Bumped. - BN Eds.
Off the top of your head, can you remember the last time UCLA lost out on a basketball recruit to $c? I'm not talking about the OJ Mayo situations (where he wanted to come to UCLA, but we never offered him due to eligibility concerns). I'm referring to a straight up recruiting battle where a prospect had scholarship offers from both schools. By my count, it hasn't happened in the last 20+ years. It doesn't happen often. However, it happened Wednesday afternoon at Etiwanda High School (Darren Collison's old high school ) when Jordan McLaughlin, a four star PG in our own backyard, picked Southern Cal over UCLA.
The thoughts that should be running through everybody's head right now is: How? Why? Are you serious? How could this happen? For anybody that cares about UCLA hoops, and I know everybody here does, this has huge ramifications for the program. Let's take a closer look:
One of the big reasons that Ben Howland was let go had to do with his inability to successfully recruit high caliber talent in the most fertile grounds in all of the land, the west coast, during his last few years on the job. Even more so, his inability to land a single freshman PG recruit since 2008 sped up his demise. By not being able to successfully lock down top talent in the West, Howland was forced to look elsewhere. We now had to rely on junior college transfer (Lazerick Jones and De'End Parker), bench players from other D1 programs (Drew, Wear brothers), and hiring an assistant coach for no reason other than trying to use his connection to bring in talent for one year. This is what UCLA recruiting had become under Howland. Don't get me wrong, some of our transfers were gems and instant contributors. However, there was absolutely no way for UCLA to be successful if this trend were to continue. As we all know, Howland was relieved of his duties after another disappointing post season performance.
Enter: Steve Alford. A coach with no post season success (Except for one Steve-16 from many years ago) and zero roots to the west coast. In most cases, this would be a great time for a smart head coach to bring on assistants that had local ties to create excitement and a connection with top local area recruits. Instead, Alford brought on Broussard (New Mexico and Texas ties), Grace (Oregon and Arizona ties), and Schilling (Indiana ties). Not one member of his staff has any connection to Los Angeles. This is exactly the opposite from what is going on over at Southern Cal (From the LA Times):
"His (Jordan McLaughlin) college choice marks a major triumph for first-year USC Coach Andy Enfield, who outdueled UCLA first-year Coach Steve Alford in the recruiting fight. It is an early sign that Enfield's decision to hire assistant coaches with Southern California connections is paying off. Tony Bland was hired from San Diego State and Jason Hart from Pepperdine.
Most worrisome for UCLA fans is the failure of Alford to lock down top players from Los Angeles. Stanley Johnson of Santa Ana Mater Dei, the top-rated prospect in the state, has USC, not UCLA, high on his list of possible destinations."
And from Gary Parish (link) :
"...didn't want to just hire two assistants who have recruited here," Enfield said. "I wanted two assistants who have recruited here and are from here. I want assistants who grew up in LA. That was important -- to get assistants who have recruited LA and are from LA.
Enfield knew he had no relationships in California when he got the USC job.
He was smart enough to recognize and acknowledge that.
He then rendered it unimportant by basically identifying two assistants who were from Los Angeles and already recruiting Los Angeles -- Bland was at San Diego State; Hart was at Pepperdine -- and offering them big contracts that were too good to reject. So Bland and Hart accepted the offers, went to work for USC, and now he we are."
Plain and simple, if Alford is unable to keep top level players from going elsewhere, then UCLA will be a middle to bottom tier team under his watch. With coaches like Sean Miller taking Aaron Gordon and Parker Jackson-Cartwright out of Los Angeles, Alford cannot continue to be pushed around in UCLA's backyard. He has already shown to everybody that he is ineffective as a national recruiter. The good thing for Alford is that as long as he excels in local recruiting, he can be very successful. However, his lack of focus on the local recruits is baffling, appalling, and mind numbing. It seems like he is the only person that doesn't understand his methods have proven to be completely ineffective to this point.
There are even bigger stakes coming up however. The 2015 class of west coast talent is being touted as the strongest it has been in years. Many of these players have expressed an interest in UCLA (Stephen Zimmerman, Ivan Rabb, Tyler Dorsey, Chase Jeter, Aaron Holiday) as well as USC and Arizona. If Alford continues to move forward with his current staff and the same recruiting ideology of going after elite players in other parts of the country and not spending most of his time on local players like USC and Arizona, then UCLA will be replaced by USC and Arizona as the premier destination for top level recruits that want to play college basketball on the west coast. In other words, UCLA will be replaced by USC as the top university to play basketball in the state of California. Imagine that. Well, it's slowly starting to happen in front of our eyes.
In order for Alford to be successful, he needs to emulate the same strategy that Enfield is taking with Southern Cal and his assistants. (I just recommended that UCLA follow USC's lead in basketball recruiting. This is what it has become). Alford shows no signs yet of changing his approach at this time. We may be in for a long six to seven years of the Alfraud era.