We have been hearing the rumor for few days now that both Malcolm Lee and Tyler Honeycutt are unhappy in Ben Howland's program and could potentially "test" the NBA waters. When we heard Lee's name mentioned we weren't surprised (but still disturbed which I will get into later). But when we heard that even a kid like Honeycutt is not happy with what is going on in Howland's program, we were ... well ... stunned.
"He has been frustrated," Stazel said. "He feels he can contribute more offensively. He would really like for Ben [Howland, UCLA's coach] to cut him loose a little more on offense."
As poncho mentioned that we have to be a little bit careful from these quotes because they are often results of reporters baiting interviewees into quotes that would fit into their pre-set narrative. In this case, the quote didn't come in a vacuum. The quote comes at a time we have already been used to criticisms at Howland's offense coming from his own recruited players' circles including JF, AA, KL, RW and LRMAM. Forget the criticisms we heard from primadonnas like Jrue Holiday and Drew Gordon. Before anyone dismisses this quote from Holiday, they should think why player after player coming out of UCLA have taken shots (either directly or through family) at Ben Howland's system.
To me there is a clear trend. People can be in denial over it but it is there. These players were not happy (in Honeycutt's case not happy right now) when they were playing for Howland and they were communicating that to their families. None of those players never came out and distanced themselves from those criticisms when they were published in the papers.
When we laid out what Howland needs to do to get this program back on track we wrote (emphasis added):
We also have to keep a very close eye on Honeycutt because for the health of this program, it is absolutely essential for Howland not to have just complete buy in from Tyler, but also making sure he is always connecting with him and keeping him inspired enough so that he comes back at least for his third season in Westwood. If Honeycutt high tails it out of Westwood after his second season, it will be a negative mark on Howland.
Doesn't look like Howland is off to a good start.
I don't blame Honeycutt for being frustrated. Not one bit. Howland's putrid offensive game plan this year which has been predicated upon stupid, dumb, possession destroying three point shots have been frustrating to everyone else. It wasn't just Honeycutt getting frustrated when we saw Howland kept coddling players who had no business being on the basketball court. So what is coming out from Honeycutt's camp is sad but can't say any of us on the front page are really surprised.
Meanwhile, if Malcolm Lee even considers "testing" the NBA waters, instead of blasting the kid we should probably start thinking about what are the other reasons why he is so anxious to get the hell out of Dodge. From rational perspective, Lee has no business even thinking about the NBA. He has been less than average at times this season. Yet here we are hearing strong rumors that he will likely try to make a quixotic attempt to get out of Howland's basketball cage.
I hope both Honeycutt and Lee come back. We need them both to have a very good season next year. For both of their long term career sake, another year in Westwood learning to play defense and fundamentals would be great for them. However, instead of blasting these kids for being spoiled, selfish brats (not everyone is bad apple ala Holiday or Gordon), we need to start thinking about the root of this disturbing trend of players unhappiness in Westwood. It is troubling and it is not limited to just today's kids being bunch of primadonnas on Hardwood.
Sure these kids need to appreciate the reality around him. However, there is also a matter of communicating with them effectively and guiding them through the process both with tough love with strong dose of positive reinforcement.
Right now I am not sure whether Ben Howland and his staff are effectively communicating with our student athletes (this has been an issue all season long). I find that deeply troubling. Something is clearly wrong with this program and it has to do lot more than bunch of kids acting like spoiled brats.
Communication is always a two street. Forget about a street. From what I have read and seen last two seasons, sometimes I wonder if there is even a rough path between Howland and his players (unless someone is from Serbia with two arrests, an ugly shooting touch, zero basketball IQ and incapable of playing defense). The lack of communication among this team has been apparent on the court all season and parsing together all the reports from this year it is not difficult to discern there hasn't been any effective communication going on off the court either.
Anyway, I guess there is a game today at 12:00 pm PST or something. Don't care much about it to read up on it. If you want to do a "gameday round up" on it, go right ahead. We will have a game thread up about half an hour before it. Whatever.