Wednesday, 12 November 2014 19:30

Looking At UCLA On Letter-of-Intent Day

Written by  William Hilton

Celebration 300Signing for most sports outside of football takes place beginning at 7 am on Wednesday, November 12 and UCLA is expected to sign its future backcourt in men’s basketball. Coach Steve Alford is hoping for more with scholarships out to a couple of wings and a couple of big men, but all are saying they may sign during the late period, which begins in mid-April.

Other key UCLA sports that sign on Wednesday include women’s basketball, baseball, softball, gymnastics, golf, tennis, track & field/cross country, rowing, swimming & diving, volleyball, and women’s water polo. Soccer and men’s water polo also sign with football during the February signing period.

Alford has landed his future backcourt in point guard Aaron Holiday from North Hollywood (Calif.) Campbell Hall and the brother of former Bruin and NBA standpoint Jrue Holiday. The 6 foot Holiday will be joined by 6-4 shooting guard Prince Ali from Weston (Fla.) Sagemont.

The two are strong prospects, but the key to UCLA’s future will be the remaining talents that are top national recruits. UCLA loses Norman Powell as the one senior and may lose one or two more depending upon how the season goes, so Alford wants to use four or five scholarships. 

Still on the UCLA watch list include No. 1 shooting forward, 6-7 Jaylen Brown from Marietta (Ga.) Wheeler. The best way to describe him is being a better Georgia version of Jordan Adams. UCLA is in a battle with Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina and the Georgia schools for his services and he may wait until the late period to make his final college decision. 

From a ‘bigs’ standpoint, UCLA is still in the battle for Carlton Bragg, 6-9 player from Cleveland (Ohio) St. Joseph. Arizona is also still in the race along with Kansas and Kentucky. He is an impact power forward. UCLA is still trying for 6-9 California player Ivan Rabb from Oakland (Calif.) Bishop O’Dowd. He plays for a former Bruin, Lou Ritchie, but California has made him their No. 1 target and appears in the lead. He is also likely to sign late. National powers Kansas, Kentucky and Arizona are in the race too.

UCLA’s best chance for a late signee is likely 6-11 center-forward Stephen Zimmerman from Las Vegas (Calif.) Bishop Gorman. He has always liked UCLA and his mother attended there. He is another that is waiting until late. Arizona has made him a priority and he is being recruited nationally by North Carolina, Kentucky and Kansas. There are some other local and national players that UCLA is looking at, but that appears to be the main people for early signing.

Women’s Basketball: After signing the nation’s No. 1 recruiting class last season, Bruin women’s basketball coach Cori Close will sign two of the nation’s top 30 recruits to fill in for graduating seniors. The Bruins got another athletic big player in 6-2 Ashley Hearns from Sachse High School in Texas (the No. 12 rated player by ESPN) and another athletic wing in 6-1 Kennedy Burke (ESPN No. 16), a local player from Chatsworth (Calif.) Sierra Canyon (her older sister was a stand out for North Carolina State). The Bruins are still trying to sign one more player if they can find one with the talent of the other recruits.

Baseball: John Savage continues to sign top ten recruiting classes every year and this will be no exception. As always, the key will be next June’s major league draft as at least three of his possible signees are listed as potentially first round draft picks. Based on the last couple of years with the new Major League Baseball signing pot by round drafted, seldom do players in the first five rounds go to college. 

Last year Brady Aiken was the No. 1 overall pick by the Houston Astro’s, but had a money dispute and will be back in the draft this year, but never attended UCLA. This year UCLA has three of the top 51 in the pre-draft predictions that will be tough to ever see put on the Bruin uniform. 

Kolby Allard, a left-handed pitcher from San Clemente (Calif.) was drafted No. 6 and was brilliant this summer with the USA Junior National Team. Lefties are also wanted and always a high priority. He reminds scouts of Aiken.

At No. 9 is Justin Hooper, another lefty from Concord (Calif.) De la Salle. He is 6-7, 240 pounds and throws already near 100 miles a hour. The No. 51 pick is Kyle Molnar, a right-handed pitcher from Aliso Viejo (Calif.) Aliso Niguel, who was also part of the USA Junior Program. 

The two best hitters on the USA Team that won the gold medal signed by the Bruins are outfielder Blake Rutherford from West Hills (Calif.) Chaminade and catcher Lucas Herbert from San Clemente (a teammate of Allard). 

Peter Lambert is a right-handed pitcher from San Dimas (Calif.), who was also part of the USA Team. 

Some of the others likely to sign on Wednesday who may end up in college include Brian Gadsby, a right handed pitcher from Crescenta Valley  (Calif.). Gadsby was the starting quarterback for the football team). Daniel Amaral, an outfielder from Huntington Beach (Calif.). Amaral is part of the great Amaral family of baseball and softball, and Jake Hirabayashi, a third baseman from Sherman Oaks (Calif.) Notre Dame. There is expected to be three or four more players signing early.

Softball: UCLA is expected to sign another top 5 recruiting class after having the No. 1 class last year. Expected to sign are pitcher Rachel Garcia from the Corona Angels, middle infielders Paige Halstead from Cal Lite, Brianne Tautalafua from the Firecrackers, and Zoe Shaw from the So Cal Choppers, plus third base-catcher Taylor Pack from the Lady Magic. UCLA is already doing well for 2016 and 2017 in a sport that is getting commitments earlier and earlier.

Gymnastics: The Bruins have the No. 1 recruit in the world, Simone Biles, the World Champion, set to sign in a year. She says she wants to compete in college, but UCLA will have to wait until after the 2016 Olympic Games to see if she goes to college. 

Kyra Ross from Orange County is the top local recruit and she is leaning towards Stanford over UCLA at this writing and wouldn’t compete until after the 2016 Olympics like Biles. Ross wants to compete in college. 

Without those two, the Bruins are expected to sign 3 recruits. Madison Kocian and Sabrina Schwab for the WOGA program in Texas and Macy Toronjo from Texas Dreams. All three are rated among the top 20 recruits in the nation. 

Tennis: Women’s tennis has at least one more and may be two scholarships available pending on giving a scholarship to a player that came in this year. The No. 1 ranked player in the Tennis Recruiting Network, Gabrielle Andrews from Pomona is set to sign. Men’s tennis will have to make a decision on whether its top two players will go pro or not, in determining its scholarship money. The only player listed so far is Daniel Gealer from San Marino, who will provide depth.

Women’s Volleyball: UCLA is still struggling to beat Stanford and USC for the top national recruits, but the Bruins are expected to sign a top middle blocker to replace graduating Zoey Nightengale, in 6-3 Alexa Dryer from San Jose (Calif.) Archbishop Mitty. 

Also expected to sign is setting prospect Zana Muno from Sherman Oaks (Calif.) Notre Dame, who is a world class sand volleyball player. UCLA is expected to sign the McNamara twins from Canada in sand volleyball, which will get better fast under Stein Metzger.

Men’s Volleyball: After being No. 1 in recruiting the past two years, this is expected to be a small year for Bruin head coach John Speraw. The recruits that will sign will be either small or no scholarships.

Women’s Water Polo: The No. 1 recruit went to Stanford, but Bruin head coach Brandon Brooks has a commitment from the top goal keeper Cari Kapena and a top defender Rachel Whittledge from Newport Harbor High School.

Track & Field/Cross Country: After having excellent recruiting years for men’s and women’s for 2014, the 2015 recruits have been slow because of a lack of scholarship money available. We will have more after the signing date.

Golf: Bethany Wu, the No. 3 ranked player in AJGA is set to sign for coach Carrie Forsyth. From Diamond Bar (Calif.), Wu was the top qualifier at the US Amateur last summer and will be an impact recruit. The Bruin men are expected to sign one or two players with most of the team scheduled to return.

Swimming & Diving: The Bruins are going to sign 5 or 6 swimmers and possibly one diver. Swimming signings will include one international athlete and a few from out of state. Even though some recruits are supposed nationally ranked, the Bruins still lag behind Stanford, California, and USC among the top teams in the West. UCLA’s highest ranked recruit is No. 15 in Emma Schanz from Washington. Mary Pelton from Maryland is ranked No. 20 and Caroline McTaggart from Maryland is rated No. 23. Those are the only Bruin recruits ranked in the top 50 by ‘Swimming World’ magazine.

Rowing: UCLA continues to have a top ten caliber program and the Bruins are expected to sign several athletes early to try to remain there. Names will be released at a later time.

For February, football is looking for a top ten group, while both men’s and women’s soccer have done very well. Water Polo is off to a good start and hoping to keep building its depth.

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