming very effective is using a strong first step to go around defenders and get to the rim. He looked good in April shooting the ball, which might have been the knock on him before, with an improved stroke. UCLA has only been watching him and we'll see if the Bruins get involved with Snaer more seriously.
Jon Hood, 6-6 SF, Madisonville (Kent.) North Hopkins. Consider the #8 best small forward in the nation, Hood is considered one of the best outside shooters in the nation. UCLA is trying to get involved, while Duke, Kentucky and Tennessee have been on him a while.
Joe Burton, 6-7 C, Hemet (Calif.) West Valley. Burton has lost 50+ pounds and has turned himself into a decent player. He's pretty quick for his size and crafty around the basket, and a good passer. He lacks great athleticism and bounce, which will more than likely keep UCLA from offering.
Ray Turner, 6-8 PF, Houston (Tex.) Jones. Turner is a kid starting to get some high major attention and UCLA went out to see him this season.
Solomon Hill, 6-6 JR SF Los Angeles (Calif.) Fairfax. Hill plays kind of a point-forward type of game. He's a very good passer with a nice feel for the game and he plays unselfishly. He's also a very good athlete who can rebound, defend and handle. His outside shot is a work in progress and that's one area where he needs to improve. But his versatility and potential make him a very interesting prospect. He's got an ideal body for a wing and he should be able to defend the two or three and possibly even some fours. He's one of the best sleepers in the west and a definite high major prospect. UCLA is beginning to show interest. Academics could be an issue.
Kourtney Robinson, 6-9 C, Arcadia (LA.) High. A developing big man who is long and skilled and physically able to guard most post players. He's an up-and-comer in the class of 2009, and perhaps the best player in the state of Louisiana. Robinson is hearing from a host of schools, including Texas A&M (brother played there), Louisiana Tech, Southern Cal, Texas and West Virginia.
With the 2008 and 2009 classes more of a priority, most college coaches haven't spent a great deal of time watching 2010 prospects. But these are the guys that either UCLA went out to see in April or are showing interest in the Bruins.
Kendall Williams, 6-2 CG, Rancho Cucamonga (Calif.) Los Osos. COMMITTED. Williams verbally committed to UCLA before his sophomore season, which is probably early. But Williams has some of the best potential of any guard in the west . And the 3.8 GPA doesn't hurt. He came to UCLA's camp last July and was one of the most impressive prospects there. Locking up a kid like this early is a great indication of how well UCLA is doing these days in recruiting -- with Williams' family wanting him to go to UCLA and verbally committing early to make sure they don't miss on the opportunity. Williams had a good sophomore season, even though there is some question of whether he's a UCLA-level prospect yet. He'll have to either get bigger and stronger to play the two-guard spot, or improve his point guard skills to play the point.
Jeremy Tyler, 6-9 C, San Diego (Calif.) High. He's the #1 player nationally in the class of 2010, and he really impressed when he stepped onto the national stage for the first time last July. He's been to UCLA's campus for games. He, though, has some considerable "fit" issues and, at this point, a great deal would have to be resolved before he'd ever be a Bruin.
Josh Smith, 6-9 C, Kent (Wash.) Kentwood. Smith is a big body, who is actually taller than he looks because of that big body. He has soft hands and good skills, and can get that 260+ pounds off the ground pretty well. If he continues to develop, and his body tones up some, he's a potential top 25 national prospect. UCLA is definitely recruiting him. We've heard he could be transferring to a SoCal high school for next season.
Nate Lubick, 6-8 post, Southborough (Mass.) St. Mark's. A skilled big man that has been out to UCLA and has family in California. He reportedly has offers from many high majors.
Evan Anderson, 6-11 C, Eau Claire (Wisc.) North. A top ten prospect in the national class of 2010, UCLA coaches went out to see him this fall.
Tyler Lamb, 6-4 SG, Ontario (Calif.) Colony. Lamb has good skills and a nice outside shot, and a good court sense. He showed continued development as a sophomore, and stood out as one of the best all-around players on the Pump team this spring. His athleticism, also, has continued to improve. We feel he's the best guard in the west for 2010. While he told us he's open, and USC is the only school that's offered him so far, we have reason to believe, if UCLA offered him, he'd almost certainly be a Bruin.
Josh Hairston, 6-8 PF, Spotsylvania (Virg.) Courtland. Hairston is considered one of the potentially best big men in the east for 2010, and UCLA has already made contact with him.
Anthony Brown, 6-5 SF, Huntington Beach (Calif.) Ocean View. Long, promising athlete with good skills.
Moses Morgan, 6-5 SF, Las Vegas (Nev.) Palo Verde. Very skilled wing with above average athleticism.
Allen Crabbe, 6-3 SG, Los Angeles (Calif.) Price. Crabbe is one of the most promising young guards in SoCal.
Flavien Davis, 6-5 SF, Miwaukee (Wisc.) Wisconsin Lutheran. Might be one of the best wings in the country, he has said UCLA is showing early interest.
George Matthews, 6-6 SF, Phoenix (Ariz.) St. Mary's. Has really improved skill set and feel and still looks very young physically. Has a chance to be UCLA level.
LaBradford Franklin, 6-0 PG, Murrieta (Calif.) Vista Murrieta. Talented young guard with solid skills. His frame is slightly narrow, but he still has a couple years to fill out. Nice stroke and plays with a good demeanor. One to watch in 2010.
Royce Woolridge, 6-2 SG, Phoenix (Ariz.) Sunnyslope. He's a good shooter, with a strong body, and someone you can project as a potential high major.
Jordan Mays, 6-2 PG, Los Angeles (Calif.) Westchester. A kid with good length and size, and has a good feel for the point guard position.
Terrance Jones, 6-7 SF, Portland (Ore.) Jefferson. A guy getting some early attention from west coast schools. He handles the ball well and has good vision.
Terrance Ross, 6-6 SF, Portland (Ore.) Jefferson. A high school and AAU temmate of Jones, Ross is emerging as a prospect in his own right, with good athleticism.