Let's start with Coach Ben Howland's teleconference discussing the transfers of David and Travis Wear into UCLA:
His excitement about this development is pretty transparent. When we first heard about the potential the Wear Twins coming into UCLA, I was somewhat ambivalent about. When I first wrote about it here I drew up a list of pros and cons and still wasn't sure what to make of the potential transfer. Yet during last two weeks the more that I have thought about Wears about being Bruins, the more I got excited about it. Let me go through my thought process on how I became excited about this development after initially being unsure about.
First, let's take a look at the roster with the Wear Twins in the fold:
So we now have 12 out of 13 scholies accounted for. We might round out this class with Remi Barry (but I am not holding my breath for him). What is noteworthy here is there are no seniors in this roster. I think we can expect that there will be at least 2 (or perhaps 3) scholies available for next year's recruiting class. That will most likely come through departures to the NBA.
The possibility of both Honeycutt and Lee retuning for their junior and senior season in Westwood is somewhere south of 15 percent (and I think I am being charitable). I don't put a lot of stock in off-season sweet talks at booster events about how someone is going to remain in UCLA. If UCLA becomes a contender next year in the Pac-10 conference, and wins more than 1 game in the NCAA tourney, it's a good bet that development will come courtesy of improvements in Honeycutt and Lee's games. At that point, given the reality around the culture of basketball (and I am talking about basketball in general, not just UCLA hoops) one of those guys will go for the NBA bling. It is going to happen.
If you want to be all idyllic about it and want to believe there is a great chance of both of them coming back for another season (just like having pipe dreams about Kevin Love returning for his sophomore season in Westwood) then go for it. For the realists I would suggest stick with the mindset of not having one of them or both of them in 2011-12 season. Now when you take into account, I think having kids like Wear Twins in the fold with a core of Smith, Nelson, Lane, Lamb, Anderson (yes, I included him), Jones and Carlino will help our roster depth.
Now more than ever the recruiting strategy for Howland and his staff becomes crystal clear. They are going to have focus their efforts like a laser and comb all over Southern California, West Coast and the country for pgs and sgs, who will want to link up with potentially one of most well coached and fundamentally sound frontcourt in the country. Now there are other benefits to having the Wears in the old. More on that after the jump.
While the Wear Twins are being counted as part of this year's recruiting class, in reality we have to view them as part of the 2011 class. If you view them as part of class of 2011, they become perhaps the most appealing forward prospect, given the fact they will be way ahead of any other freshman forward from that class in terms of development and ability to readily contribute at the college level. They will certainly be well prepared after being under the tutelage of Roy Williams and Ben Howland. They will be well conditioned and adjusted to Howland's program. As coach said they are not going to hit the ground "running." They will hit it "sprinting." It's a big advantage IMO.
Coach Howland talked about these two guys helping rest of the team "compete." I don't think that can be emphasized enough. Coach Howland likes to conduct tough practices. They are legendary as we have hear of stories of DC and JF going after each other, and PAA and LMR bouncing around like bowling bowls around the paint. Having the Wear Twins at Pauley, will only push Smith, Nelson, Stover, and Lane next season because they will know full well their PT is going to be on the line with these two waiting in the wings. Plus with Howland's tough style, it is always good to have quality healthy bodies at UCLA practices. So that is another big plus.
The thing that has gotten me really excited about the arrival of Wear Twins is that I think Howland might be sending a signal how he is working to get back to his Big East roots, which led to emergence of "Ben Ball" in his first five years in Westwood. With the Wear Twins, Stover, Smith, Nelson, and Lane, Howland is stocking up the roster with powerful frontcourt players, who can potentially once again guard our paint with the same ferocity of PAA, LMR and LRMAM.
During last two years, I missed the moments when opposing players would have to take brutal punishments if they dared penetrating the Bruin defense. I think with these guys Howland can potentially bring back that mindset - the "Ben Ball Warrior" mindset - that was so clearly lacking as a team during last year's dreadful season. These guys, I believe could once again give us a chance to play more "Izzo Ball" than "Calipari Ball" and get us back to being consistent, fundamentally sound program we became during Howland's early years in Westwood.
David: "I just feel like it's a great school with a great coach. I was looking for a school that was benefit me as a player, and as a student athlete. It wasn't so much (Howland's) pitch - originally I wanted to experience going away from home, playing for North Carolina, seeing what that was like. But seeing how much my family, my friends, my people support me, I missed that a lot. I miss being able to come home and see everyone."
Travis: "He basically summed it up right there - I was really intrigued with the idea of playing for North Carolina. I thought it was a great opportunity, but I did miss the support of our friends and our family out here. I did miss home."
There is more than something to it. There are many of us thousands of miles away, who can relate to it personally. There is no other place like Golden State. East Coast is wonderful in many ways. I love it out here. Chapel Hill is an amazing and beautiful college town, especially if you love basketball. Yet, there is no place like home. There is no way to describe the feeling a Californian experiences when he or she comes back home to their families, while taking in the sights and sound of the Pacific Ocean (with that cool breeze). It all sounds cliché but that's what we experience every time we go home for the Holidays. I can more than relate to why the Wears came back home and I am cautiously optimistic that it will only help them to flourish as student athletes in Westwood.
I hope they will work their tail off and also have the same effect on rest of their team-mates and help bring back the good vibe around this program which was lost with primadonnas such as Drew Gordon and Jrue Holiday poisoning the program two years ago. David on bringing UCLA back:
David: "I feel like it's a great school with a historic program. Every school has their down years. My brother and I are both going to come in and do everything we can to contribute. It's going to be great to play with a former teammate Blake Arnet, and Tyler Lamb is going to be there also. They have a lot of talent on that team, and a great coach. I don't think it will take a lot to get it turned around. We have all the weapons, all the tools to do so."
Color me excited.