When UCLA coach Ben Howland hired Korey McCray to fill an assistant coaching vacancy on his staff last spring, he was gambling that a Georgia-based AAU coach could use his connections to bring talent from the Peach State.
Elite big man Tony Parker's commitment on Monday is validation that gamble may pay off.
Parker, a 6-foot-9, 280-pound senior from Georgia's Miller Grove High School, selected UCLA over Georgia, Duke and Ohio State to become the second member of the Atlanta Celtics to follow their former AAU coach to Westwood. Last June, UCLA also landed small forward Jordan Adams, a Georgia native who acknowledged he chose the Bruins in part because of McCray's presence.
[ Rivals.com: UCLA soaring with Parker signing ]
Parker and Adams, Rivals.com's No. 27 and 62 prospects in the Class of 2012, are part of a recruiting class UCLA hopes will revitalize its sagging fortunes and restore faith in Howland that has eroded in recent years. The Bruins also landed wing Shabazz Muhammad and point forward Kyle Anderson, two top-five recruits whom Howland and assistant coach Phil Mathews were most responsible for getting.
While the impact of Muhammad and Anderson will be vital to UCLA's hopes of contending in the Pac-12 and nationally next season, the importance of getting Parker is more for the longterm stability of the program.
UCLA already has Joshua Smith, Travis and David Wear and Anthony Stover in the paint, so Parker is likely to come off the bench as a role player next season. On the other hand, he projects to be an impact player for UCLA as a sophomore and junior when Muhammad and Anderson may both have moved on to the NBA.
An elite rebounder with strong hands and soft touch, Parker averaged 16.6 points and 11.0 rebounds to lead Miller Grove to a fourth straight state championship as a senior. The one concern about him is his weight, something UCLA fans are very conscientious of already after watching Smith battle similar problems the past two years.
Parker's recruiting process dragged on deep into April as he tried to decide whether to stay home at Georgia or head to one of the more prestigious out-of-state programs who were pursuing him.
UCLA was always viewed as a favorite because of McCray, and on Monday that came to fruition.
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