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,
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
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
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 (
Quentin Thomas, 6-2, JR PG,
Gabriel Pruitt, 6-1 JR CG,
Arron Afflalo, 6-4 JR SG, Compton (
Bryce Taylor, 6-3 JR SG,
Marvin Williams, 6-8 JR PF,
Robert Swift, 6-10 JR C, Baskersfield (
David Burgess, 6-10 JR C,
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
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,
Sebastian Telfair, 5-11 JR PG,
Darius Washington, 5-11 JR PG, Orlando (Flor.) Edgewater. There's a bit of dispute on whether
Marquie Cooke, 6-3 JR PG,
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 (