Basketball Recruiting - Three-Point Play: Why Mick Cronin scored big with Peyton Watson
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Three-Point Play: Why Mick Cronin scored big with Peyton Watson

UCLA earned a big win on the recruiting trail Monday during a week full of commitments. We tackle that and more below.

Starting Five: Commitment frenzy to continue this week

2021 Rankings: Rivals150 | Position

2022 Rankings: Top 75


1.Peyton Watson is Mick Cronin's most important recruit to date

Peyton Watson
Peyton Watson (https://basketball.rivals.com)

Peyton Watson wasn’t the first five-star prospect that Mick Cronin has landed since getting the job at UCLA. However, Watson is the most important recruit that Cronin and his staff have landed since being charged with overseeing the Bruins program.

Sure, Daishen Nix looked like he was going to be a big prize when the five-star committed a year ago and he was going to be a player who helped to set the direction and tone of the program. Unfortunately for UCLA, Nix decided to skip out on college for the G League pathway so we will never know what he could have meant for the program.

Now we have Watson and here is why he is so important. Most importantly, he is a great prospect. At 6-foot-7, he’s got long arms, a body to grow into and he’s an active wing that has range defensively and big upside on the offensive end as a spot up scorer and slasher. That’s what you expect from a five-star ranked No. 16 overall.

The other element of this is that Watson was basically the No. 1 target of every program that UCLA is going to have to beat in order to return to the top of the Pac-12. Arizona, Arizona State, Oregon and USC all went after Watson with everything they had. To keep a big-time prospect home against that competition, well it is a huge step for Cronin and his program.

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2. Ellis' offer from Texas is no fluke

Emarion Ellis
Emarion Ellis (Nick Lucero/Rivals.com)

Late last week, Shaka Smart and Texas opened some eyes when they offered rising senior guard Emarion Ellis from Davenport (Iowa) Assumption.

The offer was Ellis' first from a high major program and was added to a group that included Bryant, Louisiana Tech and Milwaukee.

I had the opportunity to watch Ellis with the Iowa Barnstormers over the weekend and the offer is no fluke. In fact, after watching Ellis, I am of the belief that he is a legitimate Rivals150 level prospect and somebody that we need to consider elevating to four-stars.

He has size, tremendous burst and is a playmaker off the dribble. He’ll turn 17 this week, so Ellis is also on the young side for a senior to be and is just scratching the surface.

“I’ve been working,” Ellis told Rivals.com. “I’m glad people are starting to see it.”

I don’t think the Texas offer will be Ellis' last from high-major programs and it certainly didn’t surprise him as the Longhorns had been in plenty of contact. He’s also been hearing more from a local school.

“When coach Smart offered it was cool, but I had been talking to Cody (Hatt) a bit,” said Ellis. “I’m starting to hear a lot more from Iowa State, too.”

****EDITOR'S NOTE***** Ellis committed to Texas on Tuesday afternoon.

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3. A pair of high majors prioritize Willie Lightfoot

Willie Lightfoot
Willie Lightfoot

If you like speed and toughness, then there is no doubt that rising junior Willie Lightfoot is for you.

A native of Niagara Falls (N.Y.), Lightfoot has been at Bel Aire (Kan.) Sunrise Christian for over a year now and the four-star floor general is starting to really settle in.

“At first it was a hard adjustment not being able to move on my own time,” said Lightfoot. “But now it’s been a good adjustment, it is like home. It is my second year there, I like the pace of life and everybody is like family.”

I had the opportunity to watch and speak with Lightfoot while he was here in Kansas City last week for his summer program MoKan Elite’s minicamp. When he was focused, he was tough to defend and he can give energy to a room.

On the recruiting front he told me Alabama and Oregon have been prioritizing him.

“They’ve been on me, especially Coach (Mike) Mennenga,” said Lightfoot of Oregon. “It is just constantly love from them and it has been my dream school too, so to get offered from my dream school and they are consistently on you when you have of other offers, that’s good.”

Lightfoot has a longstanding relationship with the Crimson Tide.

“Alabama, Coach Bryan (Hodgson) was at Buffalo and I’ve had a relationship with them for a couple of years now. I’m all about relationships so it’s good that I have a relationship with them.”

Lightfoot says that he’s in no rush to make a decision and would at least like to get on a plane and take some visits before taking the next step in his recruitment. He also mentioned Boston College, Cincinnati, Hofstra and Marquette as others that have reached out.