As Mick Cronin set out to restore UCLA to national prominence after its first losing season in nearly a decade, one of the critical questions was whether he would turn to transfers or freshmen.

Why not both?

The Bruins on Wednesday supplemented their massive haul of transfers with a second freshman when Harvard-Westlake star point guard Trent Perry signed with the school. After initially signing with USC, Perry reopened his recruitment after Trojans coach Andy Enfield departed for Southern Methodist.

Perry's commitment represented a second major triumph for UCLA over its crosstown rival after USC small forward Kobe Johnson announced his transfer to the Bruins earlier this spring.

A McDonald's All-American who was also selected The Los Angeles Times' player of the year, the 6-foot-4 Perry averaged 18.6 points, 6.1 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game last season while helping the Wolverines repeat as state Open Division champions. Widely regarded as a team player and defensive grinder who can also knock down three-pointers, Perry could serve as a backup to UCLA point guard Dylan Andrews and eventually replace him if Perry stays in college for multiple seasons.

"We are thrilled that Trent Perry has chosen to become a Bruin," Cronin said in a statement. "He has had a very successful high school career at Harvard-Westlake, where he was extremely well-coached by Dave Rebibo. Time after time, he stepped up in big moments and led his team to victory.

"He'll graduate as a back-to-back California state champion and the Gatorade California Basketball Player of the Year, along with a host of other impressive individual accolades. Trent has established himself as a dynamic playmaker, and we believe that he has a very high ceiling as his game continues to develop. We're looking forward to having him in Westwood."

His arrival could trumpet a UCLA pipeline to Harvard-Westlake after the Bruins also brought in forward Christian Horry, the son of former Lakers forward Robert Horry, as a walk-on. UCLA is also believed to be recruiting highly coveted forward Nikolas Khamenia, who will be a senior for the Wolverines next season.

The Bruins have historically missed in their recruitment of Harvard-Westlake's biggest stars, losing twins Jason and Jarron Collins to Stanford and shooting guard Johnny Juzang to Kentucky before Juzang transferred to UCLA for his final two college seasons.

Perry joins fellow guard Eric Freeny as part of an incoming freshman class that has been complemented by six transfers, heralding another offseason overhaul. For a second consecutive season, the Bruins will have eight newcomers. But they will not be nearly as young as last season after signing so many veteran transfers.

In addition to Johnson, UCLA is bringing in forwards Tyler Bilodeau (formerly of Oregon State), Eric Dailey Jr. (Oklahoma State) and William Kyle III (South Dakota State), as well as guards Skyy Clark (Louisville) and Dominick Harris (Loyola Marymount).

UCLA's newcomers appear to address every issue that tormented the team last season. Harris provides elite three-point shooting; Dailey and Bilodeau provide veteran savvy and versatility at power forward; Johnson's strong perimeter defense could free Andrews from having to defend an opponent's top guard; Kyle is equally athletic but far less foul-prone than predecessor Adem Bona; and Clark is versatile enough to play both guard spots at a high level.

"We have worked hard to build a roster of great talent and character," Cronin said. "Each of our recruits understands our vision to compete for a national championship — that's what we do at UCLA, and that will propel them to their professional dreams, as well. We plan to be a very deep and well-balanced team with skill, size, length and athleticism. Obviously, we are very excited to get everyone on campus this summer and start the process of coming together as a team."

The Bruins are also expected to return center Aday Mara in addition to guards Andrews and Sebastian Mack and forwards Lazar Stefanovic, Brandon Williams and Devin Williams. It's believed that the team will use name, image and likeness funds to cover the cost of one scholarship so that it does not exceed the limit of 13 scholarship players.

Being surrounded by so many proven veterans will challenge Perry and Freeny to show they are worthy of significant playing time in their first college season. But Perry's commitment showed that he's not afraid to compete for a role on what appears to be a stacked team.

©2024 Los Angeles Times. Visit Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.