I question the coaching decisions on the made on the floor, and I question the national recruiting strategy, but after six seasons of poor defense, rebounding and athleticism, I look forward to the new blood coming into the program over the next two years. A Bruin team that rebounds and plays defense with its fair share of athleticism, you say? Hard as that is to believe, especially for those of you who've been following the program for six years or less, I do think we're entering an era that is the opposite of what we've been watching recently. Does that mean we'll win? I'll get back to that.
Class of 2015 6'4" four-star shooting Prince Ali, originally from New York but most recently from The Sagemont School in Florida, committed to UCLA at the end of last week. Ranked #27 in the class by Rivals, Ali told ESPN:
"Perfect fit both offensively and defensively. They will give me the chance to cover the opposing team's best player."
Ali attacks the basket with an explosive first step according to 247Sports. A backcourt of Holiday and Ali should be a challenge for any opposing team on both sides of the ball: they're both tough defenders and both are slashers on the offensive end. The main weakness, at this point, would be their shooting from behind the arc.
Why did Ali decommit from Connecticut and sign up with the Bruins? The articles have talk about the fit, but recall that incoming freshman Gyorgy Golomon was a teammate at Sagemont, so there may have been a bit of extracurricular recruiting -thanks Gyorgy. As for Connecticut, no word in the press, but here's Connecticut's VerbalCommits page. Connecticut already has a good one in 2015 commit Jalen Adams, and, by the way, they are calling 2014 recruit Daniel Hamilton a shooting guard, so there may have been a log jam at the wing there.
Along with Holiday and Ali, incoming freshman Kevin Looney made his basketball bones grabbing rebounds on both ends, Thomas Welsh, while not athletic, is as fundamentally sound as they come in the boxing out, rebounding and back-to-the-basket post-up offense department, and 6'8" Jonah Bolden is a face-up 4 who can shoot, rebound and pass - if he can adapt to playing defense against a college 3, the Bruins can put pretty tough front court on the floor.
Let's hope that's only a start. Our top 2015 target, Jaylen Brown recently was moved up to the number one position in the national rankings.
I've written about the fourth available scholarship several times now. I'd still prefer Stephen Zimmerman of the available big men (we're not going to get Ivan Raab), but there's the up and down recruitment. He's a kid who, at almost 7'0" and considered the top player in the class 12 months ago, has likely drawn extreme attention since he was 13 -online, in text and in person. He's probably jaded by now, and he's got an army of people telling him he's a sure-fire one-and-done. However, if Arizona gets Raab, then the Bruins need a counterbalance.
I'm not going to judge the 2015 class on Zimmerman. It's a deep class for bigs. I mentioned 7'4" Jean Marc Christ Koumadje last week. This week Chance Comache, the 6'11" center from Beverly Hills and #43 in the Scout rankings, announced he would be taking an official visit (one of five) to UCLA.
2014-15 looks like Arizona, then everyone else in the PAC-12. The Bruins will make strides on defense and on the boards with a potential lineup of Powell, Parker, Hamilton, Looney and Octeus, but I'm not sure where points are going to come from without Jordan Adams. I've seen tape of Parker, and while he looks improved again, the fundamental issues are still there - boxing out and fouling. The key will be Hamilton, but that still won't be enough. 2015-16 shapes up better, but even with the dream class including Jaylen Brown, I wouldn't expect to compete for a natty with five freshman plus Parker and Welsh on the floor. Arizona will have to completely restock for 2015, so the key for the Bruins will be to return more experience.
As always, we're talking about players, over two classes, who haven't suited up for a real college game yet. After the experience of LaVine and Adams leaving, it's hard to hope for a different outcome, but wouldn't it be fun to see Hamilton, Looney, Brown and Holiday (with Ali and Welsh waiting in the wings) on the court together for one year?