Ben Ball News Notes: After The First NBA Draft Deadline

Now that we have passed April 27 (the deadline players to enter the NBA draft w or w/o an agent), the next date to keep our eye on is June 16. That’s the date by which LRMAM and JS (players who haven’t signed an agent) will have to decide whether or not to stay in the draft. Yeah, I know. KL and RW fit into that category as well since they haven’t signed an agent (yet), but who are we kidding. They are gone.

A number of analysts in the MSM have reset their assessments for next year’s team based on the April 27th deadline and according to them the Bruins are looking more than all right based on the unexpected news of DC’s return for his senior season. From Andy Katz on WWL:

As Love progressed during the season, it became more and more obvious that he would bolt for the NBA. The assumption, though, was that so too would point guard Collison. Collison's surprise announcement Saturday that he's not going to test the draft as a junior is a huge coup for the Bruins. Westbrook may stay in the draft since he's a hot name right now, but that's an OK hit considering the Bruins most likely will still have a scoring guard in Shipp (although he struggled at the end of the season), the return of injured guard Michael Roll, and big-time newcomers Jrue Holiday, Malcolm Lee and Jerime Anderson on the perimeter. Holiday may just be this season's Jerryd Bayless or Derrick Rose, a lead guard who can help change the fortunes of a team. Mbah a Moute, like Shipp, probably won't stay in the draft. And if he comes back, along with Alfred Aboya, James Keefe and newcomer Drew Gordon inside, the Bruins have a real shot to make a play for a fourth straight Final Four. Not having Love to anchor the post is a major hit, but coach Ben Howland has adjusted quite well to different personnel during his tenure. The result is always the same -- the Bruins win and win big.
Hmm, can anyone tell me how did Bayless "change the fortunes" of Arizona? They were mediocre before him. They remained so with him. Anyway, it's just Arizona.

Meanwhile, Luke Winn from SI.com has penciled in UCLA as the number 2 pre-season team in the nation:
What happened in April: A declaration party. Kevin Love, Russell Westbrook, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Josh Shipp all put their names in the draft, but none hired an agent. Junior Darren Collison opted to stay. I'm evaluating the Bruins with the expectation that Mbah a Moute and Shipp will also be back in Westwood.

Impact: Given that Collison would have been a first-round pick, his return was the surprise of draft-deadline weekend. He and Hansbrough will share the Roy Hibbert Spirit Trophy -- for enhancing the college game as seniors, not improving their draft stock -- and be locks for preseason first-team All-America status. Having Collison, Jrue Holiday and Josh Shipp at the 1-2-3 spots will make for a dangerous, perimeter-based offense that should run away with the Pac-10.
Both Andy and Luke made those observations assuming both LRMAM and JS will come back next season. I am not ready to make those assumptions yet, I will wait till June 16th for this process to play out and see what Coach Howland ends up with for next season.

One kid who will not be in a UCLA uniform is Ater Majok who committed to UConn after his official visit to Storrs, CT over the weekend. He was done after that visit and apparently didn’t want to bother with coming out to Westwood. Oh well. Good luck to Ater and the Huskies. They are going to have a Final-4 caliber team next year. For their sake they should keep their fingers crossed and avoid USD in first week of the Big Dance.

I want to go back and revisit DC’s return though. I think we need to take a look at development (unexpected IMO) and appreciate its significance in the world of Ben Ball:

I don’t think we can stress enough the kind of depth we are going to have the backcourt next season. Meriones diagnosed our key shortcoming this past season, when a thin backcourt impacted our team’s over all performance. Well we shouldn’t have those issues with DC and JH (w JA and ML ready to step up) in the back court any more. We will have the perfect blend of experience, athleticism, speed, and then prototypical Ben Ball defensive ferocity from our backcourt powering the whole team. The deep backcourt will allow us not just come with ferocious defensive pressure but sustain it for the whole game.

With DC in the team there will be no confusion as to who is going to on and off court leader of next year’s edition of Ben Ball warriors. I think since AA’s departure there was a gap in leadership that was felt at points throughout this past season. While KL had a remarkable freshman season, and said the right things and stepped up when he was being counted on, he could never really claim the mantle of being the leader of this team. At the same time DC, JS or LRMAM somewhat lurked around the background because of the incredible spotlight shining on KL. That’s not going to be the case any longer. There will be no doubt as to who is going to be the unquestioned floor general for the Ben Ball warriors next season:
"I felt that this was my chance to do something real special in coming back for my senior year," Collison said. "I'm totally confident in what we're going to do (next) season, something special that we were trying to accomplish last year. I'm loyal to this program, and I knew the confidence of this (freshman) class coming in, and my teammates and this coaching staff had a lot to do with making my decision more confident."
Another huge ramification of DC’s return is the stability it will bring in Howland’s recruiting pattern. Because of the depleted state in which he inherited the UCLA program, Howland had to insert both JF and AA in the line up right from their freshmen years. It ended up accelerating their development at UCLA resulting in their early departures to the NBA. If Howland didn’t inherit a program in such bad shape neither AA or JF would have logged 30+ mins in their first year at UCLA. And as soon as JF left, he had to plug in RW, accelerating his growth … leading to what’s looking like another early departure from UCLA. DC is going to be the first senior guard Howland will have at UCLA. What that means is it will allow him to bring in guards like Anderson and Lee a little more methodically. Don’t get me wrong those kids will get a lot of mins next season. But they are not going to be called upon to carry the load like JF and AA had to in their years at UCLA. In terms of roster movement and stability in recruiting plans, it’s a huge deal.

Lastly, as stoked as we all are about DC’s return, he still needs to work on his game this summer. DC needs to hit the weight room hard this off season. Hopefully he will be able to put on 15 extra pounds, allowing him to hang in their with more physical guards. He will also have to work and think about how to become a better decision maker on the court. In other words he will need to find a way to improve his court vision so that when he comes back next season our offense is not stuck in a rut as he is dribbling around for 25-27 seconds before jacking up long bombs. I think this issue can be addressed by speeding up the tempo of the game (which Howland has hinted at already). Not to mention presence of more skilled options around the wing could help his cause in this area as well.

Either way, right now things are looking pretty good in the world of UCLA football. It will look even better if we get either Luc or AA2 (or both) as well as JS by June 16th. We will see how it all works out. Given the state of the program we can afford to be patient (even though we know the coaching staff is going to full court to look for options around the planet).

GO BRUINS.
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