UCLA’s wait continues as center Stephen Zimmerman picks UNLV

Five-star center Stephen Zimmerman announced his commitment to UNLV tonight, spurning Kentucky, Kansas and UCLA in favor of his hometown team.

Before Thursday, the 6-foot-11 prospect had been one of the top national recruits still undecided on their college destination. His choice leaves the Bruins — who are coming off back-to-back trips to the Sweet 16 — looking somewhat precarious in their quest to break back into the sport’s elite ranks.

A player like Zimmerman would have helped reinvigorate a frontcourt that lost Kevon Looney to the NBA draft. Through his first two years in Los Angeles, head coach Steve Alford has yet to construct a roster with depth across the court. Continue reading

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UCLA officially signs three-star forward Alex Olesinski

UCLA signed three-star forward Alex Olesinski to a national letter of intent today, officially bumping its 2015 recruiting class to three players.

The Bruins signed four-star guards Aaron Holiday and Prince Ali back in November’s early signing period. Olesinski projects as a stretch forward who can add depth to a team that recently lost reserve Wanaah Bail as an outbound transfer.

“Alex is a talented player who has very good size, a great understanding of the game, can really shoot the ball well and never takes a possession off,” head coach Steve Alford said in a statement. “He has developed a reputation as an extremely hard worker, both on the court and in the classroom, and comes from a high school that has embraced a winning culture.”

Several top recruits in the country remain uncommitted, such as five-star forward Jaylen Brown and center Stephen Zimmerman, but many of them don’t seem in a rush to announce a decision even as the second signing period begins.

Some may even opt for grant-in-aid agreements over letters of intent — the former binds only the school, not the athlete — as more and more elite prospects realize that they have the clout to keep their options open.

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Wanaah Bail transfers out of UCLA

UCLA's Wanaah Bail dunks during basketball practice, Tuesday, Oct. 14, 2014, at UCLA. (Michael Owen Baker/Staff)

UCLA’s Wanaah Bail dunks during basketball practice, Tuesday, Oct. 14, 2014, at UCLA. (Michael Owen Baker/Staff)

UCLA forward Wanaah Bail has decided to transfer out, a school spokesperson said Friday, ending a stint that saw him make only 24 appearances over two seasons.

Bail had been ruled academically ineligible after the fall quarter, and leaves having totaled just 159 career minutes. The sophomore’s final game was an eight-minute showing during UCLA’s 83-44 loss to Kentucky in Chicago on Dec. 20, one in which he grabbed three rebounds and missed his only shot.

He recorded double-digit minutes five times as a Bruin. The Bahamas native averaged 1.5 points and 2.6 rebounds in 11 games during the 2014-15 season.

UCLA also lost forward Kevon Looney on earlier this week. The freshman officially declared for the NBA draft on Monday, after averaging 11.6 points and leading the team with 9.2 rebounds per game.

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UCLA’s Kevon Looney officially declares for the NBA draft

Kevon Looney has officially declared for the NBA draft, becoming the third player in the last three years to leave UCLA after his freshman season.

A five-star recruit out of Milwaukee, the 6-foot-9 forward averaged 11.6 points and 9.2 rebounds and made the All-Pac-12 second team. He sustained a facial fracture during the Pac-12 Tournament, but continued playing with a mask during the Bruins’ Sweet 16 run.

He is projected by many NBA mock drafts as a potential lottery pick.

“This was a really tough decision for me because there were so many positives both ways,” Looney said in a statement. “My time at UCLA has been unbelievable, and I know I’ll be a Bruin forever. But playing in the NBA is a dream I’ve had for so long, and this feels like the right time to pursue that dream and make the transition to the next level. Continue reading

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Norman Powell eyeing late first, early second rounds of NBA draft

Norman Powell is taking it easy, relatively speaking.

In his final season at UCLA, he averaged 34.6 minutes per game — nearly nine more than he did the season prior. Before he dives fully into preparing for the NBA draft, the 6-foot-4 guard is giving himself time to recover with lighter workouts.

Based on conversations with UCLA head coach Steve Alford, he also has a good idea of where he might be drafted.

“What he’s heard is the late first round, early second round,” said Powell, who led the Bruins with 16.4 points through their second straight trip to the Sweet 16. “I know a lot’s going to depend on my combine, my workouts and my interviews. Really preparing for that and ready to go in there and work. I know I control where I could possibly end up.”

He has meetings set up with three different agents on Thursday, and hopes to make a final decision by Sunday or Monday. Whoever he picks will then guide him through the rest of the process, including where he will actually train for the draft.

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