Everything has changed.
With the commitment of J'mison Morgan to UCLA Friday, the entire dynamic of UCLA's recruiting changed.
UCLA, for the last year or so, has been on a quest to find bigs. It was recruiting guards and wings very well, but it was finding the big shopping scarce.
The 2008 class was thin in the west, and the 2009 class is thinner. UCLA went out nationally and beat the bushes, and found it tough to shake loose an elite big who'd be willing to come to Westwood.
The closest UCLA came to doing that last fall was with Morgan, but he chose LSU over UCLA and others.
But things happened this spring fortuitously for UCLA. LSU fired its head coach, John Brady, and Morgan wanted out of his National Letter of Intent. Morgan, in the interim between signing his LSU NLI last November and this spring, watched UCLA's Kevin Love get, well, a ton of love in the media with the exposure from another Final Four run. Morgan might have also noticed that the coaching Love was getting at UCLA was exceptional and helping him be one of the best, if not the best, post player in the nation.
So, Morgan jumped ship from LSU to UCLA.
It gives UCLA the unquestioned #1 recruiting class in the nation. It gives the Bruins a top 50 player at each of the five positions.
Morgan, in Scout.com's recently released final rankings for the class of 2008, moved up to #23. The class includes Jrue Holiday, the 6-3 combo guard from North Hollywood (Calif.) Campbell Hall, the #4 player in the nation and a McDonald's All-American; Jerime Anderson, 6-1 PG, Anaheim (Calif.) Canyon, the #31-ranked player in the nation; Malcolm Lee, 6-4 CG, Riverside (Calif.) North, #39 in the nation and McDonald's All-American; and Drew Gordon, 6-9 PF/C, San Jose (Calif.) Archbishop Mitty, #42 in the nation.
It gives UCLA the piece it was missing for next season, a big low-post presence.
And it changes UCLA's approach to recruiting for 2009 and 2010.
But, first, UCLA might not be over with recruiting this spring.
As of right now, UCLA is one over its scholarship limit of 13 for next season. But, you might remember, there are a few Bruins with their names currently in the NBA Draft.
The general consensus among sources is that Kevin Love and Russell Westbrook will keep their name in the draft, with Love a surefire lottery pick and Westbrook pretty close. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute is thought to still be on the fence of whether to stay in the draft or not, but sources are indicating he might be leaning toward keeping his name in even if he isn't projected as a high draft pick. The latest is that Josh Shipp will return for his redshirt senior year.
As we reported a while back, Alfred Aboya is leaning pretty assuredly toward returning. Aboya, who is graduating this season, has been contemplating either playing professionally overseas or pursuing graduate studies elsewhere. He very well may continue his graduate education at UCLA next season.
If Love and Westbrook leave, UCLA has one more scholarship to give for the 2008-2009 season.
As of right now, that scholarship is earmarked for Alex Stepheson, the 6-9 post who left North Carolina after his sophomore season. We've written many stories on the subject (Latest On UCLA Hoops Recruiting, Could Stepheson Be Good As A Bruin?) of Stepheson potentially transferring to UCLA. He and his family visited with UCLA's basketball staff Tuesday night and reportedly it went well. He's also supposed to be meeting with the USC staff soon. We've heard he could very well consider Cal and Arizona State.
We've heard, however, that UCLA is the prohibitive favorite.
Stepheson, as we've written, would have to sit out next season, but then he'd be eligible as a redshirt junior in the 2009-2010 season.
The addition of Morgan is a considerably huge one in terms of UCLA's frontcourt for the next several years. If UCLA added Stepheson, the picture would be beyond rosy.
UCLA will have effectively gone from being in relatively dire straits about its frontcourt situation over the next couple of years to basking in frontcourt luxury.
Just a month ago, if you projected out UCLA's roster over the next couple of years, the frontcourt looked very thin. In the next two years, they'll lose Mbah a Moute, Aboya, James Keefe and Nikola Dragovic. The only bodies projected to be on the roster would have been Gordon, committed 2009 power forward Reeves Nelson and whomever else they'd get in the 2009 class.
Because of this, UCLA was looking to bring in as many as four bigs in the 2009 class.
But, alas, that's all changed.
Morgan, more than likely, is at least a two-year college player. He's a very good prospect, with a big body who can rebound and defend and has a good, developing low-post game. But if you had to guess you'd say he's playing in college for two years, at least.
But those two years that Morgan can give you are key. UCLA now doesn't have to drive itself nuts traveling across the country trying to find a true five in the 2009 class that is elite and would ideally come in and play significant minutes immediately.
If it gets Stepheson, UCLA's frontcourt is set for probably even longer, and far more versatile. Stepheson would guarantee that you would have a high-quality post in the program until the 2010-2011 season. What's so valuable about Stepheson is that he's a tried and tested commodity. He's played in the ACC; he can defend elite high-major posts; he's shown he can rebound in the elite high-major environment, and he's gone up against Tyler Hansbrough in practice for two years. Hopefully with another year of development while he's sitting out his offensive game would continue to improve, and that would allow him to play on the court along side Morgan, Keefe or Gordon, in any combination.
Even if they don't get Stepheson, the commitment of Morgan really shifts UCLA's recruiting focus for 2009 and 2010. Instead of needing at least three, and possibly four posts in that class, it now might need just one or two additional post prospects to go along with Nelson. If it gets Stepheson, too, UCLA very well might only go after one more post, and it'd have the luxury (there's that word again) of being very selective.
In terms of recruiting for 2009, getting Morgan, and possibly Stepheson, it effectively: 1) enables UCLA to perhaps take a chance with more of a four-year project as a true center, 2) shifts the primary need to position of small forward, which is a position far easier to fill than bigs 3) enables UCLA to now fully recognize it can use probably two scholarships on perimeter players, which could be thinner than the frontcourt in a year if things happen they way you could foresee.
As of right now, UCLA has five scholarships to give to the 2009 class. If it gets Stepheson, it has four. So, let's figure on four, just for the sake of being able to do this. It would probably break down to another big, a small forward, a guard and then the best available prospect.
The holes in UCLA's projected depth chart, with Morgan added (and possibly Stepheson), have shifted. It's gone from the two frontcourt positions to, first, clearly, the small forward position. UCLA doesn't have a true small forward on its roster over the next several years. It could certainly use Mike Roll or Malcolm Lee in the position, but it would lack that 6-6 athlete at the position (something it, actually, hasn't had in a very long time).
So, keep this all in mind while we break down the 2009 class.
The number of scholarships UCLA has for 2009 right now is five. But if it fills one with Stepheson, it then has four. But, if Holiday possibly goes pro after one year, or even Morgan, it might have more.
UCLA, though, more than likely will approach the 2009 class going into the summer evaluation period with the mindset that it has four to give, and five, if it doesn't get Stepheson.
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, if you didn't, in fact, take a guard with the 2009 class.
What will be key for who emerges as UCLA' true top targets in this class is who comes -- and does well -- in front of Howland at the Elite Camp in late June.
The following players are guys we know UCLA has been involved with so far in the class of 2009. The list, of course, will continue to change.
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 #32 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.
Avery Bradley, 6-2 SG, Tacoma (Wash.) Bellarmine Prep. He dramatically improved his stock during April, moving up to #36 in the nation. He's always been a great athlete, and a very good slasher, and a good defender, 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 very much could fit the mold of the second coming of Russell Westbrook. UCLA has offerd him a scholarship, and Bradley appears to have become one of UCLA's top priorities in the class. 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 but if he qualifies by NCAA standards UCLA will get him in. It's in the works for Bradley to attend UCLA's camp.
Renardo Sidney, 6-9 C, Lakewood (Calif.) Artesia. Sidney is widely considered the most talented player in the class of 2009 nationally. UCLA was recruiting him aggressively this spring, but it will be interesting to see if they continue to do so after getting Morgan and possibly Stepheson. There is a question of whether Sidney can qualify for UCLA academically. 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 #22 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, UCLA would take him. Now, with the emergence of Bradley to go with Johnson, it gives UCLA two potential options at guard in the west.
Brendan Lane, 6-8 PF, Rocklin (Calif.) High. Lane has emerged as an elite high major, ranked #64 in the nation, 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 really picked up their recruitment of him this spring, offering Lane a scholarship and spending as much time as they could in Rocklin during the spring evaluation period. Stanford, Kansas, Cal and USC seem to be the others most interested. We'll see how UCLA going after him full throttle affects his 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. He's tentatively scheduled to attend the Elite Camp.
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 fairly under the radar to #28 in the country, even though we always knew about him in the west. This spring, he did go 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. He has said he'll be at UCLA's camp.
Daniel Orton, 6-9 C, Oklahoma City (Okla.) Bishop McGuinness. He's the #3 best center in the country and #10 overall, 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 #1 shooting guard in the country and #2 player overall, 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. Henry did recently say that UCLA was coming on strong.
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 been someone UCLA has been watching, but UCLA's recruitment of him now changes with the additon of Morgan to UCLA's roster. Interesting, UCLA might be more apt to take Stover now, more willing to take on a longer-term project now that it has Morgan. And Stover would be the guy -- great potential, great kid, good student, and likes UCLA. 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. Stover was just on UCLA's campus in late May. A good performance at UCLA's Elite Camp could seal the deal.
Tyler Honeycutt, 6-7 SF, Sylmar (Calif.) High. He's one of the guys whose stock has really skyrocketed because of his performances this spring. and he's cracked the top 100 (at #96) for the first time, and that is probably still an under-appreciation of his talent. Honecutt could be the best shooting wing on the west coast, and he combines that with a great sense of the game and passing ability. Going against him is a slender and narrow frame and a possible question whether he can guard quick high-major threes, or whether he'll continue to grow (he looks young) and eventually end up a power forward. But Honecutt's offense is so good that, despite those questions, he's someone the high majors are pursuing, and UCLA is showing interest. Think of him as a Austin Daye type. He reportedly will attend UCLA's camp. If UCLA shows serious interest, it could be a done deal since Honeycutt has indicated UCLA is his childhood favorite.
Nolan Dennis, 6-5 SG, Richland (Tex.) Richland Hills. Dennis is the #18-ranked player 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 #51 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.
Mike Moser, 6-7 SF, Portland (Ore.) Grant. Moser is another who really improved his stock this spring. He's a great athlete, with excellent quickness and very good ball skills. His shot is a work in progress but there's enough here for coaches to recognize him as a high major. He told us that Washington, Washington State, Oregon, Oregon State, Arizona, Cal and Indiana had offered. He might be that athletic three that UCLA doesn't have on its roster and the Bruins are interested. He could come to UCLA's Elite Camp.
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. He's 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.
Anthony Marshall, 6-2 SG, Las Vegas (Calif.) Mojave. Marshall has been one of our favorites for a while. While he might be undersized and doesn't necessarily do one thing exceptionally well, he's a very good player, one who does just about everything well. He's also Howland's type of guy, one who plays hard on both ends of the court. With good performances this spring, he's moved up to #42 in the nation. Kentucky offered him a scholarship, and other big names are on him. He's always had an affinity for UCLA, and they've always kept a hand in his recruitment, but we'll see if they now pick it up with him.
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 and we've heard that Hill might not be a big UCLA fan.
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.
Josh Smith, 6-9 C, Kent (Wash.) Kentwood. Smith was always a good prospect but he's emerged as a truly elite one this spring. He's currently the #3-ranked player in the national class of 2010 and the #1 center. It's correlational -- as he's improved his body, his stock has gone up. And it looks like it continues to improve. To go along with the body, he has soft hands and good skills, and can get that 260+ pounds off the ground pretty well. UCLA is definitely recruiting him, and the rumor is that UCLA leads for him.
Jeremy Tyler, 6-9 C, San Diego (Calif.) High. He's been ranked the #1 player in this class in the past, but his stock has dropped a bit because of some poor appearances. He's very talented, but he has some considerable "fit" issues and, at this point, a great deal would have to be resolved before he'd ever be a Bruin.
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.
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 AAU 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.
Terrence Ross, 6-5 SG, Portland (Ore.) Jefferson. Ross is emerging as perhaps a top 25 national caliber prospect and easily one of the few best wings in the west for 2010. UCLA is now on him and he has said UCLA is his favorite school.
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.
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.