NCB On The Trail: Jonah Bolden

Recruit and return: UCLA 

March, 28, 2014
In order to return to the NCAA tournament, a team needs contributions from both returning players and incoming recruits. Here's a look at UCLA and its chances of dancing again in 2015.

Quick references:

2013-14 roster
2014 recruiting

Possible 2014-15 starting five:

PG Bryce Alford
CG Isaac Hamilton
SG Norman Powell
PF Tony Parker
C Thomas Welsh

National Prep Championship recap 

March, 6, 2014
There is a budding dynasty in prep school basketball, and it goes by the name Brewster Academy.

Winners of three of the last six New England prep titles and two of the last four national championships coming into the year, this season was supposed to be a "down” year for Brewster (Wolfeboro, N.H.). However, it turned into perhaps the Bobcats' most successful season in program history.

While this might not be the most individually talented team in Brewster history, it is probably the most cohesive collective unit. The Bobcats approached this season's National Prep Championship -- which they won on Wednesday -- as if they were on a mission. They competed for 40 minutes each time out, defended and shared the ball incredibly well. In fact, they had at least four players finish in double figures in all three of their wins.

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Roundtable: Non-top 50 impact players 

February, 11, 2014
Freshmen have been the talk of this college basketball season, and while the likes of Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Joel Embiid, and Julius Randle have all been as good as advertised, there have certainly been plenty of surprises as well.

Tyler Ennis rose up the rankings to the No. 20 spot in the final ESPN 100 of 2013, but few could have predicted that he would this good this early for Syracuse.

Then there are those like Texas’ Isaiah Taylor, Kansas State’s Marcus Foster, and Villanova’s Josh Hart, freshmen who have exceeded the prevailing expectations at the time of their signings and have made an immediate impact.

In some cases, these contributions can be more predictable than others, such as when there is an immediate opportunity or a particularly good fit with the program’s style of play. With that in mind, we asked our team of RecruitingNation experts to look ahead and identify one current ESPN 100 prospect outside of the top 50 who they believe can make a notable immediate contribution.

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Scout's take: Lonzo Ball to UCLA 

January, 9, 2014
UCLA is hot both on the court and in recruiting.

After a huge crosstown win against USC on Sunday, the Bruins landed ESPN 25 prospect Lonzo Ball (Chino Hills, Calif./Chino Hills High School.)

Why he committed:
When Steve Alford and his staff took the UCLA job, they immediately begin recruiting Ball, and now it's paid off. Ball was recently on an unofficial to UCLA when the Bruins pounded USC, and it only took a few days after that win for him to commit to the Bruins. Once Ball witnessed the up-tempo atmosphere of Alford’s offense, he felt that he would be a perfect fit in that system.

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UCLA lands ESPN 100 PF Bolden

December, 10, 2013
After a slow start to the 2014 recruiting race, the Bruins appear to be finding their groove as they landed one of the nation's better unsigned prospects in 6-foot-8, 205-pound power forward Jonah Bolden (New South Wales, Australia/Findlay Prep).

The ESPN 100 recruit chose the Bruins over SMU, USC, Indiana, Louisville and Kentucky. The Bruins were seen as the favorite and it appeared to be only a matter of time before he chose to continue his career in Westwood, despite Larry Brown and SMU making a strong push.

Bolden is one of the better under-the-radar prospects in the country, but he was able to exhibit his talents in August at the adidas Nations event in California. The finesse 4-man is a willowy, skilled prospect with an intriguing skill set. He can face up his defender and either drain the 19-foot jump shot or display his underrated passing skills. He needs to get considerably stronger and much more assertive, especially in the paint, but his upside is quite impressive.

Steve Alford has a nice nucleus arriving in Westwood next season with the likes of ESPN 100 prospects Kevon Looney (Milwaukee/Hamilton) and Thomas Welsh (Los Angeles/Loyola), as well as skilled 5-man Gyorgy Goloman (Weston, Fla./The Sagemont School). Along with Bolden, this group will provide the Bruins with length, skill and savvy. If UCLA can somehow land a point guard, Alford will have all of his needs met for the 2014 class.
With seven ESPN 100 commitments in as many days, the last week has been incredibly busy on the recruiting wire, but the best could still be yet to come with Reid Travis, Cliff Alexander, Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones all likely to make decisions in time to sign during the early signing period, which begins next week.

In case you missed any of last week’s headlines, here’s a rundown: Devin Robinson chose Florida over Indiana on Wednesday; later that night, big man Michael Humphrey picked Stanford over Arizona; Devin Booker started a busy Thursday by picking Kentucky over Missouri; James Blackmon Jr. pulled a surprise by spurning Kentucky to recommit to Indiana; Kevon Looney’s commitment to UCLA was equally surprising, with most predicting Duke, Florida or Tennessee; former UCLA pledge Trevon Bluiett picked Xavier over Butler and Michigan State on Friday; and Trey Lyles chose Kentucky over Louisville on Tuesday.

That flurry of activity, along with the upcoming announcements, has brought more clarity to a lot of top national programs. Here’s a look at some of the implications:

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Inside the rankings: ESPN 100 review

September, 27, 2013
When we analyzed the 2014 ESPN 100, we found upside in the front court as eight of the top 10 players in this class played the center or power forward position.

When we look at the top of those respective positions it’s easy to be impressed. Jahlil Okafor (Chicago/Whitney Young) continues to hold the top spot because he is the best and most polished low post player in this class. Okafor has transformed his body; he is lighter on his feet and now possesses more stamina than ever before. In the lower half of the paint, he has perfected a jump hook over his left shoulder and he is improving his up-and-under move as counter. He demands double teams inside and reads where the help is coming from and has the vision to find the open man.

Other standouts in the class include Cliff Alexander (Chicago/Curie), the No. 3 overall player and No. 1 power forward, who won us over with his high motor and tenacity on the glass and paint scoring. When it comes to putting points on the board, the shooting guard and small forward positions are deep and talented. North Carolina commit Justin Jackson scores the ball at a high level and is lethal from mid-range. Seton Hall commit Isaiah Whitehead (Brooklyn, N.Y./Lincoln) has improved his approach to the game and had a breakout performance at the Elite 24.

At this point, the class lacks a true superstar, but it has plenty of talent and potential. Here's a look at players who made the biggest moves in our rankings:

Five who moved up
  • Myles Turner (Bedford, Texas/Trinity) went from No. 10 to No. 2 because of his play this summer. Turner is the best long-term prospect and the best shot blocker in the high school game. Offensively, he possesses a soft touch and an impressive 3-point shot.
  • Stanley Johnson (Fullerton, Calif./Mater Dei) climbed his way inside the top 10 to No. 9 with his effort and productivity. A power driver with a much improved jumper, Johnson is a consistent rebounder. Summer is a grind but Johnson got stronger as it went on.
  • Kelly Oubre (Fort Bend, Texas/Findlay Prep) made a significant move, shooting up 10 spots to No. 10, because he consistently makes highlight reel-worthy plays. Ourbe is a dynamic blend of athletic ability, skill and versatility.
  • D'angelo Russell (Louisville, Ky./Montverde), the No. 12 overall player, is dangerous with and without the ball. If you leave him alone, the future Buckeye will make you pay.
  • No one made a bigger jump than Devin Robinson (Chesterfield, Va./Christchurch), whose ranking went from No. 74 to No. 28. A good 3-point shooter and a playmaker, he exudes potential.
Five who moved in
  • No. 44 Robert Johnson (Richmond, Va./Benedictine) is a true combination guard who competes and displays poise. The Indiana commit can run the point is good enough from deep to keep you honest.
  • No. 68 a href="">Tadric Jackson (Tifton, Ga./Tift) will bring speed and scoring on the perimeter to Brian Gregory and Georgia Tech. An off-the-charts athlete, he is constantly in attack mode and is talented enough to play the point. Jackson is a perfect fit, as Georgia Tech wants to push the ball and he can lead or finish the fast break.
  • No. 70 Jonah Bolden is a long, athletic forward brings size and skill to the floor. The Australian is more of a finesse player than physically imposing, beating opponents with his long and mid-range shooting and impressive passing ability.
  • No. 72 Lourawls Nairn (Bel Aire, Kan./Sunrise Christian) has the ability to create and push the tempo, which may be unmatched in his class. Nairn loves to go fast -- in fact, the faster the pace the more he thrives.
  • No. 86 Isaac Haas (Piedmont, Ala./Hokes) has a massive body that is made to bang inside, set screens, rebound and be a physical presence in the painted area. The Wake Forest commit runs well for his size.