I understand the extreme concern that everybody has for this basketball program due to the horrific season we just put forth this year. The thing that I don't like is that everybody is criticizing Ben Howland and how he has destroyed this program. It is soooooo quickly that we just forget about the fact that he led us to three consectutive final four seasons with the last one being just two years ago. Here are some reasons we should have hope and excitement for the 2010-2011 season rather than give up all our hope and trust in Ben Howland who we recently placed all of our trust in:
1. The rumors about Ben Howland going to DePaul are just that, RUMORS. This has always been Ben Howland's dream job and he will not walk away from it.
2. Malcolm Lee and Tyler Honeycutt are going nowhere near the NBA for now. Neither of them will get drafted and once they hear that from an NBA scout, they will come back for at least one more year. You may ask why they won't get drafted...according to various mock drafts, Cal guards Theo Robertson, Jerome Randle, and Patrick Christopher are going to be drafted either late second round or not at all. Malcolm Lee and Honeycutt are no where near as good as any of those three players.
3. Ben Howland knows best. He sees all of the players at practice and he realizes their strengths and weaknesses. Yes, when he took Bobo Morgan out of the ASU game after he made a nice shot and then took a charge, I was furious; BUT, we saw how much Bobo needed to improve when he got some more playing time and showed that he had absolutely no quickness on the defensive side of the ball and couldn't do anything to help the team. Every fan, including me, could not stand that Dragovic was constantly being played over Lane and Morgan but Ben Howland believed that this teams only chance was to get Dragovic hot (which didn't happen all year). He could have given more time to players like Moser and Lane in place of Dragovic but he wasn't giving up on the season and just playing for next year. That is something to admire. We would never accept a player giving up on a season and playing for the next season so why would we accept a coach that did that.
4. We have another top notch recruiting class in place as Ben Howland said he is going to hit the recruiting trail hard (another indication he isn't going to DePaul) and as he already has a top 3 center in Josh Smith and another top 50 overall player in Tyler Lamb (6'4 guard). He also recruited the best JUCO point guard in Lazeric Jones and he will pull in at least 2-3 more quality recruits by the time the players sign (he always has been a great recruitor and that will not change as long as he is at a school with a name and tradition like UCLA).
5. The system has been purged of players who do not have the discipline and character that Ben Howland wants in the program (Drag/Gordon). Jerime Anderson showed some great life in the California game and proved to us fans that he has the potential to be a solid point guard in the PAC 10. He will get stronger and quicker over the offseason and will hopefully have no injuries to set him back. We will be returning TWO all conference freshman in Reeves Nelson and Honeycutt (only three other teams had even 1 all conference freshman as the honors are only given to 5 players). A look at our potential starting lineup:
1. Jerime Anderson: I believe that he can make great strides this offseason as he was injury-plagued last year and never got into a rhythm. He finally has some good experience under him and will be working to get better with one of the best coaching staffs in all of basketball.
2. Malcolm Lee: He showed that he can play at an extremely high level when starting at the shooting guard and he will work on improving his shot all offseason. His troubles came when he was running the show at point but he shouldnt have to do that next year as Anderson, JUCO transfer Jones, and possibly a freshman recruit (maybe Ray McCallum) will all be battling for the point position.
3. Tyler Honeycutt: Was unable to lift weights most of the season and can now get stronger and will have a whole extra year of practice time. He didn;t reach his full potential even at the end of the year because he wasn't completely back into the swing of things until mid-conference season due to the injury. All that practice time that he missed to start the year was really harmful to his season.
4. Reeves Nelson: Imagine him at his real position going against players his size rather than having to play the 5 and go against people much larger than him this year. He still averaged 11 and 5.5 at the 5. He will be a monster at the 4 and we should be able to rebound with anybody in the country.
5. Josh Smith: A true 5 and our most coveted recruit since Kevin Love. If he can get back into shape and contribute like he is expected, the Bruins should have the best frontcourt in the PAC 10 with a solid backcourt in Lee and whoever picks up the point position.