UCLA struck gold on the recruiting trail Monday night as five-star recruit Peyton Watson, the 17th-ranked recruit in the 247Sports Composite rankings in the Class of 2021, pledged his allegiance to the Bruins over Arizona, Washington, Michigan, Oregon and a handful of other would-be suitors.
Watson, a 6-foot-7, 180-pound small forward from Long Beach (California) Poly, is ranked as the No. 1 prospect from the state of California and the sixth-best player at his position nationally in the 247Sports Composite rankings.
"It checked all the boxes," Watson said during his commitment announcement on Fox Sports with Titus and Tate. "It's not only a basketball decision, it's a life decision. Eventually, that ball is going to stop bouncing, so I feel like my education at UCLA, my ability to come back if I leave early and get that degree and set me up for life, is a big deal."
His commitment is another milestone for Mick Cronin and his staff, who continue to build something special and sustainable in Westwood. And their quest to do so with a flock of exceedingly talented recruits makes UCLA's resurgence look increasingly more likely.
"I love the coaching staff," Watson said. "Coach Cronin, Coach Palmer, all the staff has been extremely generous and hospitable with my family, always giving us the truth and nothing but it."
Watson joins top-50 recruit Will McClendon, a shooting guard, in UCLA's now-top-10 recruiting class for 2021. The duo will join former Kentucky guard Johnny Juzang and four-star guard Jaylen Clark on a team that should have legitimate Pac-12 title aspirations every year for the foreseeable future.
For UCLA, Watson effectively gives UCLA another shot to prove to blue-chip recruits that Cronin can deliver talents to the NBA. The Bruins had a game-changer of his ilk set to enroll this fall in five-star guard Daishen Nix, but Nix backed out of his pledge in the final hour to join the G League program earlier this spring.
Winning should help those efforts, too, and it's something Cronin did consistently at Cincinnati and in his first season at the helm for UCLA. After a brutal start to the season, the Bruins finished second in the Pac-12 race and won 11 of their final 14 games to close the season.