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Ben Ball News & Notes: Coach Howland's Season Wrapup

I realize lot of folks including Coach Howland himself are upset with Diane Pucin’s Tuesday story in the LAT re. KL and DC going pro. Obviously since the story broke there has been strong so called denials from number of fronts about players and their families not reaching any kind of final decision (or not even having a discussion on it). In his season ending press conference during which Coach Howland addressed this specific issue and gave a detailed account on what and where the players have been since the tournament ended for us last Saturday.

Honestly, I don’t really care that much at this point re. how and when KL, DC, and RW (the Big-3) will announce their decision to go pro. I have already accepted that they are gone (and will be more than supportive of their decision when it comes to fruition) and no longer am emotionally invested and interested in following their moves step by step in the coming days. From godblesstyus95:

For those of you

who haven't seen this movie, I'm going to spoil the ending for you. If you would like to remain in suspense, read no further:

Howland addresses Love's, Collison's, and Westbrook's draft status during his press conference as "I have no comment on that at this time. I will allow these young men to announce their decisions on their own."

Love takes a few days to "talk about it" with his parents (because the topic certainly hasn't come up before-lol). Collison does the same.

Love and Collison hold their press conferences and announce (gasp!) that they will declare for the NBA draft and hire agents.

Westbrook, who during this time has received an assessment of his draft stock, shortly afterwards does the same.

There, sorry to ruin it for you.
All right Coach Howland did have comments and it remains to be seen whether or not the Big-3 hires agents (more on that below). However, the essence godblesstyus95’s post just about sums it up for me and is a reason why I couldn’t get worked up over Pucin’s jumping the gun on Tuesday. And honestly I am not a big fan of Pucin by any stretch of the imagination. However, I can see a scenario in which she got her information from sources not connected to the program who generally follow this draft scene. In any event, it happened. In the coming days it will all flesh itself out and the Big-3 will go pro. We will wish them well and keep discussing how the UCLA team is going to look next season depending on what happens with rest of their team-mates.

In terms of declaring for the NBA draft, Coach Howland had one extremely important piece of advice for our Big-3 (or anyone else contemplating going pro early):
"My recommendation, one of the things I told Kevin and I will tell the Westbrooks and the Collisons when I meet with them here in the next few days, is they should definitely not sign with an agent, even if they put their name in and then also keep going to school. You can’t even work out for a team until June; we don’t get out of school until June 13. But you’re not allowed to have an individual workout with an NBA team, I think it’s June 3 or June 5, but after Orlando [draft camp]. They are allowed May 3, if you put your name in the draft, to then schedule a workout with a player, but that workout cannot take place until June, after Orlando.

"The reason I don’t recommend they don’t sign with an agent until the draft, or after the draft, if they did leave their name in is because, like Brandon Rush, for example, last year. One of the reasons Kansas is national champion this year is Brandon Rush. [He] was gone; Bill Self told me that on Thursday at the Final Four. He was leaving, he blew his knee out playing basketball and therefore had the rehab and came back. You saw that — what’s the kid out of the University of Miami — [with Willis] McGahee. He was really compromised in his draft pick because of his blown knee in football for example.
Makes sense. Let’s see if those kids take him up on it. Now let’s move on our starters. Coach Howland had this to say about JS and LRMAM:
Howland acknowledged neither Shipp nor Mbah a Moute are projected as first-round picks, but as juniors, each could put their names in the draft, go through workouts with NBA teams and come back for their senior seasons.

Shipp said during the season he was returning to UCLA, and Mbah a Moute said Wednesday "I haven't really thought about it. I will, though. I'm meeting with (Howland) Monday or Tuesday."
While LRMAM met with CBH early this week (they might have met already), CBH gave us some compelling details re. AA2’s situation:
>> About Alfred Aboya, the Bruin coach said, "Let’s project and say Kevin did leave; Alfred you would look at, right now, as our leading candidate to be our starting center next year. If we were to lose him, we’ve already lost Lorenzo, that would be obviously, a huge loss. I hope that Alfred does come back; I hope he finishes his last year of college. I think he’ll have a great year, but again, that’s his decision. He has issues within family, for example; his dad is a diabetic and his mother has high blood pressure and they both need medications and they cost significant amounts of money. So he has that; that is a stress on him. There’s a lot of things that are hard of these kids to know and he has to make that decision. He still may not be able to finish the classes. For example, if Alfred goes and plays for the national team, he may not be able to finish the classes in the summer and he would have to come back because graduation from college is the No. 1 priority for that young man.

"He’s given way too much and has been so key in our last three years and the success we’ve had; Alfred can take whatever time he needs. He’s talked about law school; he’s not certain what he wants to do in that respect, so there’s some uncertainty as to what he wants."
Can’t agree with him more about AA2 deserving all the time he needs to make a decision that’s best for him as a student at UCLA. CBH also provided his takes on whether or not ND will come back:
>> On Dragovic:"I think he wants to come back, that’s been his thing. His parents are not poor, so he doesn’t have to go home. They’re fairly well to do; his dad’s a successful businessman. They want their son to get his college degree. They really appreciate — and have been here — the great opportunity he’s been given at UCLA. My thing is for him is to be more committed as a basketball player. I thought he came in here this year and expected to produce and give us more than he was able to and that’s something he knows already. He’s going to have to work really hard because he would have more of an opportunity this year if things work out where we would lose guys."
And his optimist re. JK’s prospects next season:
"[Keefe is] 227 pounds, so I think it would be hard for him. Alfred can. Alfred’s 245 pounds and much stronger in his lower body than James is. And obviously, Drew Gordon will be thrust into that role of having to match up with other teams’ five-man [centers]. And there aren’t that many true Lopezes running around out there in college basketball. I thought, for example, that Joey Dorsey was an absolute animal against us and when you looked at him, and how physical it was. If you go back and watch the film, you would be astounded at what he was doing in terms of pushing and shoving and slamming his body.

"James has got to get bigger and stronger in the off-season. I think that what he showed at the end of the season, including the SC and Stanford games in the [Pac-10] tournament and especially the Western Kentucky performance, he has a very bright future in his last two years at UCLA and I know he’s excited about next season."
For more on yesterday’s press conference here notes from Bruin Basketball Report and the LA Times. You can also watch the video of CBH’s press conference over at the official site.

Before you start worrying too much about what is going to take place in next few weeks, one more time here is Coach Howland:
"Someone asked me today, ‘Are you going to take some time off, relax?’ I said no, that’s not what I am going to do.
I have no doubt he is going to spend every hour these coming weeks, keeping a close eye on the current Ben Ball warriors, helping them through the process of jumping into next stages of their lives, and facilitate their decision making by giving them a frank and honest take re their options, while at the same time look all over Southern California, the country if not the world, for players that will fit the mold of a Ben Ball warrior.

So no worries.