Yesterday multiple sources reported Jaylen Brown has eliminated UCLA from his list. This means Steve Alford has failed. In three years, Alford has gone after elite recruits from across the country and bageled all but Kevon Looney. Some of the elite (defined as top 20 in a service) recruits this year that Alford has missed on include:
Brandon Ingram, Small Forward, Kinston, NC
Jaylen Brown Small Forward Marietta, GA
Stephen Zimmerman Power Forward/Center Las Vegas, NV
Ivan Rabb Power Forward/Center, Oakland, CA
Chase Jeter Center, Las Vegas, Nevada
Dwayne Bacon Shooting Guard, Virginia
Carlton Bragg Power Forward, Cleveland Ohio
Some thoughts on this.
No one expects any coach to get all the players on the list. But UCLA should get at least ONE top player on the list. That is a perfectly reasonable expectation.
Alford went into a sort of desperation recruitment mode with Alex Olenski and Ikenna Okwarabizie. Both of these recruits were because of the many power forward misses above.
To put it in perspective, Kevon Looney, the best rebounder, best shot blocker, second on steals, and even leading three point percentage shooter (50+ attempts) is replaced on the roster by a three star and a JC transfer. Not to knock these kids but Looney showed his five star power in more than stats.
Now, I think 4 star Jonah Bolden will ultimate play the four BUT he may be forced to play three at least some times.
That is because there are arguably more options at four than the replacement for Norman Powell*. Yes, new recruits Aaron Holiday and Prince Ali are both guards like Powell. However, Powell played small forward all last year. He was the bottom man in the zone and his 4.7 rebounds were third on the team. Powell was also very strong and was able to be a good small forward even though he is built like a two guard.
Alford will likely go fishing for a three now.
For right now the UCLA roster looks like this:
PG Aaron Holiday
Combo Guard Bryce Alford
Shooting Guard Prince Ali, Isaac Hamilton
Small Forward Noah Allen
Noah is a kid who works hard and last year was forced to play way out of position as a two guard. I really appreciate Noah's effort for the team. However, the reality Noah is more of an undersized four than a three or, gulp, as he was used last year as a 2. Noah probably should be playing at a mid-major. Look I hope I am wrong and Noah has certainly earned a shot for his hard work but bottom line is the only true "three" on this team is a three star who shot 27% last year.
So to review UCLA has:
- two solid Centers
- a wealth of inexperience at four and a returning stretch four who does not rebound well for his height (GG) to replace the team's leading rebound and shot blocker.
- Only one small forward who arguably can't shoot to replace the team's leading scorer.
- Three shooting guards or combos.
- A freshman point guard with potential but has to beat out the coach's son for the point guard spot.
All that said, as Fox has pointed out to me correctly, this is a very good group of kids. But yes, one player can make a difference. Brown on this team would have eliminated the problem at three completely and replaced Norman Powell with someone who is actually meant to play the position. I am not going to say he would be better than Powell was to the team last year but I would say he had the potential to better than Powell as a three. Brown also would have taken pressure off the four by being a better rebounder\shot blocker than Powell and helping with interior defense.
Brown would have changed everything but now it is time to stop "celebrating" the two sweet 16s.
While Alford has arguably met the UCLA average season standards with two Sweet 16 appearances both of those were on teams led by Howland players, Kyle Anderson and Norman Powell. The 2015-16 Bruins will likely be led by another Howland player, Tony Parker, and may very well have a leading scorer in Bryce Alford.
By any standard this means that Steve Alford is failing in recruiting. Because of that failure, it means that his on the court success cannot be sustained as Howland players move on and graduate.
It is time for worry for all Bruin fans.