Now that the formalities have been dealt with and Steve Alford has officially been introduced as UCLA’s head coach, it’s time for Alford and his coaching staff to get to work.
Beyond coaching itself, the most crucial facet of running a college basketball program is recruiting, and with the late signing window opening up on April 17, Alford will be busy pursuing recruits for the next two weeks.
Unfortunately at this juncture, the majority of top recruits have already made verbal commitments or signed letters of intent. The pickings are few for UCLA, who currently has an average recruiting class lined up.
While the Bruins’ hiring of Alford drew excitement as to whether he could convince No. 4 overall recruit and top California recruit Aaron Gordon, brother of UCLA castoff and eventual New Mexico star Drew Gordon, he committed to the Bruins’ Pac-12 foe Arizona while Alford was being introduced to Pauley Pavilion.
Nevertheless, UCLA still has a chance to nab one of the remaining undeclared top recruits: point guard Rysheed Jordan.
The 6’4” and 180-pound four-star recruit from Roberts Vaux High School in Philadelphia, Pa. is ranked in the top five in his position and is nationally ranked in the top 30.
Although UCLA has already lined up a top-recruit point guard in 6’3” Zach LaVine from Bothell, Wash., the Bruins are in desperate need of a solid point guard to replace first-team All-Pac-12 senior Larry Drew II.
Adding Jordan to the roster would not only give Coach Alford and UCLA more depth at the point but would also create some healthy competition between the two freshman guards as they vie for a starting position.
On a more fundamental level, Jordan is touted as an overall better player than LaVine.
At 6'4", the Philadelphia native is a physical specimen at who explosively carves his way to the basket and has the overwhelming strength to absorb contact in the lane.
To add to his crafty scoring, Jordan is also a skilled passer who uses his height to his advantage when surveying the court.
Like most high school players, he could use some fine-tuning in running the half-court set and needs to refine his outside shooting, but those will be attributes that he will taught at the college level.
So, what are the Bruins’ chances of nabbing the four-star recruit?
As an East Coast dweller, Jordan has also received offers from St. John’s and has received an offer from Temple as well.
Although he may be lured away by St. John’s, which is much closer to home, Jordan is fond of UCLA’s rich college basketball tradition and was dazzled when he visited Westwood in December.
As his AAU coach told ESPN’S RecruitingNation, having lived in the inner-city of Philadelphia for the duration of his life, Jordan “went to LA and his eyes lit up.”
While Jordan’s attraction to UCLA resided less in recently fired head coach Ben Howland, who initially recruited him, and more in UCLA’s tradition, his AAU coach also revealed that Jordan was expecting the Bruins to hire a “big-time head coach.”
Steve Alford is well known in college basketball for what he has done at New Mexico, but to a high school senior, the name might not mean much—or at least not as much as former UCLA coach and current St. John’s coach Steve Lavin’s does.
Nevertheless, if Alford can make a convincing pitch to the nation’s top uncommitted guard, UCLA may be able to nab him.
Although the recently hired Bruins coach will have to work quickly to make an influential impact on Jordan while his recruiting rivals Steve Lavin and Temple’s Fran Dunphy have been harvesting a relationship with him for months, UCLA has an advantage that may tip the balance in its favor.
Both UCLA assistant coach Korey McCray and the Bruins’ 2012 recruits Jordan Adams and Tony Parker, whom McCray recruited from Georgia, have ties to Jordan from their AAU days.
Adams, who was UCLA’s best all-around player this season, knows that Jordan’s commitment to UCLA would give the Bruins arguably the best backcourt in the Pac-12, and he’ll likely be contacting him, if he hasn’t already, to convince him to make the trek to Westwood.
Above all, the onus is on Alford to make a convincing pitch to Jordan.
It may seem like a daunting task for a newly appointed head coach who has a limited time frame and is outmatched by the other coaches in the hunt for Jordan by default, but Alford can manage to secure Jordan if he banks on UCLA’s tradition, with which the Philly native is already enamored.
In a post to Twitter earlier this week, Jordan (nonsensically listed as “black jesus”) posted his remaining choices in the following order:
Whether or not there is any significance to that order is something we’ll discover on April 15, when Rysheed Jordan will announce his decision.