By J. Scott Huston
In the wake of one its most disappointing seasons in recent memory, UCLA has emerged with the top recruiting class of 2012 after signing one last player. The team seemingly dissolved through a national story of terrible team chemistry, bad coaching, and internal athletics dissent. But they also seem to be ready to turn the page on this chapter and begin the new one. The most recent addition to the new this new part of ULCA basketball, is top recruit Tony Parker.A big center out Georgia, Parker declared his choice for UCLA this past week. The final choices were between some of the top basketball programs in the nation (Duke, Kansas, Ohio State, Georgia, and Memphis), but he chose UCLA for something unique. Something he thinks only UCLA can provide him with. The initial thought was that he would stay in his home state with the University of Georgia, but Parker wouldn’t get the pressure he wanted from there.
“I don’t think [staying in Georgia] is pressure,” Parker said when announcing his choice to go to UCLA. “I think that’s kind of the easy way out. If you go somewhere far, that’s pressure. I think I’m probably coal and I’ll be a diamond by the time I get to UCLA.” UCLA thinks he could be a diamond too.
Although he officially is a center, its more likely he’ll end up as a much needed power forward. Coming in at 6’ 9” 270-pounds, his size is big, but probably a few inches too short to competitively play center in Division I. He also is not limited to inside post play, like most centers, but showed throughout his high school career he is a versatile outside shooter. Parker averaged 16.6 points a game with 11 rebounds his senior year. His high school coach at Miller Grove, Sherman White, also says Parker will add something even more important to his new Bruins team.
“Tony [Parker] brings a stability. He brings a calming force to [to his teammates], and I think they’re going to jell well together,” White said. That calming force seems to be exactly what UCLA needs after the turmoil it experienced last year. However, the Bruins will also need to see production on the floor.
In a very weak PAC 12 division, Parker’s rebounding and shooting skills should be able to help the Bruins immediately improve. They only averaged 68.6 points a game (164th in the nation, 6th in conference) and 34.5 rebounds a game (169th in nation, 5th in conference). The top teams in the PAC 12, Washington, Oregon, Cal, and Colorado, all outshot and out-rebounded UCLA, so Parker’s physical play is exactly what the Bruins need to display dominance again.
It looks like this black mark on the UCLA program will be very short lived. Even after the disappointing season, the Bruins are showing why they have been so good for so long. Parker jumps the Bruins recruiting class from 3rd to 1st in the nation. They had already received the 2nd and 5th overall players (Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson) from this years recruiting class. They now have the talent, but the question was never talent with the Bruins. We’re just waiting to see what they can do with it.