The Brilliance Of UCLA Assistant Coach David Grace

By Ryan Touhey,

The competitive environment of NCAA Division I basketball is obviously different than the environment of the Air Force. Right?

Not to UCLA assistant coach David Grace, who stated in a 4 Quarters Podcast interview, that his service in the Air Force translates to his love and dedication for basketball. “It helped me out a lot. The Air Force is the best organization in the world at what they do. The work ethic that I learned for 20 years has helped me greatly in this career that I’m in now. And being able to relate to young people, to be the best at what they do, goes hand-and-hand in college basketball coaching,” said Grace.

It isn’t often that somebody goes from a career in the Air Force, to being recognized as one of college basketball’s best recruiters. But Grace has defied those odds and has put together quite the basketball résumé.

After a successful tenure as an assistant coach and recruiter for Oregon State, Grace joined the UCLA coaching staff in 2013, under Steve Alford. In his first two seasons as an assistant coach, the Bruins made the Sweet Sixteen during March Madness, but were defeated both times.

After a disastrous 2015-16 season, Grace and the Bruins came into this season, determined to redeem themselves. And right now they are riding in the fast lane to March Madness with a 18-2 record, and a second ranked seed in the country. But Grace has also continued to look ahead towards the future. He continues to utilize his skills and expertise in recruiting more star-studded talent.

According to Bleacher Report, UCLA will welcome in four top-100 prospects next season, thanks in part to Grace. Among those recruits is Kris Wilkes, who is a 5-star prospect and ranked in the top-20 in the country. He is also the top recruiter for his position in the entire Midwest region of the country. According to ESPN, Wilkes was also offered a spot at Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, and Xavier, but ultimately was drawn to Grace.

Wilkes is also a member of the 2017 McDonald’s All-American East Team. Another 5-star prospect that Grace managed to pick up, is 30th ranked Jaylen Hands. “Me and my family felt the most comfortable with UCLA and their staff as a whole,” Hands said to Scout.com.

Grace was able to convince Hands to join the Bruins over other college offers from Louisville and San Diego State. Additionally, UCLA will also welcome 4-star prospects Jalen Hill and Cody Riley, along with Wilkes and Hands next season.

Grace knows he has some very tough competition in the recruiting department, especially with Kentucky head coach John Calipari, and Duke head coach Mike Kryzyzewski. Paul Ables of Bleacher Report, wrote an article regarding five reasons why recruits can’t refuse Calipari’s offers. Among those include the winning tradition of Kentucky, and Calipari’s NBA past with the Nets.

But the one thing that Ables mentioned that corresponds with the style of Grace, is Calipari’s “Player First” philosophy. In an interview with Central Kentucky News, Calipari stated, “I want to win championships for the state and commonwealth, but the most important thing is helping these kids. It is a players-first program.”

Kryzyzewski is not slowing down anytime soon either. He stated to the Huffington Post, “I’m recruiting more and more intensely than at any other time in my career.” Grace uses criticism of others as motivation to get the job done.

Etop Udo-Ema, who is the founder of the Compton Magic AAU program, told Yahoo sports, “He loves when people say he can’t do something. There’s a lot of people who didn’t think he could get stuff done at UCLA, and that just made him sick to his stomach. He’s non-stop.”

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