Shabazz Muhammad is the No. 2 high school player in the nation, and many believe he will be the one to save UCLA’s program. Photo by Charles Rex Arbogast (AP)
Kyle Anderson is the No. 5 high school player in the nation. That gives UCLA four players in the top 50, and the No. 1 recruiting class in college basketball. Photo by Associated Press
With the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation, it’s time for UCLA to make another deep run in the NCAA Tournament.
By Jason Lewis
Sentinel Sports Editor
No more excuses for UCLA and basketball coach Ben Howland. After floundering for the past few seasons, missing the NCAA tournament twice, UCLA’s basketball program is building an all-star team.
In previous weeks UCLA landed guard/forward Shabazz Muhammad (No. 2 in the nation), forward Kyle Anderson (No. 5) and forward Jordan Adams (No. 41). Earlier this week they added center Tony Parker (No. 26). One more top 50 player and they could be considered the latest version of the Fab 5.
In the matter of three weeks UCLA’s class jumped from No. 12 in the nation to No. 1.
If UCLA does not make a deep run into the NCAA tournament this coming season, Howland could be on the hot seat, because he has not produced much since going to three consecutive Final Fours.
This is not the first time that UCLA has had the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation. In 2008 they finished with the top spot, but Jerime Anderson was only one of five recruits who stayed for four years, and UCLA never made it past the second round with that collection of talent.
Howland’s defensive style of play with a restrictive offense has taken the blame for UCLA’s issues, and a number of players have transferred out of the program. Also, a number of players have left early for the NBA.
The big challenge for Howland will be to satisfy a number of big time egos, which a number of the top recruits have. If he can loosen up on the offensive side of the court and let these blue chip athletes play a freer style of play, this might all work. But if Howland continues his controlling, slow pace style of play, this team may not live up to the hype, and Howland may be looking for another job.
UCLA will get a major challenge within the conference though. As of right now Arizona has the No. 2 class.
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