Saturday, June 17, 2006

Afflalo To Stay At UCLA, Officially Withdraws From Draft

By Bruin Basketball Report

UCLA guard Arron Afflalo officially withdrew his name from the upcoming 2006 NBA Draft, and will play his junior year at UCLA.

Afflalo faxed his withdrawal notice to the NBA office today.

The sophomore shooting guard worked out individually for the Lakers, Clippers, Chicago, Cleveland and Indiana.

"Some of the teams thought I was a second-round talent," he said during a conference call. "A few teams did indicate I was a first-round talent. It was never about money. I was looking for the right situation for me."

He said he received mostly positive feedback from the teams, with some wanting him to improve creating off the dribble for himself and others.

Afflalo had said he would return to school if he wasn't assured of being a first-round pick who would receive a guaranteed contract.

"It was very hard for teams to guarantee things," he said. "It definitely wasn't worth jeopardizing the great situation I'm in here."

"What's to be disappointed about? This is a great team," Afflalo said. "I enjoy playing with my teammates. I knew I could make a lot of people happy with this decision."

Especially Howland, who signed Afflalo and Farmar as his first two recruits when he took over in Westwood three seasons ago.

"We're very fortunate to have him back," Howland said. "No doubt in my mind, he will be in the NBA someday. It's just a matter of when, not if."

Afflalo was the Bruin's leading scorer last season averaging 15.8 points per game, and was named to the first-team All-Pac-10 team.

Jordan Farmar, the other half of the Bruins' star backcourt, declared for the draft the same day in April as Afflalo. Neither player signed with an agent, so Farmar is eligible to return, too.

"He's (Farmar) still formulating his decision," coach Ben Howland said.

The deadline for early entrants, who have not sign with an agent, to withdraw their names from the NBA Draft is Sunday, June 18th at 2:00 PM PT.


(photo credit: AP)

Afflalo Expected To Withdraw From Draft

By Steve Springer and Gary Klein
Los Angeles Times

UCLA guard Arron Afflalo will withdraw from the NBA draft and return to the Bruins unless he gets a solid assurance from a team by today that it will draft him in the first round, according to his father, Ben.

"Unless something changes between now and then," Ben Afflalo said Friday, "he is definitely coming back. It would be a good decision. There is no sense in sticking your neck out."

Afflalo and fellow sophomore Jordan Farmar have made themselves available for the draft, but because neither has hired an agent, they can retain their eligibility by withdrawing by Sunday, 10 days before the draft.

Afflalo is the shooting guard and defensive stopper for UCLA, which reached the NCAA championship game last season before losing to Florida.

Farmar, the team's point guard, attended the NBA pre-draft camp, where he was judged by league observers to be one of the two most impressive players in that group, along with Memphis guard Darius Washington.

But Farmar has not made an announcement about his plans.

(reprinted with permission)


UCLA Releases 2006-07 Basketball Schedule

By Bruin Basketball Report

UCLA's 2006-07 men's basketball schedule is highlighted by nonconference contests in the Maui Invitational and Wooden Classic, along with a trip to play West Virginia.

At the EA Sports Maui Invitational, the Bruins will be joined by DePaul, Georgia Tech, Kentucky, Memphis, Oklahoma, Purdue and host Chaminade. It will be UCLA's third appearance in the invitational.

In the Wooden Classic , UCLA will play Big 12 opponent Texas A & M in game one, and in game two, USC will play George Washington. It will be UCLA's fourth consecutive Wooden Classic appearance. Last year, the Bruins defeated Nevada, 67-56 in the Wooden Classic.

"I'm excited about our overall schedule, particularly the slate of nonconference teams that we will face," said UCLA coach Ben Howland. "These tough nonconference contests will help prepare us to defend our Pac-10 title."

Tentative 2006-07 UCLA Men's Basketball Schedule


Nov. 2 Exhibition Game

Nov. 9 Exhibition Game

Nov. 15 Brigham Young

Nov. 20-22 @ Maui Invitational
(Chaminade, DePaul, Georgia Tech, Kentucky,
Memphis, Oklahoma, Purdue and UCLA)

Nov. 28 Long Beach State

Dec. 3 UC Riverside

Dec. 5 Cal State Fullerton

Dec. 9 @ Wooden Classic vs. Texas A & M

Dec. 16 Oakland University (MI)

Dec. 19 Sam Houston State

Dec. 23 Michigan

Dec. 28 Washington State

Dec. 30 Washington

Jan. 4 @ Oregon State

Jan. 6 @ Oregon

Jan. 13 @ USC

Jan. 18 Arizona State

Jan. 20 Arizona

Jan. 25 @ California

Jan. 27 @ Stanford

Feb. 1 Oregon

Feb. 3 Oregon State

Feb. 7 USC

Feb. 10 @ West Virginia

Feb. 15 @ Arizona

Feb. 17 @ Arizona State

Feb. 22 Stanford

Feb. 24 California

Mar. 1 @ Washington

Mar. 3 @ Washington State


Mar. 7 - Mar. 10 Pac-10 Tournament

Mar. 15 - Mar. 18 NCAA First and Second Round

Mar. 22 - Mar. 25 NCAA Regional

Mar. 31 – Apr. 2 NCAA Final Four


Friday, June 16, 2006

Mata Undergoes Successful Knee Surgery

By Bruin Basketball Report

Sophomore center Lorenzo Mata underwent arthoscopic surgery to remove a small tear in the medial meniscus of his right knee on Friday.

The procedure was performed by Dr. Gerald Finerman, the Bruin's team physician, at the UCLA Medical Center.

Mata had been experiencing pain in his right knee and an MRI showed an abnormality in his meniscus.

He should be able to resume normal basketball activities after a three to four week rehabilitation period.

Mata is expected to play in the latter part of the upcoming Nike L.A. ProCity League this summer.

On January 12th against Washington St. at Pauley Pavilion, Mata suffered a nondisplaced right tibial plateau fracture and missed 14 games but recovered in time to help the Bruins in the NCAA tournament.

Finerman commented the fracture has healed completely and there is no residual damage to the joint.

In 21 games last season, Mata averaged 3.6 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks in 14 minutes per contest. He is expected to anchor the UCLA frontcourt in the post next season.


(photo credit: AP)

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Time Is Right For Farmar To Head To NBA

By Steve Dilbeck, Columnist
L.A. Daily News

The time is right for UCLA's Farmar to head to the NBA

Go, go on, go, get outta here. What are you waiting for? This is your dream. The NBA is right there. Jump at it.

You can't possibly go. Think of what you'll be passing up. It will never be there again, the NBA will. You can only improve your standing. You have to stay.

It'd be like the old bit about an angel and devil on each shoulder, each eager to offer conflicting advice, only there is no clear choice of right and wrong when it comes to the decision facing UCLA guard Jordan Farmar.

Return to UCLA for his junior year, or enter the NBA draft?

Not an easy decision to make when you're 19. Not when there are solid reasons for each decision. When one adviser whispers one thing, the other something different.

Remain in the draft, get selected in the first round, sign for some $1.5 million and begin the professional career he has wanted long before he led Taft High of Woodland Hills to the City Section title.

Or stay at UCLA another year, further hone his skills, team with Arron Afflalo for a third season, return as the finest backcourt in college basketball and take another shot at the national championship.

What to do?

It could be looked at as a win-win situation, only there are no certainties. No guarantee of a first-round pick. No lock to make another deep NCAA Tournament run.

Farmar and Afflalo both are weighing all these issues, putting off until late the decision they must make by Sunday to remain in the draft or return for their junior seasons.

Afflalo, not viewed as a first-round pick, is expected back in Westwood. Farmar supposedly is leaning toward the NBA.

And, sorry, Bruin fans, he should.

Yeah, that's a tough one. There are compelling reasons to stay, and it would be something to watch him lead what coach Ben Howland is building at UCLA next season with so many other key players returning.

But if he's a sure first-round pick, then he should come out. Should chase his ultimate dream. Should measure himself against the game's best.

That's a big if, of course, but by now you would hope Farmar had a pretty good feel for where he would go in the June 28 draft.

Between what Howland has gleaned, his parents have uncovered, from what he learned from general managers and coaches at last week's NBA Pre-Draft Camp in Orlando, Farmar hopefully should have a solid idea of where he will fall in the draft.

And if he's going to go in the first round, it's time to bid him adieu.

This is not like the NFL, where the early picks make dramatically more than those who follow late in the first round. In the structured NBA draft system, the No. 1 overall pick only gets about $3.6million per season. The real money begins with the second contract.

Exactly where Farmar is at with all this is somewhat of a mystery. He has not granted interviews since declaring for the draft. But he did talk while at the NBA camp in Orlando, and what he said about last season at UCLA could prove telling:

"We were just 40 minutes away from a national championship. I figure that's what I came there to do. I wanted to win it, but the odds of getting there again are very, very tough."

There's no counting on frantic tournament comebacks against Gonzaga, no certainty of surviving hard-fought battles against Memphis and Alabama.

If Farmar returns, UCLA will open the season as a top-five team. If he doesn't, they're still in the top 10. It will not be the end of the UCLA renaissance.

Darren Collison would become the starting point guard, Josh Shipp will return, Luc Mbah A Moute, Alfred Aboya, Lorenzo Mata, Ryan Wright, Michael Roll and Afflalo all will be back and improved.

Howland has mentioned how Washington's Brandon Roy improved his stock by returning to the Huskies last season. That's true, but he wasn't even a projected first-rounder a year ago.

Farmar probably is. The projected draft boards have him all over the place, from as high as 17th, to falling to the Clippers in the second round at No. 34.

Certainly, no one is calling him the perfect point guard. He is not the most explosive player on the board and needs to get stronger. His outside shot needs more consistency.

But there is no denying Farmar's innate court sense. He is a heady player (see: Gonzaga finish), willing student and improved defender.

This is the first draft that will not select high school players. Next year, many of them will be coming out after their freshman seasons.

There is window here now, an opportunity. Farmar seems to sense it. He did nothing but improve his NBA standing in Orlando.

The Clash asked his question - Should I stay or should I go? - and for Farmar the answer has slowly become clear.

Thanks for everything, but go on, get outta here. The time is right.

(reprinted with permission)


Harrick Named Head Coach of NBDL Bakersfield Team

By the Associated Press

Jim Harrick has returned to the basketball coaching ranks, hired Tuesday to run the new Bakersfield Jam entry in the NBA Development League.

Harrick, 67, resumes his career three years after resigning at the University of Georgia and 10 years after being fired at UCLA.

"I've been sitting around doing nothing," he told The (Bakersfield) Californian. "I think my wife wanted it more than I did. Get me out of the house. It'll hurt my [golf] handicap, but that's what I do. That's all I've done my whole life."

Harrick had spent the last three years scouting for the NBA's Denver Nuggets and traveling to China to help develop basketball there.

Jam co-owner Steve Chase said he believes that Harrick can be the difference that makes Bakersfield successful in the 12-team league.

"We searched around and we feel like we've found probably the best coach that wasn't already under contract somewhere else in America," he said.

Harrick's 470-235 career record includes guiding UCLA to the 1995 national championship. He was fired the following season over a false expense report. He said he has a letter from the NCAA exonerating him from any wrongdoing.

"I've never done anything that I needed to have that," he said. "I got it in case I have to show it to someone."

Harrick said his son, Jim Jr., would not be on his staff in Bakersfield. The younger Harrick was fired from Georgia because of alleged money given to a recruit and preferred academic treatment.

Harrick took the new job because he lives in Orange County and remain close to his family, including eight grandchildren.

"When I started years ago, I only asked to have a team to coach," he said. "That's all I ever wanted. To have that again, to me, is really exciting."


Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Interview With Former UCLA Star: Brad Holland

By Ken Wong

Former UCLA basketball star, Brad Holland (’75-’79) helped lead the Bruins to four NCAA tournament appearances including one Final Four game.

He averaged 17.5 points and 4.8 assists a game as a senior, and set the single-season field goal shooting percentage record (59.6%) for guards in 1979.

Holland was an honorable mention All-American and second-team Academic All-American in his senior year.

The Los Angeles Lakers drafted Holland in 1979 as the 14th player taken in the first round, and went on to win the 1980 NBA championship. He played until 1982 finishing his career with the Washington Bullets and Milwaukee Bucks.

Holland returned to UCLA as an assistant coach under Jim Harrick from 1988 to 1992, and helped lead the Bruins to four NCAA tournament appearances.

After his success as an assistant coach at UCLA, he was named head coach at Cal State Fullerton in 1992 and helped guide the Titans to their first winning record in four years during his first year at the helm.

Holland recently completed his 12th season as head coach of the University of San Diego (USD) Toreros. He is the school’s winningest basketball coach with 182 victories. He helped lead the Toreros to their first NCAA tournament in 2003 in sixteen years. He was named West Coast Conference (WCC) Coach of the Year in 1999 and 2000 and by as WCC Coach of the Year in 2005.

The former Bruin great recently sat down with Bruin Basketball Report (BBR) for an in-depth telephone interview.

BBR: As a senior at Crescenta Valley High School in 1975, you averaged 34.9 points per game including two contests in which you scored over 50 points. You were one of the most highly sought after prep stars in your recruitment year. What made you decide to commit to play at UCLA?

Holland: “I was blessed to be recruited by some great programs such as Indiana and North Carolina, and although I entertained offers from other schools, UCLA was way ahead in my recruitment from the beginning. I was an L.A. kid and my Dad took me to many UCLA games. Just as importantly, I had a long-standing relationship with the UCLA assistant coaches, Frank Arnold and Gary Cunningham, who began recruiting me when I was in the ninth grade.”

BBR: You have the distinction of being the last player ever signed to a scholarship by Coach John Wooden. It was well known Coach Wooden rarely, if ever, watched his recruits play their high school basketball games in person. Tell us how it felt to be recruited by the legendary coach?

Holland: “John Wooden actually watched me play in a CIF playoff game during my senior year. What an honor it was to have him there. I was warming up before the game when my Dad came over to tell me Coach Wooden was entering the gym. It was like Moses walking in the building - the place got real quiet and the crowd parted for him as he walked to his seat. I truly feel a large reason why Coach Wooden did not go to many high school basketball games during those days was because of all the attention he drew to himself at the venue. He’s a very humble man.”

BBR: How did you play in the game with Coach Wooden watching from the stands?

Holland: “I was able to settle in after all the excitement and actually played well. Our team won the game, I scored 35 points and hit the game-winning shot.”

BBR: Coach Wooden retired after the 1975 NCAA championship game and thus you never had the opportunity to play for him. How difficult was it for you, a young prep star, to deal with this situation?

Holland: “I was frustrated and very disappointed when I learned I was not going to play for Coach Wooden; yet ironically, it was Coach Wooden who helped keep me at UCLA after my sophomore season. I had started in only seven games as a freshman and eleven as a sophomore - it was well known that I was not happy with my playing time. Coach Wooden wrote me a letter after the season which I still have and keep in a special place. He knew I wasn’t happy with my role on the team but he wrote in his letter it was a matter of me gaining confidence in my play and staying motivated. His letter meant much to me and set me back on the right course.”

BBR: Do you keep in contact with Coach Wooden?

Holland: “Yes, I talk to him regularly and cherish every moment I spend with him. I have brought my coaching staff to meet him at his home. Last November, we honored Coach at our ‘Sixth Man Night’ for his many contributions to basketball.”

BBR: You had the opportunity to play for two outstanding coaches at UCLA in Gene Bartow and Gary Cunningham. Under their leadership, the Bruins won four Pac-10 championships, reached one Final Four, and finished 102-17 over four seasons. However, both coaches were under intense scrutiny at the time by the media and alumni as a result of following in the immediate footsteps of Coach Wooden. How was it as a young basketball player to play under such circumstances? How much pressure did you feel to help uphold the UCLA championship tradition?

Holland: “The expectations placed upon the coaches were unfair but it was reality. Unfortunately the pressure filtered down from the coaches to the players at times. David [Greenwood], Roy [Hamilton], and I laugh about it now, but we were looked upon as a ‘losing class’ because we were the first UCLA recruiting class in a long time to not win a national championship.”

BBR: Coach Wooden was certainly a tough act to follow. Yet, it’s interesting how time puts events into their proper historical perspective. I imagine any college basketball program, including the present one at UCLA, would look back at your team’s impressive accomplishments with envy.

BBR: Your UCLA teams advanced to the NCAA tournament in each of your four years as a player, including a 1976 Final Four semifinal game against Indiana. You had an outstanding individual effort in 1979 when you averaged 18.3 points during the tournament. What was your most memorable NCAA tournament experience?

Holland: “In my sophomore year, we met Louisville in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Louisville, of course was coached by ex-Bruin player/coach Denny Crum and were led by a great freshman player, Darrell Griffith. I had played sparingly during the regular season and didn’t think I was going to play in this game. But after not playing in the first half, Coach Bartow put me in with just 13 minutes left in the game. I hit my first shot in the game and kept going. I finished with 16 points and did a good defensive job on Griffith - we won the game going away. I was named NBC Player of the Game. I can still remember the tremendous feeling I had as I walked off the floor after our victory.”

BBR: The incoming 1976 Bruin recruiting class which included yourself, Greenwood, and Hamilton was an extraordinarily talented group.

Holland: “Yes, it was a strong class, three of us went in the first-round of the NBA draft after our senior seasons. There was a fourth player in our recruiting class, Chris Lippert, who was an excellent ball player and an L.A. City Player of the Year , but he never got a chance to play regularly at UCLA.”

BBR: After an outstanding senior campaign at UCLA in which you averaged 17.5 points a game, you were selected by the Los Angeles Lakers as the 14th pick in the NBA draft. You’d be considered a ‘lottery pick’ in today’s draft nomenclature.

Holland: “I will forever be the answer of a trivia question – ‘In the year the Lakers drafted Magic Johnson first overall, what was the name of the other guy they picked in the first round.’ On draft day, I remember waiting at home in my one bedroom apartment for the telephone call from an NBA team. San Antonio and Philadelphia had shown the most interest in me, but when I got the call and heard Jerry West and Bill Sharman on the other end of the line, I thought ‘Wow, I get to stay home.’ Jerry West was my favorite player growing up in the area and it was just amazing that he was telling me that I had just been drafted by the Lakers. I had the opportunity to play with a young Magic Johnson and a basketball great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and be part of a team that revitalized Lakers basketball. It’s what you dream about doing as a kid.”

BBR: Although you did not win an NCAA title during your collegiate career at UCLA, ironically, you won an NBA title in your rookie season with the Los Angeles Lakers in 1980. You scored eight points in the decisive game 6 against the Philadelphia 76ers. What were some of your memorable moments from this game?

Holland: “I knew I was going to play in Game 6 since Kareem had badly injured his ankle the game earlier - Paul Westhead told me I was going to play some minutes. Our team had the perfect attitude going into the game. We felt Philadelphia had all the pressure on them, which allowed us to play loose and get after them. It was great to close them out at Philadelphia. What a feeling it was to watch the clock wind down knowing you were about to become world champions.”

BBR: Do you follow the progress of the UCLA basketball program? What are your impressions of the team, the coaching?

Holland: “I have great pride in being a Bruin. I thought Ben Howland was a great hire. I first met him when he was an assistant coach at UC Santa Barbara. He is a savvy coach and has made a huge impact on the UCLA basketball program. His players have bought into his system based upon the importance of defense and rebounding. I attended the Final Four championship game at the RCA dome with my 13 year old son. It was a treat to root for the team along with the other UCLA alumni.”

BBR: Congratulations on a successful 2005-06 campaign which marked your 12th season as head coach at USD. Your team finished with the second best overall record in the WCC and almost eliminated Gonzaga in a thrilling semifinal game in the WCC tournament. Both Nick Lewis and Corey Belser had terrific senior seasons. What are your expectations for next year's squad?

Holland: “We want to make the NCAA tournament every year. Nick and Corey had outstanding careers at USD – Corey is a great defensive player, he shut down Adam Morrison in every game we played against Gonzaga this season. We have six of our top eight scorers returning to the team, and played four freshmen extensively last season. I feel very good about our team’s future.”

BBR: Brad, thanks for taking the time for this interview.


(photo credit: ASUCLA and CollegeInsider)

Monday, June 12, 2006

Farmar Is Expected To Remain In Draft

By Steve Springer
Los Angeles Times

A source close to Jordan Farmar said Sunday he expects the UCLA sophomore point guard to remain in the NBA draft and forgo his remaining two years of college eligibility.

Farmar is not expected to make a formal announcement until closer to Sunday, the deadline for players who have declared themselves eligible for the draft to withdraw and retain their college eligibility. As long as Farmar does not hire an agent, he can still return to UCLA.

A source who attended the NBA pre-draft camp last week in Orlando, Fla., said that Farmar's stock rose considerably with his performance in the camp.

Farmar has tried out for several NBA teams, including the Lakers and Clippers. He has said since he made himself eligible for the draft that he would not leave UCLA unless he was confident he would be a first-round pick.

Also in the draft is UCLA sophomore guard Arron Afflalo. He too has tried out for several teams including the Lakers and Clippers, but didn't attend the pre-draft camp and so appears more likely to return to UCLA.

The backcourt tandem of Farmar and Afflalo were the key figures in a UCLA season that ended with a loss to Florida in the NCAA championship game. Farmar was the Bruins' second-leading scorer with 13.5 points a game. Afflalo led the team in scoring at 15.8 points and was the defensive stopper.

(reprinted with permission)


(photo credit: AP)

Bruin Recruiting: Prep News Roundup (6/12)

By Bruin Basketball Report

Prep News Roundup published periodically during the offseason.


For my money the absolute best high school basketball event of the summer in the Northwest is the War of the Border hosted by Coach Bill Bakamus of Mark Morris High School in Longview. The 14th annual event, featuring a ton of high school basketball squads from both sides of the Columbia River will be played June 17th and 18th at four sites in Cowlitz County.This year, as is usually the case, numerous future Division-1 players will be playing. Among the 2006 field are players like Lake Oswego’s 6-9 super stud Kevin Love and 2008 big man Andy Poling of Westview. Benson Tech, Jesuit and Jefferson of Portland seem to always have D-1 talent on their squads. Washington Prep Sports 6/11

Just when you thought the Campbell Hall of North Hollywood boys' basketball team can't get any better, it does. There's a good possibility the Vikings, who have reached the Div. IV state championship tournament each of the past three years — winning the title in 2005 — are going to be significantly better. Transfers Dallas Rutherford, who played at Hillcrest Christian of Granada Hills a season ago, and Keegan Hornbuckle, formerly of Oaks Christian of Westlake Village, were in Viking uniforms for the first time Saturday in a pair of games at the 39th annual L.A. Watts Games. "On paper, we have a pretty good squad, There s a lot of talent on this team," said Rutherford, who scored 21 points in 57-46 victory over St. John Bosco of Bellflower. Hornbuckle scored 29 points in a 59-40 victory against Culver City later in the afternoon. Jrue and Justin Holiday, Robert Ford, Joe Finnerty and Taylor Henry are returning starters. L.A. Daily News 6/11

Once the fall period arrives, Kyle Singler stated that he is planning to take a number of official visits before he makes a final decision. He would like to get a better look at the schools on his list before he picks a school. "Duke, Arizona, Kansas, Washington and UCLA are the schools that I like," said Singler. "I am actually making an unofficial visit to Washington in a couple of weeks. Those schools, right now, are the schools that I am looking at. I've been to UCLA and I've been to Duke, so I do have more of a better feel for those schools." Yahoo Sports 6/10

Jerryd Bayless did not simply phone Lute Olson last fall to tell him he wanted to play basketball at Arizona. It was not a leak, a secret or a half-hearted promise. Bayless organized a news conference at Phoenix St. Mary's High School, complete with TV crews, print reporters, Internet scribes, family, friends, teammates, assorted posse members and hangers-on. It was over the top, but that's the sad culture of teenage basketball in the 21st century. "Hey, look at me.'' "Hoosiers" it ain't. In return for Bayless' very public commitment to be a Wildcat, the UA made its own commitment. It stopped recruiting guards from the high school classes of 2006 and 2007. UA coaches phoned Senario Hillman of Atlanta and wished him the best of luck. Hillman later chose Alabama. They informed Eric Gordon, a successor to Jason Gardner at Indianapolis North High School, and thanked him for considering Arizona, but that Bayless was their man. Gordon signed with Illinois. Why would Arizona not believe Bayless after the spectacle he made of himself? Lakewood, Calif., standout James Harden, who played at Olson's Elite Camp last summer, had been an active UA recruiting target. When Bayless said, "I want to be coached by Lute Olson," the Wildcats phoned Harden and told him available scholarships were gone. And now Harden is likely to play at Arizona State. That's the accepted way of recruiting in college hoops. You want to believe it's a gentleman's game, but that's bull. Scripps Howard News 6/9

New Arizona State basketball coach Herb Sendek completed his staff for next season with an announcement Thursday that Dedrique Taylor, formerly of Nevada, will work as an assistant and Scott Pera, a Los Angeles-area high school coach, will be his director of basketball operations. Pera coached Artesia High, of Lakewood, Calif., to a state title last season with a 33-1 record. An Artesia swingman, 6-foot-5 James Harden, is considered one of the nation's top prospects. The Arizona Republic 6/9

Drew Gordon, a 6-8 sophomore power forward from Mitty High in San Jose, Calif., is one of the elite prospects in the class of 2008. An explosive athlete, Gordon is very active at both ends of the court. His offensive skills still are developing, but Gordon shows all the signs of becoming an outstanding player. We spoke with Gordon recently and he told us that he's hearing from Duke, North Carolina, Texas, Arizona, Washington, Louisville and Kentucky, among other programs. He also said that he's particularly high on Duke in the early stages of his recruitment. Fox Sports 6/8

Matt Simpkins, C – There's a great debate out West as to which class he's going to fall into. If he's a senior, we really like him. Should he be ruled a junior (unlikely) his stock would be valued even higher. Either way he's improved his body and his game and he's the real deal. Fox Sports 6/8

Matt Simpkins, Sacramento (Calif.) Capital Christian; Position: Power forward; Height: 6-foot-8; Class: 2008. A live body who has only been playing basketball since the eighth grade, Matt Simpkins appears to be coming into his own as a prospect. He consistently played above the rim and ran the court as well as any big man at the camp. Always around the ball, Simpkins constantly impacted the play with his defense, rebounding and scoring at the basket. Still raw with his ball skills, Simpkins did knock down some jump hooks in the post, and his delivery looked smoother as the camp progressed. He also put the ball on the floor for a couple dribbles to get into scoring range. His shooting mechanics need work along with his other skills with the ball, but his overwhelming potential is quite evident. Gator Bait 6/7

Phoenix high school star Jerryd Bayless, an incoming senior guard at Phoenix St. Mary's, told the HoopScoop recruiting Web site that he planned to reopen his recruitment, though there has been no official word from Bayless or anyone around him. "I don't feel 100 percent comfortable with my original decision," Bayless told HoopScoop's Clark Francis. "And since I'm making one of the most important decisions of my life, I want to look around and make sure that I get it right. Arizona is still on my list, but I'm now wide open on schools and willing to listen to anybody who has interest in recruiting me." AZStarnet 6/7


(photo credit: Washington Prep Sports)