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Tuesday, April 15
 
Howland off to fast recruiting start at UCLA

By David Benezra and Mark Mayemura
Special to ESPN.com

For those who were wondering how much impact on recruiting UCLA's new head coach Ben Howland would have, Howland hit the ground running since being hired and was instantly all over 6-foot-4 guard Aaron Afflalo (Centennial/Compton, Calif.). Afflalo came to the campus and it was a done deal. Afflalo always wanted to be a Bruin and Howland made it a no-brainer.

No Howland and Afflalo is probably announcing for DePaul sometime later this year. Good recruiting is about the right fit. Afflalo has the desire, toughness and competitiveness to play for Howland -- traits that have been lacking in the Bruins of late.

Next up for Howland? Could be 6-10 David Burgess (Woodbridge HS/Irvine, Calif.).

Darryl Watkins (Catholic/Paterson, N.J.) remains one of the two impact tunas left on the board. North Carolina and Kentucky are putting on their best face for the 6-10 Watkins. Rutgers, Seton Hall, Syracuse and Villanova are also still in the mix. Look for North Carolina's stock to move a lot higher with the hire of Roy Williams. Only fly in the ointment is a supposedly sketchy transcript.

Alexander Johnson (Bridgton Academy/North Bridgton, Maine) appeared to be heading to Georgia before the latest Jim Harrick fiasco hit the fan. Darkhorse Indiana is making the strongest push possible for the 6-10 Johnson but must contend with Cincinnati, Florida State, Connecticut, Kentucky and other suitors.

We are not including 6-10 James Lang (Central Park Christian/Birmingham, Ala.) who is likely going to declare for the draft. Academics are a question mark with Lang, and his stock is dropping. So, there's no time like the present to declare for the draft. Lang reportedly cancelled a recent visit to Louisville, who he had verbally committed to a long while back. Kentucky had also been rumored with Lang.

Top 100 player, 6-7 power forward Linus Kleiza (Montrose Christian/Rockville, Md.) is technically available. Kleiza has been rumored to be Missouri bound for a long time, but has not put it out there yet.

Tyler Jones (Heritage Christian/Cleveland, Texas) is drawing a lot of interest from St. John's, Indiana, St. Joseph's, Oklahoma State, Oregon State and others. The Red Storm are rumored to be in the pole position for the 6-9 prospect.

Virginia has been active of late. Lots of damage control after two disastrous seasons. With point guard Keith Jennifer leaving and the oft-injured Majestic Mapp the only true point guard on the roster, 5-11 T.J. Bannister (Arlington Country Day/Jacksonville, Fla.) will provide some depth on the roster. Virginia also picked up a commitment from 6-7 power forward Donte Minter (Fork Union Military Academy/Fork Union, Va.), who will provide some frontline depth. Virginia really needed a quality big man in this year's class but couldn't get one.

That Lithuanian bodysnatcher, aka Dave Odom, has struck again. South Carolina received a commitment from 6-10, 240+ Paulius Joneliunas (Roanoke Catholic/Roanoke, Va.).

Pepperdine has the commitment of 6-7 center Yakhouba Diawara (College of Southern Idaho, Idaho, while UMass received the commitment of 6-5 Maurice Maxwell (Lutheran Christian/Philadelphia, Pa.). Long Beach State received a commitment from 5-10 point guard Kevin Houston (San Gorgonio, Calif.).

David Benezra and Mark Mayemura of Recruiting USA cover the national college basketball recruiting scene. E-mail at: hoopsusa@mindspring.com or call 818/ 363-1978.





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