Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Does Kyle Anderson make UCLA relevant on the recruiting trail again?

Kyle Anderson, a 6'8" point forward out of Jersey City and the No. 3 recruit in the Class of 2012 according to our Consensus Rankings, ended his recruitment on late Monday night by opting to head west to join UCLA rather than stay at home and play for Seton Hall.

Landing Anderson is an impressive feat by Ben Howland, as he stretched his tentacles across the country to pull the youngster out of Seton Hall's backyard. Anderson joins Dominic Artis, a point guard and Cali-native that attends Findlay Prep in Las Vegas but grew up in the same town that the movie Coach Carter was based on, and Jordan Adams, a 6'5" wing that Howland was able to reel in from Georgia. Both are top 75 recruits.

"I chose UCLA cause I feel they can help me improve my defense and we will have a good chance of winning a National Championship," Anderson said.

With Anderson joining Artis and Adams in UCLA's 2012 recruiting class, the Bruins now have one of the best in the country, and they aren't done yet. The next target for Howland and his staff is Shabazz Muhammad, the consensus No. 1 player in the country who many believe favors UCLA at this point in his recruitment. Throw in the possibility of landing a big man like Tony Parker or Shaq Goodwin, two Atlanta-area kids that UCLA is in the mix with, and the Bruins could end up with a scary-good team in 2012.

Seriously. Look at this potential line-up:

PG - Larry Drew or Dominic Artis
SG - Shabazz Muhammad
SF - Kyle Anderson
PF - Reeves Nelson
C - Joshua Smith
Bench - Travis and David Wear, Jordan Adams, Shaq Goodwin/Tony Parker?

Let me ask you this: is UCLA's roster better than what Sean Miller has put together for the 2012 season at Arizona? Actually, it doesn't matter, because both of those teams are going to be ranked in everyone's top five, if not their top two. Apparently all it took to get the Pac-12 back on the map was the threat of expansion.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves.

Howland still have quite a bit of work left to do chasing down Muhammad, Parker and Goodwin for that situation to be feasible. but part of what makes Anderson's commitment so important is that it will no doubt help Howland attract interest from the other three recruits. Its not secret that elite players have had their issues playing in Howland's grind-it-out, defense-oriented system.

While he did make three consecutive Final Fours -- and, in the process, send numerous players to the NBA, where they are flourishing -- his "loaded" 2008 recruiting class, a class that was supposed to keep UCLA atop college basketball after losing Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love to the 2008 Draft, was a massive bust. Drew Gordon and J'Mison Morgan transferred out. Jrue Holiday left school after one season. Malcolm Lee left this past summer. The only guy remaining is Jerime Anderson, who never lived up to his hype and spent this summer dealing with the legal ramifications of stealing a lap top.

With three straight 'meh' classes coming in the past three seasons, there is now reason to once again be excited about the prospect of Howland bringing in prospects that can compete for a national title in Westwood.

Kyle Anderson mixtape, because we all like moving pictures:

1 comment:

David said...

Kyle Anderson's commitment to UCLA dispels a couple significant myths about Ben Howland: 1) he can't lure elite offensive talent to Westwood and 2) he can't recruit elite talent East of the Mojave Desert. Howland has rebuilt UCLA largely with local talent. Jordan Farmar, Arron Afflalo, Josh Shipp, Darren Collison, Russell Westbrook, Reeves Nelson, and Tyler Honeycutt all hail from California. Even the disasterous 2008 class featured Californians Jrue Holiday, Malcolm Lee, Jerime Anderson, and Drew Gooden. When Howland left the state for some bigs, he didn't go far; Kevin Love from Oregon and Josh Smith from Washington.

After missing on several high-profile national recruits, most notably Harrison Barnes last year, there was grumbling amongst the natives that Ben Howland didn't have enough national cache to bring in top-level talent, which was crucial considering the drop-off in West Coast prep talent the past few years.

Kyle Anderson explicitly stating that he chose UCLA because he needs to work on his defense to make an impact at the next level is an effectual mandate of Howland's coaching style, which is sometimes a point of contention amongst fans. Howland doesn't just send players to the NBA, his players stick. Howland has been able to cultivate a reputation of developing ready-made pros, who know what it takes to make an impact on their teams. While UCLA can boast all-stars in Love and Westbrook, it can also hang its hat on players like Afflalo, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, and Collison, who, if their respective drafts were held today, would go much higher than their original spots. And don't forget the players like Ryan Hollins,a languishing Lavin-leftover, who turned his career around in just one season with Howland and is now a starter in the NBA. Howland's style of play isn't pretty. It isn't John Calipari's "roll the ball onto the floor and enjoy the show". It's been questioned if Howland's defense-first, grind-it-out style is conducive to today's AAU-offensive-street ball talent. Basically, Howland's style is what the basketball world knows as NBA PLAYOFF basketball, where offensive efficiency and steadfast defense rule the day.

Considering the tenor of the NBA labor stoppage, rookies stand to make less coming out of college. A player's first shot at earning a big pay day comes in his 2nd contract. Any coach can send talented players to the next level, but Howland has established that he can get them to stick.