One of the recurring themes in UCLA basketball is whether or not Howland deserves a longer career here should he land Shabazz Muhammad. I am more curious as to how the rest of the 2012/13 classes play out beside Muhammad. Howland’s career has really been a sum of two recruiting groups-2004/05 and 2008/09. In 2006, 2007, 2010, and 2011, we either did not have as many scholarships available or spent our scholarships trying to make up for transfers. In 2012/2013, we have a significant number of scholarships available and will really build Howland’s third core of players
Howland’s critiques have been brought up multiple times:
1) No true point guard recruits since 2008
2) Mismanagement of personnel with a number of early departures to the NBA, transfers, and “favorites”
3) Defensive issues, whether discussed as an inability to play true Howland defense or an unwillingness to play zone.
Each of these really comes down to recruiting. The recruiting in 2004-5 really set Howland up for success. The recruits from 2008-9 have set up his failure. A closer look at the two groups after the jump.
2004: JF, AA, JS, LM.
2005: DC, LRM, MR, AA2, RW (Ryan Wright for those that don’t remember).
1) Point guards: 2 elite point guards that could put ball pressure on the opposition and bail out Howland late in the shot clock.
2) Personnel: 8/9 players were willing to stick around for a couple of years and buy into Howland’s system. The only true defection was Ryan Wright. Because the others bought in, there was stability and unity amongst the players and between the players and the coaching staff. Look at the length of time the players stayed: 2 years: JF, 3 years: AA, LRM, 4 years: JS, LM, DC, AA2, and 1 premature transfer. I don’t have any problems with the timing of anyone’s departure other than Wright. I do think LRM’s leaving early was the biggest hit to the 2008-09 team.
3) Defense: We had guards that could place ball pressure and deny dribble penetration, wings that rotated, and bigs that would rebound and hedge. We never needed to play zone because the players played true Howland defense.
This group really allowed Howland to be selective the following two years:
2006: RW,JK, Dragovic
2007: KL, CS
Great in between recruiting classes, who accepted their role as support to the core team from the 2004-05. Even Love accepted limited playing time while he was learning the defense. We all know about RW and KL. JK did great as a backup for four years. I’m not sure the details of Stanback’s departure. I am pretty sure he wanted to play earlier. The irony is that he ended up playing at UNLV about the same time he could have been starting for UCLA: 2009-10. I think he would have started over Dragovic. I wish Howland would have been able to convince him to stay. He would have been great for the 09-10 team and a good bridge into the next group:
2008: Holiday, Lee, Gordon, Morgan, Anderson
2009: Moser, Stover, Honeycutt, Lane, Nelson
Here is Howland’s second core. 3 guards (ML was recruited as a guard), 2 wings, 3 forwards, and 2 centers. We know what happened, but here’s where the 3 issues above arose:
1) Point guards: We didn’t have one. JH never really played and took off. JA/ML didn’t pan out. The ball pressure wasn’t as good and they couldn’t bail Howland out late in the shot clock.
2) Personnel. Expectations weren’t managed very well and players were unhappy. JM, MM, and RN definitely left prematurely. TH and ML also left prematurely. JH was only expected to stay a year. The timing: 1 year: JH, DG, JM, 2 years: MM, TH, RN, 3 years: ML, 4 years: BL (?), AS, JA.
3) Defense: The guards couldn’t stop the ball, the bigs couldn’t hedge, and the wings couldn’t rotate. They never managed to play Ben Ball defense.
This group sent the team into panic mode for what should have just been filler classes. Instead of building classes with high school players with whom we had an early relationship, we were really trying to fill holes (small forward for MM/TH, point guard because ML/JA didn't pan out, and bigs for DG and Nelson). I actually think Ben didn’t do too poorly with these classes, although in hindsight, we probably could have done better, especially with a point guard:
2010: Jones, Smith, Lamb, Carlino.
2011: Parker, Powell (Wear, Wear)
So this sets the stage for the next recruiting classes. In the past, Howland’s success has really come from players who bought in, expected to work regardless of playing time, and focused on defense and rebounding. The 2012/2013 group provides another chance to bring in a core of players that can give success. In 2012, we have 5 scholarships available not including Larry Drew. In 2013, we will likely have 4. I guess I would have to put myself on the Howler side of things because I am willing to see what he does with the “tiebreaker” recruiting group before asking for his resignation. This is definitely an argument with flaws, but I think it is a fairly legitimate way to look at the basketball team under Howland. I am curious to see what everyone thinks. Nestor suggested this as a fanpost, so fire away with your thoughts…