More Developments in Hoops

With spots on the roster and coaching staff to fill for Ben Howland, here's the latest on what's going on, who likely could be the prospects that fill the scholarships, and how it all could go down the next two weeks...

There is plenty more going on with the UCLA basketball program, beyond just Tuesday's developments of sophomore center J'mison Morgan being let go from the team, and assistant Donnie Daniels moving to Gonzaga.

First, without tripping someone on their way out, it's clear that Morgan was shown the door. There were a number of issues with him, in terms of behavior, work ethic and other distractions.

The program isn't completely sanitized with Morgan's departure, but it's far more manageable. As we've reported previously, there could be other players leaving the program.

With Daniel's departure, it's believed that this is now an opportunity for Ben Howland to bring in a truly dynamic recruiter. There are some names of candidates that have been mentioned, but we're not at liberty to reveal them at this time. Suffice it to say that the names we've heard are all very good coaches and effective recruiters.

We've also heard that UCLA Director of Basketball Operations Joe Hillock will more than likely get the women's head coaching job at Cal State Northridge. So, that will potentially open up two spots on Howland's staff.

In terms of recruiting, UCLA is very much all about Ray McCallum, the McDonald's All-America point guard, right now. There are many rumors flying around out there -- that he's down to Detroit and Arizona, or he's coming to UCLA , that he committed to Detroit on Facebook -- but anyone who tells you they know what McCallum is going to do is probably lying, or imaging things. The basic fact is that his dad, Ray Sr., really wants Ray to play at Detroit, and ultimately it could be very hard to turn down your father. We don't feel there is a real possibility of Ray Sr. coming to UCLA as an assistant and bringing his son. But we feel there is still a decent possibility that Ray Jr. decides to break away from his dad and go elsewhere, and from what we've heard, UCLA has at least as good a chance as Florida or Arizona. McCallum will probably wait until at least the first day of the signing period (Wednesday, April 14th) before he announces. It wouldn't be surprising if he announced sooner, since he now, after winning the state championship and playing in the McDonald's game, has time to sit down with his parents and talk out his situation. It also wouldn't be surprising at all if he waited until April 14th. Heck, at this point it wouldn't be surprising if he even held off until after that.

The issue for UCLA, however, is that it has a couple of recruits that it is asking to wait on McCallum's decision. Deonte Burton, the 6-1 shooting guard from Compton (Calif.) Centennial, is one, and it looks likely he'll visit UCLA officially the weekend of April 10th. It could make for some unfortunate timing, however, if McCallum hasn't in fact made a decision by the time Burton visits – UCLA would then not know whether to offer Burton on his visit.

There is also John Loyd, the 5-9 point guard from Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman, who UCLA is still seriously recruiting.

As we reported a few days ago, current high school junior Matt Carlino, the 6-1 shooting guard, is also an option. Carlino recently de-committed from Indiana and opened up his recruitment. We reported that he was strongly considering UCLA, and that he could possibly graduate a year early and enroll at UCLA this fall. Again, that is definitely a possibility.

There is also Trey Zeigler, the 6-4 wing from Mt. Pleasant (Mich.) High, the son of former UCLA assistant and current Central Michigan head coach Ernie Zeigler. Zeigler is in much the same situation as his AAU teammate, Ray McCallum Jr. – trying to decide to play for his father at a smaller school or go to a bigger program. It's intriguing to think about the elder Zeigler potentially leaving his position at Central Michigan and returning to UCLA as an assistant, now that Daniels' #1 assistant spot is open, and bringing his son with him. We think, however, that the Zeigler Package Deal might be a bit of a long shot.

We continue to hear that Terrence Jones, the 6-7 forward from Portland (Ore.) Jefferson, is going to struggle to qualify academically by NCAA standards, and that he'd be a tough sell on the UCLA academic committee (In fact, the UCLA academic committee is not allowing too much leeway for the basketball program this spring, given the fairly mediocre academic performance of Morgan and a couple of others on the team). Jones very well might sign a NLI with a school during next month's signing period, but watch for follow-up reports that he might not end up qualifying academically, or have to do a great deal of work to achieve it.

We've heard that UCLA isn't a player for C.J. Leslie, the McDonald's All-America forward, which was pretty clear in his most recent recruiting update on Scout.com.

There is some legitimacy to the rumors that Larry Drew has shown interest in leaving North Carolina and returning to the west coast, and transferring to UCLA. It's believed UCLA would be interested, thinking that, after Drew sat out a year due to transfer rules, he'd be a good, solid addition at point guard for two years and, almost more importantly, be an addition of a solid citizen, which is something the UCLA program could use. Recently Drew indicated to the press that he isn't interested in leaving North Carolina, and that very well could be the latest fact in the situation.

We have also heard of a couple more college players originally from Southern California that are sniffing around, checking out whether they'd be accepted at UCLA if they bounced back to their local area.

Another possible transfer could be Justin Hamilton, the 6-10 center, who is leaving Iowa State after his sophomore year. He's considering UCLA, LSU, and Utah, where he is originally from. Hamilton averaged 6.4 points and 5.4 rebounds last season. He would have to sit out a year due to transfer rules, but he'd be eligible as a redshirt junior in the 2011-2012 season.

UCLA now has three scholarships open, and Howland intends to fill all three this spring. It, first, hinges on what McCallum does, since he's the first backcourt domino in any UCLA recruiting game in the next couple of weeks. If McCallum doesn't decide on UCLA, watch for the Bruins to look toward Carlino or Burton, with Loyd still a definite possibility. Then there is the option of Drew transferring in but, again, he'd have to sit out a year.

If UCLA then doesn't get either Zeigler or Jones, Hamilton could be an option, but there's also a real chance UCLA could fill its three rides with three perimeter players – any three among McCallum, Carlino, Burton, Loyd or Drew.

No matter, the next two weeks or so should be very eventful in terms of recruiting. And then, once that is settled, hopefully by April 14th, watch for Howland to move on one coaching hire, and possibly a second.


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