Ben Ball Roundup: News & Notes

Let's start with congratulating the World Champion Boston Celtics. I guess after five years of Ben Ball, I appreciate teams playing defense that much more. It’s the Cs who played like our Ben Ball warriors last night. They were tenacious. They played defense. They hustled. The wanted it more. And they played that way the entire series (and since I don't follow the C's closely I imagine that's how they go to the Finals). They deserve to be champions. So congrats to the Green Bandwagon. Hopefully the Lakers can take that lesson and figure out how they can do the same next year allowing our friends at Forum Blue And Gold to celebrate next season. With Phil Jackson in charge and the young team that emerged this season, I believe they will come back strong. And as reflected at FBG in this morning after it was a great season for a young Laker team. On to our Ben Ball warriors.

Now that June 16th has come and gone articles are popping up with pre-season rankings. Andy Katz from ESPN has UCLA at number 3:

3. UCLA
Don't cry for UCLA because it lost Kevin Love and Russell Westbrook to the NBA draft. Getting back Darren Collison at the point, Josh Shipp on the wing and the No. 1 recruiting class with a little bit of everything -- scoring, floor leadership and rebounding -- make a fourth straight Final Four a legitimate goal.

That's a 14 spot jump for UCLA from Katz's April 9 projection which assumed DC going pro (along with KL, RW & LRMAM). Katz also didn't take into account the arrival of JM, a development Luke Winn of SI.com took in account while penning UCLA as one of the biggest winners from this off-season:

It was a bizarro offseason in the Bruins' backcourt. The man who was supposed to take over the point next season, Russell Westbrook, went from college backup to NBA lottery pick over the course of his sophomore season, and bolted for the league. The man who was supposed to turn pro after this season, Darren Collison, was shown up in the Final Four by Memphis' Derrick Rose and then decided to come back to Westwood for redemption. Collison will be everybody's preseason first-team All-American at point guard, and is exactly the kind of heady veteran who can help shepherd in UCLA's next wave of guards -- incoming freshmen Jrue Holiday, Jerime Anderson and Malcolm Lee. This situation has to be classified as a positive.

Losing All-American Kevin Love, who will be taken even higher than Westbrook in the lottery, was a foregone conclusion; the development that truly hurt, though, was that forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute opted not to return to make a run at a fourth straight Final Four. The second-round-pick would have been the Bruins' best frontcourt defender. Meanwhile, in a recruiting development that was almost unfair -- given that the Bruins already had what was considered the nation's No. 1 class for 2008 -- they snagged the last five-star center on the board in J'Mison Morgan, a former LSU commitment who had backed out on the Tigers in May.

I still think the number 3 ranking from Katz is a bit high. We will have to see whether Keefe can step up (I think he will). And I think we should expect that it will take some time for the freshmen to gel with upperclassmen. I think UCLA is a top-10 team, however, the number 3 ranking could be a little generous. We will see.

Obviously Katz has UNC at number 1. Interestingly he has Jamie Dixon's Pitt at the number 2 spot. Also of note ASU and UA are the other ranked Pac-10 teams respectively checking in at 12 and 19. Notre Dame is ranked number 4. Remember they are coming out to Pauley his coming season. Texas is now ranked number 13 after the loss of Augustin (they were ranked number 1 in Katz's April 9 projection). Bruins will take on the Longhorns in Austin next season.

Going back to LRMAM's decision, Frank Burlison, the well respected college basketball reporter (Frank knows his hoops) from the Long Beach Press Telegram has an advice for Luc - don't hire an agent:

Luc Richard Mbah a Moute's decision to depart UCLA without playing his senior season was baffling to the most of those who evaluate talent for the NBA for a living.

"I'm not sure he will get drafted at all (even in the second round)," said a respected director of player personnel for a Western Conference franchise.

"He's more likely a guy you would invite to camp (with other undrafted players or free agents)."

The 6-foot-5 Mbah a Moute could end up as a late second-round selection, but he would be wise not to hire an agent yet.

If he goes undrafted and hasn't hired an agent, he can apply to the NCAA to have his college eligibility reinstated, as Randolph Morris (Kentucky) and Jerry Green (UC Irvine) did several years ago.

Regardless of whether Mbah A Moute has or hasn't played his final game in a Bruins uniform, Coach Ben Howland's team will be favorite to win the program's fourth consecutive conference title and make a solid run for a fourth straight Final Four appearance.

We will see if LRMAM will take Frank's suggestion. It would be the smart choice. But I am not sure LRMAM cares at this point. As I have said before he seems to have mentally grown out of college.

To Luc's credit  he has been taking care of business in classroom:

Luc said he is five or six classes shy of graduating. He said he could take those classes over the summer, some online, and be on target to graduate.
He was asked how his father responded to his decision to stay in the draft and Luc said: "He knew what I was going to do after last night anyway. He supports me whatever I did. His main thing has always been school. Schoolwise, I only have about five or six classes left to graduate. Some of those classes I can take online. That was the main thing with him. He was really happy with the fact that I'm really close to graduating."
As for the APR, Howland said Luc is leaving UCLA on good academic terms. The APR will not be affected. What Howland seemed a little upset about was that because Luc is leaving early, he only has 11 players on scholarship. He can have 13.

As Haddock (who BTW has been doing a pretty good job in Dohn's absence in the DN blog) noted in the post above the number would go up to 12 if Stepheson were to become a Bruin.

One player who will not be at UCLA is former Kentucky guard Derrick Jasper, who has to decided to transfer to UNLV. We had already mentioned before why Jasper might not have been a good fit for UCLA. In any event, we wish good luck to Derrick.

GO BRUINS.

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