Bumped. GO BRUINS. -N
ESPN has released their rankings of the Pac-10 recruiting classes. UCLA comes in a disappointing, though unsurprising 8th in the conference, with only one commit, Norman Powell. tWWL had this to say about our class:
Although Ben Howland signed arguably the best scoring guard prospect in California in Norman Powell (San Diego, Calif./Lincoln), as a whole, it was a very disappointing early signing period. The Bruins decided to move beyond their borders and try to lure some of the nation's best to Westwood -- but came up short as ESPNU 100 recruits Branden Dawson (Michigan State), Adonis Thomas (Memphis) and Quinn Cook (Duke) decided to go elsewhere. Not too mention they came up short for the best point guard prospect out west in Turner. From now until spring, the Bruins will be investigating the talent in the junior college ranks to see whether they can locate some hidden gems.
Strangely left out of their analysis is how badly UCLA needed to bring in an elite point guard in this year's class. It is somewhat misleading to say that missing out on Branden Dawson and Adonis Thomas were major disappointments: they would have been nice, but they were never make or break prospects for our class. Missing out on Cook, Josiah Turner, and Jahii Carson were much bigger losses for our class than Dawson and Thomas (who we were never really that serious about).
They also failed to mention that UCLA is only guaranteed to have one open scholarship at season's end, and while it is likely that one or more will open up, that is a major reason why we only signed one prospect. Some fans have complained that Howland wasn't aggressive enough going after other options at pg, but the fact of the matter is that we were never going to try to bring on a kid to fill a spot we don't have unless they were an elite talent. When you have few scholarships available you need to be very selective, even when you have a major need at a position. Bringing in another JA would be much more damaging to our program than bringing in no pg at all.
As for our number 8 ranking, this is more a reflection on the (much needed) talent being brought into the conference than poor recruiting on our part. As mentioned above, we had a limited number of guys we could bring in, and still might have signed the best prospect in the conference (though there is a lot of competition for top prospect). Arizona, Oregon, and Washington signed classes that are ranked in the top 25 nationally, with Zona's class ranked in the top 10. (Warning, these last two links require Insider's access to see the content, though not the list of national rankings). Somewhat disconcerting given our inability to bring in somebody to run the point, this class will bring a lot of point guard talent to the Pac-10, with Turner at Arizona, Carson at ASU, Chasson Randle at Stanford, Bruce Barron at Oregon, and Andrew Andrews at Washington. Oregon and Washington are also bringing in 5-star players at shooting guard (Jabari Brown UO and Tony Wroten, Jr. UW).
Even with all of the talent coming in, and our misses on a point guard of the future, this all sets up very well for UCLA. Most of the talent coming in is at the guard positions, and for a league that is already very week in the low post, our frontcourt of Smith, Nelson, Stover, Lane, and the Wears should be able to dominate Pac-10 play for the next couple of years. Concerns will be finding a point guard and small forward for the 2012-2013 season to go along with our loaded front court. There are a number of very good prospects at those positions that UCLA should have a good shot with, especially with Pauley Pavilion reopening that season.
This is the type of talent infusion the conference needs to get back to the heights we reached in the 2007-2008 season, and I think there is a lot of reason to be optimistic that UCLA can be leading leading the way when it happens.