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UCLA is in line to get stellar center

J'Mison Morgan is granted a release by Louisiana State and is likely to join Bruins.

May 14, 2008|Diane Pucin | Times Staff Writer

UCLA is "99%" of the way to replacing Kevin Love with another highly regarded center.

That's the likelihood that J'Mison "Bobo" Morgan, a 6-foot-11 high school star from Dallas, will play for the Bruins next season, his mother, Bianca, said Tuesday.

An official announcement, she added, could come as soon as today.

Morgan was rated fourth among high school centers by Rivals.com after averaging 13.5 points, 11.0 rebounds and 4.0 blocks a game last season. He signed with Louisiana State in November, but that was before the Tigers fired John Brady as coach, replacing him with Stanford's Trent Johnson.

At Morgan's request, Louisiana State on Tuesday released him from his commitment, allowing him to reopen the recruiting process.

During his original recruitment, UCLA, Kansas and Alabama were Morgan's other finalists, and Bianca Morgan said UCLA "now feels right."

Brady, now the coach at Arkansas State, agreed.

"Ben Howland's a great coach. At UCLA they'll develop him quickly," he said in a telephone interview. "LSU was right by releasing him. UCLA is a good place for him to be."

The addition of Morgan makes UCLA's incoming recruiting class far and away the nation's best, according to analysts such as Dave Telep of Rivals.com and Jerry Meyer of Scout.com.

The Bruins have already signed guards Jrue Holiday of North Hollywood Campbell Hall, Jerime Anderson of Anaheim Canyon and Malcolm Lee of Riverside North, along with Drew Gordon, a 6-9 power forward from San Jose Archbishop Mitty.

"One thing that makes this class really attractive is that you could play all five guys from this class at the same time," Meyer said.

Telep said that even without Morgan, UCLA's class was the best in the nation.

"But you put Morgan in with that contingent of guards and a big rebounder like Gordon? That's a great class," he said.

Meyer, Telep and Brady all said Morgan would probably need to stay at UCLA at least two years before he was ready for the NBA.

"All the natural tools are there -- size, ability to block some shots, ability to hold his ground defensively," Telep said. "He needs to start putting consistent performances back to back. You want to see him going out with the same approach every time."

UCLA coaches are prohibited by NCAA rules from speaking about potential recruits.

In the Louisiana State statement granting Morgan a full release, Johnson said, "The bottom line with me will always be that I want players here who want to play for LSU. There is some closure with this decision but no player will ever be bigger than the program."

Because a player is allowed to sign a letter of intent only once, Morgan will accept a grant in aid that commits the school to the player but not the player to the school until he attends a class.

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diane.pucin@latimes.com

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