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Ben Ball 08-09: Not Taking Anything For Granted

As excited as we all are about Howland’s K extension and the three straight Final-4s, we need to maintain our perspective wrt to our expectations for next season. Already I am getting the sense that some UCLA basketball fans are taking the Final-4 appearances for granted and that they are expecting a reserved spot in Detroit next April. Coach Howland warned folks from getting too carried away with expectations:

Having three underclassmen taken in the most recent NBA draft -- sophomore Russell Westbrook was picked fourth, freshman Kevin Love fifth and junior Luc Richard Mbah a Moute 37th -- Howland said he expects a different kind of pressure next season.

"If you told me right now I'd get back to the Final Four," Howland said, "I'd be elated."

The Bruins will be loaded with seniors and freshmen.

Point guard Darren Collison, who Howland expected would leave early for the NBA, decided to return for his senior season. Starting forward Josh Shipp, who has had two hip surgeries in the last 30 months, will be a fifth-year senior; and backup center Alfred Aboya, who left Monday to play for his native Cameroon as it tries to qualify for the Olympics, is expected to return.

Aboya has left open the possibility that if Cameroon qualified for the Olympics, or if he attracted interest from foreign professional teams, that he might not play his final season at UCLA.

More on AA2 from Coach Howland:

Alfred Aboya hasn't officially said he'll play his senior year at UCLA, but men's basketball coach Ben Howland is operating as though Aboya will be on the roster.

"I'm counting on him coming back," Howland said. "I would be devastated if he didn't come back. Anything is possible. You never know what's going to happen."

Between LRMAM and AA2, AA2 has been my main concern for this off season. I got the sense that LRMAM was gone a while before he made his decision his official. Off the two Cameroonians AA2 is our best shot in terms of getting a fourth season at UCLA. Even though it looks good that we will have him next season, as Coach Howland indicated, we should always be ready for any scenario.

Besides even if AA2 comes back for next season, it might take a while for our team to gel given the mix of returning upper classmen and five freshmen with no sophomores in the lineup. So I am not going to expect the team to click in all cylinders early on and I can even see them stumbling here and there during the first half of Pac-10 season. One thing we can count on is that with Howland in charge the team is going to get better on both ends of the court as the season goes along, while playing their trademark Howland season. Still as Coach Howland said we can’t take anything for granted.