As Tydides and Chrissorr wrote yesterday Wanaah Bail has been declared fully eligible by the NCAA. Wanaah Bail is arguably the most important recruit for Steve Alford because it may be the best indication of the program and coaching skills of Steve Alford.
First off Wanaah is an incredible physical specimen. He is a big man athlete of the type UCLA has not seen since Alfred Aboya. He looks very imposing.
Second he is a recruit of the type that Alford specialized in at New Mexico.
Bail chose to leave Texas Tech before the season began last year, another mystery that was never fully explained. Reports and speculation, however, allege that issues Bail had with the conduct of now-former Texas Tech coach Billy Gillespie led to his transfer. In June, Bail became the second player to join UCLA under Steve Alford, after Alford's son, Bryce.
So Bail is Alford's first "real" recruit and like many of Alford's better recruits comes in as a transfer under a cloud. A more favorable version of events to Bail is from the Bahamas Tribune
Bail was one of 15 players or staff members to leave the Red Raiders programme under controversial head coach Billy Gillispie. He left the programme following the first summer school session, just before the start of fall practice and spent the past season at a prep school in the Canary Islands, virtually non-existent on the recruiting trail until just recently.
. . . He selected to stay "in state" after being suited by recruiters nationwide and sought after by a virtual who's who list of NCAA programmes. He received offers from Houston, Arkansas, Auburn, FSU, Texas, Baylor and Kansas.
He was ranked 89 out of a possible 100 points by ESPN.com, 35th among players at the position and 22nd overall in the state of Texas.
Bail left the Bahamas and attended a number of schools in the Houston area, ultimately landing at Lamar Consolidated in Rosenburg, Texas. He attended Trent Internationale School but had to transfer to Fort Bend in Austin, Texas, at the start of his senior season where he was ruled ineligible to compete in the Houston area and settled on Lamar.
Again, all the movement could mean nothing more than a Caribbean kid caught up in the machinations of competitive high schools in a foreign county. Along with Alford's second recruit, Isaac Hamilton, he is a kid who committed elsewhere first and came to UCLA after issues developed.
Next question on Bail is his health.
UCLA said in the release that Bail has yet to be cleared for practice, but Alford said on Monday that Bail should return within the next few weeks.
"We need him out there," Alford said on Monday. "We need to get him out there practicing
So Bail will be available long before the PAC 12 starts but not to start the season. Bail is important to UCLA and Alford for the following reasons.
1. He is the only traditional four on the team. He looks and is built like a power forward.
2. He is an athlete but not necessarily a basketball player. How will Alford develop him?
3. Fair or not, there are questions about his past.
4. He will help in practice as soon as he gets healthy. The difference from practice against walk-ons and an athlete like Bail will help the team. But how will Bail deal with the pressures of playing in the PAC 12 and not playing as much as he may like?
5. On the other hand, UCLA is so soft inside that the possibility of Kyle Anderson being a point power forward is real. Can Bail help with the rebounding and interior Defense come the PAC 12 as another option?
The moral of this story is Alford got what he wanted. Bail is his first player and because of his injury and a soft out of conference schedule it is not fair to judge Bail right away. However, come March Bail's play and status may be a good indication of what is to come with Alford.