But not without some celebration.
UCLA certainly ended the signing period with a bang Wednesday. Just a few hours before the early signing period ended, at midnight, UCLA received a commitment from Mike Moser from Portland (Ore.) Grant, who had de-committed from Arizona a few weeks ago.
That gives UCLA five commitments for the 2009 class:
Tyler Honeycutt, 6-8 wing, Sylmar (Calif.) High
Mike Moser, 6-7 wing, Portland (Ore.) High
Reeves Nelson, 6-7 power forward, Modesto (Calif.) Christian
Brendan Lane, 6-8 power forward, Rocklin (Calif.) High
Anthony Stover, 6-9 center, Los Angeles (Calif.) Windward
In analyzing and evaluating this class, there are many superlatives that come to mind.
The first is, that on the heels of signing so many guards in the class of 2008, UCLA's objective for 2009 was to stock up on small forwards and power forwards, and to add a center. It's pretty clear UCLA met its goal.
The national rankings of the recruits are as follows: Honeycutt #21; Moser #60; Stover #70; Lane #83; and Nelson #89.
That makes a class of five top 100 national prospects, following 2008 when UCLA signed five top 100 national prospects and had the consensus #1-ranked class in the nation.
Without figuring in Moser's added cache, this class was ranked by Scout.com as the #8 class in the nation. It will, with the addition of Moser, move up in those rankings.
UCLA's recruits, however, are under-rated in these rankings, in our opinion. It's not the fault of national recruiting analysts. It's a difficult job to scout the entire country. But since we only cover the west for Scout.com, it's easier to get a much better feel for players when you see them mulitiple times.
Moser, to begin with, is a freak of an athlete. He, at 6-7, has the quickness to defend a two-guard, which is highly unusual. Nelson was previously ranked as high as in the teens, but feel precipitously after last summer, when he was injured. Lane also played last summer after being off for months due to an injury.
We feel that Moser probably wasn't seen enough nationally. He played on an AAU team that didn't get much national exposure. On top of that, he's not a great shooter (yet, since he does have a nice stroke), which can get you under-rated by national scouts. He's similar to Luc Richard Mbah a Moute when he was in high school in terms of his athleticism -- with great quickness for his size (although Moser is a much better shooter at the same stage). Mbah a Moute, too, because he was a mediocre shooter in high school (heck, in college), didn't crack too many national top 100 lists. He's now in the NBA, and left college after three years because of his combination of quickness and size.
Moser, though, if he can become a good shooter, has a chance to be a Corey Brewer type – a 6-7, long athlete who can defend just about anyone on the perimeter and presents considerable match-up problems for opposing defenses.
Nelson was a physically dominant inside player on the AAU circuit going into the summer before his junior year, and it got him ranked as a top 20 national prospect. Admittedly, he thickened out some and seemingly lost some of his explosiveness last summer. He also, then, sat out for a majority of the spring and summer because of a foot injury, and those two factors contributed to his drop nationally to #89. But a healthy Nelson is, in my opinion, better than that. If perhaps his loss of some explosion last spring was due to the injury, and he can regain it, he's probably the most under-rated player on the top 100 national list.
Lane also was affected by injury. When he started playing in late spring and summer, he had been off for a few months, recovering from an ankle injury. He never really got in sync for the summer, and didn't show the capability he had displayed the summer before.
Stover is a player we've always liked and the national experts caught on this last summer. Whether his national ranking is fitting or not, he has some of the best upside among any player in the national class, with good athleticism and exceptional length, which makes him play even bigger than 6-9. A few years down the line, when Stover has been in the program, and benefitted from a strength regimen, it's exciting to think about his potential.
While we wouldn't assert that Honeycutt is under-rated at #21, he, like Stover, has vastly more upside than many on the top 100 list. We've discussed his skills endlessly, but the potential he possesses being 6-8, having continued to grow, and just beginning to fill out, is intriguing, to say the least.
That's the thing about UCLA's class – not only is it talented, there is an inordinate amount of upside due to how much more physical development is collectively ahead of them.
Even if you don't take all of this into consideration, UCLA, with the addition of Moser, should probably move up to land somewhere between #2 and #6 in the national rankings, respectively.
Going out on a bit of a limb, however, having seen all of the recruits of the recruiting classes currently ranked ahead of UCLA by Scout.com, UCLA's class is very competitive with North Carolina's #1 class. Again, Scout probably won't give UCLA the #1 ranking, but going on my own opinions and throwing out individual rankings, it's very close.
In comparing UCLA's and UNC's classes, I think UNC's Henson is probably the best prospect among both UCLA's and UNC's committed players. But I would put Honeycutt and Moser up against UNC's Dexter Strickland and Leslie McDonald. I consider both Reeves Nelson and Brendan Lane as better prospects than the Wear twins. I think Stover is also as good a prospect as the Wear twins.
So, it's pretty close.
Comparing UCLA's class to Texas's class, which is currently at #2, it ain't close. Avery Bradley is an exceptional player, but Jordan Hamilton, in our opinion, is over-rated and Shawn Williams was a player UCLA passed on.
Regardless of where this class ends up being ranked, the rankings are really just for entertainment value. UCLA's class becomes more exciting when you consider its potential impact on the court.
UCLA, in Ben Howland's first four years, signed 6 players who, coming into the program, we recognized as having NBA potential. In Howland's last two recruiting classes – 2008 and 2009 – Howland has signed seven players we see as potential pros. So, in just the last two years he has signed more elite talent than he did in his first four years.
When UCLA lost to Florida in the NCAA championship game in 2006, many UCLA fans recognized that Florida had superior talent to the Bruins, with a roster stocked with NBA-level guys.
UCLA, now with the last two classes, is definitely adding that type of talent to its roster on a more consistent basis.
We'll have a look at UCLA's recruiting of the 2010 class and beyond coming soon...