While we tend to focus on what the three freshman have done individual Shabazz Muhammad (number 2 in PAC 12 in scoring and #1 in three point percentage in PAC 12), Kyle Anderson (#6 in rebounding in PAC 12) and Jordan Adams (#6 scoring and #6 in steals) we tend to ignore the other leader. The only guy who is on the nationwide leader list: Larry Drew II. Larry is second in the nation in assists and first in the nation in assist to turnover ratio (First in the PAC 12 in both). Larry by any statistical standard has been spectacular.
So why is he not getting more love or fan support? I am personally as guilty of this as anyone else. Are the stats painting an accurate picture or are they exaggerating the effect of his passing? Since I like lists below are ten thoughts on Larry Drew II. As is the seeming theme this year, it is not black and white.
10. Drew is out shined by the others around him. Larry is undoubtedly the leader in assists and it is not close but Larry does not often make the spectacular pass. It seems most games it is Kyle who makes the pass that makes fans stand up. Last game Shabazz made the spectacular pass. Larry is mister steady.
"He's been our steady player out there - a steady point guard, steady leader that we need him to be," said Tyus Edney, the former UCLA standout and now the Bruins' director of basketball operations. "He's doing a great job sharing the ball. We have a lot of talent around him, so it's good to have a point guard that knows how to get those guys the ball."
9. Howland set up Larry not to be liked in a sense. One thing his former North Carolina teammates all said about him is he was quiet. His transfer took everyone by shock and that was part of the problem. No one ever knew what Larry was thinking. While Kyle Anderson whispered in Howland's ear during a game that the other team was in zone to help call a play, helped Jordan Adams lose weight over the summer, helped recruit Tony Parker, and even yelled at Shabazz on Defense, Drew is the quiet type. Yet Howland inexplicable named him a Captain. Everyone knows the leader on this team is Kyle and the go to guy is Shabazz. Everyone except Howland.
8. Larry Drew is last in scoring of the seven players who play the majority of the minutes despite the fact Larry leads UCLA in minutes played. David Wear in thirteen less minutes a game easily out scores Larry for sixth place. Larry is hard to notice sometimes since he really does not look to score.
7. UCLA is running the ball more than ever this year under Howland and turning the ball over less than ever. Larry Drew II deserves a lot of credit here. UCLA is number one in the conference in turnovers (only 11.2 a game) and assist to turnover margin in large part because of Larry. This is a noteworthy accomplishment for a team that also leads the conference in scoring.
6. Of course some problems are of Larry's own making on offense. How does a point guard in 15 games only shoot 18 free throws? It does not make sense for a guy who has the ball in his hands this much to go to the free throw line so rarely.
5. But maybe that is strength. Larry is a bad free throw shooter (61%) and a bad shooter generally 44% from the field and 27% from three. Larry knows with everyone else around he should not shoot. I will give him some credit here. His strength is passing.
4. Larry has hit the big shot in games. It was Larry Drew who made the game winning drive and layup in the UCI game. At times Drew has been effective taking it to the hole.
3. But then there is why some of the complaints about Larry Drew II seem legitimate. No less than the normal cheerleader for Basketball generally, Dick Vitale called Larry Drew II out for his lack of effort on Defense:
Drew had not been up to snuff defensively early this season. During a Dec. 8 game against Texas, commentator Dick Vitale called out Drew for his lack of effort to stay in front of the ball as Texas point guard Javan Felix routinely beat Drew off the dribble.
2. But maybe a light has gone off for Larry Drew II since that game. The last two minutes of the Texas game, Larry Drew II played defense and shut Vitale up. More importantly in the Cal game, against what is functionally a two man team on offense, while Powell shut out the better of the two (Allen Crabbe) for a half, Larry had a solid game on the other one Justin Cobbs who shot just 6-18.
1. Howland's defense has always been keyed on "on ball" pressure, especially on the point. Our better play on defense may be credited in part to Larry giving a more consistent effort: In any case Larry Drew deserves some love from Bruins fans:
In September, Howland announced that Drew would be his starting point guard by promising, "That's going to happen." He then called Drew his "most indispensable player."
The other Bruins, for the record, include 6-foot-10 twins Travis and David Wear, 6-9 guard Kyle Anderson and Shabazz Muhammad, who could be playing in the NBA right now and next season should be playing in the NBA.
And yet, a 6-2 guard averaging 5.9 points per game is the "most indispensable" of the Bruins.
"I think it's very important, not only to have a senior on the team but a senior point guard," Drew said. "The point guard should be an extension of his coach on the court and be a natural leader."
Not sure I totally agree Larry but you have certainly earned the right to the last word.