Last night, the sparsely populated/outdated Pauley Pavilion denizens were able to see the new Ben Howland, and a precursor to the
throwback showtime original brand of Bruin basketball that promises to be on display throughout the 2010-11 season. In a dominating 83-50 defeat of the defenseless Cal State Northridge Matadors, Howland’s Bruins pummeled the opposition with stifling, swarming, suffocating defense and – surprise! – a high-flying, potent offense.
Granted, this is ‘just’ CSUN, but the fact is in years past the Bruins haven’t exploded offensively much anywhere, against anybody. Scores of 53-49, 55-50 and 59-41 are generally the hallmark of the solid Bruin teams. . .which is generally nothing to complain about – unless you happen to be a college hoops mecca located minutes from Hollywood and a freeway jaunt from Showtime. The calls for Ben Howland’s firing were a bit egregious, but a tumultuous and underperforming season had Bruin fans clamoring for Steve Lavin. . .okay, that’s not quite the truth, but the Bruins 14-win season, coupled with transfers & dismissals of previously touted recruits (Morgan, Gooden) did not bode well for this year, as the Bruins were ranked only third in conference in the preseason coaches poll.
Bottom line? Howland had to ratchet up the tempo, not only to win ballgames. . .but to get back to winning recruits. One of THREE Bruin Tylers, Tyler Lamb and the monstrous frosh center Josh Smith – along with Laser-fast Juco transfer Lazeric Jones – formed one-third of Howland’s rotation and shot a combined 11-for-20 last night versus the Matadors, and all three displayed the attacking, almost-frenetic pace that may become commonplace for this year’s squad.
The team comes in with light expectations, and looks to be set to outpace all reasonable outlooks:
Malcolm Lee - clearly MUCH more comfortable as a shooting guard, was able to slash & drive his way to eight early points. Confidence is up, and should regain the All-American form that he was unable to feature during the Howland clampdown.
Tyler Honeycutt – reminds me of a more spindly Cedric Ceballos; not really a focus of designed plays but always finds the ball. . .and points. He’s barely carries 183 pounds on his 6’8″ frame, but can already shoot, pass & score like an All-Conference player.
Reeves Nelson – somewhere between Lorenzo Mata and Kevin Love – initially looked like it was heart, toughness & grit would be his hallmarks but a deft shooting touch and knack for scoring put this big man on the Pac-10 radar.
Brendan Lane – still a bit tentative in recovery from last year’s ankle injury, but he has a nice touch and is a good body down low; should further complement the stacked frontcourt for 2011-12 when the Wear twins gain eligibility.
Anthony Stover – very surprising toughness and touch. Going to be a very key player in Howland’s rotation, and a good addition to the frontcourt.
About the only negative from the ballgame was the further lack of progress from nice guy Jerime Anderson, who tallied one point less than Blake Arnet in a very forgettable 16 minutes of work. Anderson is in his third year and plans to be Howland’s ‘sixth man,’ but he needs to improve and regain the confidence he had coming out of high school.
The frontcourt is going to be a bit thin and a work in progress; though Jones & Lee form what is already a top NCAA duo, Lamb is still a freshman and Anderson needs to fill his role for the Bruins to really achieve this year.
That said, last night’s game augurs well for a huge season – the final score could easily have been about 96-35, and that’s how elite teams are supposed to stomp directional – or in this case, commuter – schools. Keep an eye on these Bruins, baby – Sweet 16 this year, championship caliber in 2011-2012.
Be ready for a better than expected UCLA Bruin hoops season in 2010-2011, Bruin fans.
Though the coaches pick the Bruins for third in an underrated Pac-10 conference, the returning frontcourt of Tyler Honeycutt (Sylmar) and Reeves Nelson (love thug) teaming with massive frosh Josh Smith (300+ lbs) will provide a good foundation for Malcolm Lee‘s return to his natural SG role. With the point guard duo of underrated Juco transfer Lazeric Jones & the returning Jerime Anderson finally forcing Ben Howland to pick up the pace, YKI thinks that the Bruins stand a good shot for unexpected dominance this year.
Not this kind of dominance, per se, but in His honor:
Also note the Bruins have a freshman forward named Alex Schrempf. Name sound familiar? It should – son of Detlef, one of the most awesome Euros ever in the NBA.
One more in the proud UCLA lineage as well; a freshman walk-on by the name of Jack Haley will fight Wooden’s grandson Tyler Trapani for the hearts of hustle-loving fans. And yes, Haley is the son of that Jack Haley.
Anyway, the fun ride starts tonight vs. the mighty Matadors of Cal-St. Northridge. My wife and Dad both attended CSUN, so I will be in attendance and rooting for upstart, Bobby Braswell-led Valleyboys to. . .put up a fight in the first half and earn some experience to lead to a return to the Tourney.
Courtesy of Sporting News (print) and Yahoo! Sports Online, Five Guys About to Make It Big in the NBA for the 2010-2011 season – note the top three – each of themUCLA Bruins.
1. Jrue Holiday(notes), PG, 76ers. He is long and talented and has really only scratched his potential. But the more he played last season, the better he got. The question has always been: How well can he run a team? And if you are going to have him as your one, you want to have a two who can be a playmaker, too. That’s what they have with Evan Turner(notes).
2. Darren Collison(notes), PG, Pacers. When you look at the numbers he put up as a starter when Chris Paul(notes) was hurt, obviously, if he gets big minutes he is going to produce. The one thing that worries me, though, is whether he’ll fit Jim O’Brien’s system. It’s not a traditional offense where the point guard simply creates and racks up assists. That’s what he did in New Orleans, and O’Brien will have to adjust a bit.
3. Kevin Love(notes), PF, Timberwolves. He has gotten better as a rebounder, and he is one of the more versatile power forwards out there. He can shoot it from medium and long range, and he is a tough matchup. He has to get better defensively—if he had been healthy all of last year, he would have made some natural improvements.
4. D.J. Augustin(notes), PG, Bobcats. Someone has to be the point guard. He took some steps backward last year, but that was because Larry Brown really wanted to make Ray Felton into a pretty good point guard. And he did. Now, with Felton gone, he can do the same with Augustin. He can shoot the 3, but he has to do better at playing within Larry’s system and not trying to do too much on his own.
5. J.J. Hickson(notes), PF, Cavaliers. There is a reason everybody wanted this guy at the trading deadline, but the Cavs will be happy they kept him. He is a beast inside and a great athlete. He could eventually block 2.5 to three shots per game. He will be a good rebounder, and although he might not have the smoothest offensive game, he runs the floor very well—and they’re going to be a good transition team.
Keeping up with the rest of the highly-touted, much-ballyhooed, utterly disappointing 2008 Ben Howland recruiting class, J’Mison “Bobo” Morgan was dismissed from the UCLA hoops team today. In keeping count post-Jrue Holiday and post-Drew Gordon, this leaves only the exasperating Malcolm Lee and under-performing Jerime Anderson from what was widely regarded as the best recruiting class in the Nation.
The Fire Ben Howland Watch continues. . .no seriously, I’m a “good” coach:
And in all seriousness, YKI realizes Ben Howland is a good – nee, great - Coach. He just shouldn’t be in Westwood. The UCLA Baskeball program needs to run, needs to be explosive, needs to EXCITE. This is the town that created Showtime, even pre-Lakers (Alcindor, Walton, Goodrich, Reggie Miller, BDavis, Toby Bailey, etc).
As alluded to previously by YKI, Ben Howland‘s much ballyhooed recruiting class for 2008-2009 largely fell flat. The national consensus #1 recruiting class is dissected by Chris Foster in today’s L.A. Times.
Jrue Holiday left prematurely but seems to fit better in the NBA; Malcolm Lee seems to be growing past his awkward (and underwhelming) first season-and-a-half and turning into a marginal-to-good point guard; Jerime Anderson has battled injuries and hasn’t seen serious court time a la Cedric Bozeman; Drew Gordon bailed at the first sign of stress; J’mison “Bobo” Morgan reported out of shape and might or might not have upside (and will get a chance to show it during the Pac-10 tourney). In short, there is basically one more year until this class is considered a complete bust. . .
Russell Martin returns to camp “like a linebacker,” weighing 235 pounds, bulking up in the offseason by following – you ready for this, MItchell Report acolytes? – Eric Gagne’s training regimen, in attempt to hit for more power. Hopefully this is more Mike Piazza than Andruw Jones.
Don’t fret, Halos fans, YKI WILL be covering the Angels this year as well, as are the hordes of Japanese media swarming over Hideki Matsui‘s cross-coast move to Anaheim.
As if UCLA hoops fans haven’t had it difficult enough this year with realization of the utter failure of last year’s recruiting class and the mediocre play in the less-than-mediocre Pac-10, stud frosh Reeves Nelson is now debilitated with yet another eye injury.
Ho Hum. Kobe’s back. Another game winning 3-pointer, leading the Lakers to a one-point win over the Grizzlies.
A little Waves action from Vincent Bonsignore at the Daily News for uncovering Pepperdine star Keion Bell, who dazzled at Kobe Bryant’s ballcamp last year with this dunk over five people (go to the 40 second mark and enjoy):
And lastly, for my L.A. heads, this is the album of the day (though technically two separate albums, released four years apart):
Much like Gilbert Arenas, Murs began as a wildhorse; an L.A. native, massively talented & energetic, with charisma & personality almost overshadowing his ability. After a few brushes with superstardom, the work in the studio/gym led to a collaboration that enabled success (9th Wonder for Murs, Eddie Jordan for Gilbert) with a more adult outlook, though hints of immaturity (blog tirades/frat rap about sex) were still evident. For Arenas, a few questionable decisions led to potential jailtime & a league suspension, while Murs is clean. . .for now. Peep the albums before he pulls heat.
Take a look at Darren Collison’s numbers since replacing the injured Chris Paul in the starting lineup for the Bizarro Hornets:
That’s 19/10/1.4 per GAME from your rookie point guard.
The Rancho Cucamonga native (Eat at Tio’s!) is another one of the much-maligned Ben Howland‘s progeny that improved throughout his tenure, and continued to thrive even at a higher level (Arron Afflalo, Russell Westbrook, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Cedric Bozeman, Ryan Hollins, Jordan Farmar, Matt Barnes though he’s was technically Lavin’s).
It has been only six games as a starter and the numbers are stout. The key will be performing to this level over the long-term, but welcome aboard, DC – keep making the UCLA Bruins fans proud.
Former walk-on Mustafa Abdul-Hamid hit a Kobe-esque 18-foot jumpshot at the buzzer to give the Bruins a 62-61 victory over the Washington Huskies last night.
Though they are half game out of last place in the Pac-10, this is the most ‘down’ I’ve seen the conference at 3-3. That said, the standings are mighty tight and though only three Pac-10 schools will (most likely) sneak into the Tourney this year, UCLA still has a shot. . .
2009-10 MEN’S BASKETBALL STANDINGS
Despite the spate of trouble recently, Tiger Woods celebrated (we assume) being named the AP’s Athlete of the Decade. 64 tournament wins (12 majors) will do that for a man. Lance Armstrong, Roger Federer, Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt, Tom Brady round out the Top Six.
UCLA Hoops is back. . .kind of: Rips New Mexico 100-68. Sylmar High grad Tyler Honeycutt has a breakout game with 14 points in his first extended minutes.
Bill Shaikin comes through again with a promise of “bombshells” in the May 24th trial date between the McCourts. Hopefully the Dodgers can acquire a player or two prior to that date. . .Jamie’s lawyer Dennis Wasser may have crossed a line or two by accusing Frank of having RAIDS: “recently acquired income deficiency syndrome.”
Kobe – broken finger and all – leads the Lakers to another win, this time vs. the Bulls, by scoring 42 points. Pau has only 7 shots, though, and is getting more discouraged by the DAY as he becomes a smaller part of the Lakers offense.
L.A. Kings are on TOP of the Western Conference – 2nd overall in the NHL – after another win yesterday, this time against the Oilers. With Quick in goal, they’re phenomenal.
UCLA football netted more All-Americans (3: Kai Forbath, Brian Price, Rahim Moore) than USC did (2: Taylor Mays, Jeff Byers). . .another sign that the momentum in the crosstown rivalry really is changing?
The already disappointing UCLA Bruin hoops season (2-4, including losses to Long Beach St. & Cal-St Fullerton, with Kansas & Mississippi St. next on the agenda) just became more difficult, as the FireBenHowland watch officially began with Super Sophomore Drew Gordon’s Transfer.
Howland’s failure as Coach, at least in corralling big-name talent within the confines of his program, has been evident for the past two years – which, yes, did follow three consecutive Final Four appearances. The problem is NOT with Howland’s ability to coach. He’s a fine coach; a phenomenal coach, even.
Ben Howland says: I guess you can say UCLA is an “elite” program.
The fact is, though – he is not a UCLA coach; the Bruin program sustained elite status through the decades with athletic, heady players buying into variations of a run-n-gun theme, from Wooden to Harrick to yes, Steve Lavin. What Bruin fans – and Bruin hoopsters – are accustomed to is filling seats at Pauley due to exciting, high-flying basketball befitting of their Blue Chip recruit status.
And yes, Howland can recruit his ass off; he’s had top-five classes during four of the past six years. Howland can also coach. He turned Northern Arizona (who?!?) and Pittsburgh into stronger-than-anyone-ever-expected programs, and he revitalized Westwood with the recent string of successes. That said, his successes came at a price – who can forget UCLA’s plodding, defensively smothering, arduous, grind-it-out playing style that served them so well during the Afflalo/Farmar/Shipp/Matt/Mbah-a-Moute Days? That style of ball does not land Howland any points with the top crop of phenoms that comes out of the L.A. playgrounds each year. And you can completely forget about grabbing the talent on the East Coast.
The “kids these days” don’t want to learn Howland’s trademark “aggressive man-to-man defense” so much as they want to be freed up to run, shoot, score on their way to a one-and-done “career” in NCAA basketball. There’s a reason Studio City’s Jrue Holiday was labeled a disappointment as a Bruin and ended up leaving after one season – he did NOT want to play this kind of basketball. Kevin Love, too – though he bought into Howland’s style, and was a true beast/monster in every regard, one season was enough. “If I want to work more on defense than my growth as a person, student & ballplayer, I’ll go to the NBA” seems to be a mantra, which brings us back to Drew Gordon. He left, simply because he was sick of being hindered by a coach that seems to believe that defense is the only way to win ballgames. “With the talent that’s on the UCLA team,” Gordon’s father, Ed, said, “there’s absolutely no reason for that to happen.”
Even more important, the younger Gordon felt like a bad fit in UCLA’s measured style of play. “His athleticism always has shined more in an up-and-down tempo,” his father said. “That’s not exactly what the UCLA system is about.”
Drew Gordon: Athletic as hell, and note Ben Howland in the background actually looking annoyed that one of his players would leap out of the gym.
The onus may not be fully on Howland, as BruinReportOnline provided some valuable insight into the transfer.
” He had a history of outbursts — against coaches in which he would argue vociferously, and against players. A source says that he was involved in three fights with his teammates, and Howland had warned him that there was no further tolerance of it.
When he was a high school prospect, we had heard quite a bit about him, about how he could be a difficult personality and tough to coach. When we learned that he had committed to UCLA we were particularly surprised, since we didn’t think he was a good fit for Howland’s program. The fact that he picked UCLA and Howland gave us a little hope that, perhaps, he recognized what he needed to make himself a better player.
Now, I’m not saying that Howland is a saint in all this. The way he coaches and runs his program, a player like Gordon was going to be naturally problematic. Perhaps there’s another coach out there that would be able to work with Gordon, adapt to his idiosyncracies, and get the most out of him.“
And that’s what this is about – adapting to the players that will come to your school. UCLA can get recruits even if Bozo the Clown is coaching in Westwood. It’s also about adapting to the times; at a second-tier program with second-tier recruits, defense may be the ONLY way to win games. Once you’re in prime time, though – it’s time to fly. And that’s what UCLA baskeball is and should be about.
Now will Ben Howland get fired? Of course not – he’s a great man and again, a spectacular coach. He’s just NOT the right coach for UCLA.