UCLA coaches spent a good deal of time outside of the west coast in the last two weeks, attending the King City Classic (which is essentially the LeBron James Academy) in Cleveland, the Adidas It Takes 5 tournament in Cincinnati, the Peach Jam in Georgia, and smaller tournaments in Tulsa, Oklahoma; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; and Bloomington, Minnesota, among others.
Much of the time in the last few days was spent following around Josh Smith, the 6-9 center from Kent (Wash.) Kentwood. UCLA Head Coach Ben Howland was at every one of Smith's games at the Peach Jam. It's still believed that Smith will probably announce a decision soon, and that UCLA is the favorite over Washington.
UCLA-committed Tyler Lamb, the 6-4 guard from Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei, took the highly unusual route and sat out the first part of July to attend summer school. He plans on playing during the second July session in Las Vegas, but only during the weekend so as not to miss school.
The other UCLA-committed player, Kendall Williams, the 6-2 guard from Rancho Cucamonga (Calif.) Los Osos, sat out due to an ankle injury. He's supposed to be back to play in Vegas.
Probably UCLA's biggest target other than Smith in the first session has been Ray McCallum, the 6-0 point guard from Beverly Hills (Calif.) Detroit Country Day. Other than Smith, McCallum is the only un-committed prospect UCLA has offered a scholarship.
Perhaps the biggest development for UCLA recruiting in the last two weeks has been UCLA starting to recruit some guards that the coaches saw out on the recruiting trail.
As we reported, UCLA is now recruiting Trevor Releford, the 5-11 point guard from Shawnee Mission (Kans.) Bishop Miege. Releford has offers from schools like Oklahoma and Arizona, and is starting to become considered one of the best point guards in the nation. His brother, Travis, was a freshman at Kansas last year, and KU is now reportedly starting to get involved. The word is that Oklahoma, who has been on him for some time, could be the leader, but he's pretty wide open. Kansas might not have the "in" you would think, since the older brother didn't play much in his freshman season and KU has pretty much ignored Trevor up until this point. UCLA might have an "in" itself since Releford is tight with former UCLA guard Earl Watson, who is from the Kansas City area. Releford didn't play the last couple of days, but UCLA assistant Donnie Daniels traveled to Tulsa to watch him play. Academics could be a factor, but sources close to the recruitment feel that Releford is a smart kid who will qualify.
Other 2010 guards UCLA is now scouting/recruiting:
Vander Blue, the 6-3 combo guard from Madison (Wisc.) Memorial, who was once a commitment to Wisconsin, has been impressive so far in July, and many more programs have jumped on the recruitment, including the Bruins. Reportedly, the Blue camp was excited when UCLA formally got involved. Blue, also, might need to do some work academically.
Kyrie Irving, the 6-1 point guard from Elizabeth (New Jersey) St. Patrick, ranked the #2 point guard in the nation, has some of the top schools in the country after him, including Duke, Florida, Kentucky and Connecticut, who have all offered. UCLA is now trying to elbow its way in. From what we've heard, Irving is in the L.A. area for the ESPY Awards this weekend, and intends to visit UCLA's campus. It is a dead period, so coaches can't contact him on that visit, but at least Irving can see the UCLA campus.
Phil Pressey, the 5-8 point guard from Dallas (Tex.) Episcopal School, is ranked the #9 point guard in the nation for 2010. He has offers from Connecticut, Baylor, LSU, Missouri and Oklahoma, with quite a few other schools possibly on the verge.
Cameron Wright, the 6-4 combo guard from Cleveland (Ohio) Benedictine, was once verbally committed to Ohio State, but has opened up his recruitment and has started to get a great deal of attention during the first part of July.
On McCallum's team is Trey Zeigler, the 6-4 wing from Mt. Pleasant (Mich.) High, the son of the former UCLA assistant under Howland, Ernie Zeigler. UCLA is watching the younger Zeigler.
Anthony Brown, the 6-6 guard from Huntingon Beach (Calif.) Ocean View, is also starting to assert himself, and he's creating some buzz. Among all the guards in 2010, Brown very well could be the best "fit" for UCLA, if you take everything into consideration. It would be a bit ironic if UCLA went across the nation to find another guard, and it ended up being the guy they've been recruiting for a long time in their own backyard.
Ben Vozzola, the 6-4 combo guard from Las Vegas (Nev.) Centennial, has been all the buzz from the L.A. events in recent days.
Keala King, the 6-4 combo guard from Compton (Calif.) Dominguez, has done enough in the first session to garner attention.
Stephen Holt, the 6-3 point guard from Portland (Ore.) Jesuit, has been watched by UCLA coaches at the Peach Jam, and they'll almost certainly continue to watch him in Las Vegas.
Besides guards, UCLA, of course, watched Harrison Barnes, the #1 player in the country.
They also watched James Johnson, the 6-8 post from San Diego (Calif.) Morse. Johnson did well at LeBron James, and it really is a matter of many programs being able to see his transcripts in order to offer him a scholarship. UCLA could very well be among those programs.
UCLA watched Terrence Jones, the 6-7 power forward from Portland (Ore.) Jefferson, who plays on the same AAU team (I-5 Elite) as Holt. Jones, even though he kind of doesn't have a position, has been garnering a great deal of interest among coaches in the first July session. UCLA will continue to scout him.
As of now, during the dead period between evaluation sessions (July 16-21), you probably shouldn't expect UCLA to offer many prospects, especially in the 2010 class. The Bruins are most in wait-on-Josh-Smith mode, and they might not offer any more scholarships until Smith has made his decision.
There have been some younger prospects that have obviously caught the eye of UCLA coaches. The following is not a comprehensive list, just some of the prospects we've heard have been impressive.
Kyle Wiltjer, the skilled 6-8 junior post from Portland (Ore.) Jesuit, has had a good first session, and is getting noticed nationally.
Angelo Chol, the 6-7 junior post from San Diego (Calif.) Hoover, might very well have played himself into a UCLA scholarship offer after he was very good at the UCLA camp in late June.
Branden Dawson, the 6-5 junior small forward from Gary (Ind.) Lew Wallace, is currently ranked the #6 small forward in the class of 2011, and UCLA is recruiting him.
Mike Shaw, the 6-8 junior power forward from Chicago (Calif.) De La Salle, is a big, strong post with the type of body and physical play Howland likes.
Marquis Teague, the 6-3 junior point guard from Indianapolis (Ind.) Pike, is the #3 point guard in the nation for 2011.
Norvel Pelle, the 6-8 forward from Compton (Calif.) Dominguez, has had some brilliant moments in the first part of July. He has all the tools, it's just a matter of him brining the effort consistently, and perhaps the light has turned on.
Josiah Turner, the 6-1 junior point guard from Rancho Cordova (Calif.) Cordova, has emerged as one of the few best at his position in the country. He's still officially verbally committed to ASU, but it's pretty clear he's still entertaining the idea of other programs.
Xavier Johnson, the 6-5 sophomore small forward from Temecula (Calif.) Chaparral, has proven he's an elite prospect, and UCLA is showing him a great deal of attention.
Shabazz Muhammad, the 6-3 sophomore guard from Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman, is emerging as the other big thing in the west for the 2012 class along with Johnson, and UCLA is all over Muhammad.
Eric Cooper, Jr., the 6-0 freshman point guard from La Verne (Calif.) La Verne Lutheran, showed at the UCLA camp that he has the makings of an elite prospect, and he's still doing it in July.
Bruin Report Online will be in Las Vegas for the second session of the July evaluation period to bring you coverage of UCLA's recruiting of these prospects and more.