July is Starting to Heat Up

In the July basketball recruiting period, things happen fast. The situation is heating up between UCLA and Tyler Honeycutt, the 6-7 small forward from Sylmar, and there are more bits of news on UCLA recruits in the 2009 and 2010 classes...

UCLA Head Coach Ben Howland was in attendance at Cal State Dominguez Hills Monday at the Adidas Three Stripes tournament.

While there isn't an abundance of talent at the tournament, there were definitely some prospects of interest to Howland. And many of them on just a couple of teams.

Howland, with assistant coach Scott Garson, focused primarily on watching the Pump #1 team, which featured Tyler Honeycutt, the 6-7 small forward from Sylmar (Calif.) High, and the Pump #2 team, which has 6-9 center Anthony Stover from La Canada (Calif.) Renaissance.

Honeycutt had a fairly average performance in the first game for the Pump #1 team, and then looked particularly good in their second game of the day – before they blew out their opponent and Honeycutt then didn't play.

As most west coast college coaches have anticipated, it's believed that Howland will offer Honeycutt a scholarship, and probably fairly soon.

The question is: Will Honeycutt immediately commit? There are some sources close to the situation that have asserted that, if Howland offered, UCLA is the place where Honeycutt will go. But those same sources have said they're uncertain in Honeycutt would commit immediately.

If Howland does offer, you'd think he would want to do it in person. But the off-week of the July period (the 16th to the 21st) is a dead period, in which no face-to-face contact is permitted. Howland could offer him today, and Honeycutt, by NCAA rules, would still be able to come to UCLA's campus to receive the offer since it is a day before the dead period. The Three Stripes tournament championship is at 4:30 today. Howland would, though, be able to contact Honeycutt by phone during the dead period.

The general consensus among other west coast coaches is – "Finally, get the UCLA and Honeycutt thing over with so we can move on."

The feeling Monday was that coaches from other programs competing with UCLA for Honeycutt were starting to concede Honeycutt to UCLA.

But, of course, you never know what could happen, even if UCLA does offer Honeycutt soon.

Stover had a good day at the Three Stripes tourney, looking good and more assertive in both of his games. He had quite a few blocked shots, and many very good passes out of the post. In his second game, he did look a bit gimpy, like he had an injury to his foot or leg.

It will be interesting to see what develops with UCLA and Stover. The Bruins almost certainly will wait to see what first transpires with Alex Stepheson, the 6-9 transfer from North Carolina, who is deciding between UCLA, USC and ASU. Stepheson hasn't indicated he's near a decision, even though sources close to the situation aren't saying much about a time frame for an announcement. If Stepheson opts elsewhere, it's not a bad bet that UCLA will offer Stover. Whether this all happens in July, since it's probably dependent on what Stepheson does, is anyone's guess at this point.

There are some observers who believe UCLA should offer Stover regardless. For one, Stover wouldn't probably commit immediately after being offered, so an offer wouldn't affect Stepheson's decision. A Stover commitment probably wouldn't affect Stepheson anyway, but it would put UCLA one over the 13-scholarship limit for the 2009-2010 season, if they did indeed proceed to get commitments from two wings for 2009, like they intend. Ironically, UCLA would probably end up in line with the scholarship limit down the line anyway, since they more than likely would have another scholarship open up by the fall of 2009. But UCLA won't take the risk of taking a 14th commitment now and potentially ending up over the limit.

There is also the factor to consider of which player – Stover or Stepheson – fits best into UCLA's roster plans. Both fit fairly well, but Stover, being able to be in the program for four or possibly five years, could possibly anchor down the center position for quite some time, while Stepheson would only have three years to play two. Stepheson, though, is much more of a known commodity – with UCLA knowing he could play at their level and flourish – while Stover is in the project category.

Michael Snaer, the 6-4 shooting guard from Moreno Valley (Calif.) Rancho Verde, didn't play in the Three Stripes tournament Monday. His AAU team, Inland Reebok, is listed in both the Three Stripes and the Cream of the Crop tourney across town. The word is that he'll play in the Cream of the Crop Tuesday, and you can expect Howland and possibly another staff member to be in attendance.

Snaer is clearly at the top of the wish list for shooting guards in the 2009 class, not only because of his basketball talent, but his academics, which are very solid. That is unlike Avery Bradley, the 6-2 prospect from Tacoma (Wash.) Bellarmine Prep, who would be right at the top of UCLA's wish list for two guards if his academics were good to go. Actually, no one really knows the precise state of Bradley's academics since college programs haven't seen them, which isn't a good sign.

Talent and academics could be the motivation behind UCLA showing some interest in Matt Vogrich, the 6-3 shooting guard from Lake Forest (Ill.) High. Vogrich is considered the best shooter in the state of Illinois, while he also has a 4.8 weighted GPA and a 30 on the ACT. The word is that Vogrich, who plays for the AAU team, Total Package, put on a shooting exhibition in a game at a tournament back east recently, which had a few prominent college programs take notice, including UCLA.

Speaking of wings and academics, Elijah Johnson, the 6-2 prospect from Las Vegas (Nev.) Cheyenne, didn't participate in the first half of the July evaluation period, not attending a camp or playing with the Pump #1 team in the Three Stripes. In a refreshing departure, Johnson stayed at home in Las Vegas to attend summer school, and will play with the Pump team in the Adidas Super 64 in the second part of the evaluation period. It's good since there have been questions about Johnson's ability to qualify academically, and going to summer school could help the situation.

Garnering a crowd of coaches Tuesday was Givon Crump, the 6-6 prospect originally from Arizona who has played recently at Wolfeboro (N.H.) Brewster Academy. Crump, who looks quite a bit older, is well put-together and has a nice outside shot, which is enough to get the high majors to check him out, including Howland.

Looking a bit toward 2010 recruiting, it's clear that Josh Smith, the 6-9 center from Kent (Wash.) Kentwood, is UCLA's primary target at this time. The Bruins, as we've stated, are thought to be the leader. Smith is a top-five national recruit and currently the #1 center prospect in the national class of 2010, and would be the lynch pin of a UCLA recruiting class.

If UCLA does get five in the recruiting class of 2009 (or four and Stepheson), that would give the Bruins ten on their roster for the 2010-2011 season, which is the year the 2010 high school class would be freshmen. But it's a pretty good bet that Jrue Holiday, the 6-3 incoming freshman guard, will leave for the NBA before then, which would be his junior year. So, generally, the thought is that UCLA will have probably four to give to the 2010 class, and possibly more.

Smith is a priority, obviously, at center, which would give UCLA a good amount of frontcourt players on their roster, and make they still in need of some backcourt players, especially if Holiday does indeed leave the program early.

UCLA already has a commitment from Kendall Williams, the 6-2 guard from Rancho Cucamonga (Calif.) Los Osos.

Terrance Ross, the 6-5 junior wing from Portland (Ore.) Jefferson, who could be one of the best wings in the west for 2010 and possibly the country, had a good showing at the Peach Jam Monday.

Scout.com's Evan Daniels wrote: Terrance Ross, SG, Team Jones – Some coaches like Ross, others are more impressed with his teammate, Terrance Jones. On Monday, against the Illinois Warriors it was Ross that stepped up his game. A high level athlete with what seems to be a tremendous upside, Ross is also a solid spot-up shooter, especially when he has time to get his feet set. As Daniels wrote, many college coaches are unsure as to which Terrance is the better prospect, Jones or Ross. Most west coast scouts who have seen both consider Ross the better prospect, being a true shooting guard, while Jones, who is 6-6 and also attends Portland Jefferson, might end up being a 4/3. UCLA is actively recruiting both at this time, and it's well known that Ross has UCLA at the top of his list.

We'll get to see both Terrances in Las Vegas when they play with their AAU team, Team Jones, at the Big Event tournament.

Also on the Pump #1 team is Tyler Lamb, the 6-4 guard from Ontario (Calif.) Colony, who is one of the better shooting guard prospects in the west for 2010. Lamb didn't have a particularly good day on Sunday but looked better Monday in front of Howland. Lamb, of course, was also at UCLA's camp in late June.

Today at the Three Stripes are the championship rounds. The Pump #1 and Pump #2 team will face each other in a quarter finals match-up this morning, and the winner will go to the semi-final in the afternoon, which is later followed by the championship at 4:30.

It is definitely a Pump party in the last couple of rounds, with the Arizona Pump N Run team in a quarter final, and the Pump Power team, which is essentially the Pump #3 team and features younger players like Josiah Turner, the elite sophomore-to-be point guard from Sacramento (Calif.) High, already in a semi-final.

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