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New York Times Stories on Ben Ball Warriors

Couple of great stories from the New York Times zeroing in on two of our warriors. Lee Jenkins (who used to be the UCLA beat writer for the Orange County Register) has written up back-to-back reports focusing on AA and Luc.

First, let’s start with Arron. Yesterday Jenkins led off his game report writing about AA's drive towards immortality in Westwood (emphasis mine throughout):

The U.C.L.A. basketball pantheon includes 11 national championship trophies, a couple of famous 7-footers and one 96-year-old man.

They may want to scoot over and make some room. The pantheon may be getting a new member.

When U.C.L.A. guard Arron Afflalo arrived at HP Pavilion on Saturday afternoon, he was a first-team all-American and the Pacific-10 Conference player of the year. When he left Saturday night, Afflalo was something more.

It is hard to pinpoint the exact moment that a standout player becomes a college legend, but Afflalo’s moment may have arrived at about 6:30 p.m. Saturday, as he dribbled the ball down the court and the final seconds of the West Regional final against top-seeded Kansas ticked away.

Afflalo and the Bruins are going to the Final Four for the second year in a row after beating Kansas, 68-55. Afflalo scored a game-high 24 points, but as usual, his influence extended far beyond statistics.

He made deep 3-pointers and contested layups. He hawked the ball and hit the boards. He coached teammates and pumped up fans. And at the end of his defining day, he cut down the first pieces of the net.

Afflalo has been at U.C.L.A. for three years, reached two Final Fours and helped rebuild a storied program. Ben Howland is the first U.C.L.A. coach to make consecutive Final Fours since John Wooden, but he could not have done it without Afflalo.
Had that tingling feeling going through my spine reading those paras. yesterday morning. BTW have I ever mentioned how much I dig the Old Gray Lady inserting those periods in between UCLA?! Just awesome to see that word whenever it pops up in the front page of the NY sports section. I was all set to write something up when I got home late last night, but thankfully sfatoo eloquently articulated what I was feeling about Arron.

Again I am sure in AA’s mind only a championship will cement his legacy among the all time greats at UCLA. And he is going to give everything he has to make that happen in Atlanta. However, at this point given what he has done to revive this program, his legacy is all but set in the minds of this Bruins Nation.

While AA continues his drive towards Bruin immortality, Luc is going to have someone very special too root him on in Atlanta. Again here is Jenkins:
The U.C.L.A. Bruins are getting ready to play in the Final Four for the 17th time in their history.

Luc Richard Mbah a Moute is getting ready to play in front of his father for the first time in his life.

It has been four years since Mbah a Moute left Cameroon and moved to the United States to learn organized basketball. He has tried to describe the sport in phone calls to his parents. He has sent game tapes back to Bia Messe, the village of fewer than 5,000 people where he was raised.

But his father, Camille Moute a Bidias, is the chief of that village, and it is hard for the chief to skip off to a basketball game. Even though Moute a Bidias has visited his son in the United States, he has never seen him take a shot or grab a rebound.

The last time Moute a Bidias watched his son compete in a sport, Mbah a Moute was a budding tennis player in Cameroon. Now, he is a 6-foot-8 sophomore power forward at U.C.L.A., the linchpin for the Bruins’ smothering defense.

Last spring, after U.C.L.A. lost to Florida in the national championship game, Moute a Bidias flew to Los Angeles. Seeing highlights of the Final Four, he began to understand the importance of college basketball in the United States.

Moute a Bidias made his son a promise: If the Bruins reached another Final Four, he would be there.

After U.C.L.A. defeated top-seeded Kansas on Saturday in the West Regional final, Mbah a Moute stood next to the Bruins’ bench, waving his arms wildly. He looked a little more excited than anyone else.

"It was in the back of my mind," Mbah a Moute said. "It’s great to have your dad in the stands. And it will be great for him to be there."
I am crossing my fingers. Hopefully Dad’s presence is going to provide that extra oomph, a little added inspiration, that will enable to Luc finish the job (on the offensive side) around the basket. Now we know at least something is going to be different this Saturday compared to the championship game. Hopefully AA’s drive and Luc’s inspiration will fire up rest of their team-mates to close the deal.