UCLA, it's pretty obvious, needs some guards. In the next recruiting class, probably the top two recruiting priorites will be at point guard and at shooting guard. And then they very well could take a third guard since their guard ranks will be so depleted and under-talented. So, you can expect UCLA's new head coach to go after guards very aggressively during the high season of basketball recruiting in the next several months.
Without being able to project what national recruits the new UCLA head coach might target (Sebastian Telfair, Shaun Livingston, etc.), it's pretty easy to project what guards in the junior class from California will be UCLA targets.
It's easy since it's natural that UCLA would target them, being from California, and also that generally all of the guards mentioned below have indicated they'd be very interested in UCLA when it gets a new head coach. The range of interest will no doubt depend on who that coach will be -- but you can bet that probably all five of these prospects will get serious consideration from the new UCLA head basketball coach this spring and summer.
Now there is of course a chance that more guards will emerge on the west coast that UCLA will target in recruiting in the upcoming months, but these are the Big Five -- the top five guards on the west coast that UCLA will probably pursue.
Jordan Farmar, 6-1 JR PG Woodland Hills (Calif.) Taft. Farmar will likely be ranked as the #1 point guard prospect in the West Coast class of 2004 when we update our rankings in the spring. Farmar is unusual for a point guard in that he has the mentality and feel of a pure point – runs the team, distributes, creates for others – but also has the ability to get his own shot. He's a very good outside shooter, while also possessing a good mid-range shot. But his best attribute might be his feel for the game. He's one of those players who is thinking a step ahead of everyone else on the court. His passing ability is somewhat under-utilized on his high school team – the talent isn't very good and he's forced to score in order for them to win. The one question mark about Farmar at the highest level will be physical. He's close to 6-1, but he has a slight frame and there's a question of whether he'll be strong enough early in his career. He's more explosive than you'd think – gets up very well – and he has good, but not exceptional, quickness. He does need to work harder at the defensive end. He'll occasionally take plays off, but he carries such a burden at the offensive end that you can understand why he's not always giving maximum effort on defense. Farmar has expressed a desire to leave Southern California for college and it's possible that the next coach will have a difficult time persuading Farmar to reconsider. We think it's conceivable that UCLA could still get involved, but it will probably depend on the next coach making a personal connection with Farmar and his family. Farmar is a very good student, so the UCLA advantage in academics could help, along with Farmar's desire to play at a high level of competition and the possibility of early playing time at UCLA. Gonzaga right now has an early solid lead, since he's been up on an official visit to Spokane and likes the atmosphere around the Gonzaga program. Some bigger names are now getting involved – like Florida (offered) and Arizona. Arizona was Farmar's dream school, but the lack of immediate playing time could hurt the Wildcats (yeah, like they're hurting for guards). He'll probably, by the end of the summer, be a top 50 national player.
Arron Afflalo, 6-4 JR SG Compton (Calif.) Centennial. The likely #1 SG in the west, Afflalo has shown considerable improvement in the last year. Physically, his body has gotten longer and leaner, and he moves much better now than a year ago. He's played point guard at Centennial for a couple years and he's benefited from the experience. He has a good feel for the game and he's more than just a "catch and shoot" guy. He can put it on the floor, shoot off the dribble and he'll find open teammates. He will likely be a very serviceable back-up point guard option, in addition to playing shooting guard. Afflalo is not super quick – he's more in the mold of a big, strong two-guard who can score all over the court. He'll post up in the mid-post and take advantage of his size and strength. He's got a very quick release and he can stroke it consistently from three-point range. He's a good, not great, athlete and he has decent hops. He will work hard on defense. He did a very good job defending Bryce Taylor in the CIF championship game Saturday at the Pond. You'd also have to say that he looked a bit better than Taylor in that game, really showing the tough, take-control kind of attitude and aggressiveness, while Taylor took off for a long period of the game. Sources close to Afflalo indicate that UCLA is very high on his list and some believe that he could be an early commitment for the next coach. He's going to get looks from most of the elite majors in the country. He's generally listed as a Top 40 national player right now and will probably only cement that rep this spring and summer.
Gabriel Pruitt, 6-2 JR PG Los Angeles (Calif.) Westchester. Pruitt was ineligible this season due to some paperwork problems with his transfer from Compton Centennial. He's played mostly off the ball his first two years in high school, but he's got a point guard's feel for the game and we think there's still a chance he ends up at the one. His ball handling was improved when we saw him in the summer. In the early fall, we saw him in a tournament game play perhaps as well as we'd seen him – and he probably only took three shots the entire game. Pruitt's athleticism has shown dramatic improvement in the last year. He gets up very well now and he's able to finish inside. His outside shot is feathery soft and he'll be fine as a two-guard if it turns out that he can't play PG at a high level. Pruitt is still very slender, but he's adding weight and strength, and he should be ready to play right away as a freshman. Like a lot of West Coast players, Pruitt tends to rely a bit too much on his skill level. It's a very finesse-oriented game in the west. He could use a little more grit and toughness in his game. There's no way of knowing how much of an effect the year off will have on Pruitt's development. He's a gym rat, so we know he's been working out on his own and playing as much as he can. We'll have a better feel for where he is with his game when we see him this spring and summer. However, based on where he was at the end of last summer, we'd expect Pruitt to