Update on UCLA Hoops Recruiting

Things have changed in college basketball recruiting for spring, so it's a whole new ballgame for college coaches. For UCLA, it's still about scouring the west coast for elite prospects, and here are the guys that UCLA has recognized in the 2010, 2011 and 2012 classes, and the possibilities left for 2009...

It's a new era for college basketball recruiting.

The NCAA has disallowed college basketball coaches from attending AAU events in the spring. Coaches will have to see prospects on their high school teams during their season, or go to their high schools to watch them practice this spring. Coaches won't generally be able to see multiple prospects in one place, having to go from high school to high school to see individual players.  It will result, well, first in a lot of tired coaches, but also in poorer and far more missed evaluations.  Head coaches – and UCLA's Ben Howland is one of them – can be very focused on their season when they're in the middle of it and don't spend a great deal of time on recruiting, particularly traveling outside of the local area to see prospects. Most of the time – and again, with UCLA it's the case – a prospect won't receive a scholarship offer until the head coach has seen the player in person, a couple of times. So, it could make the evaluation process a bit dicier, since it's unlikely head coaches are going to change their in-season habits, and take off a couple of days from their team to go watch someone across the country. Coaches usually knew they had the spring to see them in the AAU environment, and it will now eliminate a huge amount of viewing, which could make evaluations more hit-and-miss. Coaches could opt to have to stay apace with other programs and offer kids earlier than they would usually be comfortable doing, or wait longer and risk being late to the prospect's bandwagon.

Coaches will also see younger players less. The AAU environment gave coaches their best – and sometimes only – chance to see high school freshmen and sophomores. If you're a coach, say, and you only can make two high school workouts in one day, you'll have to opt for the seniors-to-be first, leaving you far less opportunity to see younger prospects.  Many times the younger elite recruits were playing on the same AAU team as the older ones you were interested in and you had plenty of opportunity to see them.  So, this, perhaps could lead to even more hit-and-misses in recruiting. 

Generally, the thought is that head coaches will wait until they can see the prospects more during the summer AAU events before offering them. But it's pretty accepted that coaching staffs will feel less comfortable and a bit rushed in the offer process compared to past years. 

The general feeling amongst coaches is that it will give the more prominent programs – with bigger recruiting budgets – an advantage, since they, theoretically, would be able to afford more travel.

UCLA, hypothetically, should possibly fare better than most programs. With UCLA sitting on the huge Los Angeles-area recruiting base, Howland doesn't have to travel to see elite recruits as much as, say, North Carolina's Roy Williams or Louisville's Rick Pitino.

On the other hand, the Los Angeles-area recruiting base has been consistently dwindling in terms of talent over the last 5 to 8 years. In fact, the class of 2010 is, perhaps, the weakest, thinnest and least-talented class in recent memory.

So, it's a multi-faceted issue. One that, we're sure, will create new, unforeseen factors in recruiting.

In fact, while the NCAA put in the rule to try to further eliminate the AAU element in recruiting, it will probably just force coaches to rely more on recruiting services, and sports news organizations like Scout.com that cover recruiting.  We're not sure that's necessarily a good thing. 

In terms of UCLA, the Bruin assistant coaches have been out perhaps even more than usual for this time of year. UCLA assistant Scott Duncan is the primary cross-country scout, and gets a huge amount of flight miles. But assistants Scott Garson and Donnie Daniels have also been out an inordinate amount so far this winter watching prospects, anticipating that they'll have their AAU viewing in April cut off. Howland, too, has been out more than in recent years. 

With five prospects committed to UCLA for 2009, it puts UCLA in an interesting recruiting situation for the next two classes. Bringing in a total of 10 prospects over two years (2008 and 2009) makes UCLA scholarships fairly scarce – and will probably make UCLA far more selective.

The Bruins, having stocked up on wings and power forwards in those classes, are looking primarily for bigs and a point guard/combo guard for their immediate needs.

2009

More than likely recruiting for the 2009 class is done. The UCLA coaches are still out watching potential prospects, but a series of events would have to happen for them to add another prospect to the class of 2009.

First, currently, UCLA doesn't have another scholarship to give for 2009. Someone would have to leave the program at the end of the season for UCLA to sign another recruit in spring.

There used to be speculation that Nikola Dragovic could leave and go back to Europe. With Dragovic moving into the starting lineup, the speculation was that he could parlay his newfound success into playing pro ball in Europe next yeaer, but we've heaerd he's not planning  on it. 

Perhaps someone could transfer out? Most speculation centers around J'mison Morgan, the freshman post player who isn't getting much playing time, potentially transferring. We haven't heard one credible whisper about it. It will be interesting to see what happens with Morgan, though, in the off-season; he'll have to really dedicate himself to getting in shape, transforming his body and working on his game. Sources are indicating he's saying all the right things about dedicating himself and looks to so far being putting in work, but it's a long road ahead.

The prospect of Jrue Holiday possibly leaving early to the NBA is the most likely scenario, and it's completely uncertain if it could happen.  As we've been maintaining, it's impossible to foresee what Holiday could do in terms of the NBA Draft after the season. Anyone who says they have a clue doesn't have a clue. There are just too many variables, too many moveable parts, to be able to predict. We know for a fact that Holiday is considered a Lottery pick talent by many NBA people. It would depend on how the draft shakes out in terms of other guards, how Holiday, and all of the other guards, do in the NBA Draft workouts, etc.

Anything can happen. This time last year there weren't too many Bruin fans who were saying Russell Westbrook would be the #4 player taken in the draft.

So, it's impossible to really be able to predict whether UCLA will, in fact, have a scholarship to give in spring. But the UCLA assistant coaches are doing their due dilligence, and scouting potential prospects in case there is.

In fact, Bruin Report Online recently broke the news that UCLA is recruiting Donte Medder, the 6-1 point guard from Mesa (Ariz.) High.  Medder is very interesting; he didn't play much AAU ball last summer so he flew a bit under the radar.  But he's emerged as one of the best at his position in the west for the 2009 class. Here's a recent recruiting update we did on Medder: Medder Drawing Plenty Of Interest. And some video: VIDEO: 2009 Guard Donte Medder

The issue with Medder could be timing.  The spring signing period runs most of April, but UCLA couldn't really take a commitmenet from him until they knew what Holiday was doing in relation to the NBA Draft.  But Holiday might not know by April.  If, say, Holiday, makes a decision right after the season is over then they could take Medder.  But if Holiday decides to take his time to decide, and even put his name in the NBA draft and go to NBA team workouts, his decision could be delayed until June.  It would be unlikely for UCLA to get Medder to wait until June, with so many other programs hounding him.  But then again, this is UCLA, and convincing Medder to take a couple more months to make the biggest decision of his life should be possible.  Other schools would try to pressure him, telling him they won't have a scholarship for him by June, but that generally would be hollow strong-arming; Medder is easily the best at his position left on the board in the west, and without many other options of his caliber other programs would have no choice but to wait to see what he would do. Medder, in fact, holds the cards. 

There is also Mohamed Koita, the 6-3 point guard currently playing at Tarzana (Calif.) Stoneridge Prep, that the UCLA coaches are monitoring.  With Stoneridge Prep, the situation is always merky, with the school being considered a bit shady, the team's roster mostly populated with older Africans with questionable academics.  UCLA and Stoneridge are just not a good fit, with most Stoneridge players not able to get through UCLA admissions.  Koita might be an exception, even though there is a great deal of uncertainty in regard to him also.  From what we heard, he very well could also be re-classified and return for another season at Stoneridge. 

As we said, it's probably a longshot anything else will happen for the class of 2009; Medder might be the best possibility.  Other situations could develop, however.  

2010

If everyone currently on UCLA's roster stays through their junior year, UCLA would have three scholarships to give to the class of 2010. If Holiday leaves, say, after his sophomore season, that would give UCLA four scholarships for 2010.

But, if UCLA filled all of those scholarship with the 2010 class, and no one else leaves the program, that would leave just one scholarship for the 2011 class. We're pretty certain that won't be the case.

Most likely, UCLA gives out three rides for 2010 and saves one for the 2011 class. It's not Howland to save rides, usually wanting to fill every ride for the most immediate season, but with nine or ten (depending on Holiday) still on scholarship from the 2008 and 2009 classes, and three more for 2010, he could feel secure enough to save a scholarship, especially considering that he would have just one to give to the 2011 class, which is shaping up to be a pretty talented class in Southern Calfornia compared to recent classes.

Also, it's too far down the line to project, but other scholarships very well could open up.

But let's go with three or four scholarships that UCLA intends to give out to the 2010 class. Having signed many 3s and 4s in the 2009 class, UCLA will target guards and bigs. 

Much might depend on what happens with Kendall Williams, the 6-2 guard from Rancho Cucamonga (Calif.) Los Osos, who is verbally committed to UCLA. We've said that Williams has yet to prove he's a legitimate UCLA-level prospect, and that is still true at the end of his junior season. He has also shown some behavior and attitude issues. It's believed that UCLA will continue to evaluate Williams. You'd have to expect, though, that UCLA is either going to ride the horse or jump off it by this spring, but the limited viewing the coaches could get in April because of the new rule very well could delay any movement until summer. 

Tyler Lamb, the 6-4 guard from Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei, is also committed, and that's a solid commitment. Lamb has a chance to be an elite player, with good athleticism and improving skills, but with a very good sense of the game. He emerged in his junior year as a star on Mater Dei, who went the season as the #1 team in the country, until they were beaten by Riverside King in the CIF Championship and by Los Angeles Fairfax in the state playoffs. 

Josh Smith, the 6-9 center from Kent (Wash.) Kentwood is, as everyone knows, UCLA's prime target. Smith, the #4-ranked player in the nation for 2010, is a huge-bodied kid with very good hands. He has the entire country after him, but for the longest time UCLA was thought to be his leader.  It's uncertain if that's the case now, however.  Washington has come on, riding the wave of their first outright Pac-10 championship since 1953.  Smith, living in the Seattle area, has been hit by the Husky hype.  Heck, Seattle doesn't have a professional basketball team so the Huskies are getting a great deal of attention, which we're told hasn't been lost on Smith. Being local, too, he can visit Washington's campus and hang out with the coaches and players.  So, UCLA now has a true fight on its hands with the Huskies for Smith. 

As we said, UCLA is in the market for bigs and combo guards/point guards, so Ray McCallum, the 6-1 point guard from Beverly Hills (Mich.) Detroit Country Day, is someone UCLA has gone to see so far this season. McCallum is the #30-ranked player in the 2010 class, with good skills and play-making ability. It's believed it would be very difficult to get him out of the midwest, however.

UCLA has also been to watch Jordin Mayes, the 6-1 combo guard from Los Angeles (Calif.) Westchester. Mayes isn't a true point guard, but has a great feel and could definitely do time there in college, with good scoring skills.

Anthony Brown, the 6-6 small forward from Huntington Beach (Calif.) Ocean View, has some big upside.He started his junior season slow, but has really come on as of late, helping his team to a CIF championship. UCLA did get Tyler Honeycutt and Mike Moser in the 2009 class, two 6-6+ wing types, in the 2009 class, which might muddy up things for Brown, even though he has the ball skills to play guard. He's a good student – a prototype UCLA kid. 

Richard Solomon, the 6-9 center from Torrance (Calif.) Bishop Montgomery, is the latest to emerge in SoCal as a high major prospect in the class of 2010.  That can happen when you grown three inches in six months, like Solomon did.  He's had the Pac-10 by to see him, including UCLA, and he'll have a steady flow of coaches by in April to watch him work out. 

Perhaps one of the currently hottest recruits in the west is Alex Kirk, a 6-10 center from Los Alamos (New Mexico) High. Kirk has some skills, and that's brought out the likes of just about the entire Pac-10, some of the Big 12 and Gonzaga. Having good grades, there are some reports that a good portion of the Pac-10 has already offered him. UCLA has been out to New Mexico to see him.

Stephen Holt, the 6-1 point guard from Portland (Ore.) Jesuit, is another one to watch, but the thought is that he'd have to show some development this spring and summer to be considered a UCLA-level prospect. 

With the west coast 2010 class being down, and not many point guards or centers, Kirk and Holt are getting some considerable attention.

Harrison Barnes, the 6-6 small forward from Ames (Iowa) High, the #1 player in the class nationally, has some interest in UCLA, but it's very unlikely UCLA will have a chance with him.

Of course, we expect UCLA to be on more prospects in the 2010 class by spring, but recognize that it's a very weak class. If UCLA got a commitment from Josh Smith, it very well might stand pat for 2010, since there might not be anyone else UCLA could get that is good enough for a scholarship offer.

2011

The 2011 class looks quite a bit better in California in terms of talent. It's still early for sophomores, but right now there are clearly more potentially elite prospects in the 2011 class than the 2010 class in the west.

As we discussed above, it's near-impossible to determine how many scholarships UCLA will have to give to the 2011 class. Hopefully at least three. They will almost certainly need a point guard, but after that it's too tough to tell so far out.

Tony Wroten, the 6-4 combo guard from Seattle (Wash.) Garfield, is the #1-ranked player in the class nationally for 2011, and his recruitment will be a circus. UCLA is trying. It could help -- or hurt -- that Wroten's AAU teammate is Josh Smith.

Gelaun Wheelwright, the athletic 6-1 guard from Corona (Calif.) Centennial, will probably be considered an elite national prospect as soon as the national scouts get a look at him. He likes UCLA quite a bit (Story on Wheelwright).  Wheelwright could play with the Pump AAU team this summer, which is traditionally been stocked with UCLA prospects. 

Kyle Caudill, the massive 6-10 center from Brea (Calif.) Brea-Olinda, continues to improve his body, athleticism and mobility. He has good skills and hands, and if he continues to develop at the pace he is, expect him to be a UCLA-level recruit. If UCLA offers him, we've heard that the Bruins would be the strong leaders for him.

Angelo Chol, the 6-8 power forward/post from San Diego (Calif.) Hoover, is an incredibly long athlete who plays above the rim, and is really blossoming as his offensive skills develop. He's averaging a triple-double as a sophomore. UCLA has spent some time watching him, and it's thought he could be on his way to a UCLA offer.

Kevin Johnson, the 6-9 post from Gardena (Calif.) Serra, is a big body with a good post feel, and definitely a high-major D-1 prospect. There could be academic and other issues.

Norvel Pelle, the 6-8 power forward from Compton (Calif.) Dominguez, is a great athlete for his size. He claims USC and Texas have already offered him a scholarship. He's not getting much playing time this season, however. 

Kyle Wiltjer is a 6-9 skilled power forward from Portland (Ore.) Jesuit, who came to UCLA's elite camp last summer and was impressive.

Jabari Brown, the 6-3 shooting guard from Richmond (Calif.) Salesian, is considered one of the best backcourt players in the west for 2011.

Nick Johnson, the 6-2 shooting guard from Gilbert (Ariz.) Highland, claims offers from ASU and Gonzaga, and has interest in UCLA.

James McAdoo, the elite 6-8 power forward from Norfolk (Virg.) Christian, is probably a top ten national player who has UCLA on his list of elite programs. It's believed it will be a case of everyone trying to beat North Carolina in the end.

2012

Trying to project 1) what UCLA will need in the 2012 class, 2) how many scholarships they'll have and 3) who will be a UCLA-level prospect is near-impossible.

We know one thing, though: Xavier Johnson, the 6-5 small forward from Temecula (Calif.) Chaparral, has a chance to be one of the best prospects in the country for his class. He has a classic wing body, great athleticism and an excellent feel for the game. Encouraging for UCLA, he came to the Bruin elite camp and likes UCLA.

Brandon Ashley, a 6-6 power forward from Oakland (Calif.) Bishop O'Dowd, is very long with great mobility and has a very good skill level for a freshman. He was at UCLA's elite camp also last summer. Also at Bishop O'Dowd is Richard Longrus, 6-5 small forward who also is showing early signs of being a high-major prospect.




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