Let's began this Saturday with some news and notes on the Ben Ball front. Coach Howland and his staff are out recruiting at this time of Summer. As we have mentioned before one of the main recruits on UCLA's radar right now is Josh Smith, the big man from Seattle. Eric Sondheimer from the LA Times penned a story this week reporting on Howland's efforts to land the 6-foot-9, 270-pound big from Kentwood High:
Ben Howland is trying again. The UCLA coach is recruiting another top high school basketball player from the state of Washington. The third time might be the charm.
Howland's focus is on 6-foot-9, 270-pound Josh Smith from Kentwood High in Kent, Wash. He knows it's a supreme challenge persuading an elite athlete to leave his community.
Howland went after Jon Brockman from Snohomish, Wash. Brockman ended up being an all-Pacific 10 Conference forward at Washington. Howland made a bid for guard Abdul Gaddy from Tacoma. Gaddy will be a freshman at Washington this fall.
Now Washington Coach Lorenzo Romar is trying to protect his turf, hoping Smith decides to stay home, but Howland is making a powerful push.
Both coaches were in the gym Wednesday night at Henderson International School, sitting on the baseline not far from each other watching Smith and his travel team, Seattle Rotary, on the first day of a busy week for high school basketball.
Six-foot-9, 300-pound (at least) Joshua Smith of Kentwood High in the Seattle suburb of Kent is expected to choose either UCLA or Washington next month as the school he will sign with in November.
And it's understandable why Smith has attracted such rapt attention from Howland and Romar - each has attended every game Smith has played in the first 10-day recruiting period that ended last week and the second that got under way Wednesday.
Smith has exceptional hands, a soft shooting touch and nimble feet and is a much better jumper than someone of his girth has any right to claim.
To find out what Mr. Smith had to say about this process take the jump.
Josh is basically being coy even though he is saying all the right things about LA:
Smith, who is going into his senior year, is considered the best big-man prospect on the West Coast. His first recruiting letter came from Romar as an eighth-grader. He averaged 26.8 points last season. The pressure is on for him to stay home.
"A lot of people want me to go to UDub," he said, "but I'm keeping my options open."
Smith said he "loves Los Angeles," having visited many times because his mother's family comes from the area.
Should be interesting how it all plays out. Of course getting Smith will be another huge coup for Howland. Then again landing big time gets has been the norm in Howlandwood. Staying on the recruiting/prep. scene an interesting update from the LAT re. a familiar name in Howlandwood:
The younger brother of UCLA forward Nikola Dragovic said today that he is moving to San Marcos, Calif. Danilo Dragovic, a 6-foot-5 junior, is playing for the Double Pump 2011 team. He's going to live with a host family.
"He's gregarious, funny and outgoing," Double Pump Coach Christian Aurand said.
He also can shoot and is playing for a young team that Aurand predicts will be one of the best travel-ball teams next season.
Good luck to Danilo. Hope he gets a scholie at a good program somewhere in D1.
Lastly, looks the teams for the Wooden Classic are all set. UCLA was already set to play Mississippi State (who may or may not have Sidney with them given how his "issues" play out with the NCAA). Now the organizers have secured Washington and Georgetown for the other matchup. That is shaping up to be a great day for college basketball for all the Ben Ball fans in the OC.