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Ben Ball News & Notes: No Reason To Get Down

Let’s get right to the round up from what was a tough day for lot of UCLA basketball fans around this Nation. Here are the key grafs re. KL decision from Dohn’s report:

Love appears to be more of a certainty to leave. Howland, in talking to NBA personnel, said Love is projected as a power forward and a lottery pick, ranging from No. 4 to No. 14 overall.

Love, UCLA's first all-American as a freshman and the Pacific-10 Conference Player of the Year, averaged 17.5 points and 10.6 rebounds per game.

"He can come back to school if he doesn't test well, but I think he'll be all right," said Love's father, Stan, who fought back tears after the announcement. "He's tough and he doesn't back down from challenges, and he's the hardest working player I've ever seen."
Again I wouldn’t advice anyone to hang on to any kind of glimmer of hope that KL will be in a UCLA basketball uniform next season. It’s not going to happen and frankly as I have said all season long it was never in the cards. We can’t get mad at gifted athletes such as KL who would have gone straight to the NBA if not for the current rules.

If you want to vent your frustrations and anger at someone, you should probably direct it towards folks who run NBA and other professional leagues in this country (I don't follow the current group of Lakers with the same emotional investment I followed Magic, Kareem, Worthy, Scott, Coop et al). They MTVized the sport in such a way that kids like KL, Kevin Durant, and other talented hoopsters grow up dreaming about living that glamour life so glorified by WWL and other outlets in the current corporate driven world of sports and entertainment industries.

All KL and other kids are doing are playing by the rules. He came to UCLA, gave everything he had on the court and did his best to totally fit in our extended community, and now that he has the opportunity to pursue his dreams, he is taking advantage of it. Nothing wrong with a kid pursuing his dreams and being happy. I wish him nothing but the best, and it is incredibly selfish for any of us to get upset with his decision when all along he has simply played by the rules and making smart decision.

As for the "legacy" issues here is what KL said about how he wants to do his part to always be a part of UCLA:
"I'm just looking to leave a legacy at UCLA,'' Love said. "Former basketball players such as Kareem Abdul Jabbar, who played under Coach Wooden as Lew Alcindor, and Bill Walton left their legacy on the basketball court, and off the court as well. I want to continue to do that beyond basketball.
"I want to help this school financially, sponsor player with my financial resources any way I possibly can.
"Lastly, I want to be come back UCLA, get my degree and put a smile on my mother's face.
I myself will probably not put KL in the same league as Ed O’Bannon (forget about Jabbar and Walton). However, if KL comes back and finishes up his degree, and promote our school and our program just like MJD, Baron Davis, JF, AA and other illustrious Bruins who left early to pursue their dreams (in MJD and Davis’s case – escape bad coaching), he will absolutely build his legacy here at UCLA. Coach Howland actually had a pretty interesting comment on this in the LA Times:
Howland said the defection in 2004 of freshman Trevor Ariza, now with the Lakers, "was not a great decision from a standpoint that he went late second round. He made it, thank goodness, but when you leave early you want to be a first-rounder.

"Bottom line . . . I think Kevin benefited from this year at UCLA, which is really going to help him as we move forward."
Unlike Ariza RW has an opportunity to emerge as a first rounder but there actually may be a glimmer of hope about him returning to UCLA. From Dohn:
Westbrook, who mostly played off-guard for the Bruins, said his NBA position will be point guard. He is projected as a No. 15 to No. 25 pick, and discussed what would keep him in the draft.

"If I'm top 20, there's a possibility I might not be coming back," Westbrook said. "If I was higher, I might consider coming back to school."

A key for the 6-foot-3 Westbrook will be showing consistency with his jump shot. His stock rose as the season progressed because of his ability to drive to the basket and score, but his jump shot remains a question.
Well I am not going to wish this kid flunk his NBA tryouts. I hope he blows up in his tryouts, impress the scouts and gets himself in a position to emerge as a sure fire top-20 pick. However, if he finds himself in a position where its not a certainty that he is a top-20 pick, and he comes back, well game on. But again I’d advise everyone here not to hold out hope and just get in the mindset that he is gone. I know that I don’t want to set myself up for disappointment.

In any event, given who is in charge of our program, there is no reason to be discouraged. From Chris Dufresne in the LA Times:
While a Bruins world mourns the loss of Kevin Love and Russell Westbrook -- with Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Darren Collison possibly soon to follow -- the devoted should be thankful Ben Howland held it together this long.

Those three straight Final Four runs took talent, timing and a little bit of plate-spinning. Thursday, however, the Bruins lost a formal dining set.

"You become a little bit a victim of your own success," said Santa Clara Coach Kerry Keating, a former UCLA assistant on Howland's staff.

It was bound to happen -- and the Bruins are bound to bounce back.

College basketball isn't what used to be or will ever be again.

Lew Alcindor doesn't show up on campus as a freshman, sit out a year and then win three NCAA titles.
Read rest of the article here, which emphasizes how Coach Howland has put together the kind of foundation in place that will allow UCLA to withstand these kinds of shocks (a reality in today’s hoops world) and bounce back sooner or later.

As for bouncing back, Coach Howland is waiting to see what transpires in the coming weeks:
"We don't know who's coming back and who is going to be on the team," UCLA coach Ben Howland said. "I think that we'll be competitive. How competitive will be based upon who is in the program."
From the LA Times on upcoming decisions:
Junior forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute delayed a scheduled news conference appearance with Westbrook and is expected to have a final decision on his future by the weekend, a UCLA men's basketball spokesman said.

Forward-center Alfred Aboya, guard-forward Josh Shipp and guard Darren Collison are weighing options. Collison's mother, June, said her son "has 10 more days to make a decision, and, knowing Darren, that's what he'll do: take all 10 days. He's very methodical in his decision making. It doesn't matter who stays or goes. He'll make his own decision."
I have seen some consternation around here as people are wondering why these kids would consider leaving early. Let me just zero in on AA2 and LRMAM, because those two kids can really help our program if they come back next season. I posted this already last week but I will do it again. Here was Coach Howland on 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."
I know everyone wants both AA2 and LRMAM to come back badly. But put yourself in AA2’s large shoes. He has been with us for three years literally giving his blood (and broken bones), leaving everything on the court (while terrorizing opponents and team-mates in practices …lol). He has kicked ass in class room. He is on track to graduate and oh by the way he has already experienced 3 Pac-10 championships and 3 Final-4s, a run unmatched by any other junior class in post Wooden era. So what’s wrong with the scenario if he just wants to try out something else and oh I don’t know … delve more into academics?

Same with LRMAM, another kid leaving thousands of miles away from his family, also on track to graduate early, and with a UCLA resume of hoops success unmatched by any other junior class in Post Wooden era. He is a junior. This is his last chance to test the NBA waters. So why not go out there this spring, participate in the NBA tryouts and see if he gets any signals from NBA club that would want him as a first round pick?

The decision making process kids like AA2 and LRMAM are going through makes all kind of sense to me. And I just don’t see why people should get bitter over it or try to look for something that isn’t there re. whether they are not excited to be back as Bruins. Same goes for JS, a kid who has been effected by 2 serious hip surgeries. JS despite his limited physical abilities gave what he had this year and did his best to play within the team game. I can understand why after four years of college basketball in which he played a key role in reestablishing UCLA as one of the elite program in the country, he wants to try something else.

So give these guys a little room and let the process work out. Once the smoke clears with Coach Howland in place even if the nuclear scenario has taken place, I feel good that we are going to be all right. There is no reason to get down.