There isn’t a group that was signed by Pac-12 schools that can equal the elite classes that the UCLA Bruins and Arizona Wildcats signed last year, which were among the top-5 signed classes in the country. Still, the Bruins and Wildcats are familiar names with success in the early signing period, as Hoopniks.com considers both schools the “head of the class” from the Pac-12 in the college basketball early signing period.
UCLA’s clearly high-major backcourt features bouncy shooter Zach LaVine of Washington, and North Carolina-native Allerik Freeman, who is at Findlay Prep (NV) this year. That pair has versatility and talent, though it remains to be seen if one will be pressed into service as a point guard, and one will play off the ball. Both scenarios seem possible, given each player’s talents. That pair is within the top-60 players in the country. Throw in former Harvard commit Noah Allen, and UCLA has some solid building blocks in what is expected to be the post-Shabazz Muhammad era.
In Rondae Jefferson, a 6-7 swiss army knife forward, Arizona has a player that can legitimately play three or more positions in the future going forward. His versatility, drive and toughness make him a top-20 prospect nationally. Jefferson treks to the sunny environs of Arizona from Chester (PA), which is among the top high school basketball teams in the country. He’s almost equivalent to signing multiple players, given his versatility. He is paired with Elliott Pitts, a cerebral wing that can shoot. The Wildcats may add an additional player to this class, as well.
Beyond the headliners, the California Golden Bears also have a more than respectable class. They locked down Jabari Bird, a top-30 wing talent, and kept him from leaving the Bay Area. His scoring mindset and mid-range game should provide a secondary offensive option as early as his freshman year. Instant offense of the bench may also be on the way from shooting guard Jordan Mathews, and additional depth comes from combo guard Sam Singer. Cal may be smarting on losing talented center Marcus Lee to the Kentucky Wildcats, but this is a good group overall.
The USC Trojans locked down some quantity and quality in their five man signing class, the largest in the Pac-12. Texas combo guard Kendal Harris may prove to be a steal, and local wing forward Roschon Prince will be ready to see the floor early. Depending on the way the other three signees pan out, this class for the Trojans could end up looking very nice. Time will tell, though.
After missing out on Bird, the Washington Huskies have some strong options with their two signees. Heady point guard Nigel Williams-Goss should provide consistency and productivity from the outset in Seattle, and Darin Johnson will be groomed as a shooting guard option after a year or so. The Huskies are still very much in the hunt for top-5 national forward Aaron Gordon, and their fortune in that pursuit may end up as the story of this class. After quarterbacking elite talented teams at Findlay Prep during high school, Williams-Goss returns to the Pacific Northwest (he’s an Oregon native) and has experience managing demands of teammates from the lead guard slot.
The story in the Colorado Buffaloes class is versatility. All three signees can play multiple positions, though the headliner is scorer Jaron Hopkins, who projects as a match-up nightmare for defenders. The Buffaloes are building a roster that can have length and versatility at every slot. Stanford’s class is solid as well, with two announced signees in guard Marcus Allen and former Florida Gators commit Schuyler Rimmer. Look for Rimmer to join the post rotation early for the Cardinal.
Shot-blocking forward Jordan Bell is a key piece in solidifying the Oregon Ducks defense, and fans of the Washington State Cougars should be ready to watch jet-bursting point guard Ikenna Iroegbu. Both schools may have a sleeper in their three man classes.
The Utah Utes add depth with their signees, which includes two locals and two JUCOs, but does not include point guard Julian Jacobs, who reneged on his commitment and ended up at USC. With two signees each, the Oregon State Beavers and Arizona State Sun Devils may be sneaking under the radar.
The rankings do not include known verbal commitments such as guards LJ Westbrook (Oregon State) and Malcolm Allen (Stanford) as they were not announced by their schools as signing, as well was Tyree and Tyrell Robinson who will be football signees to Oregon that are expected to play basketball as well.
K.J. Hassenstab is the publisher of the College Basketball Newcomers Guide book and Hoopniks.com. He founded Hoopniks.com in 2009, and has contributed to SlamOnline, Dime Magazine's HighSchoolHoop.com, and NBCSports.com, along with other publications in the past. Hassenstab has covered grassroots, high school and basketball recruiting for over a decade. Follow on Twitter, @Hoopniks.