Alford's First Real Task: Rebuild Bridges

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

UCLA has been persona non grata in Southland recruiting circles. That needs to change.

What's former UCLA and current Dallas Maverick point guard Darren Collison doing on my BN you might be asking? First, it's a reminder that as point guard play goes, with all due respect to Larry Drew II and Lazeric Jones (and Jrue Holiday who was probably screwed over by Howland), Collison represented the last semblance of truly elite point guard play in a UCLA uniform. Collison is also now a four year veteran in the NBA, and has already played for the New Orleans Hornets (Pelicans?), Indiana Pacers, and Dallas Mavericks. If that seems like a long time ago, that's because it is.

It also highlights the staggering depths to which the stature and the opinion of Coach Wooden's program had sank to locally in the latter half of Ben Howland's tenure. Following in the footsteps of elite local products in Jordan Farmar, Arron Afflalo, Darren Collison, and Russell Westbrook, the pipeline for local guards to the local school began to sputter, giving us Holiday, Malcolm Lee, and Jerime Anderson. By the time our recruiting fortunes dried up in SoCal, the program itself was spiraling out of control, and we were left desperately filling the gaps with transfers and JCs. Anyone paying even a little bit of attention to the program over the last few seasons knows this to be true as our roster filled up with guys from Indiana, Las Vegas, New Jersey, and Georgia. It's nice to be able to reach out of state when you need to to fill a roster spot, but it is not, and never really has been, a sustainable or reliable path for this program.

Ben Howland is no longer coach in large part because of his local recruiting failures. It then stands to reason that Steve Alford's immediate task will be to reverse the negative impression elite local prospects have of UCLA Basketball, and he will need to do it quickly. 2014 is shaping up to be a big year for the West Coast. When you combine the need to reestablish UCLA Basketball locally with our immediate backcourt depth problems, one name should come to mind: Jordan McLaughlin from Etiwanda High.

And that brings us back to Mr. Collison. Clearly these two have more in common than where they attended high school. The quickness, speed, change of direction are all vintage DC, and dare I say he's a more complete player in terms of court vision and passing than Collison was when he came in as a freshman. There's no use sugarcoating it. This is a must get for Alford, not only because of McLaughlin's obvious talents, not only because of our depth situation, but because on the heels of Parker Jackson-Cartwright spurning UCLA and Alford, he needs to show that things are different now in recruiting circles. When Howland took over, he had Afflalo within 1-2 weeks and Farmar, a former Florida commit, soon after. We have not seen that kind of early momentum out of Alford, and recruiting your own son obviously doesn't count.

Jinxing the LA Kings and name dropping Coach is one thing. If Alford really wants to start building trust with a jaded and skeptical fanbase, he has an opportunity to do so before any games are even played, and that opportunity is Jordan McLaughlin.

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