If you’re on the East Coast, like me, you awoke Thursday morning to the news that Dominic Artis (Richmond, Calif./Findlay Prep) is no longer a UCLA Bruin. Without hearing Artis’ side of the story, it’s reasonable to conclude that this move is a reaction to the commitment of Kyle Anderson (Fairview, N.J./St. Anthony). The Bruins were scheduled to have Artis, Anderson and Larry Drew (for a year) on the same team.
However, some may be confused with lumping Anderson into the backcourt because he's listed as a small forward. True, Anderson is listed in our database as a small forward because defensively he’s going to guard either a small forward or a power forward but offensively he’s going to have the ball in his hands.
Anderson is the most unique player in the class. He can operate a team, score or pass and make high-level decisions. You want the basketball in his hands. He’s a playmaker and with the requisite weapons around him, he then would morph into one of college basketball’s most intriguing offensive players, maybe in a while. Anderson’s so unique, coach Ben Howland understands you have to match his talents to the personnel you fill out the roster with.
Artis is most certainly a point guard, and an improved one at that. Over the spring and summer, he steadily climbed the charts and eventually moved into the ESPNU 100. He’s more than capable of running the show. If you’ll recall, in July, UCLA had a dilemma on its hands. L.J. Rose (Houston/Westbury Christian) and Javan Felix (New Orleans, La./St. Augustine) were in UCLA’s wheelhouse and could have popped for the Bruins. Artis began the July period favoring UCLA and popped in late July, beating the others to the punch. Felix is ranked No. 70, Artis is No. 72 and Rose is No. 74; there was concern one might beat the other to the scholarship. In the end, Artis wanted to be a Bruin and made good on his word with a pledge.
Reasonable minds could conclude that over time, Artis looked at the situation and realized the ball was going to be in Anderson’s hands, regardless of what position he’s listed. You don’t recruit Anderson and not play to his strength and in my estimation, that means you put the offense under his control and let him figure out who he guards defensively once he arrives in Westwood. Operating under that assumption, Artis would be an apprentice for the duration of Anderson’s career.
When Artis committed to UCLA, Cal and Oregon were the runners up. Cal is the hometown program and Oregon has Jabari Brown, a guard Artis played AAU ball with for the Oakland Soldiers. If he expressed an interest to leave the West Coast, his options would increase even more.
If my rationale is correct, one can infer that the next pick Artis makes won’t include a point guard in his class. Allow me to assume Artis’ identity and mindset for the time being.
If I’m Artis, I know that Cal and Oregon haven’t signed point guards; Oregon hasn’t committed anyone at all yet. With Brwon on the team, there’s familiarity there and I know I’m going to play. They’ve got some young guards, but the competition is reasonable. Jonathan Lloyd will be a junior and he started half the games last year. I’m going to play.
Cal's situation looks pretty good as well. They offered before anyone else last spring during my unofficial visit. Jorge Gutierrez will be gone and Justin Cobbs and Brandon Smith are on the back end of their careers. They’re going to need to sign a point guard, probably a pure one.
Both of these situations seem reasonable. I’m going to take my official visits just to make sure nothing has changed since the summer. I’m also going to answer my phone because there’s bound to be interest. The first thing I need to do is decide if I’m going to leave the West. If the answer is yes, then I’ll probably have to wait for the spring to decide so I can learn about the programs; I don’t want to go through this process again. If I’m staying out west, I’ve got to think Cal and Oregon will be at my school in the next few days. The most important thing I can do now is play well in open gym and be respectful to the schools I didn’t pick the first time around, so I have them as options this time.
If you're wondering about Artis' stock, here's one for you. Of the top 20 point guards in the country, Artis is far and away the most recruitable. He's got the grades, is the best one on the board and is the only guy you can hand the basketball to as a freshman and ask to play significant minutes. Translation: his phone is about to erupt.
By the way, if I'm UCLA, I'm not making another move with a point guard until 2013.