UCLA, long considered the favorite to sign 6-foot-5 swingman Tommy Prince of Compton Dominguez High, got the good news Sunday when Prince said he would sign a letter of intent with the national champion Bruins on Wednesday, the first day of the monthlong spring signing period.
Prince, who averaged 19 points and seven rebounds last season while leading Dominguez to the Southern Section Division II-A championship, was heavily recruited. He picked the Bruins without taking any official recruiting trips.
"I really like the way they play," said Prince, who has a 3.3 grade-point average and will take the Scholastic Assessment Test next month. "I also like the coaching staff, and the fact I can play close to home."
Prince told UCLA Coach Jim Harrick of his intentions the day before the Bruins left for the Final Four in Seattle, but elected not to make the decision public until after returning from a high school all-star game Friday night in Atlanta. Prince scored 15 points in a losing effort for the West team, which included Mater Dei guard Clay McKnight.
College coaches and scouts consider Prince to be one of the top three senior prospects in California.
One of the other two, 6-11 center Jelani McCoy of San Diego St. Augustine, will join Prince next season at UCLA; McCoy signed with the Bruins in November. The other senior standout is 6-7 Inglewood High swingman Paul Pierce, who has orally committed to Kansas and will sign with the Jayhawks this week.
The left-handed Prince, an outstanding defensive player, figures to give UCLA added depth at guard and forward next season.
He could spell sophomore Toby Bailey at the off-guard position, and play behind sophomore J.R. Henderson and junior Charles O'Bannon in the front court.
Prince's younger brother, Tayshaun, is also considered a top prospect. A 6-6 forward, he was a freshman reserve for Dominguez last season but figures to be a three-year starter.
Barring any late surprises, which are unlikely, UCLA has completed its basketball recruiting for this season now that Tommy Prince has committed. The Bruins had shown some interest in 6-8 forward Rico Harris of Temple City High and 6-9 swingman Kendrick Spruel of Baton Rouge, La. But Spruel orally committed to Florida recently, and Harris chose Arizona State over UCLA last week. Now that junior center Mario Bennett has decided to forgo his final year of eligibility at Arizona State and enter the NBA draft, Harris should contend for a starting position next season. UCLA also likes 6-1 point guard Shomario Richard of La Puente Nogales, but he is considered a long shot academically. California has also expressed some interest in Richard. Reportedly, Coach Todd Bozeman was not entirely pleased with the play of 6-6 freshman Jelani Gardner at point guard last season.
Add Cal: There are strong indications that Arkansas' 6-11 sophomore center Darnell Robinson, who has played sparingly during his first two seasons and talked openly about transferring, will wind up in Berkeley. Robinson set the California career scoring record at nearby Emeryville Emery High, and chose Arkansas over Cal. Bozeman was a Cal assistant coach when Robinson made his decision, and the two have remained friends. In addition, Arkansas Coach Nolan Richardson has given every indication that he will soon transform his "40 minutes of hell" offense into "48 minutes of hell" with the NBA's expansion Toronto Raptors.
Add Arizona State: The Sun Devils also have received a commitment from 6-3 guard Jemall Slaughter of Fontana High.
USC, which tried to make a late run for Prince, has received a commitment from another Dominguez standout, 6-6 swingman James Brown. Brown, an excellent shooter who was instrumental in the Dons' success last season after transferring from Long Beach Poly, met with Coach Charlie Parker Friday. "If they approve my transcripts, I'm coming here," said Brown, who is also being recruited by Washington State, Wyoming and Portland.
The Trojans are expected to sign 6-8 forward Maurice Strong of Memphis, Tenn., this week, and are continuing to recruit 6-11 Avondre Jones of Chaffey College, 6-6 swingman Saipale Tuialii of Los Angeles City College and 6-5 swingman Frank Brown of Beverly Hills High. Jones, who said last month that he would "probably" re-enroll at USC, might visit Fresno State now that Jerry Tarkanian is the head coach. Tarkanian has told friends he thinks he can sign Jones, who played for his son George last season at Chaffey.
Add Tarkanian: One of the first recruiting calls the former Nevada Las Vegas and Long Beach State coach made after getting the Fresno State job was to the home of All-American point guard Stephon Marbury of Brooklyn.
Tarkanian saw Marbury play at a tournament in San Diego last December, and was told by Marbury's father, Donald, that his son would be interested in playing for Tarkanian. However, Marbury has since made an oral commitment to Georgia Tech.