CBS news earlier this week had the following report.
The question: Who is perceived by college coaches to be the biggest cheater in the sport?
- John Calipari (Kentucky): 36 percent
- Scott Drew (Baylor): 34 percent
- Ben Howland (UCLA): 12 percent
- Jim Calhoun (Connecticut): 7 percent
. . . Howland's inclusion is obviously a result of his recent recruiting class.
That's right. Even if Howland and UCLA are successful this year, some will claim that he was only successful because he cheated. That is ridiculous and insulting to Bruins fans, UCLA, and Ben Howland.
And even the bad things recently tend to prove the ridiculousness of this statement.
Let's start with the infamous Sports Illustrated article written by a well-known UCLA hater. Does anyone really believe an SI editor would okay a multiple month investigation for a story that primarily focused on the antics of one idiot player? SI was after catching UCLA committing recruiting violations. And they could not find anything. While the SI article was a disaster, it does have one positive effect. UCLA fans and the generally the public should rest assured that the recruiting of the UCLA basketball team's number 1 class was clean. Or put more cynically, it seems likely that the SI writer exaggerated the problems to make a better story. If there were any recruiting problems, don't you think they would play those up as well?
I am not trying to rehash the SI story or defend Howland’s player management detailed in that story but rather focusing on the allegation that Howland’s recruiting class is somehow dirty. On a whole in that one respect the SI article seems to support Howland and UCLA’s recruiting is clean.
Let’s focus on the one possibly unclean player in that #1 recruiting class, Shabazz Muhammad. The incident with Shabazz that the NCAA is investigating does not involve his UCLA recruitment. It involves that well known cheating school, Duke. That’s right. If Shabazz is suspended for a few games (which now seems unlikely) it involves squeaky clean Duke’s recruitment of him.
Next, why did UCLA get Jordan Adams and Tony Parker, two national recruits from Georgia? Something must be untoward there as UCLA has not recruited from Georgia before, right? Wrong. At Bruins Nation we went after UCLA’s assistant coaches for poor player evaluation and other problems with recruiting in recent years. Well, the flipside can be true as well. UCLA assistant coach Korey McCray is well known throughout Georgia as a very good coach and moreover is something of a legendary name with his father for his work with Georgia’s top basketball development team, the Atlanta Celtics. McCray delivered and did his job. The big question is whether he can keep delivering.
But putting aside the coaches, the hater's logic goes there is no way any player would want to come to UCLA right now. This is why as UCLA fans it is important IMO to not let crap like this stand. UCLA is a great school and importantly for elite high school prospect it offers some things that no other school can offer.
First, there is no better place to hang out in the off-season for a basketball player than UCLA. As freesia39 wrote a while back and Nestor recently; the pros come to UCLA to practice in the summer. While at say Duke or Kentucky you round out the roster of your pick up games with walk-ons or good athletes on campus, at UCLA you can play against Dwight Howard.
Second, the reopening of the most famous arena in college basketball is a big deal. It is like playing in the new Yankee Stadium a few years ago for a pro-baseball player. While we are rightly concerned about the details of the arena being built and the antics of Chianti Dan Guerrero, kids are focusing on the chance to play in the modernized and remodeled mecca of college basketball. Remember the recent magic of the last game in Pauley?
UCLA is well known as a national basketball power not for what Howland did but for what Wooden built. UCLA will be able to recruit with or without Howland or his staff in the future. To say that Howland cheated without any proof and evidence to the contrary is both unfair and just wrong. UCLA haters often try to detract from Wooden by bringing up Sam Gilbert. This is only a difference in degree.