With only one scholarship currently available for 2011, and possibly only a total of two or three ultimately available, the UCLA coaching staff has been looking at a short list of recruits – almost entirely targeting point guards and wings.
The pool of potential recruits that UCLA has watched and scouted has now been honed to this:
Norman Powell, the 6-2 shooting guard from San Diego (Calif.) Lincoln. The ultra-athletic Powell had a good July, even though he was nicked up. The word is that it's a UCLA/Arizona battle and that the Bruins probably have the inside track at this point.
Jahii Carson, the 5-11 point guard from Mesa (Ariz.) High. He's been seemingly having fun with reporters recently, first saying that Arizona was his leader, then touting UCLA, then saying everyone was even, and then recently sounding like UCLA was his leader again. Suffice it to say, the recruitment is probably going to be a roller coast ride, as least for those of you watching at home. One thing UCLA has going for it in a battle against Arizona is that the Wildcats are probably leading for Nick Johnson, who is projected as a point guard on the next level (albeit mistakenly, in our opinion). While Arizona is trying hard to get both, Johnson might cancel out Carson. The likes of North Carolina and Duke are sniffing around, but it's uncertain if they'll get seriously involved. After showing his game on a national stage, Carson should now be among the handful of best point guards in the nation.
If UCLA is, indeed, leading for Carson, which is a risky premise (but one we'll take here for fun), a backcourt of Carson and Powell would be an athletic homerun for the Bruins.
Josiah Turner, the 6-2 point guard from Sacramento (Calif.) High. Turner is the #1 point guard prospect in the west and probably the #1 overall prospect after a spectacular July. If he's not among the very short list of the nation's elite point guards then something is wrong. He's improved his game, slimmed down and became quicker, and actually played intense defense in AAU ball. The previous thought was that it'd be tough for him to qualify academically, but the new perspective is that his academics are probably good enough. He told us that Kansas, Duke and Connecticut are his leaders, and that's probably true, but UCLA, from what we hear, is doing well with his family. It will be interesting to see if UCLA makes it on to that short list of favorites soon.
Quinn Cook, the 6-0 point guard from Mouth of Wilson (Virg.) Oak Hill. Cook is one of the best point guards in the nation, and UCLA has been recruiting him heavily since spring. The Bruins, of course, have the distance factor working against them, but Cook has a connection to California. It's thought that UCLA will get an official visit, and a UCLA official visit from by an east coast prospect can change everything.
Branden Dawson, 6-6 combo forward from Gary (Ind.) Lew Wallace. Dawson is the consensus best rebounder nationally in the class of 2011. He's a beast around the boards, and a physical stud – the type of physical player that Howland loves. There's a question of whether he'd play the four or three in college, but UCLA doesn't care – they just want him badly, like the other schools – Purdue, Indiana, Michigan State and Georgetown – do. We've heard that UCLA has a good shot at getting Dawson, that he has connections to the L.A. area that could really help UCLA's recruitment.
After those five, the list for 2011 can be an ever-shifting thing. Names have come and gone, and probably will continue to come and go as the UCLA staff continues to look into various prospects. But, as of right now, here are the rest of the prospects UCLA is currently interested in:
Jabari Brown, the 6-4 shooting guard from Oakland (Calif.) Senior. This July Brown cemented his place among the best shooting guards in the nation. Cal, Kansas, Washington and Arizona State probably top his list right now. He could pair with his backcourt mate on the Oakland Soldiers, Turner, and go to Kansas as a package. UCLA has stepped up its recruitment of Brown over the last couple of months, but it got on him late, so it's an uphill battle.
Adonis Thomas, the 6-6 small forward from Memphis (Tenn.) Melrose. Thomas commonly is listed among the top ten players in the nation, and is a potential one-and-doner. Ohio State, Tennessee, Kentucky, Memphis and others are the competition, and UCLA is a long shot. What UCLA does have going for it, though, is that Thomas is a good student, and is looking for a good education – even if it might only be for one or two years. He'll be in Los Angeles for the Elite 24 game in Venice in late August, and the thought is that he'll take an unofficial visit to UCLA at that time.
Patrick Connaughton, the 6-5 wing from Danvers (Mass.) St. John's Prep. Even in this era when just about every high school prospect is over-exposed, sometimes a guy comes on the scene out of practically nowhere. That happened this July with Connaugton. Before the evaluation period, he didn't have a D-1 offer, and then he lit up the AAU scene back east, with a great stroke, good athleticism and an excellent rebounding ability. Now, Notre Dame, Penn State, Florida, Marquette and others have offered. There are rumors that Duke is showing some interest. UCLA hasn't yet, but the Bruins are interested. Connaugton is also a baseball prospect, with a 95-m.p.h. fastball, so he's already been recruited by many big-named baseball schools. Basketball, though, from what we hear, is his first love, and he's looking to play both sports in college. UCLA is showing interest and will try to gauge interest, and see what happens from there. He'll be in Los Angeles for a baseball tournament next week and will probably visit the UCLA campus.
Jabarie Hinds, the 5-11 point guard from Mount Vernon (New York) High. The #8-ranked point guard in the nation, Hinds is quick and a good passer, which has gotten him offers from Louisville, Oklahoma State and Wake Forest, which are probably his leaders. UCLA is checking into Hinds, and his potential interest in the Bruins.
Juan Anderson, 6-5 small forward, Casto Valley (Calif.) High. He's the best at his position on the west coast, having a very good July, and now high majors are all over him. UCLA, however, has only poked around and hasn't shown serious interest as of yet.
Spencer Dinwiddie, the 6-4 point guard from Woodland Hills (Calif.) Taft. Dinwiddie had a solid July, showing on one hand that he has a tremendous upside, while also probably showing that he's a few years away from that upside. It's pretty clearly known that Dinwiddie likes UCLA, but it's a matter of whether UCLA will go after him seriously. At this point, we'd have to say it looks unlikely, but many things can change by next spring. If Dinwiddie waits to April to sign, and continues to develop, and UCLA has a spot open, the UCLA-Dinwiddie relationship could develop considerably.