UCLA Basketball Recruiting: Top 2014 Targets for Steve Alford
Alright Steve Alford, it's time to get to work.
The lifeblood of any elite program is recruiting. Without the "Jimmys and Joes," it makes things exponentially harder to win on a consistent basis.
In the case of UCLA, the current roster has talent. However, it's not dispersed in the most ideal way.
There is a glut of shooting guards on the roster, and the team is currently void of a true point guard and a true post player. Additionally, overall depth and athleticism is lacking.
It's imperative that Alford and his staff reestablishes recruiting roots in Southern California; former head man Ben Howland wasn't the most liked person among the major AAU programs in the state.
As a result, it forced Howland to put more of an emphasis on recruiting nationally. Howland's tendencies also turned off a vast majority of local elite prospects in the past few seasons.
Here's a look at some of the top 2014 prospects that Alford needs to target out on the left coast.
Hybrid forward Zylan Cheatham is an athletic freak in every sense of the term.
At 6'8", he's got extremely long arms and excellent quickness for a prospect his size. Cheatham loves to get out in the open court and run the floor in transition. His passing ability is also above average for a wing player, and he could be construed as somewhat of a point forward.
Cheatham is still a bit raw—especially in regards to his jump shot. His shot is inconsistent, and has a bit of a hitch to it. Cheatham also has to get physically stronger and gain weight.
However, all the tools are there for him to be an absolute stud one day. Alford was recruiting Cheatham extremely hard while at New Mexico. Since taking over the post at UCLA, it's thought that he'll make an effort with the Phoenix native.
According to Yahoo, Cheatham's high school coach thinks the Bruins have a great shot at garnering a commitment.
Small forward Stanley Johnson is one of the top prospects in the entire country for the class of 2014.
At 6'6", 220 pounds, he's a man among boys. Johnson plays with a physicality not often seen on the high school level. He's very adept at using his strength to bull his way to the basket off the dribble.
Johnson is basically the quintessential Big East forward with more perimeter skills.
He has nice touch from the perimeter and is very creative in terms of getting shots off around the rim. He's a very good rebounder as a small forward and is uber competitive.
The 5-star prospect has offers from UCLA, Louisville, Kentucky, Arizona, Syracuse and UNLV, among others.
Expect Johnson to be made a huge priority by Alford and his staff.
Here's an astounding stat: Before his dismissal, Howland had not signed a point guard out of high school since Jerime Anderson in 2008.
It's no coincidence the UCLA program has fallen off since the likes of Darren Collison and Jordan Farmar patrolled the position during three consecutive Final Four appearances.
Alford needs a general to keep his proverbial troops in line. With no true point guard on the current roster, Etiwanda native Jordan McLaughlin will likely be a huge target in 2014.
McLaughlin is incredibly quick and athletic. Like Cheatham, he thrives in transition with the ball in his hands. He loves to attack off the dribble and put pressure on opposing guards.
The explosive point guard also has an impressive mid-range game. He can stop on a dime and pull up from 15 feet with relative ease. He's still a bit green in terms of involving his teammates, but he's got the tools to run an NBA team one day with continued development.
Signing McLaughlin would be huge for UCLA. He arguably could be the Bruins' top target in 2014, regardless of position.
A possible backcourt duo of Namon Wright and McLauglin could be to Alford what Arron Afflalo and Jordan Farmar were to Ben Howland once Howland took over the UCLA job. The 6'4" shooting guard from Pacific Hills High School has a feathery touch from the perimeter.
Wright has long arms and good overall length. His initial burst off the bounce is above average and he's got impressive vision from a passing capacity.
He's also a lethal scorer from all spots on the floor. In terms of an offensive style of play, he's actually very similar to current UCLA Bruin player Jordan Adams. However, Wright possesses the length and athleticism that Adams lacks.
Wright's best basketball is truly ahead of him. He's got to get better on the defensive side of the ball, but the sky's the limit.
Interestingly enough, Alford has already made Wright a big priority.