Parker gives UCLA nation's No. 1 class

April, 23, 2012
4/23/12
7:07
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If you're obsessed with recruiting, you are already well aware Tony Parker is not just a lighting-quick Frenchman leading the San Antonio Spurs to another remarkable season in their decades-long success.

And if you didn't know, now you do. Indeed, this Tony Parker -- the 6-foot-9, 270-pound native of Lithonia, Ga. version -- is one of the nation's top 30 men's basketball prospects and was the top unsigned center in the class as of Monday morning. On Monday afternoon, Parker announced at a special ceremony at his high school that he would take his talents to Westwood next season, committing to UCLA and once-embattled coach Ben Howland.

In and of itself, that's a huge get for Howland, who could theoretically start the beefiest frontcourt in the country by pairing Parker alongside center Joshua Smith (assuming Smith returns for his junior season). But Parker's commitment is even more important than that, because alongside the incredible talent Howland has already landed, Parker's addition gives Howland the ability to say something no coach but Kentucky's John Calipari has been able to say the past three seasons: He has the top class in the country.

Indeed, according to our Recruiting Nation experts, Parker's addition gives UCLA the No. 1-ranked class in the country to date. Naturally, that is still subject to change. (If No. 7-ranked Anthony Bennett chooses Kentucky, for example, Calipari could leapfrog right back to the top of the list.) But as it stands today, Howland's is the nation's best recruiting haul, and easily the best of his tenure.

How that talent -- which includes No. 2-ranked Shabazz Muhammad and No. 5-ranked Kyle Anderson -- congeals with current Bruins players is yet to be seen. The biggest mistakes of Howland's career came just after he recruited top classes filled with questionable character types (Drew Gordon and Reeves Nelson are the biggest lingering examples) that imploded his team's chemistry, sent talented players running transferring for the hills and cratered the program's standing among prep coaches and AAU types. Howland deserves blame for much of these woes. But with Muhammad, Anderson and Parker? It's too much talent. The Bruins are almost guaranteed to be good, or at least massively improved over their disappointing performance in the past three seasons.

With Parker on board, the Bruins' return to prominence -- or back to something resembling what we think of as "UCLA basketball" -- is very much in motion. For Howland, his team, and dispirited UCLA fans everywhere, the timing couldn't possibly be better.

All that remains is turning this talent into a team. That's the easy part, right?

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