UCLA’s Wednesday night commitment of point guard Zach LaVine (Bothell, Wash./Bothell) isn’t a surprise. The ESPN 100 member, ranked No. 98 (and rising), 'fessed up during the first week of June at the Pangos All-American Camp that UCLA was his leader.
Well, that didn’t take long. LaVine knew what he wanted and went after it. With upwards of 30 relatives in the L.A. area and a burgeoning affinity for the Bruins, the timing of the commitment is perfect. UCLA doesn’t have to traipse around the country “showing him love.” Instead, Ben Howland can periodically check up on LaVine and devote more of his time to other key targets.
“I knew they would be looking at other people in my class and I told them this is where I wanted to go,” LaVine said. “It’s a real relief and I’m really excited.”
Recruits who decide pre-July do their new programs a huge favor. They give their future head coaches the gift of time. For the Bruins to know they have LaVine and don’t have to attend every single one of his games, it means they can spread their resources on other recruits. With the tighter July calendar, being able to utilize the staff on other players is a heckuva gift. Consider LaVine’s pre-July commitment his first unofficial assist as a Bruin.
What’s UCLA gaining in LaVine? For starters, the kid that committed on Wednesday is at least 6-3, having shot up two inches since last summer. Yes, he weighs a hot dog above 170, but that’s what strength coaches are for, right? LaVine can shoot it. He’s a prideful defender and in a league that has been rife with small points, LaVine may tower over a few of his peers.
On Thursday, LaVine departs for the Deron Williams Skills Academy. He won’t be recruiting other Bruins at the point guard-only camp, but wait until he gets to the LeBron James Skills Academy and has a chance to spread the word. LaVine might be able to score his second assist next month.
If you're keeping score at home, make that five consecutive ESPN 100 recruits for Howland. In 2011, his entire class had one: Norman Powell. Last year's No. 1 overall class had a pair of top-five recruits and two more top-50 players.