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Boys' basketball: Jordan McLaughlin picks USC over UCLA

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 In a decision monitored closely by USC and UCLA basketball fans, standout senior point guard Jordan McLaughlin of Etiwanda High has committed to USC.

McLaughlin is 6 feet with quickness and superior athleticism. He comes from a school that produced Darren Collison (UCLA, Clippers) and is known for getting its players to play tough defense. McLaughlin was a key figure in Etiwanda winning the Southern Section Division 1AA championship last season.

His decision is a major triumph for first-year USC Coach Andy Enfield, who outdueled UCLA first-year Coach Steve Alford to land McLaughlin. It could be a sign that Enfield's decision to hire assistant coaches with Southern California connections is paying off. Tony Bland was hired from San Diego State and Jason Hart from Pepperdine.

McLaughlin said he was impressed with what USC is selling after taking a visit to the school last weekend.

"It really caught my attention what they're trying to do with the new coaching staff," he said. "The coach wants to throw lob passes and get an up-tempo attack. At the end of the day, I had to pick a school and felt USC was the perfect fit."

It continues a remarkable streak of UCLA failing to land or develop any top point guards since taking a commitment from Jerime Anderson of Anaheim Canyon in September of 2006 when he was part of the class of 2008.

The point guard drought was considered a major factor in former Coach Ben Howland's troubles that led to his dismissal. Among the guards UCLA either failed to land out of high school or decided not to pursue include Allen Crabbe (Price, California), Spencer Dinwiddie (Taft, Colorado), Kendall Williams (Los Osos, New Mexico), London Perrantes (Crespi, Virginia) and Larry Drew Jr. (Taft, North Carolina). Drew transferred to UCLA for his senior year.

The new UCLA coaching staff is facing a similar dilemma with dwindling options from the class of 2014. Parker Jackson-Cartwright (Loyola) turned down Howland and committed to Arizona. UCLA failed to offer Robert Cartwright of Flintridge Prep who ended up committing to Stanford. Alford spent months recruiting Josh Perkins, a point guard from Huntington Prep in West Virginia, then backed off. Perkins committed to Gonzaga.

Now McLaughlin is off the board and set to enroll at UCLA's neighborhood rival,  where he'll get to team up next season with former Mater Dei guard Katin Reinhardt, a transfer from UNLV. UCLA is down to Quentin Snider, a point guard from Ballard (Ky.) who is also considering Illinois.

Most worrisome for UCLA fans is the failure of Alford to lock down top players from Los Angeles. Stanley Johnson of Mater Dei, the No. 1 player in the state, has USC, not UCLA, high on his list of possible destinations.

Clearly, Enfield's reputation for an up-tempo offense at Florida Gulf Coast has worked to his advantage. Alford's style remains relatively unknown locally, but he'll have the opportunity to change that with the coming college season, which could help him with some top point guards from the class of 2015, such as St. John Bosco's Tyler Dorsey and Campbell Hall's Aaron Holiday. And there's always the possibility that former St. John Bosco guard Isaac Hamilton ends up with the Bruins. He signed with UTEP, tried to get out of his letter of intent and will  transfer to a Pac-12 school while sitting out this season.

One positive for UCLA is that Loyola Coach Jamal Adams said Alford has been doing a "great job" recruiting 7-foot center Thomas Welsh, who has an official visit with California this weekend and plans an official visit to UCLA.

But McLaughlin's decision to pick USC over UCLA is going to lead to lots of discussion in high school gyms across the Southland.

Eric.sondheimer@latimes.com

 

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