Parker and Co. bring their winning ways

They say it’s darkest just before the dawn.

If that’s the case, get Ben Howland some shades, because things are looking pretty bright in Westwood.

After missing the NCAA tournament for the second time in three years last season, the UCLA basketball team continued its impressive offseason haul, picking up the commitment of No. 20-ranked prospect Tony Parker out of Miller Grove High in Lithonia, Geo., on Monday afternoon. Parker announced his intentions in front of a packed audience in a 45-minute ceremony, choosing the Bruins over Ohio State, Georgia and Duke.

Parker becomes the fourth member of a monster recruiting class for Howland, joining No. 2-ranked Shabazz Muhammad, No. 4 Kyle Anderson and No. 76 Jordan Adams, enough to secure UCLA either the No. 1 or No. 2 ranking from most top recruiting services.

“It is icing on the cake today to have Tony Parker join this recruiting class,” Howland said. “”He is a great player that has an unbelievable work ethic. I’m so excited for our program to have a quality big man like Tony join our team and Bruin family. ”

Parker joins a crowded frontcourt that includes returning juniors Joshua Smith, Anthony Stover, David and Travis Wear, but Howland insisted that he would battle for playing time early. With a backcourt that returns Tyler Lamb and Norman Powell and adds North Carolina transfer Larry Drew, the Bruins could jump into the preseason top-10.

“(Parker) is going to come in and compete right away for a starting position,” Howland said. “This thing is wide open. We have 11 on scholarship and each position will be contested. He’s competing for major minutes right away as a freshman.”

Parker’s commitment comes on the heels of Muhammad’s announcement that he would join the Bruins over Kentucky and Duke, and he is now the second signee largely credited to assistant coach Korey McCray. Both Parker and Adams played on McCray’s Atlanta Celtics AAU team, and Howland gave McCray, whom he hired before last season, his due.

“No question; Korey McCray has done an incredible job recruiting both Jordan Adams and Tony Parker from his home state,” Howland said. “Were he not on staff we wouldn’t have gotten either one of those kids.”

Howland highlighted the foursome’s winning ways in high school, as the group combined to go 128-13 last season. Adams led Oak Hill Academy to a 44-0 record, Muhammad guided Bishop Gorman to a Nevada state title, Anderson went 65-0 in his final two seasons at famed St. Anthony’s in New Jersey and Parker became the first player to win four Georgia state championships, taking home the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Mr. Basketball honors this season.

Howland knows that with the star-studded lineup comes increased expectations. He almost sounds relieved that they’re back.

“What’s the alternative to that?” Howland said. “That’s my answer to that. These are the kinds of problems we want to have. High expectations, we have those anyway. We’ve failed to meet the high expectations we’ve had for this program two of the last three years.”

(Additional Howland quotes after the jump:)


On the current team:
“Current team has done an incredible job with a whole new level of accountability. It’s been unbelievably well-received by our team. We know that with the infusion of these four players with the nucleus we have, we have a chance to be a really good team next year.”

On the character of the class:
“I have no doubt that this class is going to turn out to be a very special class when people look back on it. The thing that is really exciting to me is the quality of young men.”

On Pauley Pavilion:
“One of the huge draws was the new Pauley. Kids love it. Brand new facility, state of the art. It’s a huge thing for our program. I remember coach wooden telling me how it changed the program here for him. He called it the perfect storm. Lightning in a bottle. I’m not predicting any Woodenesque results – sorry guys – but my point is getting a brand new facility, which at one time was the mecca of college basketball, we’re definitely one of the best facilities in the country.”

On Muhammad’s eligibility:
“Regarding Shabazz, we’re going to work with whatever comes with that. Our compliance department has been in contact with the NCAA regarding any issues pertinent to his eligibility. We’ll be very supportive and do whatever we can.”

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  • The Blur

    #1 recruiting class: Take 2. This is awesome. I’d like to have a pure pg, but hopefully Drew can take care of the ball and distribute it to these guys. I’ve read Anderson can play point, but after watching him, it doesn’t look like a natural fit – he reminds me of another point we recruited a while back: Cedric Bozeman. Bozeman couldn’t shoot like this kid, though.

    I’m pumped.

  • BE REAL

    ucla is a national contender in basketball

    SC is a national contender in football

    Not bad for one city

    Which sport would you like to dominate?– Football or basketball.

  • Reformed Droog

    Haven’t you been saying *ad nauseum* that football should be banned?…

  • Reformed Droog

    Haven’t you been saying *ad nauseum* that football should be banned?…

  • MichaelRyerson

    ‘…returning junior Joshua Smith’. jesus. The older I get, the more I am bothered by wasted opportunities. I guess it’s that way for all old people. We look back at our own lives and realise how much more there was within our grasp that we failed to capture. We all have regrets. ‘…returning junior Joshua Smith’ It is right there for the taking, Josh. Right there.

  • gilligan

    I have a question to the UCLA fanbase, if UCLA does very well next year (e.g. Title, Final Four), does Howland deserve credit or does all of the credit go to the players? Based on the SI article, I have a lot more respect for Love, Farmar and the rest of the players b/c it looked like they all had a great work ethic and character unlike the most recent UCLA teams. Not sure if Howland is a great coach as I once thought considering the issues that occurred the past couple of years.

  • UCLA Fan

    Re: Gilligan
    Honestly, through personal experience with Coach Howland, I feel like he would deserve most of the credit. He is a fantastic coach and man and the SI article painted him in an unfavorable light that was unjust. If you notice, Reeves has filed a defamation lawsuit against SI, so it is hard to take what was said in that article as concrete fact.

    Also, take into account that Shabazz, and Anderson both mentioned their comfort with the coaching staff as major reasons they chose UCLA… Again, I think you will see Howland for what he really is this upcoming season.He will bring back the hard nosed defensive style with these more athletic players and this is really our year.

  • ucla-of-the-rockies

    Who is Reeves Nelson?

  • BruinInSeattle

    Had the morons at BruinsNation had their way, Howland would be out and this recruiting class would have gone elsewhere. Way to go BN…you really had the best interests of UCLA at heart when you went on your little smear campaigns. And the comments on their webpage announcing Parker’s signing? All filed with “Howland better get it done” and “…now there is no excuse” …how about an apology for being wrong, running people of different opinions off your (should be OUR) website, and other gestapo tactics.

    Way to go Coach. You had a couple of bum years, but with this class, you should be back on top. Great coach, great recruiter!

  • BruinInSeattle

    …and one other thing…why believe SI over Howland? Why take Reeve’s side over Bruin Basketball? By demanding UCLA fire Howland, you are taking Reeves and SI’s take on things. Why don’t you just become a Trojan fan site? You’d do a lot less damage to the Bruin faithful.

  • east/westcoastluv

    Hey, Jordan Adams is now ranked #38 espn consensus, not #76. Oh yeah, and let’s not forget to give him credit for starting, and leading the way signing with UCLA back in June from Atlanta, and lead Oak Hill academy as the NATIONAL not just state championship with a 44-0 record. Also, Korey Mcray deserves some credit for being a mentor years ago to Jordan Adams, and Tony Parker from Atlanta. Howland made a smart choice in hiring him as assistant coach. GO UCLA!!

  • The Blur

    Gilligan,

    One of my favorite quotes is from Lou Holtz, when asked what his secret is to being a good coach: “good players.” Howland deserves credit for recruiting such good players and will deserve credit (along with the players) if they perform. If they don’t, Howland will have a hard time shaking his current stigma of not being able to coach premier recruits.

    Bruin in Seattle: great takes. Howland deserves big props for this class and many classes before it. I’ve been critical of, and still have concerns about, his coaching, but the garbage over at BN is just plain damaging. They think they’re running a political campaign. (makes sense since that’s Nestor’s background.) Nestor, Ty, and Bel may have been Bruins at one time, but they’re not anymore. Now they’re just a-holes.

  • UCLA78

    Jon and other journalists continue to report that McCray was Parker’s AAU coach. Numerous others state that Parker never played under McCray, but there was a relationship. Can SOMEONE please find out the truth?

  • http://www.insidesocal.com/ucla Jon Gold

    It appears that Parker played primarily for the Georgia Stars, but also appeared in tournaments with the Atlanta Celtics, whom McCray coached. I guess technically, we’re both right, but I would say my information has been updated.

  • http://bruinsnation.com Tydides

    Hey BruinsinSeattle, BruinsNation has very clear standards for what we expect for Howland. Before he signed Shabazz and Parker we had said that if Howland does not go undefeated and win a national championship he should be fired. Now with the infusion of those two people our standards are even more clear:

    Next year Howland must win 2 National Championships. Anything less than TWO (2) national championships next year and he must be fired. Period.

  • ProbationU

    I have watched Parker play in the all-star games and he does have trouble scoring against bigger, more athletic players. I would caution too much optimism about scoring from the front line. We need a slim and active Josh Smith for this team to be a threat for the Final Four. Our frontline players have skill but still lack in athleticism..the Wears, Josh Smith and our new recruit, Tony Parker.

    The one athlete on the team is Shabazz. It will be interesting to see the style of play next year and who plays the point, Drew or Anderson.

  • Pancho Reata

    Oh Nestor…oh little Nestor. How far down you have fallen, and to what depths have you taken the Bruins Nation site down with you. Not that I ever frequented BN much, but now it’s only good for the occasional peek when I need a reminder of what the word “autocratic” means.

  • gilligan

    I would like to thank UCLA Fan and The Blur for the comments. As a USC fan that is very cordial to the UCLA fanbase, I used to always think UCLA fans calling for Howland’s resignation was unwarranted. After the SI article, I somewhat understood their frustration about the status of the program considering that UCLA was at an elite level only a few seasons ago. In regards to Nelson, as a player trying to get drafted/signed into the NBA I would take the same course of action against SI even though I believe the SI article about his behavior. Nelson’s behavior has been documented by a number of local media outlets and after the SI articles I don’t recall any players coming to his defense.
    I wish the UCLA basketball good luck this coming season (except against USC but not many people watch them play).

  • eastwestcoast/luv

    Please stand corrected. Both Tony Parker & Jordan Adams are from the ATL (Atlanta) Article info is wronggg!! Adams is ranked #38 ESPN consensus not #76.
    Ben Howland will have great strters, and a awesome bench too!! Go UCLA!!