Where does UCLA coach Ben Howland come off reeling in the most talented recruiting class of 2012? Since reaching their third straight Final Four in '08, the Bruins have won a total of just two NCAA tournament games, in large part because of Howland's inability to recruit and retain Southern California talent (SI, Feb. 29). That trend prompted Howland's eyebrow-arching hire of former Atlanta Celtics AAU coach Korey McCray as an assistant—UCLA needs a pipeline to Georgia to get players?—but Howland and McCray appear to be having the last laugh, snagging prime prospects from three states.
A small forward from Lawrenceville, Ga., with a nice shooting touch, Adams was the class's initial recruit, committing to UCLA last summer. The influence of McCray, Adams's AAU coach, was a huge factor in helping the 6'5" 220-pounder to choose the Bruins over Georgia, Memphis and Miami.
The smooth 6'8" small forward, a top 5 national recruit, is the linchpin of the Bruins' new freshman class. Howland snagged the New Jersey native—whose St. Anthony's teams went 65--0 the previous two seasons—last fall, setting the table for this spring's rich recruiting haul, which also included (see right) ...
The 6'6" Las Vegas native's commitment to Howland, a defense-first coach, fueled rumors that UCLA, an Adidas program, benefited from the shoemaker's ties to both Muhammad's AAU team and his tennis-playing sister, Asia (a charge Muhammad's father, Ron Holmes, denies).
Now legendary in recruiting circles for his commitment announcement, which lasted nearly an hour, the sturdy 6'9" center has unusually soft hands for a big man. A native of Lithonia, Ga., he is yet another McCray protégé, who chose UCLA over Georgia and Ohio State, among other top programs.
The best of the rest of the recruiting classes
John Calipari may have missed on Shabazz Muhammad, but he reeled in the 6'10" Nerlens Noel, a shot-blocking post player who most believe is a more developed prospect than was Anthony Davis, the national player of the year as a freshman and the presumptive No. 1 pick in this summer's NBA draft. Add Noel to a mix of recruits that includes slashing small forward Alex Poythress, speedy shooting guard Archie Goodwin and lanky big man Willie Cauley, and the Wildcats have yet another elite class in place.
Center Kaleb Tarczewski, a mobile and athletic 7-footer, is the jewel of a highly touted class that should put the Wildcats back atop the Pac-12. Arizona has plenty of returning perimeter talent, and incoming forwards Brandon Ashley and Grant Jerrett will make for a formidable frontcourt.
NORTH CAROLINA STATE
The Wolfpack surprised everyone in coach Mark Gottfried's first year by reaching the Sweet 16. The addition of a trio of home-grown recruits—shooting guard Rodney Purvis, small forward T.J. Warren and point guard Tyler Lewis—and power forward C.J. Leslie's decision to return for his junior year make the Wolfpack a top five team.
CHRIS WILLIAMS/ICON SMI (ADAMS)
JONATHAN DANIEL/GETTY IMAGES (ANDERSON)
DAMIAN STROHMEYER (MUHAMMAD)
HYOSUB SHIN/ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION/AP (PARKER)
KELLY KLINE/GETTY IMAGES (NOEL)
MARK L. BAER/US PRESSWIRE (TARCZEWSKI)
ROBIN ALAM/ICON SMI (PURVIS)