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More On The Prince ...

WWL’s Andy Katz writes from Lake Buena Vista (emphasis added):

If Luc Richard Mbah a Moute decides to return to UCLA, he has a chance to go to four Final Fours during his NCAA career, a feat that would be matched by fellow Cameroonian countryman and teammate Alfred Aboya, as well as fellow classmates Darren Collison and Josh Shipp.

But the chance for Aboya, Collison and Shipp to reach one more Final Four could be tied to Mbah a Moute's decision in the next few weeks.

Mbah a Moute is here at the NBA pre-draft camp to see if he can get, at the very least, a guaranteed second-round contract. Anything short of a guarantee, and he'll return to the Bruins, he said. That's not what he wants, but he'll take the option since he said he will be six classes away from graduating after the spring quarter concludes next month. That means he could graduate in December and have a stress-free Pac-10 and NCAA tournament in 2009.

Took those grafs from the non-premium (public) part of Katz’s Insider Blog on WWL. The post seems to make it clear that LRMAM is not in Orlando just to get an insider opinion on his NBA draft stock. He is there looking for a "guaranteed" contract to the NBA. And he is looking for it badly enough that he is shopping around for a second around for K.

As I have said before I have no problem whatsoever with players going to these NBA pre-draft camps to assess their draft status, get feedback, and then make a decision what they think (doesn’t matter what we think) is in their best interest professionally as a basketball player.

Luc is a great kid. He is smart and he will make a decision what he thinks is good for him. And I am all right with. I will support him if he decides to go even if he jumps on an offer to go in the second round.

However, what concerns me is that if LRMAM decides to come back (after failing to secure a second round guaranteed K) which Luc are we going to see in a UCLA uniform next season:


You can check the full stats here.

Are we going to see the Prince from freshman year, who the entire Nation fell in love with or are we going to see the errant Luc from last two years, who despite his immense talent as defender and tenacious rebounder, see his production around the boards vastly diminish as he dreamed about developing into a mid range jump shooter.

Take a look at those numbers. In last three years Luc’s rebounding totals decreased from the total of 318 to his freshman year to 172 in his sophomore season and to 125 last year. His offensive rebound totals went down from 117 to 87 to 73.

And as he talked about working on his jump shots in the press, his FG% went down each season going from .538 in his freshman season to .478 this past year.

Now we should consider the fact that LRMAM dealt with injury issues this past season while viewing these numbers. So it is understandable if his production went down. And I think we should also note that while his offensive production and rebounding numbers sagged considerably, as we noted numerous times this past season he was still the glue in our defense. His absence in defense was noticeable when he went down in the first half of Southern Cal game. Not to mention it was noticeable how our defense suffered in his absence because without him our guards couldn’t get into the lock down around the perimeter.

Still, I believe we LRMAM could have done so much better if he played within himself and played to his strengths – his defense and rebounding ability – instead of working to be a jump shooter. We all remember articles like this heading into this last season:

The agitated relationship between UCLA's Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and his jumper has apparently reached a high point. To achieve this, the junior used the level of tenacity he is known more for displaying around the basket.

"He did it, No. 1, through his efforts and hard work," UCLA coach Ben Howland said Tuesday. "He's shooting the ball with a much shorter stroke -- less motion, less chance of error."

The breakthrough was necessary for the Bruins, who are expecting the 6-foot-8 forward to be more of a factor on the perimeter, and for Mbah a Moute himself six months after considering declaring for the NBA draft.

Scoring 8.2 points per game made him UCLA's fourth-leading scoring a year ago, but Mbah a Moute wanted improvement and hatched an offseason plan with Howland to get his shot in shape.

In the spring, he worked with assistant coach Scott Garson and practiced shooting one-handed so that his balance and follow-through would stay consistent.

Mbah a Moute even took film of himself shooting at home while he helped the Cameroon national team to a silver medal in the FIBA Africa Championship in August.

Well his shooting touch never came around. And as the stats indicated above his rebounding numbers went down substantially. As did his FG% and the number of FTs he attended indicates he wasn’t attacking the basket with the same tenacity he was doing his freshman season.

So what am I saying here? I am saying that if LRMAM decides to return to UCLA for his senior season, it will be in the team’s best interest (and his) if he plays with Howland’s offensive framework. I am saying that if he comes back he should work on getting better as a college "4" which is improving his rebounding numbers, attacking the rim, playing defense, instead of clunking his jumpers from the midrange which we have been hearing about for last 2+ years. Besides if he is going to make it to the NBA he is going to do it based on his surreal athleticism, his lateral movement, and his ability to play defense. Again just a reminder:

Those moments have been seared into our memories. And they didn't involve jumpers. They involved RIDICULOUS, tenacious defense, surreal lateral movement, and the ability to sprint and hustle in a way I have never seen from any freshmen in my 20 years of following college hoops.

So I realize that some of my comments here is a bit jarring for folks around here given the way we adore Coach Howland and our Ben Ball warriors. Nothing has changed. We still love Howland and love what LRMAM means to our program. However, that doesn’t mean we can stop being frank (based on numbers, statistics, and what our eyes tell us) about what we see and expect from the team.

I would love to have the Prince back in Westwood. But I want to see the Prince from 05-06, not the one from 06-08.