Devin Williams becomes first of UCLA’s 2023 recruiting class

The first player in Mick Cronin’s top UCLA recruit class is on brand.

He is tall.

Devin Williams, a 6-foot-9 power forward from Corona Centennial High, verbally committed to the Bruins on Sunday, giving his new team a sizable recruiting win over fellow finalists USC.

Family and friends gasped as Williams picked up a USC hat and for a moment looked like he was about to don it as part of his Instagram Live announcement, before tossing it across the room and a UCLA shirt under his jacket revealed.

The city-wide rivals are also vying for Isaiah Collier, a highly sought-after point guard from Marietta (Ga.) Wheeler High whose mother is from Inglewood.

Williams, a late bloomer who has developed his skills as a winger, can score both three-pointers and inside goals, giving him the versatility of playing in multiple positions. He made a significant contribution to teams that won back-to-back Southern Section Open Division championships as well as the recent California Open Division state title.

Williams said during his announcement that Cronin’s honest and demanding manner reminded him of his high school coach, Josh Giles, and “It just felt like home when I walked onto campus, and I feel like I could be there.” Develop best to be the best I can be.”

Williams becomes the newest bruin with ties to the powerhouse Compton Magic Club team, joining recent alumni Johnny Juzang, Jaylen Clark and Jules Bernard as part of a steady pipeline of local talent.

“We will always recruit at home first,” Cronin told the Times this summer while discussing his recruiting philosophy. Trainers cannot comment on prospects until they have signed binding letters of intent.

“Southern California has always had great high school basketball, as has all of the West Coast, so you always start at home,” Cronin said. “Hopefully the Big Ten will open some doors for us [with the Bruins switching conferences in 2024] and have some kids who can now go to school in Westwood and get all the trappings of the best campus in the country and the great weather and the UCLA brand and still be able to play in the Big Ten. Hopefully that could work in our favour, but we’ll see.”

Corona Centennial's Devin Williams is the latest player from the Compton Magic club team to join UCLA.

Corona Centennial’s Devin Williams is the latest player from the Compton Magic club team to join UCLA.

(Nick Koza)

Williams will eventually have plenty of company in UCLA’s Class of 2023. The Bruins have two open scholarships and may need to fill seven or more spots depending on NBA player choices. David Singleton will exhaust his eligibility after this season; Tyger Campbell and Jaime Jaquez Jr. are likely to turn pro; newcomers Amari Bailey and Adem Bona are obvious contenders; and there could be departures by transfer.

“It’s obviously a big year for us in recruitment,” Cronin said.

Cronin said there was no specific number of players he was targeting, but that his staff recruited every position with as much expected turnover.

“You can only play with so many guys,” Cronin said, “and having too many is just going to cause guys to switch, so I really believe we’re trying to get guys into what we’re doing.” But we don’t name it.”

Likewise, the Bruins don’t limit their targets at every position.

“If you find people who you think would be a good match for you and they’re interested, we recruit them,” Cronin said. “If we get an offer, you will not hire a man in the same position or very similar to someone who is committed. We’re playing a four guardian system, so you’ll have some smaller ones. The way we see it, there are big guards and smaller guards. But we don’t really give it an X number.”

Other players UCLA continues to pursue include Andrej Stojakovic, a small forward from Carmichael Jesuit; Brandon Williams, a power forward from Middle Village (NY) Christ the King; Ron Holland, a power forward from Duncanville, Texas; and Elmarko Jackson, a South Kent (Conn.) School combo guard.

Depending on how they fare with their target list, the Bruins could also dip into the transfer portal and international recruiting market. The team recently signed freshman swingman Abramo Canka from Italy with the help of new assistant coach Ivo Simovic, who has strong ties to the international basketball community.

“I think you’re just trying to find the people that you think can help you build your program and win,” Cronin said. “I think the transfer portal can be overstated at times, but it can also be a blessing, but you can’t rely on it because you don’t know if it’s available and suitable.” Devin Williams becomes first of UCLA’s 2023 recruiting class

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