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The Heart and Soul

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Bruin spotlight is on AA today and man he deserves ALL OF IT. As mentioned here yesterday AA is now the fifth different Bruin to be honored as the Pac-10 POY and the first since Ed O received the award in 1995. Coach Howland as expected is gushing about his superstar, who also happened to be his first recruit at UCLA. Dohn’s has the Coach’s reaction in his UCLA report today:

"I'm just really happy for and proud of Arron," UCLA coach Ben Howland said. "He's had an unbelievable year, and to me, the No. 1 thing that the player of the year does is make his team win. The thing that makes Arron special is he plays both ends of the floor with equal commitment, and he's a great, great competitor. And winning comes first."

Afflalo scored in double figures the past 29 games, led UCLA in scoring 17 times this season and is the Pac-10's active leading scorer with 1,447points.

Four times Afflalo scored more than 25 points, and arguably his most impressive performance came in a 62-46 win at California on Jan. 26. Afflalo scored 25 points, and also held Bears guard Ayinde Ubaka scoreless.
I think it was AA’s defense which played a big part in winning this award. I do think Oregon fans have a good argument when they advocate for Brooks (considering he is the heart and soul of their team). However, I don’t believe anyone can deny that AA is probably the most complete player in the Pac-10, as he leads the team in not just scoring, but night in and night out he also tends to draw the toughest defensive assignment. Dohn mentioned AA holding Ubaka scoreless above. I think the performance that was really impressive was Bruins last game at Pullman, when AA held Low (another worthy candidate for this award IMHO) to 2 points, while leading the team in scoring with 14 (with out right championship for the Pac-10 regular season on the line).

Anyways, AA on his part his part was gracious and made sure to give due credit to other worthy candidates around the league:
"It means a lot to me to be one of the select few in UCLA history to be honored with this award," Afflalo said during a conference call. "I respect all the other players. There are many other who are well deserving, including (Oregon's) Aaron Brooks and (USC's) Nick Young, and a few others. I believe this award is predicated off of my team winning, so I have to give a lot of appreciation to my teammates."
Always the (unquestioned) team leader.

I was thinking about AA’s comments after the Washington game last night. The more I thought about it, his comments reminded me of Ed O’s tirade after the Bruins lost their only home game against Cal early in the season. Ed O ripped into his team-mates (and himself) and even the home crowd, for not "bringing it" so to speak, and he wanted to make sure that never happened again that season. It didn’t.

I remember during couple of instances against the Huskies last Saturday, DC was bringing the ball down the court on fast breaks when he had passing opportunities for easy buckets. He instead decided to take it the hole and came up empty. Those weren’t smart decisions by DC (and to me its understandable (and remarkable) when I consider the fact the kid is only a sophomore and still in midst of his first full year of starting pg of this UCLA team). And I think he won’t make those mistakes again. I do believe AA’s comments will make this team even stronger and encourage them to the play smarter rest of the way. AA’s comments even after winning the award showed what he is focusing right now:
"It's a great recognition, but on the flip side, you know, I'm still pretty concerned about our team's state right now," Afflalo said. "All the individual awards are great, but if it doesn't translate into team success it really doesn't mean anything. It can mean that much more if we continue to win. For me, it's all about winning."
I have a feeling AA and his team-mates are going to come out breathing fire this week. Ben Ball warriors are going to take their cues from the heart and soul of UCLA basketball, who also happens to be our MVP.

GO BRUINS.