Let's take two of the big legitimate criticisms of former UCLA Coach Ben Howland and the opportunities they create for Coach Alford. First, Howland failed because players were unhappy as evidenced by the barrage of transfers. Second, Howland last pure point guard recruit was . . . . Jerime Anderson.
Arizona. I bring this up first because the "standard" is coming apart. Arizona which hilarious calls themselves "point guard u" or the standard is taking over UCLA and Howland's crown as place players least want to play and point guard-less. While as of today, Miller can still recruit great, it won't be long before players realize:
- He promises recruits playing time and certain positions but in reality he does not deliver. Take last year's recruiting class only one player, Kaleb Tarczewski played the recruited position for all of 22 minutes a game. Compare that to Brandon Ashley who was told he was going to play 3, nope, played four and as a backup at the end. Or Grant Jerrett, told he would not have to play 5, yet he was a backup five. The last recruit, Gabe York only played in 15 games.
- Recruits are told they are going to run by Miller. Instead Arizona relies on individual play from superior talent to win games. This shows especially true at the end of seasons when Miller's team come apart as other teams begin to gel. Last year they started with a 14 game win streak finished 4-4. Two years ago started 10-4, finished 4-4. Even Miller's Elite 8 year with college superstar Derrick Williams they started 15-3 and finished the PAC 12 4-3. Coaching matters more at the end.
- The yearly number of players leaving Arizona continues to be high:
[2011 big man recruit Angelo] Chol's departure comes on the heels of the Wildcats losing Grant Jerrett to the NBA Draft. . . . Chol's departure marks the fifth rotation player from last year's Sweet 16 team to leave the program, joining Jerrett along with seniors Solomon Hill, Mark Lyons and Kevin Parrom, who all exhausted their college eligibility.
Eight of the 15 freshmen Miller has brought into Arizona departed before their eligibility expired, and only one of those who left, Derrick Williams, did so with the financial certainty of becoming a first-round NBA draft pick. Even if you count Williams as if he stayed, that's still a 50 percent retention rate.
Four of the 15 transferred - Chol, Daniel Bejarano, MoMo Jones and Sidiki Johnson - and three others left for pro ball without being first-round NBA draft locks. Kyryl Natyazhko left to play at home in Ukraine, Josiah Turner went to Canada, and now Jerrett leaves despite being a fringe 2013 NBA draft pick prospect.
Why mention this on a UCLA blog? Arizona is about to come apart, all the negative mojo that Howland created in recent years is going to Arizona. More importantly there is a huge opportunity for Alford to negatively recruit. He can credibly tell elite western recruits that Miller is not being truthful in his promises and most of his players leave. UCLA has been a victim of this in the past and now that card can go the other way.
And despite the recent rise of say San Diego State, the fact is the west recruiting is all about two schools: UCLA and Arizona. Alford's job is going to get easier as every year Miller gets more and more exposed.
The second issue is where Alford has opportunities galore and needs to succeed: 2014 Point Guard recruiting. If there is one recruit that could start Alford on a roll it is Jordan McLauglin. This is a rare case where I am sort of hoping UCLA gets the "lesser"" recruit. While McLauglin is the best point guard in the west and technically rated better than Arizona's 2014 point recruit Parker Jackson-Cartwright, but because of Alford UCLA may have a shot at Jaquan Lyle, an even higher ranked point guard recruit from Indiana.
Don't get me wrong, I would be very happy with either McLauglin or Lyle, but Alford and UCLA needs to start dominating the west and take advantage and start exposing Sean Miller. McLaughlin would be a great short-term symbol but in any case Alford needs to put his stamp on Western recruiting and point guards.