Commentary

UCLA sustains recruiting momentum

Originally Published: May 21, 2008
By Joel Francisco | Scouts Inc.

The Pac-10 Conference was buzzing a few weeks ago when ESPNU 100 recruit Renardo Sidney (Los Angeles/Fairfax) decided to renege on a commitment to USC and cast his lot with the Mississippi State Bulldogs.

In addition, prior to the Sidney soap opera, the Trojans were reeling a bit when ESPN 100 prospect Solomon Hill (Los Angeles/Fairfax) bolted for Tucson to be part of Arizona's rebuilding project under newly hired coach Sean Miller. Trojans coach Tim Floyd and his staff were hoping to finish with a top-10 national class, but that's how it unfolds sometimes in the wacky world of recruiting.

As the recruiting scramble comes to a close, it appears that UCLA will haul in the most impressive group of prospects for the 2009-10 season. However, with the early departure of Jrue Holiday to the NBA, a point guard would have been a nice finishing touch. The Bruins class isn't blessed with a one-and-done type, but there's a plethora of versatile prospects -- 6-8 Tyler Honeycutt (Sylmar, Calif.) and 6-9 Brendan Lane (Rocklin, Calif.) come immediately to mind -- that have the potential to develop into all-conference types before they leave Westwood.

In addition to the impressive group hauled in by Ben Howland, there are a number of other programs that have a done a nice job of filling needs. Abdul Gaddy (Tacoma, Wash./Bellarmine Prep) should start from day one for Washington and give the Huskies a true point guard that should compliment first-year all-conference sensation Isaiah Thomas very nicely.

USC lost Hill and Sidney but has corralled one of the fastest-rising seniors in the country in the versatile Derrick Williams (La Mirada, Calif.) as well as one of the more explosive combo guards in Lamont "MoMo" Jones (Mouth of Wilson, Va./Oak Hill Academy).

Meanwhile, if you're looking for a couple of sleepers to make an immediate impact, look no further than Arizona State's ultra-talented Victor Rudd (Los Angeles) and Washington State's point guard deluxe Reggie Moore (Brewster Academy, N.H.)

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Arizona Wildcats

Arizona signees: three
Miller has wasted no time making noise on the recruiting front in the brief amount of time he's been in Tucson. Although the Wildcats are fresh off a Sweet 16 run in the tournament, the current roster is void of talent after Chase Budinger and Jordan Hill bolted for NBA waters. However, Miller and his staff are off to a great start as they corralled a terrific threesome in 6-10 Kyryl Natyazhko (IMG Academy, Fla.), 6-6 Kevin Parrom (South Kent School, Conn.), and the aforementioned Solomon Hill. Natyazhko, who is originally from Ukraine, should make an immediate impact with his size and skill. He is versatile enough to step out and nail the 15-foot shot at the elbow or score effectively over his left shoulder. Parrom is a prototypical scoring-wing type that Miller has grown accustomed to over the years at Xavier. He excels in transition and can attack the basket, but his jump shot needs to become more consistent. Hill can play all three perimeter positions. His passing ability, rebounding and handle are high-level. However, his jump shot needs to improve immensely.

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Arizona State Sun Devils

Arizona State signees: five
As with their rivals to the south, Arizona State is definitely in a rebuilding mode after losing the terrific one-two punch of James Harden and Jeff Pendergraph to the NBA. During the fall signing period, the Sun Devils signed three good prospects in ESPNU 100 6-foot-3 Demetrius Walker (Phoenix/St. Mary's), 6-5 Trent Lockett (Minnetonka, Minn./Hopkins), and a national sleeper in 7-0 Ruslan Pateev (Monteverde Academy, Fla.). Walker is physically maxed-out but he plays hard and he can score in bunches, while Lockett is the quintessential glue-guy type that possesses an assortment of skills and toughness. Herb Sendek needed to finish the recruiting season strong to continue the momentum that has been brewing in Tempe since his arrival, and he did with a strong finish during the April signing period. The Sun Devils signed one of the better unknown national talents in the 6-8 Rudd and 6-2 sleeper Brandon Thompson (San Antonio/Stevens). Rudd has as much upside as any wing type coming into the Pac-10. He's an extremely gifted athlete and he can knock down the 3-point shot. Thompson, on the other hand, is a talented combo guard who is also an outstanding shooter.

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California Golden Bears

California signees: four
After a solid first season back in the college game, Mike Montgomery and his Golden Bears are the early favorite to claim the Pac-10 championship for the 2009-10 season. With team MVP Jerome Randle and Patrick Christopher returning for their senior campaigns, California appears to have the most prolific one-two punch in a league that will be characterized by youthful talent. The Bears will add three solid recruits in 6-9 Bak Bak (Sun Valley, Calif./Valley Christian), 6-8 Markhuri Sanders-Frison, and 5-8 Brandon Smith (Concord, Calif./De La Salle) to a roster crowded with experience and depth. Bak Bak has a wiry frame that needs an influx of strength, but he is a skilled combo forward who can handle the ball in the open court as well as step out and nail the jump shot at the elbow. Junior-college transfer Sanders-Frison has a Divison I-ready frame and should make an immediate impact, while Smith has improved as much as any prospect on the West Coast. Despite his lack of ideal size for a 1, his moxie and overall savvy for the game are college-ready.

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Oregon Ducks

Oregon signees: four

The dust finally has settled on one of the more disappointing seasons in recent memory for the Oregon Ducks (8-23 overall, 2-16 Pac-10. However, there appears to be help on the way as Earnie Kent and his staff once again tapped into that Midwest pipeline, and also went to Florida, to rectify the current status of the team. The Ducks struggled with turnovers and poor shot selection during the 2008-09 season, but 6-0 junior-college point guard Malcolm Armstead (Marianna, Fla./Chipola) may be the answer to the Ducks' poor point guard play. This lefty is physically strong with the ball, and his assist-to-turnover ratio is quite good. In addition to Armstead, Kent also added 6-6 E.J. Singler (Medford, Ore./South Medford), 6-7 ESPNU 100 recruit Jamil Wilson (Racine, Wis./William Horlick), and 6-7 junior-college combo forward Jeremy Jacob (Marianna, Fla./ Chipola). Singler won't wow you with his athleticism, but he is well-schooled in the fundamentals and is very skilled. Wilson, on the other hand, has that prototypical wing-type frame that oozes potential and the skill to match. If Wilson decides to play with more urgency at both ends he has the chance to be an all-conference-type performer down the road. Meanwhile, Jacob will have three seasons to bring a blue-collar mentality and a strong mid-range game to the Ducks' frontcourt.

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Oregon State Beavers

Oregon State commits: five
Craig Robinson definitely turned some heads in his first year at the helm for the Oregon State Beavers. Taking over a program that did not win a conference game before his arrival, Robinson definitely produced some magic out of a roster void of play makers. However, a talent influx is definitely on the way led by an Australian duo in 6-9 Angus Brandt (Lake Forest, Ill./ Lake Forest Academy) and 6-7 Rhys Murphy (Lee, Maine/Lee Academy). Brandt will provide a physical presence for Robinson as well as a terrific touch that extends out to 19 feet, while Murphy is a bouncy 3-point shooting wing type that should make an immediate impact along the front court. In addition to Brandt and Murphy, the Beavers also signed former Arizona State commit 6-3 Jared Cunningham (San Leandro, Calif.), 6-3 Roberto Nelson (Santa Barbara, Calif.) and 6-7 Joseph Burton (Hemet, Calif./West Valley). Cunningham, who is coming off a very good senior season, is a solid combo guard with a terrific frame that suggests his best basketball is ahead of him. Nelson possesses a lot of savvy for this game and his overall skills should translate well in Robinson's system, while Burton's extraordinary passing skills will be used well in the Princeton-style offense Robinson and his staff have installed.

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Stanford Cardinal

Stanford signees: three
First-year coach Johnny Dawkins will lose three outstanding starters in Mitch Johnson, Lawrence Hill and Anthony Goods, but the Cardinal will return budding star Josh Owens and third-leading scorer Landry Fields. Dawkins' primary concern heading into the spring evaluation period was finding a point guard replacement for Johnson, and he may have found a hidden gem in 6-2 Gabriel Harris (Birmingham, Ala./The Altamont School). Harris is a strong combo guard who can break down defenses and either find the open man or pull up and hit the 3-point shot. He should excel in Dawkins' motion offense. In the early signing period, Stanford inked California standout 6-8 Andy Brown (Santa Ana, Calif./Mater Dei). Brown is the quintessential glue type who does all the little things that promote winning. He has tremendous savvy and is a good spot-up shooter out to the stripe. Lastly, Dawkins lured 6-9 Andrew Zimmerman (Los Altos, Calif./Foothill College) and his three years of eligibility to Palo Alto. Zimmerman is a skilled 5-man who began his career at Santa Clara.

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UCLA Bruins

UCLA commits: five
After signing the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation last season, the Bruins are picking up where they left off. It's an outstanding class chock full of 3s and 4s who exhibit a bevy of versatility. Unfortunately, they lost Jrue Holiday early to the NBA and Darren Collison exhausted his eligibility, and now the point guard position is in the hands of an inexperienced duo of Jerime Anderson and Malcolm Lee. Entering his sixth season in Westwood, Howland has secured another impressive class with three ESPNU 100 recruits in 6-8 Tyler Honeycutt (Sylmar, Calif.), 6-7 Mike Moser (Portland, Ore./Grant) and 6-8 Brendan Lane (Rocklin, Calif.). In addition, the Bruins also signed a couple of the top sleepers in 6-9 Anthony Stover (Los Angeles/Windward) and 6-6 Reeves Nelson (Modesto, Calif./Modesto Christian). Honeycutt may have the most upside of any prospect entering the Pac-10 next season. He possesses that prototypical wing-type frame and has the skills to match. He has a feathery shooting touch, is a terrific passer, and is one of the best shot blockers in the country. Nelson is the prototypical Ben Howland player. He is a physical specimen with some intriguing skills and definite toughness. He is at his best when attacking the offensive glass and locking up opponents. However, it will be interesting to see where Howland plays him because he's an undersized 4-man that struggles scoring outside of 10 feet. Moser, like Nelson, is a non-shooter at this stage of his career, but due to his length, bounce and quickness, he could play either forward position and possibly guard a 2 at the next level. On the other hand, Lane is a finesse 4-man with plenty of offensive tools, including a soft shooting touch out to the stripe. He needs to get tougher and become a much better rebounder, but there are not too many prospects at this size that can stroke it like him. Finally, the Bruins added a sleeper with an immense amount of upside. Stover has progressed throughout his high school career, but he has a ways to go if he is going to contribute for Howland. His strength is his innate shot blocking ability, but he needs to get considerably stronger as well as tougher at both ends of the floor to make the Bruins' rotation.

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USC Trojans

USC signees: four
Despite losing Sidney at the last minute to Mississippi State, the Trojans showed some resiliency by snagging one of the more prolific scorers in the east away from Virginia Tech in ESPNU 100 6-0 Lamont "MoMo" Jones (Mouth of Wilson, Va./Oak Hill Academy). With Daniel Hackett leaving early for the professional ranks, Jones has the moxie and shooting ability to make an immediate impact. After arguably snagging the most impressive prospect ever to step foot on the Trojan campus in Demar DeRozan, Floyd went clear across the country to sign one of the top shooters in the South in 6-6 Noel Johnson (Fayetteville, Ga./Fayette County). He has a prolific stroke to the stripe and is equally effective pulling up in transition or coming off a screen. With DeRozan heading to the NBA early, Johnson should fill that position nicely. In addition to Johnson, Floyd took a commitment from one of the most underrated wing types in the West in ESPNU 100 6-7 Derrick Williams (La Mirada, Calif.). Williams is a tad undersized to bang underneath in the Pac-10, but he has very long arms and his game has progressed significantly since his junior campaign. His improved ball handling and shooting touch could create matchup problems at the next level. Lastly, the Trojans added 6-5 sharpshooter Evan Smith (Calabasas, Calif.) to round out their recruiting haul.

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Washington Huskies

Washington signees: seven
If one word can describe the 2009 recruiting class of the University of Washington, it would be "patience." Despite losing standouts Peyton Siva and Avery Bradley to Louisville and Texas, respectively, Lorenzo Romar was one of the first beneficiaries of the Arizona collapse after former coach Lute Olson retired. ESPN 100 recruit Abdul Gaddy (Tacoma, Wash./Bellarmine Prep), who had been an Arizona recruit for quite some time, decommitted from the Wildcats and decided to stay home and play for the Huskies. Gaddy is the quintessential point guard and probably the best playmaker in the class of 2009. He doesn't have John Wall's explosiveness and overall talent, but his savvy and overall feel for the game are light years ahead of his rival. In addition to Gaddy, Romar was able to attract super sleeper 6-5 C.J. Wilcox (Pleasant Grove, Utah), 6-7 beast Clarence Trent (The Patterson School, N.C.), and juco standout 6-9 Charles Garcia Jr. (Riverside, Calif./Riverside Community College). Wilcox is a national unknown with one of the smoothest strokes around. He is very effective in a catch-and-shoot situation or he can nail the pull-up. With his athletic ability and shooting prowess, Wilcox should make an immediate impact. Trent is somewhat of the wildcard of the Husky class. If he shows up during the 2009-10 season determined to take over the paint area for the departed Jon Brockman, Romar should be excited. Trent can be an inside force and a standout in the Pac-10 if he plays to his strength. However, in the past year he has shown a greater tendency to launch ill-advised 3-pointers which has made him much less effective. Garcia Jr., on the other hand, has a versatile game and will be asked to contribute immediately with holes left by Brockman and Artem Wallace. However, his academic situation is still up in the air.

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Washington State Cougars

Washington State signees: four
Washington State survived the coaching carousel (Tony Bennett left for Virginia) and snagged an outstanding coach in up-and-coming Ken Bone, who did an outstanding job in leading Portland State to two straight NCAA appearances. Overall, the Cougars signed a solid foursome in the 6-1 Moore (Wolfeboro, N.H./Brewster Academy), 6-3 Xavier Thames (Elk Grove, Calif./Pleasant Grove), 6-5 Anthony Brown (Spokane, Wash./Shadle Park), and 6-9 Brock Motum (Brisbane, Australia/Australian Institute of Sports). It was imperative that the Cougars picked up a point guard in the late signing period after Taylor Rochestie exhausted his eligibility, and Bone did just that in acquiring Moore. A physically talented prospect who can play both guard positions, Moore is equally adept at getting his teammates involved and getting his own shot. In addition, Thames will arrive in Pullman with a bevy of natural ability and upside. He has ideal size for the point guard position as well as the skill and savvy to flourish in Bone's system. He'll need to tone down his pace, but if he's patient enough while getting acclimated to high-level basketball, the Cougars could have one of the better combo guards in the conference by the time he's a junior. In addition to the promising future backcourt of Moore and Thames, the Cougars are getting one of the better shooters in the Northwest in Brown. He has nice size for the 3 and a prolific stroke, but his mid-range skills need polishing. Finally, Motum is a relative unknown heading into the Pac-10. This lefty is a mature player with decent skills and an overall efficient game.

Joel Francisco has been a high school basketball scout for 15 years. He has written for Hoop Scoop Magazine and Basketball Times and organized "So-Cal's Finest," his own scouting service.