From the moment UCLA announced former New Mexico coach Steve Alford as the new head basketball coach in Westwood, the recruiting scene has been swirling with speculation about 5-star power forward Aaron Gordon.
According to ESPN, Gordon is the No. 4 overall recruit in the Class of 2013, and the top-rated player coming out of California (San Jose, Archbishop Mitty). The 6’8″, 210-pound all-around star is expected to reveal his commitment on Tuesday before the 2013 McDonald’s All-American Game, and his list of suitors has been trimmed to Washington, Oregon, Arizona and Kentucky.
Prior to this point, Gordon has shown zero interest in the Bruins, most likely because of his older brother Drew’s experience at UCLA under Ben Howland.
The elder Gordon was a member of Howland’s “Fab Five” No. 1-ranked recruiting class in 2008, but he left the program after a season and a half because of “conduct issues.” However, in the aftermath of Drew’s decision to transfer to New Mexico, many reports surfaced citing his relationship with the former UCLA coach as the core of the problem. For obvious reasons, Aaron was unlikely to team up with the very same coach that butted heads with his brother.
But now, with Howland kicked to the curb, is it possible for the Bruins to make an extremely late push for the younger Gordon’s services?
During his time with Coach Alford and the Lobos, Drew flourished, earning Newcomer of the Year honors from the Mountain West Conference in his first season. As a senior, he averaged 13.7 points and 11.1 rebounds per game to lead New Mexico to the MWC regular season and tournament titles. Drew was also named the conference Player of the Week four times, and was picked for the All-MWC First Team in 2012. And though he was not drafted by the NBA and is now playing overseas in the Euroleague, his collegiate success with UNM cannot be overlooked.
It’s unclear whether or not Alford will even try to lure Aaron to UCLA, but his close contact with the Gordon family is reason enough for the blogosphere to go ballistic. The younger Gordon is already highly likely to end up at a Pac-12 school, so the opportunity for the Bruins could be there. He has also already seen Alford at work with his brother, so the personal connection is in place. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Aaron’s skill set and size fills an exact need on the UCLA roster, so he would be likely to get major minutes as a true freshman.
However, as any recruiting expert will be quick to proclaim, any school that joins the party a mere days before a player is set to announce is unlikely to succeed. For that reason, it seems that Aaron Gordon to UCLA is a long shot to say the least. But as we’ve seen year in and year out, recruiting is a fragile beast. While the UA Wildcats are still pegged as the favorites for Gordon’s pledge, the Bruins may have just enough magic to force the flip. And if Alford can make it happen, the 2013-2014 season could be an exciting one for UCLA.