Despite missing out on 2013 stud Rysheed Jordan this morning, the UCLA basketball team and first-year head coach Steve Alford have something to celebrate on the recruiting trail.
5-star SF Stanley Johnson, the No. 12 overall prospect in the 2014 class, announced a shortened list of schools via Twitter earlier today. The 6’6″, 200-pound junior hails from OC powerhouse Mater Dei, but also plays AAU ball for the storied Oakland Soldiers. Johnson is arguably (if not assuredly) the top recruit coming out of Southern California next year, so his cut list has been much anticipated.
Here are Johnson’s final seven per his Tweet this afternoon:
Arizona Kentucky Florida Oregon Duke Ucla USC Is my new list
— Stanley Johnson (@StanMan_41) April 11, 2013
The list isn’t too shocking at this point, as it features a number of West Coast programs and some of the biggest names back East. If his recruitment follows the script of most these days, initial hype and excitement will make way for what really matters–home and family. With that in mind, one could posit that UCLA, USC, Arizona and maybe Oregon would have a more realistic shot at landing Johnson.
But if there’s one program that could really give Johnson the hard sell, it’s UCLA. The Bruins obviously fulfill the location requirement, as the Westwood campus is only an hour drive from his high school, but they also have the highly tangible “need” factor.
As it stands now, UCLA only has four scholarship players in the frontcourt, and that includes Shabazz Muhammad and the Wear twins, all of whom will be gone by the time Johnson signs his papers. That leaves rising sophomore Tony Parker and incoming 3-star recruit Noah Allen as the only serious threats to Johnson’s playing time should he pick the Bruins.
Compare that to a team like Arizona, which has five talented young bigs and two incoming 5-star small forwards, and it’s clear the competition would be tougher in Tucson. If Johnson wants to see the floor for major minutes as a true freshman, he would be better served choosing UCLA.
Nonetheless, the Wildcats will throw the kitchen sink at Johnson, and the Bruins better be ready. According to a Tweet from Dinos Trigonis of Fullcourt Press, Arizona and UCLA are both expected to meet with Johnson on the Mater Dei campus this week. So it seems the pressure is already building in this race.
No matter how he does it, Coach Alford needs to get Johnson. It should be the No. 1 recruiting priority in 2014. UCLA has to end the trend of local talent bolting for Oregon, Arizona or the East. The best of the best in the Southland should want to be Bruins, and we can only hope Johnson is the next in line.
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