Issues Facing Hoops Recruiting

With UCLA's Camp next week, and the July evaluation period two weeks away, UCLA faces some issues in regards to recruiting the 2010 and 2011 classes. Here's an analysis of the situation, and some speculation about what could possibly happen in the next month or so...

UCLA's situation with the 2010 class is a bit crazy as it stands right now. Hopefully, after UCLA's Camp next week and the July evaluation period when coaches go out across the counry to evaluate prospecs, things might be a little clearer. 

First, the situation that is a bit up in the air is UCLA's scholarship situation.  Given how UCLA's current players and incoming recruits are grouped among the classes, if UCLA takes four players in the 2010 class and no one leaves the program after next season, UCLA will have no scholarships to give next spring and summer when recruiting the 2011 class.

The 2010-2011 roster would look like this:

Juniors: Jerime Anderson, Malcolm Lee, Drew Gordon, J'mison Morgan
Sophs: Tyler Honeycutt, Mike Moser, Brendan Lane, Reeves Nelson, Anthony Stover
Frosh:  Kendall Williams, Tyler Lamb, ____, _____

UCLA would have to either not take four rides in the 2010 class, or have someone leave the program after next season -- and probably both.

Someone could also leave after the 2010-2011 season and UCLA would then have that scholarship available for the 2011 class, but it would only have it available that spring (2011), which severely limits their possibility of prospects.

Howland's approach in the past has always been to be as best as you can be immediately, fill up on scholarships for the most immediate season, and worry about the future later.

We'll see if that plays out in this situation.

The 2011 class in the west is pretty talented, and you'd really like at least 3 scholarships available to give.

THe roster above has a log jam at some positions and you'd think some players might leave as a result. But again, the issue is not if someone will leave, but when they would leave. If they don't leave after next season, again, UCLA wouldn't have that scholarship open to recruit the 2011 class next spring and summer.

This situation is becoming more apparent now with the emergence of Stephen Holt, the 6-3 point guard prospect from Portland (Ore.) Jesuit.  We had believed Holt was the best point guard in the west for 2010 since last summer, but were unsure if he was a UCLA-level prospect. After seeing him in Portland for the Rose City Showcase a week ago, it's apparent that he is a UCLA-level prospect and, given the lack of elite point guards in the west and UCLA's situation in the backcourt, Holt could very well become a big UCLA priority in July.

The situation at point guard is this:  Jerime Anderson is really the only true one on the roster, and will be for the next two seasons unless UCLA brings in a point guard in the 2010 class.  It's not that we don't think Anderson is good -- he is, and we believe he'll continue to improve to the level of an all-Pac-10 level player.  But being the only point guard on the roster for two seasons creates issues -- namely, what if Anderson gets hurt?  What if Anderson blows up and decides to put his name in the NBA Draft?  Yes, Malcolm Lee is capable of doing time at the point and probably projects as one on the NBA level, but in Howland's system, not many players play multiple positions during the course of one season.  It's mainly because Howland wants a player to put all his time into learning his primary decision, and taking precious practice time away from that preparing for something that could only possibly happen is, well, time wasted that doesn't have to be.

Well, it doesn't have to be, that is, if you have, in this case, another point guard. 

Now that Jrue Holiday has decided to stay in this spring's NBA Draft, and it doesn't appear that UCLA will take another player with his open scholarship for the 2009-210 season (especially since that would then take away another available one for 2010 and 2011), UCLA is pretty much left with Anderson at the point and Lee getting the back-up PG minutes.  But you wouldn't want to go two seasons in this situation unless you had no choice.

UCLA does have a choice. 

It's why UCLA has recognized it ideally would love to take a point guard in the 2010 class. Up to this point, however, there hasn't been much to choose from on the west coast, or even nationally. UCLA has been involved with Ray McCallum, the 6-0 prospect from Beverly Hills (Mich.) Detroit Country Day, the #3-ranked point guard in the nation for 2010.  By all accounts UCLA has a shot at McCallum, but most veteran recruiting experts (including ourselves here at BRO) have to believe that getting McCallum away from the likes of midwest power Kansas or hometowm Michigan, or Texas or Notre Dame or Michigan State, is probably a long shot.

So, it appeared UCLA, even though it ideally wanted a point guard in the 2010 class, was probably resigned to settle for not getting one -- that is, until the option of Holt emerged. 

Holt has good size, he's deceptively athletic (blew by multiple defenders at the Rose City Showcase), his overall skill level is good and he's a true point guard. His decision-making is very good and he plays unselfishly. He's clearly the top point guard prospect in the west for 2010 and someone that UCLA will almost certainly scout very thoroughly during the July evaluation period.

To date, Holt has scholarship offers from Boise State, St. Mary's, Portland, San Diego State and Utah.  That might not sound like too impressive of a list, but that list of schools is made of a coaching staffs that have a reputation on the west coast for being some of the best talent evaluators in the region. 

Holt also recently attended Stanford's camp, and took an unofficial visit to Washington State.  He was recently invited to UCLA's Camp, which starts this Sunday, but can't make it because of a commitment to his high school team for a tournament.

We have it from good sources that Holt, though, is very interested in UCLA -- that, if they offered him, the Bruins would be tough to beat.  


The elephant-in-the-room is the issue of Kendall Williams, the 6-2 guard from Rancho Cucamonga (Calif.) Los Osos, who is verbally committed to UCLA.  If you haven't followed the story of Williams, he committed to UCLA at the begining of his sophomore season in 2007, after putting in a promising performance at UCLA's Camp that June.  Since then, however, Williams hasn't progressed much as a prospect, still slight of build and without a true position.  He doesn't have the feel, quickness or ball-handling skills of a point guard, and doesn't have the size or scoring ability of a shooting guard.  UCLA, to date, hasn't indicated at all that they're waivering on him.  Given their scholarship situation, however, and the emergence of Holt as a potential option, we believe UCLA will have to make some hard choices during this July evaluation period, and one of them will probably be whether they will stick with Williams or not. 

We have to say that we are getting no indication currently from any sources close to UCLA that they are considering dropping Williams.  The notion of UCLA and Williams going separate ways is purely our own speculation, based on the UCLA scholarship situation, its positional need, the looming class of 2011, and many other factors. 

It will, perhaps, in our opinion, be a very big issue in July, and possibly as soon as next week, during the UCLA Camp that runs Sunday and Monday.

We want to point out that we have nothing against Williams. We were, in fact, the first to write about Williams and recognize him as a prospect.  It's merely a matter of us doing our job well here at BRO, and trying as much as we can to present situations honestly, without sugar-coating them.

Speaking of speculation, let's go out on a speculative limb a bit more in regards to the 2010 class.  UCLA, of course, has a commitment from Tyler Lamb, the 6-4 shooting guard from Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei, who is a very good prospect and has been proving it to national scouts through recent performances around the country.  UCLA, also, is thought to be the current leader for Josh Smith, the 6-9 post player from Kent (Wash.) Kentwood, the #2-ranked center in the nation.  Smith has indicated that he might not wait too much longer before making a decision and, if that's the case, most indications are that it will be UCLA.

So, here comes the speculation: If UCLA can add Smith to Lamb, and possibly get back Williams' scholarship, and perhaps get Holt, it would be looking at a very good recruiting class that intelligently fills its needs.  You always need good post players, and Smith fills the bill; looking at the projected roster, they are need of backcourt players and Lamb fills the hole; and, as we've been laying out here, UCLA needs to fill a need at point guard and Holt would do that. 

In having just three commitments, UCLA would then also have a scholarship open, that it could either give to the 2010 class or hold until the 2011 class. That would give it the option of offering it to a truly elite 2010 prospect.  Say, perhaps, the #1 prospect in the country, 6-6 wing Harrison Barnes from Ames (Iowa) High, wanted to come, they would certainly give out that last scholarship. Or, speculating even further, say James Johnson, the 6-8 power forward from San Diego (Calif.) Morse, impressed the UCLA coaches so thoroughly by his performance at the UCLA Camp next week that they then believed he was good enough to actually beat out the likes of Brendan Lane or Reeves Nelson at UCLA's four spot in the next several years. 

Or UCLA could stick with three strong commitments for 2010 and keep that open scholarship for the 2011 class, a very talented one in the west.

It traditionally goes against Howland's practice to hold a scholarship.  It also goes against practice for Howland to cut loose a committed recruit.

It will be interesting to see through July just what happens.







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