Aaron Holiday's verbal commitment three days ago got me thinking about next year and beyond-especially since nothing good can happen to the 2013-2014 edition of the Bruins between the start of the Washington trip and the finals of the PAC-12 Tournament, so might as well take this opportunity. Seriously...they are favored, and have to win every game. The only thing that could POSSIBLY help their placement in the NCAA's would be to beat a hobbled Arizona that has actually found its mojo again.
Who's definitely going?
The Wear twins: Definitely upstanding citizens, but we've all got Wear fatigue so it will be a nice change of pace to bring in some banging bigs.
Kyle Anderson: His daddy said so.
Anyone else leaving?
Zach LaVine: I think yes, although his stock has slipped. We know he's thinking about it, and his father says he's a point guard- which happens to be a position that might not be open next year-to every one's chagrin. I liked what he did at Washington. He took his man to the hole, rather easily, instead of settling for the jumper. That's a pro.
Jordan Adams: I don't think so.
Tony Parker: Months ago, I'd have given good odds on this possibility given the new blood next year, but he has progressed. Mainly, I think its Salford's modus operandi to give players their turn (with one notable exception). So I think Center, 2014-2015 is Tony's job to lose.
I haven't been a Tony fan this year. Like many of us, I had high hopes, but they were dashed immediately when I saw him at the open practice. He's averaging 17.9 mpg-down a little lately due to foul trouble and boneheaded plays. Good games notwithstanding (like Stanford), he has skill and cognition issues with his game: not boxing out, fouling too much, having his shot blocked, getting stripped of the ball because he holds it down too low or dribbles it. He'll improve over the course of two years, but I see a limit.
Wannah Bail: I have egg on my face over this one-saying he'd be a significant contributor. He's transferred once already, so my guess is that he'll stick around for at least one more year. He's got crazy athleticism, but he is so lost out there, and we have a wave of 4's and 5's coming in. I like his willingness to focus on passing, defense and rebounding-the dirty work. I don't expect a significant contribution, but he could be an unexpected bonus.
Noah Allen: He been a trooper, good citizen and seems to want to be here. Alford has rediscovered him, and given him a few minutes. He benefits thus far from the attrition at wing over the next two years relative to bigs. That said, I don't see a major role for him.
My prediction is that Zach and Noah leave.
Who's new in 2014?
Isaac Hamilton: 6'-5" five-star combo guard from St. John Bosco, currently sitting out a year after transferring from UTEP. He was known as a scorer in high school, but like all undersized/tweener shooting guards, he wants to make the transition to point guard. I liked his gliding, smooth style in practice. I'm hoping he gets significant minutes at the 1.
Kevon Looney: 6'8" five-star, national 9th ranked overall, power forward from Milwaukee. He gives UCLA the 7th ranked recruiting class (without a point guard). Our long national nightmare regarding bigs seems to be over thanks to Kevon who surely will start at 4 and immediately be on the one-and-done watch.
Thomas Welsh: 7'0" four-star center who made the late push to get on the McDonald's All-America team. Although highly skilled from the waist up, he's got a plodding style that doesn't seem suited to the new up-tempo regime. That said, he's improved by leaps and bounds from videos I saw last March. I can't wait to see what he looks like in practice with our new collection of bigs. Honestly, I hope he unseats Tony.
Jonah Bolden: 6'8" four-star power forward from Australia and NH Brewster Academy. The conventional wisdom is that he is a post player who would struggle to cover a college 3, and thus he will be sitting behind Looney and Bail next year. I like his swash-buckling style and athleticism. The college 3 is normally 6'4" to 6'6" these days, interchangeable with a 2, and mainly an offensive player. I have to admit, I'm hoping for an Arizona with Ashley-style frontline next year: big across the board, tough on defense and rebounding. With scoring guards, this combination is unstoppable in college basketball. The problem with this, of course, is that either Powell or Adams would be sitting. Maybe we're two years away from that.
Gyorgy Golomon: 6'9" three-star center from Hungary and FL Sagemount Upper School. Athletic euro-style, mobile center. The conventional wisdom is that he will be sitting behind Parker and Welsh. He's an unknown, but he'll be interesting-hopefully not in a Drago way.
Anyone else in 2014?
Daniel Hamilton, brother of Isaac, is a 6'7' five-start shooting forward who signed a grant-in-aid-not an NLI- with Connecticut. The whispers of a commitment to UCLA have been there since late summer. The brothers both have indicated a new preference to stay close to home to be near their sick grandmother. This may depend on what Zach does. Concerns have been expressed that there are simply not enough balls to go around for two Hamilton brothers. Isaac seemed like an upstanding citizen to me, so I take that with a grain of salt, but we have to keep our eye on this. He's got great size for a college 3, and does it all: score, rebound and defend. He'll be a match-up nightmare.
How about beyond 2014?
Aaron Holiday-2015: 6'0" four-star combo guard, brother of our own Jrue and Lauren, locally from Campbell Hall. He's actually the #2 point guard in the class nationally even though he doesn't play like a true point guard at the moment. He's more shoot-first.
Lonzo Ball-2016: 6'5" already, a five-star point guard from Chino Hills. He's taken his team to the State Southern Section championship against Mater Dei, national #1 rank this Saturday. He's the real deal. The next Zach LaVine?
That's not the end of the point guard list. Justin Simon, 2015 five-star from Temecula has offers from the big names including UCLA and Arizona. We should get one of Centers/Power Forward five-stars from Bishop Gorman Las Vegas: Steve Zimmerman, overall national rank #2 (mom an Alum), or Chase Jeter. We have a total of 14 offers out to 4/5-stars, almost totally from the West (thought to be the best class from the West in at least five years).
So what does next year's lineup look like?
Knowing this coach's MO, it will most certainly be 1-Bryce Alford, 2-Norman Powell, 3-Jordan Adams, 4-Kevon Looney, 5- Tony Parker. Me? Of course, I want to see Isaac Hamilton get most of the minutes at the 1. I can't be sure he'll make a good 1, but it has to be better than the alternative. If I'm being honest, I ‘d like to see Thomas Welsh overtake Tony Parker. Parker fatigue has set in with me. If I'm really being honest, I'd like a plus sized 3 as well, like Daniel Hamilton or maybe even Jonah Bolden, crack the lineup. The direction might even be without a post-up 5 when you have this much talent at 3 and 4. I'll have to get back to you when I actually see these guys step on a college practice court.
About the point guard situation. The next three people in line, Hamilton, Holiday and Ball, are all combo guards, so the door is still open a crack from Bryce Alford to get major minutes.
Reflecting on the point guard recruitment, the commitments of Holiday and Ball go against the idea that Bryce is a recruiting impediment. Further, Perkins was likely always going to Gonzaga (he sucks at Findlay Prep , BTW, losing the ball-handling duties to 2 guard Rashad Vaughn) and Quentin Snider was always going to Louisville, albeit by a circuitous route. Then there is local star from Etiwanda, Jordan McLaughlin. There are whispers that he didn't like the Bryce situation. I think the bigger mistake was to not focus on him from the beginning. That said, he's never shown love to UCLA, but always did show love to Tony Bland, the assistant coach scooped up by USC from San Diego State, probably just to get McLaughlin.
I tend to believe we were not going to get a 2014 point guard, inept recruiting or not. However, I strongly agree that this coach should never put UCLA and himself in the position to be accused of nepotism. And our Athletic Director, the same one who accepts three Mazzones on the football field and sidelines, was good with it, even allowing the Bryce Alford commitment announcement to come in the same press release with the hiring of his father the coach. Why didn't Salford let his son go to UNM? This is UCLA, not a private family business or a rogue banana republic! Stay tuned for three more years of head scratching over this.
OK, folks, now I'll let you get back to the upcoming tournament-- baseball and spring football practice