UCLA bests UK in battle for 5-star center Bona

  • Basketball recruiting insider.
  • Joined ESPN in 2014.
  • Graduate of University of Delaware.

Five-star center Adem Bona has committed to UCLA, choosing the Bruins over Kentucky.

Bona had a hotly contested recruitment over the last few months, taking visits to several schools, but ultimately narrowing things down to UCLA and Kentucky. The Wildcats were the perceived leader coming out of the summer, but they prioritized Dereck Lively, who ultimately committed to Duke. John Calipari then turned his attention toward Bona, but UCLA had made up plenty of ground by that point. A late visit from Calipari last week wasn’t enough to stem the Bruins’ momentum and secure Bona’s commitment.

A 6-foot-9 center, who was born in Nigeria and plays at Prolific Prep (California), Bona is ranked No. 17 in the ESPN 100 for the 2022 class. He’s the No. 4 center in the country.

Bona played five games for Team WhyNot on the Nike EYBL circuit last summer, averaging 11.4 points, 11.2 rebounds and 3.4 blocks. He has represented Turkey on the international scene the last few years, including at the FIBA U19 World Championships, where he averaged 8.4 points, 3.9 rebounds and 1.9 blocks in just over 17 minutes per game.

“Bona is probably the most physically gifted big man in high school basketball,” ESPN recruiting analyst Adam Finkelstein said. “He has great length, exceptional speed, good mobility and is quick off his feet around the rim. His offense is still a work-in-progress, but he’s already elite defensively, because he’s an exceptional rim protector who can also move his feet away from the basket guarding pick-and-roll.”

Bona is the second five-star pledge for Mick Cronin in 2022, joining elite prospect Amari Bailey (No. 4) and ESPN 100 point guard Dylan Andrews (No. 51) in the Bruins’ haul so far.

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