After signing four Southern California players for his first recruiting class, UCLA Coach Ben Howland has gone international for his second.
Three high school players signed letters of intent Wednesday to join the Bruins next season, and two more are expected to sign in the next two days.
Of the five recruits, one comes from Canada and two from Cameroon. The most highly regarded are 6-foot-9, 225-pound power forward Ryan Wright of Mississauga, Canada, who had Stanford and Michigan State in his last three schools; and 6-7, 240-pound Alfred Aboya from Cameroon and Tilton (N.H.) School, who chose UCLA over Georgetown and Virginia.
Also from Cameroon is 6-7, 180-pound wing player Luc Richard Mbah A Moute, who is playing at Montverde (Fla.) Academy and who gave UCLA a verbal commitment last month.
USC is expected to announce its signings later this week. The Trojans have received early commitments from Sead Odzic, a 6-3 guard from Niles West High in Skokie, Ill., Michael Freeman, a 6-8 forward from Hayfield High in Alexandria, Va., Julius Lamptey, a 7-0 center from Garden City (Ka.) Community College; and Theo White, a 6-6 forward from Tyler (Texas) Junior College. However, USC had not received binding paperwork from any of the players as of Wednesday evening.
UCLA received official letters of intent from Wright; 6-5, 195-pound wing player Michael Roll of Aliso Niguel High in Aliso Viejo and 6-foot point guard Darren Collison of Etiwanda High.
It was expected to take at least another 24 hours to receive signed letters via fax from Cameroon. But both Aboya and Moute, who had also strongly considered South Carolina, Georgia and Virginia Tech, have indicated they will be attending UCLA next year.
Roll had given a verbal, non-binding, commitment to UC Santa Barbara last month before reconsidering after UCLA and Stanford showed continued interest in him.
While there was some unhappiness expressed privately at Santa Barbara about what coaches considered unfair poaching of a committed recruit, UCLA assistant coach Ernie Ziegler said Roll had never completely closed the door to other schools. “We would never go after a verbally committed kid without a reason,” Ziegler said. “It was our understanding Mike was still talking to Stanford too.”
Howland called Roll “tough and hard-nosed.” Roll led his team in three-point shooting a year ago and began attracting more attention from Pac-10 schools with an impressive performance at the Adidas Superstar Camp in Georgia last summer.
Collison, who committed to UCLA during the summer, was considered the second-best point guard prospect in the West. He led Etiwanda to a 31-3 record last season while averaging a team-high 15.6 points and 5.4 assists a game.
Wright averaged 17 points and 10 rebounds last year and was chosen Canada’s top junior player. Howland said Wright’s “good hands” and shot-blocking ability were big pluses.
Howland has said that with the early departure of Trevor Ariza to the NBA after last season, the Bruins’ biggest weakness this year is at the power forward spot, where Wright should be an immediate improvement.
UCLA senior Cedric Bozeman, who injured his right knee in practice last Thursday, had his torn anterior cruciate ligament repaired Wednesday. Bruin team doctor Gerald Finerman performed the 2 1/2 -hour arthroscopic surgery at UCLA/Santa Monica Hospital. Bozeman is expected to be released from the hospital today. His recovery should take six to eight months, according to Howland. ... Sophomore forward Matt McKinney suffered a sprained ankle in practice Wednesday and is considered doubtful for UCLA’s exhibition tonight against Monterrey (Mexico) Tech at Pauley Pavilion.
Times staff writer Paul Gutierrez also contributed to this report.