July 5, 2007

National notebook: Bruins recruiting with the best

July is here, and so are some big-time commitments.

In this week's national notebook, we dive deeper into UCLA's success on the recruiting trail, examine the rest of the uncommitted five-star 2008 prospects and analyze more 2010 pledges.

National Championship Bruin?

Billy Donovan has proven himself a recruiting heavyweight. So has Thad Matta. Billy Gillispie is making waves this summer with his approach to recruiting.

How about a little love for UCLA's Ben Howland? In the last two years, the Bruins' head man has been to back-to-back Final Fours, produced three NBA Draft picks and secured a pair of players that will certainly be NBA lottery picks.

Kevin Love was the first of two recent five-stars standouts to commit to Howland. Jrue Holiday, nation's No. 2 player in the class of 2008, became the second on Tuesday.

Holiday is better than Jordan Farmar, a first-round NBA pick. He's better than Arron Afflalo, a first-round NBA pick. He's better than Darren Collison, who will be a first-round NBA pick. They are all great players, but Holiday is that good.

UCLA, with Holiday's addition and a potential sophomore year from Love, could have enough talent (and maybe more) than the two teams that went to the Final Four. Holiday isn't alone in the backcourt.

Californians Jerime Anderson and Malcolm Lee are top-60 players in the class of 2008. Add Drew Gordon, the No. 30 player in the country, and you have the makings an elite class in 2008.

Holiday's high school coach at Campbell Hall, Terry Kelly, thinks the Bruins are in great shape.

"I just got off the phone with one of their assistant coaches. We were talking about their classes in the last two years, and what they have coming in is just unbelievable. It looks like a class that can pick up all of the pieces and really have a great couple of years," Kelly said.

"You mix in Kevin Love and those amazing outlet passes and that is special. Jrue is going to get out and run the floor. I love Jerime Anderson. Drew Gordon is another greyhound. And Malcolm Lee has a chance to be an absolute star. Jrue has done a great job of surrounding himself with great players. I think they have a National Championship type of class."

Credit that to the underappreciated work of Howland and his staff.

Domino Effect?

With Holiday picking UCLA, only 12 players in the class of 2008's top 25 remain uncommitted. Florida added a top-25 player last week when center Kenny Kadji picked the Gators.

July should prove to be a huge month within the five-star range. Al-Farouq Aminu, the nation's third ranked player, is down to Georgia Tech and Wake Forest. North Carolina will certainly try to keep themselves in the race. The month opens with evaluation events like the LeBron James Skills Academy.

Expect Paul Hewitt, Skip Prosser and Roy Williams to be front and center in Akron for the camp. Aminu has said in the past that he could make his decision public as soon as the Nike Peach Jam, which starts July 12.

Wake Forest should feel comfortable with Aminu thanks to Florida's addition of Kadji. The Gators were in the top two for Aminu's teammate and friend Tony Woods, a 7-footer from Rome (Ga.) High School. Woods has publicly said he wants to play with Aminu in college. The Gators may be out of the picture because they added another center in the class. Woods is the No. 18 player in the class of 2008.

North Carolina may be on the outside looking in on Aminu, but they have made up significant ground with Ed Davis in the last three months. The Tar Heels are in the top three for the Richmond, Va., native. Davis, a 6-foot-8 forward, is also considering Virginia and Connecticut. He made trips to UConn and Villanova recently.

Tyler Zeller, one of the most sought-after players in the country regardless of position, is also on North Carolina's radar. And everyone else's. The 7-footer still maintains he has the same suitors: UNC, Purdue, Indiana, Iowa State, Kansas, Kentucky, Notre Dame and Tennessee. Zeller will probably think he's at a coach's convention everywhere he goes this month.

Don't forget about the nation's top prospect, Greg Monroe. He is being courted by the best of the best. Duke is in there. LSU will be in it for the long haul. Louisville, Connecticut, Texas, Kansas. You name it, they are in there. The Louisiana native will likely go into the fall armed with five official visits and plenty of time on his hands.

Louisville already has one five-star player, Samardo Samuels, in the fold. The Cardinals are hoping to add a couple more in 2008. Guard Tyreke Evans is thought to be a Cardinal lean, although recent reports have him saying all of the schools on his list are even. North Carolina, Villanova, Texas, Connecticut and Memphis are also in the picture.

Eloy Vargas and Angel Garcia are also coveted by Louisville. Both players visited the U of L campus recently. Vargas, a 6-foot-10 skilled forward from American Heritage (Fla.), is also high on Pittsburgh, Ohio State, Indiana and Florida.

Garcia won't play in the United States again until the high school season because he is playing with the Puerto Rico U-19 team in Serbia. Garcia visited Florida recently, and is also looking at the Cardinals, Indiana and Memphis.

Guards Willie Warren and Elliot Williams will certainly have a lot of eyes on them this month. Baylor head coach Scott Drew will shadow Warren all month. The Bears are in there strong with the Forth Worth native. So is Oklahoma, and a host of others.

Williams, a 6-foot-3 Memphis native, is down to four: Duke, Memphis, Tennessee and Virginia.

Forwards Jamychal Green and Terrence Jennings round out the uncommitted five-stars. Green, a tough-minded 6-foot-8 forward from Montgomery, Ala., is looking hard at the state schools Alabama and Auburn. Georgia Tech, Virginia, Florida, Ohio State and North Carolina are also interested.

Jennings, a bouncy 6-foot-10 big man from California, is looking hard at Maryland, Illinois, Cal and Washington.

2010 continues commitment streak

Like 40 being the new 30, the class of 2010 is the new class of 2008. The trend of young basketball prospects making college commitments continues. A pair of rising sophomores made their respective decisions.

Noah Cottrill, a native of Poco, W.V., pledged to Bob Huggins and West Virginia. The 6-foot-2 point guard is the first in-state player to commit to the Mountaineers since Kevin Pittsnogle.

"I'm going to go fishing to celebrate," Cottrill said on Sunday afternoon after revealing his choice to Rivals.com.

Kentucky has a commitment from Cottrill's Ohio Basketball Club teammate Dakotah Euton, who picked the Wildcats two weeks ago.

Euton now has a new future teammate in 2010. Texas point guard K.C. Ross-Miller announced he would play for Kentucky. He decided after making an unofficial visit with his father over the weekend.

For what it's worth, the 15-and-under AAU championships are in Detroit, and they run July 10-15. With the recent commitments in this division, it would not come as a big surprise if many coaches are flying in for the tournament.

The class of 2010 already boasts 11 commitments this year.




 

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