The Bruin Holiday: A Natural Born (Ben Ball) Warrior

So I was going to mostly stay away from my laptop today. My plan was to come on here and put up a post wishing you all a happy and safe 4th of July (which I will post right after this entry) and then enjoy the beautiful day. But I couldn't help myself from writing up a little Holiday roundup.

There are couple of great articles on one of the most momentous recruiting occasions in Howland era in Westwood. Greg Hicks, who is probably the best college basketball scout in America has a great write up over at Bruin Report Online (BRO). And since BRO has lifted their subscription firewall through the 4th, I will go ahead and excerpt some of the poignant grafs from Greg's article on Jrue (which you should read in the entirety by going here). Hicks lays out why Jrue's commitment is a significant development for UCLA basketball:

Holiday is not just another player. I wrote a couple years ago that I felt Holiday would be a special player and that his recruitment would be as important as that of Kevin Love. I still feel that way. Love is an exceptional player, and he should have a great season for the Bruins this year, but great guards can have just as big an impact in college as talented big men. Holiday is a great guard and he's also a versatile player - he could be equally valuable at the one or two.

While the recruitment ended up in the Bruins' favor, Holiday was not always a lock to end up at UCLA. Holiday liked North Carolina when he was growing up and he developed a good relationship with Lorenzo Romar after his brother Justin committed to Washington. The fact that Howland was able to battle back in this recruitment, after apparently trailing early, is noteworthy. This is a good example of what happens when a power in college sports gets it rolling. It's similar to what happened with USC football. When a traditional power starts to put it together, and really has significant success on the field, it usually translates into more recruiting victories. We won't ever know the answer to this question, but you have to wonder if Holiday would've ended up at UCLA if the Bruins hadn't reached their second straight Final Four. From what I heard about the recruitment, it sounded like this year's Final Four appearance was a big deal with Holiday.

Holiday is such a good prospect that other players at his position weren't a real concern, but it's still very impressive that he's joining Malcolm Lee and Jerime Anderson in the Bruin class of 2008. Lee and Anderson are both exceptional prospects, with Lee also having the ability to play multiple spots. Of course, the Bruins may have been helped in Holiday's recruitment by the fact that Jrue is good friends with Anderson. But when you look at Washington's roster, and the lack of elite talent in the backcourt, it's impressive that Howland was still able to convince Holiday that Westwood was the right spot for him. Russell Westbrook, Mike Roll, Jerime Anderson and Malcolm Lee are a formidable group of guards. Adding Holiday to the mix gives UCLA a pretty good chance at staking a claim to the best backcourt in the country for the next couple years.
Holiday's addition will not only make our backcourt  the best in the country, he will also provide Howland with lots of options with his incredibility versatility:
Holiday's versatility is really valuable in an age where college rosters can change dramatically from year to year. The fact that Howland can plug him in at the one, two, or possibly even three, makes it much easier to manage unexpected roster changes. If someone transfers out, or goes pro early, Holiday is a guy that can plug a hole on a roster. You can put him at any of those spots and he'll likely be able to excel. And his versatility is also helpful when recruiting future players. Because he's not limited to one spot, future players at backcourt positions can envision playing with him, rather than sitting behind him.
He is also the kind of competition that typifies a Ben Ball warrior:
An exceptional competitor, Holiday has a chance to be a great defender. That competitive spirit is what makes him a very good defender already. He loves to attack opponents and he can be very aggressive at the defensive end. Sometimes that leads to steals, but it can also lead to foul trouble or allowing his man to get an uncontested shot. Holiday's defensive technique really just needs fine tuning. He'll have to do less roaming around in college and just focus on staying in front of his man and locking him up. Once he applies the lessons I'm sure Howland will teach him, I expect Holiday to be the best defender on the team. His strength, quickness and tenacity will bother a lot of opposing guards.
Dohn in his Daily News writeup gives us a little peak into Holiday's competitiveness which makes him sound like another AA in making:
Campbell Hall coach Terry Kelly said Holiday's intangible attributes are more significant than the on-court statistics, and he points to Holiday's freshman season as evidence. When Kelly asked his players to match up for the first practice, Holiday walked over to player of the year Joe Ford and "said I got him."

"Joe Ford ate him up, but that told me he liked to compete," Kelly said. "(Holiday) has lost seven games and won two state titles in his high school career. He is an absolute winner, and when you define winner I'm not only talking about on the basketball court. I'm talking about in the classroom, with his family.

"Jrue Holiday has a way of leading his teammates in a way they respect him. For example, if a guy misses a pass, Jrue doesn't say, `Hey, you (stink). He says, `You're better than that."'
Now understandably we are all in cloud 9. Greg to his credit brings us back to reality wrt to this commitment:
While Holiday is an exceptional prospect, it's important to remember the word "prospect." He has a tremendous amount of potential as a player. His unique combination of athleticism, body type, skill set, feel for the game and multiple other factors give him a chance at greatness. But he still needs to fine tune a lot of things before he'll be a great player at the college level. His exceptional skill level and athleticism have allowed him to be a bit sloppy in his approach at the high school level and still be very successful. At the college level, he'll need to improve his decision-making. As an example, he'll sometimes try to dribble through three players at the high school level. Sometimes, he'll get away with it. That'll be tougher to do in college. In high school, Holiday will sometimes drive to the basket and just throw the ball towards the basket, regardless of whether or not he has a good shot. He'll do that because he knows he'll likely just get the rebound anyway. That kind of play won't work in college.
I guess that's where Howland comes in. We have good reasons to be optimistic given Coach Howland's track record that Jrue will take in all the lessons he will receive from the best coach in American, and hopefully develop into a great Bruin.

Jrue is excited:
Holiday's is a smooth offensive player, but he said Howland's penchant for stressing defense is something he is excited about.

"Defense is a big thing to me because I like playing defense," Holiday said. "We're going to have so many guards there that when one guy is covered, somebody can bring the ball up the court. But we're all going to play defense."
A Natural Born Ben Ball Warrior.

GO BRUINS.
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