Steve Alford, Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Well, it’s official—the 2013 college basketball recruiting cycle has come to a close. Tomorrow is the hard signing deadline, and earlier today No. 1 overall prospect Andrew Wiggins committed to the Kansas Jayhawks. With his pledge, every member of this year’s ESPN 100 has picked his destination, so it’s time to take a step back and survey the scene.
Not much has changed for UCLA, as first-year head coach Steve Alford‘s inherited class has been locked up for weeks. Aside from former commit Allerik Freeman opting out of his LOI last month, there hasn’t been much news on the recruitment front. The finalized class features three incoming freshmen, headlined by 4-star guard Zach LaVine. The 6’2″ recruit from Bothell, Wash. is the only ESPN 100 athlete coming to Westwood in the fall, and was named Mr. Basketball for the State of Washington. With his incredible dunking prowess, LaVine should factor in for the Bruins sooner rather than later.
Depending on which recruiting service you subscribe to, LaVine’s position varies between shooting guard and point guard. For the Bruins, it would be ideal if he could play at the 1, which is easily the most uncertain position heading into next season. The graduation of All-Pac-12 performer Larry Drew II leaves UCLA with a gaping hole at the point, and LaVine is one potential option there—if only for a small role. The other potential points are rising sophomore Kyle Anderson (who is likely to start at PG), and another new addition in Bryce Alford.
In case it wasn’t clear already, Bryce is Coach Alford’s son. He was originally committed to New Mexico (his father’s former job), but flipped to the Bruins in the wake of Ben Howland‘s firing and Alford’s hiring. It was an unexpected bonus of the coaching change that could pay dividends for UCLA down the road.
Though he hasn’t gotten much attention on a national scale, Bryce is a 6’3″ SG with a nice outside stroke and basketball bloodlines. He has also exhibited some ability as a facilitator, which helped him earn Mr. Basketball honors in New Mexico. Who better to hone his game than the man that raised him and taught him the sport? If Bryce can develop into a viable choice at point guard, it would be a major boon to UCLA. But even if he’s just a career role player, his pick up was an important one for Steve’s transition into his new gig and overall depth.
The third and final signee joining the Bruins next season is Noah Allen, a 3-star small forward that could have a more immediate impact than some think. If you haven’t had a chance yet, check out this kid’s highlight reel. It’s not what you would expect from a recruit with no photo on his recruitment pages.
At 6’2″ and 210 pounds, Allen can get up and throw down. His addition bolsters a roster that will be short on size for a second straight season. The Bruins welcome back center Tony Parker, David Wear and Travis Wear in the front court, but both Wear brothers will graduate at the end of the season. If Allen can provide UCLA with another source of scoring inside, it would take a lot of pressure off scorers like Anderson and Jordan Adams. Allen’s commitment also shores up some depth concerns, and opens up the competition for minutes.
All things considered, the Bruins seem to be in a good position for the 2013-14 season. The recruiting class—though not spectacular—brings in some needed bodies that will ease the strain on the starting rotation. The goal going forward for Coach Alford has to be player development and retention, as well as a reestablishment of local recruiting ties. Allen is the first California native to commit to UCLA as a freshman since Powell in 2011, which isn’t acceptable given the fertility of the L.A. area. Many accuse Howland for “burning bridges” in Southern California during his tenure. And whether or not that’s true, Alford needs to start rebuilding those connections immediately.