I had a really good article ready for publishing stating how recruiting might make or break Steve Alford, head coach of UCLA basketball. It focused on the players and recruits Alford was able to retain as UCLA transitioned from Ben Howland. Alford has been able to land some pretty significant recruits, but also some players that are questionable for a team trying to get back to elite status.
For the most part, the article I had prepared was going to an be in evenly balanced analysis of Alford’s recruiting process, but then one tweet stopped the press.
I had hoped that Alford was going to land the #1 prospect in the nation, Jaylen Brown, but that is over now. The relationship with Brown is over and now so might the Bruin’s chances of becoming an elite team in the foreseeable future.
Alford does deserve some credit for retaining players like Zack LaVine, Tony Parker and Norman Powell after Howland was gone and landing recruits like Thomas Welsh, Kevon Looney, Jonah Bolden, Aaron Holiday and Prince Ali. But for the most part recruiting has been less-than-stellar because of inconsistencies in landing key prospects.
Today marked the second time in two weeks Alford and UCLA basketball have missed out on a huge recruit. Last week 5-star center Stephen Zimmerman chose UNLV over the Bruins. Today, UCLA basketball missed out on the highest ranking prospect that had the Bruins as one of his final choices. Needless to say, landing those two prospects would have meant incredible things for UCLA.
Do not forget that Alford still has a scholarship to give this year, the only problem is that this late in the recruiting season for 2015-16 the pickings are slim. If it comes down to it, Alford might have to opt for a transfer, which is always a crap shoot.
Still, things are not in critical mode. Although Alford missed two big recruits, he has landed Holiday and Ali and was able to get commitments from 3-star transfer Ike Okwarabizie and 3-star power forward Alex Olesinski. Though not as highly-touted as Zimmerman and Brown, these two have some skill that could help re-build UCLA basketball, they just might not have the ability to contribute right away, which is what this team needs right now.
Sure Alford is stuffing the roster, but he doesn’t seem to be loading it up with guys that will dominate the Pac-12, let alone the NCAA.
Unfortunately, that is what is defining Alford as a recruiter right now.
Now that does not mean that this trend will continue, he does have Lonzo Ball, the #1 point guard in California coming in next year, but will that be too late? Unfortunately for Alford, UCLA fans expect him to start winning big now. If Alford does not do some special things next season, his future at UCLA will be in doubt, regardless of how bright the future seems or his outrageous contract.