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Five-star small forward Peyton Watson commits to UCLA men’s basketball

Class of 2021 small forward Peyton Watson committed to UCLA men’s basketball Monday night. Watson averaged 23.2 points per game in his junior year at Long Beach Poly. (Courtesy of Bleacher Report Hoops)

By Sam Connon

Jul. 27, 2020 6:05 pm

For the first time since 2016, the No. 1 player in California is headed to Westwood.

Class of 2021 five-star small forward Peyton Watson has committed to UCLA men’s basketball, the rising high school senior announced on the Titus & Tate podcast Monday night. Watson is the top-ranked player in California, the No. 3 small forward in the country and the No. 8 overall player in the nation in his class, according to 247Sports.

Former All-American point guard Lonzo Ball was the last No. 1 Californian to commit to UCLA, and Watson is the highest-rated small forward to choose the Bruins since Kyle Anderson in 2012.

Watson ascended from being an off-the-radar prospect to one of the highest-profile names in the country over the course of his junior season at Long Beach Poly. Rivals did not have Watson ranked in August, but he was a top-30 recruit by January and top-20 by June.

After averaging 23.2 points, 8.0 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 0.8 blocks per game in a shortened junior season, Watson was named to MaxPreps’ California All-State Third Team – the only non-senior to make any of the three teams. The 6-foot-7, 180-pound forward was also an honorable mention for MaxPreps’ Junior All-American Team.

Watson shot 45% from the field, 74% from the free throw line and 34% from deep on 7.2 3-point attempts per game last season.

247Sports national recruiting analyst Josh Gershon compared Watson to Indiana Pacers small forward Justin Holiday – the brother of former UCLA guards Jrue and Aaron Holiday – in his Jan. 12 scouting report of the new Bruin commit. Gershon also projected Watson to be a future first round pick in the NBA Draft and wrote that his size, length and athleticism made him one of the best players in the country.

Rumbles of Watson’s commitment to the Bruins started Wednesday, when Gershon officially predicted the small forward to join UCLA over Arizona, Michigan, Kentucky and others. Six more experts picked Watson to choose the Bruins in the following days, and by Friday, 100% of 247Sports and Rivals insiders were projecting a Watson-UCLA pairing.

The Bruins’ 2021 recruiting class jumped from No. 27 to No. 7 in the country following Watson’s commitment. UCLA’s class remains in the No. 2 spot in the Pac-12 behind USC since the Trojans have more commits, but the Bruins’ average 247Sports recruit rating of 98.95 is the highest in the conference and second-highest in the nation behind only Duke.

Watson joins four-star shooting guard Will McClendon in UCLA’s class of 2021. 

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Sam Connon | Sports senior staff
Connon is currently a Sports senior staff writer for the football and men's basketball beats. He was the Sports editor for the 2019-2020 academic year, an assistant Sports editor on the baseball, men's soccer, cross country, men's golf and women's golf beats from 2018-2019 and a reporter on the baseball and women's basketball beats from 2017-2018. Connon also contributes movie reviews for Arts & Entertainment and co-hosts Daily Bruin Sports' weekly podcast, "Out of Bounds." Connon is a rising fourth-year Communication student from Winchester, Massachusetts.
Connon is currently a Sports senior staff writer for the football and men's basketball beats. He was the Sports editor for the 2019-2020 academic year, an assistant Sports editor on the baseball, men's soccer, cross country, men's golf and women's golf beats from 2018-2019 and a reporter on the baseball and women's basketball beats from 2017-2018. Connon also contributes movie reviews for Arts & Entertainment and co-hosts Daily Bruin Sports' weekly podcast, "Out of Bounds." Connon is a rising fourth-year Communication student from Winchester, Massachusetts.
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