Luc Roundup & Looking Forward

Let's start with Luc's (not so surprising decision) from yesterday.  According to the OC Register, Luc acknowledged he is taking a risk :

[H]e acknowledged he is taking a risk. He was honorable mention on the All-Pac-10 team and defensive team this past season, but was only fifth on the Bruins in scoring with 8.8 points per game and struggled throughout his UCLA career to gain consistency with his jump shot.

‘'There's obviously a gamble,'' he said. ‘'There's nothing guaranteed. I'm not going out in the first round for sure. So obviously there's a little gamble going on, but I feel pretty confident with my skills, my mindset and my mental toughness. Whatever it's going to take for me to make a team or whatever, I think I have all those things. I'm pretty confident about making a team.''

While a second-round selection comes with no financial guarantee, increasingly NBA teams are giving second-round picks guaranteed contracts – the last three players from UCLA that were second-round picks all did, at the league minimum.

Ryan Hollins, who was the 50th overall selection by Charlotte in 2006, was paid $412,718; Dijon Thompson, who went 54th in 2005 to the New York Knicks and later was traded to Phoenix, was paid $398,762; and Trevor Ariza, who was the 43rd pick in 2004, was paid $385,277.

Mbah a Moute's defensive ability obviously will make him attractive to some NBA teams – he has defended point guards, shooting guards, small and power forwards.

Howland (along with rest of us) is hoping that Luc lands in a NBA team that is the right fit for him :

"When he gets in the right system, he can play in a lot of different programs," Howland said. "Like you're watching the Lakers and the Celtics right now, it comes down to who can get stops and who can match up.

"I look at Luc and you see some really good players in the NBA right now. There's no question he can go out and defend and play against very good players right now and do better than most."

Mbah a Moute was an all Pacfifc-10 Conference honorable mention and received a Pac-10 all-defensive team honorable mention. He averaged 8.8 points and 6.0 rebounds per game his junior season. His 775 rebounds rank him 15th in UCLA history.

"Luc's the kind of player that I think will be appreciated more by a coach than by a scout," Howland said. "The intangibles he brings to the table are truly special."

I'd bet Phil Jackson will take Luc over Radmo in the current NBA championship series. Yes, Luc is still bit of raw when it comes to his offensive skills. But, I can't think of many elite college players in America who can match his speed, defensive intensity, and athleticism around the rim. If Luc can become a little stronger, fill out his frame little bit more, I think he will have a chance to prosper in the "right system" for a long time.

But now that Luc is gone instead of wondering what could have been, let's move forward and begin the anticipation for for next season. It looks like North Carolina , with return of top six scorers from last year's 36 win team will be the prohibitive favorite to win the championship. Good for the Tarheels (not so great for rest of the ACC). Arizona catches a little break with the return of Buddinger.

As for us we caught our own break with the return of DC and the commitment of J'Mison Morgan. We are nowhere close to the nuclear scenario we were mindful of at the end of this past season. Here is how the lineup looks for this coming season:

pg sg sf pf c
starter DC JH JS JK AA2*
JA ML MR DG/ND JMM

Some early thoughts:

  • Howland has indicates that AA2 is coming back. However, I am putting an asterisk next to his name because I have yet to see an official announcement. Hope I am worrying too much here.
  • I think the first thing we have to watch for is chemistry. This roster will not have any sophomores. Coach Howland will be infusing experienced upper classmen with blue chip freshmen talents. So it could take a little time for this team to gel and develop chemistry. I fully expect this team to go through some growing pains in first half of the season (like the 2005-06 team) but I am hoping at the end, Howland and his staff will have the team in position contending for its fourth straight Pac-10 title.
  • With Luc's departure, it will be Keefe's time to shine and I have a feeling the kid is going to step up. He no longer is going to be playing with the fear of getting pulled out (from making a mistake). And we saw with the kind of passion, intensity, and smarts he displayed during the Pac-10 and NCAA tournament when he started to get extended mins due to Luc's injury. Not that many kids can play defense like Luc. However, JK will be well versed on Howland D. But here is the deal. I believe JK has more upside on offense than Luc. So if Keefe has a great off season in the gym (just like last season before he got hurt) and stays healthy (knocking on wood), he could be poised for great junior season. I am excited for JK.
  • It will be interesting to see Shipp's mins next season. It seems like Coach Howland gives a lot of deference to his experienced players. Shipp has the potential to have a better season now that he also will have an offseason in which he can just focus on improving his game, w/o having to rehab from injuries. But I have a feeling Shipp could get some competition from Roll (hopefully his rehab is going well) and Lee.
  • DC is the unquestioned pg for this team. However, we have heard so much about JH. I wonder given what a great 3 point shooter DC is, Howland will feature lineups with JH (or even JA) at 1, setting up DC at 2. Should be fun.

I am sure there will be more questions as we get ready for the hoops season. But right now, I am more than happy wrt to how the NBA pre-draft season worked out for UCLA. Sure we could have used Luc next season. But even without Luc, Coach Howland will have deep team with a good core of upperclassmen and talented freshmen.

All we need to do now is keep our fingers crossed that these kids stay healthy while getting stronger heading into Howland's sixth season at UCLA.

GO BRUINS.

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