Bumped. GO BRUINS. - N
Yesterday was the final day of the first week of the UCLA Summer Basketball Camp where young kids from around the Los Angeles area ages 7-12 can visit College basketball Mecca and enjoy a week long session of learning and playing hoops. Two of my boys attended the camp and yesterday was the awards ceremony and final tournament.
As has been the case for the last few years, Coach Howland gave a nice motivational speech just prior to handing out the camp awards. It was nice that CBH was there and he imparted some nice words to the campers, but the buzz was about another Bruin Basketball star that was in attendance that day.
Prior to the awards ceremony my boys were absolutely giddy as they told me that "Bobo", UCLA Center J'mison Morgan, was hanging around the gyms (the kids play at Pauley, Wooden Center and the old Mens Gym) signing autographs for the kids.
"Was he still here?" I inquired of my star struck young hoopsters. "Yeah, dad. He's right over there sitting in the corner signing stuff".
So, over the objections of my kids, who were afraid their old man was going to embarrass them, I casually sauntered over to the small throng of young boys thrusting head bands, sneakers, shirts and basketballs into the immense hands of the continuously smiling, very tall young man. It was, in fact, J'mison Morgan. I positioned myself at the end of the makeshift line and waited for my turn to speak with this budding young star. To read how it all turned out come with me after the jump.
I thought my turn was never going to arrive because every time 2 kids left with their signed items, 4 more showed up with other things to be autographed. Ggently and ever so annoyingly they each, one-by-one squeezed in front of me. Bobo just gently laughed, smiled widely and continued signing, often autographing things twice for the same kid because the initial signature either smeared or rubbed off. He could not have been more affable, down to earth and approachable. He merely commented that this was a great chance to "practice his autograph signing skills," and "how great it was to see how excited all the kids were." He was by himself, nobody but lots of little kids scrambling for a signature-and me.
"J'mison," I eagerly started as my turn finally arrived "you look great! How much weight did you lose?"
"About 20 pounds," he replied proudly as he politely shook my hand.
"How'd ya do it?" I replied, trying hard to ignore my growing man crush.
"I cut out all that fried Southern food and started eating right. I'm working out every day doing weights and cardio."
As our brief conversation continued it really appeared like he lost a lot more than 20lbs, but he definitely gained some muscle mass judging by how easily he was earlier curling two young, smallish campers, one on each arm. I was fairly critical of Bobo last year saying he lacked sufficient foot speed to defend effectively which landed him on the bench for long periods of time last season. But now he looks and sounds absolutely ready to use his new body to elevate his game to another level. Not sure how this new physique will translate into effectiveness on the court, but I know he will be quicker, which was always my biggest criticism of him.
"Which of the incoming Freshman that you have seen, has impressed you the most? I inquired next.
Without hesitation Bobo replied, "Stover. The kid is much further along than everyone thought." He went on to suggest that Stover will compete for serious minutes next year as "he has a real nice post game" and "most likely won't redshirt."
It became impossble to ignore the growing mass of angry young campers who seemed ready to go "Gulliver" on me by tying my comparatively larger body to the court, so they could get to Bobo and have him sign more body parts and jerseys.
So I ended the exchange by forcing my younger son to take a picture with the now-svelte, Bruin Center.
He looks good, no?
If Bobo puts the same effort into continuing to develop his game as he did into pleasing these young (and old - me) fans yesterday, I predict, without hesitation, that we have the next great Bruin big man. Don't get me wrong, He has a long way to go to equal Walton, Jabbar and Love. But if poise off the court and an improved focus on conditioning and effort are any indication of success, I'm betting this young man will be really fun to watch in years to come.