UPDATED & BUMPED: The post was timed for moments before the tip-off but the sentiments expressed here are timeless. JS responded with another career high in his last game at Pauley. GO BRUINS. -N
With Josh Shipp's senior day upon us (also DC's and PAA's) I think it's time we revisit Bruin basketball the season before Josh got here. Coach Howland was going through some pretty severe growing pains with a bunch of players not his own, and trying to implement an entirely new system that was not necessarily agreeing with his personell. That was a tough year for all of us, no doubt. But there seemed to be a light at the end of the tunnel. A couple guys named Farmar, Afflalo, Shipp, and Mata (-Real). Ben Howland's first recruiting class at UCLA.
Farmar was the most highly touted of the bunch (rightfully so). Shipp and Afflalo were both LA products with great high school careers. And Lorenzo was the "project" of the bunch. Needless to say we were on pins and needles in Westwood waiting on the young men we hoped would lead us out of the long darkness created by the coach who shall not be named.
Much can be said about each of Howland's first four recruits. Farmar, an instrumental piece in the rebuilding project, was the first to leave Westwood, but we thank him for all his contributions, particularly his role in establishing the toughness and physicality that we so commonly associate with Ben Howland basketball. Arron was the second to leave and I don't think I need to say much about him. He was the consummate "Ben Ball Warrior" who never took so much as a single posession off. Lorenzo stayed his full four years making massive strides on both ends of the court and also living up to the perfect example of a student athlete.
But today we honor the last member of that class. Josh is a redshirt senior. He's been with the team through all its final four runs (though he was in street clothes for the first one). He's had his ups and downs as a player and has stirred up QUITE the controversy on the UCLA message boards. But at the end of the day (particularly TODAY) Josh is a Bruin. A Bruin who played all four years for his alma mater and who has most certainly shed his blood, sweat, and tears for the Blue and Gold.
So today I suggest, humbly, that we dub the recruiting class of Jordan Farmar, Arron Afflalo, Josh Shipp, and Lorenzo Mata-Real "The Savior Class." Because they absolutely were. They were the first guys to come to Westwood FOR coach Howland and completely buy into his system. They changed the culture of UCLA basketball within one season and although it ended in a disappointing loss to Texas Tech, anyone who watched that year knew good things were coming.
I know DC and PAA will get their due praise here on BN and all about the internets, and to be fair, Shipp will too. But I just thought it was necessary to remind us all how far we've come and who's been there every step of the way. Today we celebrate the last member of "The Savior Class." Here's to you, Josh Shipp:
Photo Credit: J. Rosenfeld
Thanks for everything.