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SoCalHoops Recruiting News

UCLA Recruiting Tidbits: Watson, Buckman,
Pump & Run Team Visits--(Aug. 1, 2001)

This won't come as huge news to those who have been following the recruiting wars going on in Vegas at the Big Time and at the Best of Summer in Westchester at LMU, but UCLA is currently recruiting several top prospects very hard, and whether Lavin & Co., have gotten in "late" or early, or just in time, is something that none of us will probably ever know...but we do know a few things for certain about the prospects that the Bruins are recruiting so we'll share some (but not all) of what we've learned over the past few weeks.....

First, it seems that UCLA has two primary targets among point guards in the class of 2002:  Charles "C.J." Watson (6'2" Sr. PG) from Bishop Gorman and Ashanti Cook (6'-1" Sr. PG) from Westchester.  Are there other point guards the Bruins are recruiting?  If there are, they are keeping it a huge secret, and our guess is that the staff figures they can get one or the other for certain, but if they miss, they'll concentrate on the class of 2003 earlier.   Among wings being recruiting from this year's senior class (2002), UCLA is currently recruiting Evan Burns, Kelene Azubuike, Antoine Wright (and no, he has not committed yet to Texas A&M despite reports to that effect, at least not from what we've heard), Bracey Wright and Josh Davis, and one or two others.  And among big men, the Bruins are now going after Pump N Run's Brad Buckman (6'-9" Sr. F) from Westlake HS in Austin, Texas, in a big way.

This past Tuesday, in between games at the Best of Summer Tournament, the Bruins hosted several members of the Pump N Run team and their families on an unofficial visit to the Westwood campus.  Among those visiting with Lavin and his staff were CJ Watson and his parents;  Brad Buckman and his mother, Matt McKinney (6'-8" Sr. F) from Santa Ynez and his parents (the Bruins have already offered him a volleyball scholarship, but it does not appear they will offer both basketball and volleyball, meaning that if he wanted to also play basketball he'd have to wait for two seasons);  Brandon Rohe (6'-3" Sr. SG) from Santa Margarita who has been offered a scholarship by Jim Harrick at Georgia, and has several other D-I's pursuing;  David Gale (6'-0" Sr. PG) from Buckley who is looking hard at the Ivy and several D-I's; Martin Iti (6'-11" Sr. C) from Australia who will attend an as yet undetermined prep school next year but who may catch what Clark Francis calls "the disease" and jump directly to the NBA next year rather than play in college;  Richard Chaney (6'-5" Sr. G/F) from Verbum Dei who was making his second unofficial trip to UCLA, but who is apparently not being recruited by the Bruins--he's looking at Utah, USC, and several others but probably not the Bruins; and David Padgett (6'-11" Jr. C/F) from Reno, Nevada, who is going to be on everyone's hit list next year (and no, the reports we've heard of David committing to Stanford early have not not been confirmed by the family, who believe that it's still very, very early in the recruiting process).    Pump N Run coaches Mike McNulty and Aubrey McCreary also made the trip to Westwood. 

The visit included a meeting in Lavin's office, starting first with some impressive video presentations prepared by Director of Basketball Operations Jamie Angeli, followed by a general discussion and question and answer session with Lavin, as well as and some discussion about the plans for the program (most of the usual stuff that one would expect to hear in a group setting), followed by a trip around the campus, lunch (paid for by the players and their families at their own expense, per NCAA regs) at the Cooperage in the Student Union, a walk over to the old men's gym   (nope, too early in the day for the pros, who were evidently still in bed nursing their hangovers) and then over to Pauley Pavilion for a brief look around.  Despite the group setting, it was clear that the staffs' primary targets in terms of scholarship recruitment from among the group in attendance were Watson and Buckman.  

And while most internet and print commentators we've read have assumed that the University of Texas is a "lock" for Buckman, that's not what Brad is telling those who ask.  He insists that he remains "wide open" and will probably take an official visit to UCLA sometime this fall if the Bruins decide they want to host him for such an official visit (they'd be insane not to have him visit).   During the unofficial visit on Tuesday, Coach Lavin seemed to be spending just a bit more time with Buckman and his mother,  and we're not sure this was intentional or not, but we understand that C.J. Watson and his family had later made plans to come back over to Westwood following the conclusion of the Best of Summer tournament yesterday so they could meet with the staff in a more one-on-one setting, to more seriously discuss C.J.'s recruitment by the Bruins.   Buckman, on the other hand, flew back to Texas with his mother yesterday afternoon around 1:00 p.m. for some much needed R&R and to have his injured ankle inspected by doctors (by yesterday morning it had swollen up pretty good, and he didn't play in the Pump N Run team's final loss in the quarterfinals against Gateway--making it three players on the P&R team--Gale, McKinney and Buckman-- who all had sustained serious ankle injuries during the past week causing them to miss all or parts of various games at the Big Time and Best of Summer). 

The Bruins will be competing for Buckman against a lot of other schools, which include (of course) the University of Texas, where Brad's father was on the national championship golf team....and despite rumors to the contrary, Buckman's father and Texas coach Rick Barnes are not business "partners" but they are very close friends.  While Brad's parents' choice would probably be for him to attend UT (his mother Tammy, a wonderful person, told us that they have a den which is furnished in "UT Orange"...she also said she "bleeds Orange"), there are other schools that he will consider in the process (and many others who are now trying to recruit him too) including North Carolina, Kansas, Missouri, Arizona, and a host of others.  But don't count the Bruins out of this one: Both Brad and his mother were really impressed with the UCLA coaches, the campus, the great weather, and the rest of the city, and while it may take a bit of convincing to get his dad to agree, the UCLA Hall of Fame was especially eye-catching to Buckman.

As for Watson, he's keeping his recruiting pretty close to the vest... in fact he never says much of anything (whether it's shyness or just a natural reticence we can't say), but we feel confident in saying that if the Bruins pull the trigger and make him an offer,  that he would likely accept (according to someone very close to him) "in a heartbeat."  He's also being recruited pretty heavily by several other schools, including the University of Tennessee (now that was a surprise to learn....apparently, the Watson family is from Tennessee and they have strong ties to the state) and the University of Colorado where C.J.'s former Bishop Gorman teammate and former Pump N Run player Jason Carter (6'-9" Fr. PF) will play this next season.  The big question of course which remains unanswered about Watson's recruitment is whether he would want to sit for a year, possibly two, behind Cedric Bozeman who may or may not play the point.  Everyone and anyone is assuming that Cedric will play the point for the Bruins, and while that's probably about as good a guess as can be made right now, it's just as likely that the Bruin offense won't really feature a traditional "point" because there will be any number of players who can handle the ball and run the offense, including Dijon Thompson.  And of course, there's always the possibility that Ryan Wollcott, who was recruited to play the point as a backup to Earl Watson and Ryan Bailey and who will be a soph this year and remains on scholarship, will actually turn out to be a player, and we have heard that he'll be given the opportunity this year to prove whether he ought to remain on scholarship or not.   If he can, then great, but of course if he can't then his scholarship will likely be freed up for someone in the class of 2003, and there's always the big question mark that if the Bruins take a point guard out of this year's class of 2002,  what impact that will have on the recruitment of players like Marcus Williams (6'-2" Jr. PG) from Crenshaw, or Ray Reed (6'-0" Jr. PG/SG) from Inglewood, or others who will be likely targets for the Bruins in the talent-laden class of current rising juniors.

And speaking of the class of 2003, what about Omar Wilkes and why wasn't he on the Pump N Run unofficial visit?  The answer is twofold:   First, he's already had several "visits" (all unofficial) as might be expected of the son of one of the most famous and successful Bruin alums ever, and second, his mother had scheduled a dentist appointment for him that morning and felt that it shouldn't be changed.  So the die-hard fan(atics) shouldn't read anything untoward about the fact that Omar didn't accompany his teammates on the visit.  Likewise, Nik-Caner Medley (6'-8" Sr. F) didn't accompany the team on the visit either, principally because he's already committed to Maryland UCLA, secondly, because he didn't want to change his mind about his committment to Maryland (no doubt about which campus is nicer, right?) and lastly, because he wanted to get some much needed sleep....The word after the visit was that David Padgett and his parents were impressed with the presentation made by the staff, were impressed with the facilities, but it's still way too early in the process for anyone to make any predictions about where Padgett might end up.

Other Bruin tid-bits: We learned that Ryan Mollins (6'-5" So. SG) from Redondo Union, a walk-on as a freshman last year, has left the team and the school, and will be enrolling elsewhere (possibly at a local JC) with plans to transfer to a four year school in an attempt to find a better spot where he can get playing time.  We also learned that the Bruins will have several other walk-ons next season including yet another former Pump N Run player, Quinn Hawking (6'-4" Fr. SG).

Other tidbits of interest to Bruin fans:  The recruitment of Hassan Adams is heating up (what an understatement) and we have heard conflicting reports on his recruitment from just about everyone we talked with last week.   Some were telling us that Cal was "out of it" and that (surprise, surprise) his new leader was Arizona, which reportedly has already offered him a scholarship (we got that from someone who is a very reliable source when it comes to Hassan Adams).  Of course, there is also some speculation that since the Bruins are recruiting Ashanti Cook as well as Adams, that they may have a slight edge with packaging a deal over Arizona,  which can't or won't take another point guard now that they've gotten a commitment from Portland point guard Chris Rodgers.  Where all of this will shake out won't really be known for quite some time, since we don't think Adams will commit anytime soon.  We'll try to keep everyone posted on what we learn.  

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