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Re. Westbrook: Ultimate TEAM FIRST Ben Ball Warrior

Earlier in the week Seth from Posting and Toasting, the great SBN  blog covering the Knicks reached out to us to get our thoughts on RW. I suggested to Seth that he should posit that question to our entire community and get all of our feedback on RW in one thread. Looks like you guys are already on it. I wanted to add few more points on RW.

From what we have heard RW has been dazzling in all of his NBA workouts. cabz posted the link to images/video from his workouts with the Kings. He also recently vowed the Blazers as evidenced in this video:

Blazers predraft workout: Russell Westbrook

The video was posted on Blazers Blog hosted by . Sean Meagher who blogs on that site posted this reaction to RW's workout w the Blazers:

Of all the guards we were allowed to watch today, Westbrook had the best workout of all. What we saw began with 2-on-2, then Dean Demopolis would inbound the ball to a guard out top and another would defend in some 1-on-1 drills. Both Lawson and Westbrook looked good defensively here, but it was obvious why Westbrook was the Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year with his ability to keep his man in front of him. His lateral speed was excellent. But what surprised me most was RW's ability to hit the 3 (albeit uncontested 3s). By my unofficial count, he probably made around 40 of his 50 around-the-world 3-pointers.

Well none of that is surprise to any of us here. We knew this kid could ball the first year he put on the four letter jersey. We saw his explosiveness his first season before he developed into an elite collegiate combo guard his second season. Yes, he still needs some more time and experience at pg. However, there is no one better in the college game in terms of defensive ability and explosion to basket. Anyway, you guys covered all of that in the comment section.

I want to bring to Seth and anyone else who follows the NBA (but not UCLA hoops) attention couple of stories about RW, which at least for me tells me all we need to know about this kid.

Remember how the UCLA season started? It started with our pre-season All American point guard - Darren Collison - getting injured in the very first exhibition game. So DC goes down and RW steps in after playing only one game at point guard during his freshman year at UCLA. Remember starting before this season RW started only 1 game at PG. It was against West Virgina on the road, where he looked tentative and a little lost. But this year RW stepped right in, took control of the team and helped it to get off another great start to the season which featured tough neutral court wins against Maryland, Michigan State, Davidson (in which he defensively dominated March Madness sensation Stephen Curry). RW averaged 11.5 pts/5.7 assists a game while he was starting, helping to fill in the void left behind by DC. But then DC came back and right before a tough road trip to the Bay Area, Coach Howland for strategic reason decided to send RW back to the bench, and insert Aboya in the starting line up. So how did Westbrook respond? A little flashback with the help of the Daily Bruin (emphasis added throughout):

It would be understandable if some Bruin fans were surprised when they saw the lineup that coach Ben Howland sent out to take the opening tip-off against No. 24 Stanford.

Gone was sophomore guard Russell Westbrook, who had started every other game this season for the Bruins, while averaging 11.5 points and 5.7 assists in 31.7 minutes. In his place was junior forward Alfred Aboya, who took his 3.7 points-per-game average to the line when he faced off against Stanford center Robin Lopez at center court.

But what might be even more surprising is this: According to Howland, Aboya is in the starting lineup to stay. Though it’s through no fault of Westbrook’s.

“As of right now, Russ is coming off of the bench,” Howland said. “It’s just the rotation. We (were) playing four guys the most minutes on the perimeter, and starting all four guys. That’s our best lineup, with those four guys in the game.”

In other words, Howland believes that saving what he sees as his best lineup – Westbrook, freshman Kevin Love, and juniors Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Darren Collison and Josh Shipp – for later in the game gives UCLA a better chance to win.

Additionally, it could help cut down on the minutes played by the Bruin guards, a growing concern since junior Mike Roll ruptured his plantar fascia during a recent practice. Roll is expected to be sidelined at least three weeks.

Westbrook didn’t seem to mind the switch, and responded with 15 points, six assists and no turnovers.

“Whatever coach needed me to do I was going to do,” he said. “I did it last year too, so I know I just have to come out the same way, come out with intensity and help the team win.”

And that's the story of Westbrook of Westwood. He is the protype of what we call a Ben Ball warrior, here in Bruins Nation - a fierce, intense, focused competition, who will do whatever it takes, whatever his coach wants, to put his team first, and get a win.

Even when RW left UCLA to completely focus on his NBA aspirations, he didn't forget about his team. We saw this recently in terms of how he organized his academic calendar to make sure that his decision had no impact on UCLA's academic record. In other words just like he is on the court, RW is selfless off the court :

UCLA guard Russell Westbrook is no longer attending classes, but sources said he made arrangements with several of his professors to receive incomplete grades until his NBA status is decided.

While Westbrook is expected to remain in the draft, barring an injury during workouts, and be a lottery pick, his current plan is to return to UCLA in the summer and finish those classes. That will help UCLA, which would not take as big a hit in the APR if Westbrook leaves UCLA in good academic standing.

I am sure RW will be the first to tell anyone he still has so much upside. So much room to improve. But he is already a superstar in our book.

Yes, I know the word "legacy" shouldn't be casually thrown around in a program like UCLA. However, speaking for myself RW is leaving Westwood as the ultimate Ben Ball warrior, following the footsteps of Bozeman, Farmar, and Afflalo.

I am going to miss him in Westwood.