Hoops Recruiting Outlook

If you want to think positively about UCLA basketball, it's time to start fantasizing a bit about UCLA recruiting this spring and summer. Here's a very early rundown on the situation UCLA will find itself in, and some of the prospects UCLA will or could recruit...

It's definitely time to start thinking about UCLA basketball recruiting.


UCLA currently does not have a scholarship to give. Scholarships are dedicated to the 2003/2004 season this way:


Seniors – Jon Crispin, T.J. Cummings

Juniors – Cedric Bozeman, Dijon Thompson, Andre Patterson, Ryan Walcott, Josiah Johnson, Brian Morrison

Sophomores:  Ryan Hollins, Mike Fey

Freshmen:  Matt McKinney, Trevor Ariza, Sean Phaler


Now, as has been speculated on the message board, UCLA could free up some scholarships once it hires a new head coach.


If UCLA did have scholarships available in spring, it's pretty easy to surmise that UCLA would be looking for some help at guard.  It's difficult to find a high school guard prospect who is still left uncommitted that UCLA could sign in spring. More than likely, UCLA would have to go the JC route for a guard, especially since a JC guard would be better suited to provide help immediately next year, which UCLA needs.


UCLA could also use some big man help for next season, but the likelihood of finding a big man who can play at this level this spring is pretty remote.  Even looking at the JUCO ranks or to Europe, the pickings would be scarce.


There is still some uncertainty whether UCLA's commit, Trevor Ariza, will qualify academically.  At last report, Ariza still needed to achieve a qualifying test score. UCLA definitely needs for Ariza to get qualified. While he's a bit of a tweener and still needs to develop considerably, he has the type of high-major talent and athleticism that UCLA needs to have to upgrade the talent level on its roster. 


If UCLA didn't have any scholarships open up, they would then only have two to give for the current high school junior class. This is regrettable, since the new head coach would want more rides to be able bring in a bigger infusion of high-level talent as soon as possible.


Projecting the roster, though, for next season, and the 2004/2005 season, UCLA has some glaring needs. As stated, UCLA needs help at guard.  Point guard would be a huge priority among current high school juniors.  Ariza, more than likely, projects as a small forward, so a small forward, with limited scholarships, probably wouldn't be a priority.  A post player would be a possibility, but UCLA has a decent number of scholarships dedicated to young frontcourt players in Patterson, Hollins, Fey and Phaler.  Where the projected roster would be potentially thin would be at the shooting guard position. It's completely uncertain whether Brian Morrison will be good enough to carry the position. And even if he is, he would be the only true shooting guard on the roster. So, more than likely, UCLA will be looking for a point guard and shooting guard in the high school junior class. If more scholarships open up, the next priority would probably be another post player, either a center or a power-forward type.


So, given UCLA's perceived recruiting needs, here is a look at some of the junior prospects UCLA could be interested in, and could be interested in UCLA this spring and summer.


On both the west coast, and on a national basis, it's not a very strong class.  The west coast has a few big-impact players, but not many, and not many of the caliber that would be considered top 20 national types.  Nationally, the talent is not plentiful. And, to UCLA's detriment, many of the most talented players in the country come from areas that UCLA might find hard to go in and recruit. Areas such as Alabama, Georgia, New Jersey, and North Carolina.


And understand also that UCLA has other aspects going against it in recruiting this spring.  UCLA's name in basketball recruiting has been diminished in the last couple of years. There is a bit of a fallout and bad p.r. surrounding Steve Lavin that will, despite getting even a new, big-named coach, have some residual effect.  And basketball recruiting has changed as a result of new NCAA rules instituted last year.  Basketball recruiting is now taking place much earlier than it had.  Recruits are now considered recruitable athletes in January of their junior year, as opposed to the July following their junior year.  College coaches can contact them and they are able to take official visits beginning in January. This has made college coaching staffs begin recruiting juniors much earlier.  So, while UCLA doesn't currently have a coaching staff that is recruiting juniors, other coaching staffs are getting a considerable head start with many prospects in the high school junior class.  Unlike in previous years, when a new coach could be hired in spring at a program and basically be just about starting at the same position as other programs, UCLA's new head coach will already be at least a few months behind in recruiting the current high school junior class.


Just to give you a little something to be excited about, though: A few of the potential candidates for the UCLA head coaching job have been recruiting many of the west coast prospects on this list already. Of course, they're recruiting them for their current programs, but it's not coincidental at all that there is possibly a little more interest being spent on west coast players by many of these coaches than would be in other years.


Also to get you excited: There is no telling how much of an immediate boost UCLA will get as soon as it hires a new coach. It depends on the name recognition. But it's very safe to say that with UCLA getting a new coach, UCLA recruiting will bounce back very quickly.  Year after year, prospects generally like UCLA; they've just been generally skittish in recent years, and understandably. But the combination of everything UCLA has going for it along with a perceived good head coach, UCLA's recruiting prospects are potentially explosive. 


Here are the most probable west coast targets.  As stated above, with the coaching transition and the talent generally being down nationally, and from regions that UCLA doesn't traditionally recruit well, you'd think that UCLA's primary recruiting could concern these west coast prospects.


Jordan Farmar, 6-1 JR PG, Woodland Hills (Calif.) Taft.  He's the most skilled point guard on the west coast.  He's probably best described as similar in style of play to Luke Ridnour. He needs to get bigger and stronger physically, but his passing sense and scoring skills are very advanced. He's also got some hops and athleticism.   Farmar, though, is a player that isn't currently considering UCLA too seriously.  Gonzaga is all over him, recruiting him hard.  Some Pac-10ers are on him, too, like Stanford, USC and others. He's taken unofficial visits to Gonzaga and Stanford already. Recently Florida offered him.  UCLA's new head coach will have to come in and try to sell Farmar on the local angle – and, well, that it's UCLA.  It's hard to tell if Farmar will be buying it since, for him, it could be too little too late.  But among west coast point guards, Farmar might be the best suited to come in and help UCLA immediately in its backcourt.  He'll be the #1 or #2 point guard on the west coast and has a chance to be a top 50 player nationally.


Quentin Thomas, 6-2, JR PG, Oakland (Calif.) Tech. While Farmar might be more suited to come in and contribute immediately, Thomas probably has more potential.  Put it this way – with Thomas's size, body, quickness and athleticism, he's a potential pro.  He's one of the quickest guys for his size around and has great handle.  He's still learning how to play the game, and run an offense, and his outside shooting is spotty. But he has a great natural passing ability.  He has said that UCLA is on his list.  


Gabriel Pruitt, 6-1 JR CG, Los Angeles (Calif.) Westchester.  Pruitt is ineligible at Westchester this year due to transferring snafus, and it's hurt his stock some.  Pruitt, though, is a very talented guard, who isn't a true point guard right now but probably projects as one on the next level.  He is a great shooter, one of the best on the west coast, and combines that with a great court sense and passing ability. His handle might be what would limit him as being regarded as a point guard.  We haven't seen Pruitt play since last fall, but physically he's gotten bigger and stronger, which is a very good sign.  Pruitt likes UCLA, and it's very likely UCLA will be a big player in his recruitment.


Arron Afflalo, 6-4 JR SG, Compton (Calif.) Centennial.  He's emerging as one of the best in the west in the junior class. He has great skills, shoots the ball well, and having been a point guard, is very advanced in his knowledge of the game.  He'll be the #1 or #2 shooting guard on the west coast, and is probably a top 40 national player. Afflalo grew up a UCLA fan and the word is that, with a new coach, UCLA will be the team to beat for him.


Bryce Taylor, 6-3 JR SG, Studio City (Calif.) Harvard-Westlake.  Taylor is the other top shooting guard in the west.  He is the best pure scorer in the west, with a great outside shot, and the ability to create and score from anywhere on the floor.  He recently visited UCLA unofficially and UCLA will be a major player for him.


Marvin Williams, 6-8 JR PF, Bremerton (Wash.) High. One of the top two players in the west, and a top ten national player, Williams is the elite kind of talent that UCLA will need to bring in again. He's very athletic, and has enough mobility and quickness to play the small forward position.  Right now he doesn't list UCLA, but with a new coach, UCLA will undoubtedly see if they can get in on him.


Robert Swift, 6-10 JR C, Baskersfield (Calif.) Garces. Along with Williams, the other truly elite player in the west in the junior class. Swift might be the most talented pure center in the west in many years.  The question with him will be academics. If he can improve his grades, UCLA will be involved pretty seriously, since he's said in the past that UCLA was among his favorites. Currently USC leads for him.


David Burgess, 6-10 JR C, Irvine (Calif.) Woodbridge. The brother of Chris Burgess, David is a very good center prospect, with good skills and very good rebounding technique and ability. What you like about Burgess is that he's a low post player and knows he's a low post player. He lacks the elite athleticism of Swift, but he plays hard and knows how to play. He has said that, with a coaching change, UCLA would be a contender for him. 


Robert Rothbart, 6-11 PF/C, Cupertino (Calif.) Monta Vista.  An interesting prospect, Rothbart is a long and very skinny forward that has great skills and can shoot out to three.  He might end up a 4/3 and might never gain the bulk to be a true center, but anyone with his height (he's close to 7-0) who has his skills has to be considered. As a boy, he fled Bosnia with his family during the conflict there.  Stanford could be the early leader for him.


Here are some early national targets. Undoubtedly, UCLA will get involved with more national prospects as soon as the new coach is hired.  But these names will be guys UCLA almost certainly take a shot with:


Shaun Livingston, 6-5 JR PG, Peoria (Ill.) Central.  Livingston is one of the top five players in this class in the country.  He not only has great size for a point guard, but phenomenal ballhandling and playmaking ability.  Florida, Illinois, Oklahoma and Arizona are currently on his early list, but probably one of the first calls the new UCLA coach makes is to Peoria, Illinois.  UCLA will have a lot it will be able to sell a point guard, including plenty of early playing time with a chance to start as a true freshman.


Sebastian Telfair, 5-11 JR PG, Brooklyn (New York) Lincoln.  Telfair is arguably the #1 player in the class. He has mind-blowing ability, to not only score but create for his teammates.  His early laundry list of schools is a who's-who of college basketball.  UCLA will be somewhat of a longshot with Telfair (and Livingston) but the UCLA name with a new coach might very well get some interest from them.


Darius Washington, 5-11 JR PG, Orlando (Flor.) Edgewater. There's a bit of dispute on whether Washington is a point guard or a shooting guard. He definitely has skills of both positions, but it's likely, from his size he'll be a point guard in college. He's one of the top three guards in the country along with Livingston and Telfair.  He's almost as flashy as Telfair, and almost as good.  He has a big list of top schools, but there has been some talk that he likes UCLA. 


Marquie Cooke, 6-3 JR PG, Suffolk (Virg.) Nansemond River.   Not on the same level as the other national players mentioned above, but he has good size and skills, and will probably be a top 75 player nationally. He's also mentioned UCLA as a school of interest.


Josh Smith, 6-8 SF, Powder Springs (Georg.) McEachern. One of the top 3-4 players in the country, he's very similar in playing style to LeBron James actually – a bigger-sized wing that probably shoots the ball better than James. He's also a freak of an athlete and gets points through dominating above the rim.  UCLA doesn't necessarily need a wing, but Smith is so good and he's shown interest in UCLA previously, so they'd have to recruit him.


Lamarcus Aldridge, 6-10 JR C, Dallas (Tex.) Seogoville.  He's one of the most elite centers in the class, a long, springy athlete with a great body that would be able to put on muscle.  He gets it done with his athleticism and size, and is a fierce rebounder and shot blocker.  He has said previously that he had some interest in UCLA.


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