Recruiting wars: SoCal teams replenish the cupboard

After both teams made spectacular runs throughout the NCAA Tournament, USC and UCLA are back to the drawing board and re-filling the cupboard with fresh recruiting classes. Here’s how both local teams stack up when it comes to the recruiting trail.


Head Coach Andy Enfield secured his second highest-rated recruiting class (ranked 13th nationally by 247Sports) with the class of 2021. During the recruiting period, the Trojans signed four players to NLI’s (national letters of intent) this past winter. Additionally, USC picked up San Diego native Boogie Ellis via the transfer portal out of Memphis in April. Other signees include…

Reese Waters: 

A 6’5 senior guard out of Long Beach who prepped locally under coach Mitch Runco at Playa Vista’s St. Bernard High School. In two seasons with the Vikings, Waters averaged 17.0 points, 10.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.0 steals per game. He also spent one year at Dorsey, a City Section school where he averaged 18.9 points, 6.6 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.7 steals per game. Waters graduated from high school early to gain immediate eligibility where he played in ten games.

Malik Thomas: 

A 6’3 guard hailing out Fontana, currently playing in his final season at Damien (La Verne) has been a player to watch throughout the 2021 season thus far. Recently, Thomas became the Spartans’ all-time leading scorer with 2,169 career points. Through 19 games, the Spartans hold an 18-1 record and are on the CIF’s Open Division watch list.

Harrison Hornery: 

A 6’9 forward playing under Gary McKnight at California powerhouse Mater Dei (Santa Ana) has been a force for the Monarchs. Through 12 games this season, Hornery is averaging 17.8 points, 4.0 assists, and close to 7.0 rebounds. In his first two seasons, he’s averaged close to 24 points a game, with 12 rebounds and 4 assists. Hornery looks to play a vital role in the Trojans’ success with the departure of big man Evan Mobley to the NBA this summer.


Head Coach Mick Cronin fresh off a successful second season at the helm in Westwood inked two signees during the early signing period this winter while also picking up additional commitments in the coming recruiting classes.

 Peyton Watson: 

A 6’7 guard from Long Beach playing in his senior season at local power LB Poly. Last season, he averaged 23.2 points, 8.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game. Through four games this season, Watson is averaging close to 22 points a game. He was named the No.1 player in the state by ESPN, and is a 2021 McDonald’s All-American selection.

After signing with the Bruins, head coach Mick Cronin had high praises for his new point guard.

“Peyton is a big-time player, period,” Cronin said. “He can score, assist, rebound and defend – few players can do it all in basketball. Combine that with his size and length, and that’s a big reason he has been rated so high as a prospect. Peyton has a great work ethic and is a high-character young man. He has such a bright future. Peyton comes from a great family and a storied high school program. We are so excited that he chose to be a Bruin.”

Will McClendon: 

A 6’4 who has shown out at Las Vegas power Bishop Gorman, registered 16.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 3.0 steals per game last season. Now in his senior year at Gorman, McClendon has been ranked No. 37 in his high school class by and Due to COVID-19 restrictions in Nevada, Gorman did not have a 2021 basketball season.

Coach Cronin spoke highly of McClendon and lays out his expectations for what Will brings to the program.

“Will is known in basketball circles as a winner, at all levels, and especially at Bishop Gorman,” Cronin said. “His reputation for making big shots precedes him. He’s also known for his tremendous attitude and unselfish nature. Will has great length for a guard and has a toughness about him. He’s a worker who is a great recruit for UCLA and for what we’re building.”

Looking ahead to next season’s recruiting class which has been ranked first in the conference and second nationally (per 247 sports) UCLA has already secured commitments from five-star Sierra Canyon standout Amari Bailey (‘22) and 4-star prospect Dylan Andrews out of LA’s Windward.

Los Angeles is setting itself up to become a strong college basketball power once again. After years of rebuilding, the city’s future as a basketball town is looking bright for years to come.