One of the things that Ben Howland excelled in throughout his UCLA tenure was recruiting. He was able to bring to Westwood an array of great basketball talent, featuring in his early years the likes of Kevin Love, who was born in Santa Monica but who grew up in Oregon, and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Alfred Aboya, from the Cameroon, and more recently, the likes of Kyle Anderson from Fairview, NJ., Shabazz Muhammad from Las Vegas, and Jordan Adams and Tony Parker from Atlanta.
And there is the rub. Where have the top Southern California recruits been going? Not many to UCLA, that’s for sure. Well, a lot of talented SoCal players have been playing for Steve Alford, at New Mexico. Included in this list are the team’s leading scorer, Kendall Williams, from Rancho Cucamonga, and second leading scorer Tony Snell, recruited from Riverside and out of Howland’s clutches.
Alford is said to have great connections among AAU and high school coaches throughout Southern California, and, the thinking goes, if he has been able to bring some of that top talent to Albuquerque, NM, he should kill it going after local players for the Bruins. The thinking goes.
The reality is still that Alford did really well in Division III, improved a Southwest Missouri State team and got them to the Sweet Sixteen, before leaving for Iowa, where he turned the Hawkeyes around and eventually got to two NCAA tourneys, but losing in the opening round both years, before going to New Mexico where he improved the school’s record from 15-17 to 24-9 his first year and while he’s gotten his Lobos to the tourney three of the last four years, they’ve gotten not far at all, going 2-3.
So, UCLA has a journeyman coach who has done just well enough to keep moving up in basketball coaching ranks. UCLA needs more than that, much more than that. Will Alford’s SoCal connections make for great recruiting classes, talent laden teams, and on court success?
Hopefully Dan Guerrero’s UCLA career rides on it.