According to various reports, 2010 big man Josh Smith (Covington, Wash./Kentwood) has decided to play his college ball at UCLA. This news is a big-time development for the Bruins. UCLA had missed out on a few national-level recruits, but getting Smith gives the Bruins a top-10 talent.
If there was one player the Bruins had to have in their 2010 class it was Smith -- the nation's No. 10 prospect. He is a player who can come in and make an immediate impact. Although it has a great deal of athleticism at the power forward position, UCLA lacks a true center right now. Because of that void, the Bruins are very perimeter oriented. That'll change upon Smith's arrival.
The 6-foot-9, 280-pound Smith is remarkably agile and bouncy, despite his massive frame. He has great hands and is very nimble. His strongest suit is rebounding on both ends. Offensively, most of his scoring comes within six feet of the hoop on put-backs and back-to-the-basket moves. Smith shows good feet and is so strong that he can finish with defenders hanging on him. On the defensive end, Smith is a very skilled shot-blocker who gets off the floor with great timing.
Smith is still raw, so he has much work to do to fully develop his game. I'd like to see him add a jump-hook and extend the range of his shot. He also needs to work on his approach and intensity. He doesn't play with a high motor all the time. When Smith plays aggressive basketball, he's very difficult to stop. A lot of times he plays to the level of the competition and doesn't dominate as much as he could. Smith runs decently, but is far from a gazelle. He gets down the court, but is not someone who is going to fill the lane and finish. He's a true 5-man and that is a lacking commodity in the college ranks.
UCLA has done well on the trail, but the Bruins haven't made a splash like this the past few recruiting cycles. Getting Smith really takes some of the pressure off the UCLA staff; it shows they are still able to land a high-level guy. This is UCLA's best post prospect since Kevin Love (Timberwolves) left -- though Smith is not nearly as skilled as Love. The Bruins are a traditional power, who should be able to get guys like this every year.
Playing in Westwood will be beneficial for Smith because he's never gotten this type of hard-nosed coaching. UCLA's staff has shown it is among the best at developing talent -- some of the best examples of this include Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Russell Westbrook and Darren Collison. Smith has some raw ability, but should grow tremendously during his time in the program.
Smith's decision came down to UCLA and Washington. Losing out on him is a tough blow for the Huskies. In the past, Lorenzo Romar has proven he can keep elite talent in state -- as was the case with Spencer Hawes and Abdul Gaddy.
The Bruins weren't listed in our previous recruiting class rankings. They are almost certain to enter them when we release the revised rankings at the end of the early signing period. Smith joins ESPNU 100 SG Tyler Lamb (Santa Ana, Calif./Mater Dei) in UCLA's 2010 class.
Joel Francisco is the West Coast recruiting coordinator for ESPN's Scouts Inc.