UCLA shows drawing power
UCLA’s basketball team is ranked second in the country, and by the time all national letters of intent are signed and turned in, the rating for this year’s Bruins’ recruiting class is expected to be at least as high.
UCLA flexed its drawing power Wednesday, the first day high school seniors could officially commit during the NCAA’s early signing period, by securing three of the best guards not only in Southern California but also in the country, plus a power forward from San Jose.
Jrue Holiday, a 6-foot-3 guard from North Hollywood Campbell Hall rated by some as the nation’s best high school senior, will join Jerime Anderson, a 6-1 point guard from Anaheim Canyon High, Malcolm Lee, a sharp-shooting 6-4 guard from Riverside North High, and 6-8 power forward Drew Gordon from San Jose Archbishop Mitty on the Bruins’ 2008-09 team.
“Needless to say, I’m a happy guy,” Coach Ben Howland said after receiving the paperwork from all four recruits.
However, he could have been even happier.
It appears UCLA lost out on the center it targeted to replace senior Lorenzo Mata-Real and freshman Kevin Love, last year’s top recruit who may leave for the NBA after this season.
J’Mison Morgan, a 6-10 center from Dallas, was the player Howland was after, but Morgan announced last week that he had chosen Louisiana State over UCLA and Alabama.
So, despite the Bruins’ success at home and, in the case of Oregon’s Love, around home, it’s still a challenge for Howland to pick off a top player from Southeastern Conference, Atlantic Coast Conference or Big East Conference territory, said Greg Hicks, a West Coast talent evaluator for Scout.com.
Because of demanding academic standards and Howland’s no-nonsense sales pitches, Hicks said, “UCLA has to be really smart and find the special kids who understand what UCLA can offer.”
Or, it just may take a little more time. “Kids have been staying closer to home in recent years,” Scout.com’s Dave Telep said. “I think the country can open up to UCLA. . . . I know UCLA is actively recruiting out east in 2009.”
Even without Morgan, UCLA’s recruiting class was ranked No. 1 in the nation by Scout.com and CSTV.com and No. 2 by Rivals.com.
“The collection of backcourt talent is top shelf and Holiday is a winning machine,” Telep said. “There’s chemistry, talent and a mop up man inside in Gordon.”
Holiday said he chose UCLA because the Bruins have shown they can develop NBA players.
“Coach Howland made it to the Final Four two years in a row,” Holiday said. “That’s hard to come by. Arron Afflalo is in the league now. Jordan Farmar. I know he can make NBA players and that’s what I’m trying to do. He thinks I can be one.”
Lee said he planned to model himself after Golden State Warriors guard Baron Davis, another former Bruins’ star, and added that he was won over by Howland’s ability to teach defense.
“If I want to play at another level,” Lee said, “defense is a must.”
Gordon said he was sold on UCLA because Howland did not sweet talk him. “Coach Howland is a businessman,” Gordon said. “He just tells it like it is; nothing fake.”
Gordon said he was also influenced by Love who, after three games, leads UCLA in scoring (20.7) and rebounding (10.3). As to whether Gordon gets a chance to play with Love, Gordon said, “I’ve been talking to him about coming back, trying to convince him. I don’t think it’s working, though.”
Anderson said he enjoyed watching Farmar and Collison develop a wide view of the game as point guards. “Coach Howland puts a lot of trust in his point guard and I really think I will learn the best way to play the game,” he said.
Howland had nice things to say about each of the players UCLA signed, saying Anderson was “an outstanding true point guard,” Gordon “could be one of the best rebounders we’ve recruited since I’ve been here,” Holiday is “as good as any athlete in the country,” and Lee was such a good shooter that “I’ve already threatened him that I’ll pull him out if he doesn’t shoot more.”
Because of the certain loss of Mata-Real and the likely loss of Love and junior point guard Darren Collison to the NBA, Howland said, “We will end up playing all three of these guards together at times.”
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Where they’re headed
Southland boys’ basketball commitments or signings (in alphabetical order)
*--* PLAYER HIGH SCHOOL HT P COLLEGE Jerime Anderson Anaheim Canyon 6-2 PG UCLA Tyreese Breshers Price 6-7 F Washington DeMar DeRozan Compton 6-6 G USC Larry Drew Jr. Taft 6-0 PG North Carolina Jarred Dubois Westchester 6-3 PG Southern Methodist Chris Gabriel Junipero Serra 6-10 C New Mexico State Paul George Knight 6-7 F Pepperdine Justin Haynes Palmdale 6-5 G Southern Methodist Jrue Holiday Campbell Hall 6-3 G UCLA Matt Johnson Oaks Christian 6-7 G Columbia Malcolm Lee Riverside North 6-4 G UCLA Romeo Miller Beverly Hills 5-10 G USC Eugene Phelps Taft 6-6 F Long Beach State Jacob Ranger Carpinteria 6-5 G UC Davis Joseph Richard Arroyo Valley 6-6 F Tulsa Jaime Serna Santa Margarita 6-8 F UC Santa Barbara Klay Thompson Santa Margarita 6-5 G Washington State Renaldo Woolridge Harvard-Westlake 6-8 F Tennessee Wendell Wright Mayfair 6-5 F Loyola Marymount *--*
* ON THE WEB: For girls’ commitments, go to latimes.com/highschool
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Top recruiting classes, according to Scout.com:
*--* RK. SCHOOL TOP RECRUIT 1. UCLA Jrue Holiday, guard 2. Ohio State B.J. Mullens, center 3. Georgetown Greg Monroe, power forward 4. Wake Forest Al-Farouq Aminu, forward 5. Louisville Samardo Samuels, center *--*
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