UCLA Perspective On Vegas, Part 2

With limited scholarships to give to the 2011 class, UCLA coaches have been watching a few, select 2011 prospects at the two Las Vegas tournaments the last few days, while catching a few youngsters, too...

On Friday, Ben Howland was the only coach left on the sideline of the game of Norman Powell. In fact, he was the only coach at the game among Powell's now listed top three schools – UCLA, Arizona and San Diego State.

He told us that he'll probably make a decision by August or September and sources are indicating that UCLA is probably the leader.

Powell's team, the San Diego All-Stars, are now out of the Las Veas Fab 48 tournament, but will be playing in Los Angeles in the next five days.

They were bounced from the tournament in a pretty dramatic loss to Seattle Rotary, where Powell went head-to-head a few times against Tony Wroten, the much-publicized 6-3 guard. There was quite a bit of trash talking going on, and while Powell had a good game, hitting some threes and making some nice drives to the basket, when the two matched up Wroten got the best of it, and let Powell know it.

Powell has an injured finger, one that is particularly swollen, and a nicked-up knee.

For that game, the gym was packed with college coaches, and UCLA had two coaches – Howland and Phil Matthews – in attendance.

It has to be noted that Howland, who recently had surgery on his Achilles tendon, is walking with a boot on his foot, which isn't exactly comfortable trying to get in and out of gyms in 110 degree heat.

Howland has made it a point not to miss one game of Shabazz Muhammad, UCLA's top target in the 2012 class, here in Las Vegas. Muhammad and his team, Dream Vision, struggled against the Compton Magic Friday, but bounced back in the first round of bracket play Saturday.

UCLA assistant Mathews caught the game of 2012 point guard Tyrone Wallace and 2012 wing Victor Robbins on Friday.

An intriguing prospect is Alex Gomis, the 6-9 power forward originally from Senegal, and it appears that UCLA is intrigued with him, also, as Howland has caught a couple of his games in the last two days. Gomis is an athletic freak, the kind of guy UCLA hasn't had in its frontcourt in recent years, but he's extremely raw offensively and in his approach to the game.

The biggest crowds – of fans and coaches – are coming to watch the Oakland Soldiers play, which features Josiah Turner, the 6-2 point guard. As we've written, Turner has really progressed as a prospect, and is easily among the best point guards in the country. What has been particularly noteworthy is how he's slimmed down some and improved his quickness, and has become a good on-ball defender – and seemingly likes to play defense, even in AAU ball. He has been the most impressive west coast prospect in Las Vegas, hands down.

When we talked with Turner Saturday (story coming soon), he actually didn't mention UCLA. But we've heard from sources that the Bruins are very much involved, and not to necessarily take it too seriously that he didn't mention UCLA publicly.

Mathews checked out a point guard prospect that has been getting some attention in July, Andrew Andrews, the 6-2 prospect from Portland (Ore.) Benson. Andrews physically reminds you a bit of Mustafa Abdul-Hamid, UCLA's walk-on guard, but is quicker. He more than likely isn't more than a solid mid-major prospect.

It would be a bit illogical for UCLA to look for another point guard when Spencer Dinwiddie, the 6-4 prospect, is available, and likes UCLA. Both Howland and Mathews attended his game Saturday, and he had another solid outing, showing his exceptional passing ability. But, as we said, he still doesn't assert himself enough, not even taking an outside jumper in the game -- and Dinwiddie has a particularly good outside shot. We've heard that there are plenty of programs out there that would love to see UCLA take a miss on Dinwiddie and have him fall to them. At Dinwiddie's game were coaches from Washington, USC, Oregon State, Cal, Stanford and Santa Clara.

Playing on Dinwiddie's Pump team was Xavier Johnson, the 6-5 junior wing, who is still rounding back into form, having missed the first part of the July evaluation period due to injury.

Howland watched Quinn Cook, the point guard from Mouth of Wilson (Virg.) Oak Hill who is considered one of the best at his position in the country. UCLA is among 7 schools for Cook, a list which also includes Arizona, Villanova, Duke, Wake Forest, North Carolina State, West Virginia, St. John's and Georgetown. He says he'll take official visits to five of those starting in September, and it's pretty key that UCLA gets one of those official visits.

One of the most intriguing stories over the next year will be which 2012 power forward is better – Brandon Ashley or Grant Jerrett. Both are tremendous prospects, and UCLA has offered both and has both as top priorities, with Howland not missing any of their games.

Howland also caught the game of 2013 wing Ishmael Wainwright, the 6-4 wing from Raytown (Missouri) Raytown South, who attended UCLA's Elite Camp in June.

One of the best emerging prospects in the west for 2013 is Chance Murray, the 6-1 guard from Los Angeles Price. Murray appears to have grown a couple of inches in a matter of months, and his game has progressed considerably. He attended UCLA's camp in June and showed off a pretty stroke, but now in Vegas he's putting the ball on the floor with an improved handle. Right now he's a combo guard, but it appears he has the tools to develop into a point guard. Howland and Mathews watched two of Murray's games, and there is probably a good chance that Murray will become a big priority for the Bruins.

UCLA assistant coach Scott Duncan is in Florida for the Super Showcase, basically following around Branden Dawson, the 6-6 combo forward who has had a great July. From what we've heard, even though Dawson is from Gary, Indiana, UCLA has a legit shot for him.

Jahii Carson, the point guard from Mesa (Ariz.) High, is, of course, on the list of high-priority guards for 2011, but the feeling more and more is that UCLA is running behind both Arizona and Arizona State for him.

Overall, when trying to put UCLA's 2011 recruiting in a nutshell, their two top guard targets are Powell and Turner, and the third big target is Dawson. Of course, Cook is on the list, too, but the feeling is that they have less of a chance with him. The Bruins are doing well with Powell, and trying to wedge their way in with Turner.

As of right now, UCLA only has one scholarship available, but they would certainly take commitments from any two of those guards and Dawson. Dawson has indicated he could wait until spring to decide, which could work out well for UCLA, giving the Bruins time to sort out its scholarships. Ideally, even with just one scholarship open, UCLA would love to take commitments from Powell and one of Turner or Cook by November. They would then need one ride to open up by spring to accommodate those two commitments, and then need another one available if Dawson wanted to be a Bruin next April.

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