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Ben Ball Roundup: Upside Edition

Kennedy Cosgrove from Bruin Report Online thinks it will be up to our freshmen for the Bruins to make a deep run this season:

-- Freshman Jrue Holiday flashes great potential, is playing unselfish and winning ball... but is definitely still adjusting to the college game. It’s not a knock on him; it’s just that I kind of expected Holiday (the national high school player of the year last season) to start dominating, Kevin Love style, by this time. But take away hype and Love comparisons, and Holiday is having a really good season.

-- Another freshman, Drew Gordon, continues to look like a player: a live, springy athlete who’s struck a really nice balance between being aggressive and playing within himself as Aboya’s backup. The question that keeps coming up: how many more minutes will Gordon earn? And will Coach Howland start playing him alongside Aboya more and more? Something to watch.

And I’m going to agree with my buddy Weiss that, at this point, the continued development of Holiday and Gordon could prove to be the barometer of this team’s fortunes. If they explode in February and March, the ceiling on the Bruins gets significantly higher. They’re too athletic, too dynamic, not to play huge roles.

Honestly, I am not sure it was pragmatic to expect JH to have KLesque start to his freshman season. As we have said repeatedly KL was a once in generation recruit in Westwood ala Alcindor and Walton. We will not have another one like him for a while. In the meantime though we shouldn't subject our frosh to that kind of standard. I think Coach Howland would agree with me as he said JH is on the same curve as AA and JF:

Howland said Holiday is only following a learning curve that others have had to climb at UCLA.

"When you compare him to where, say Arron Afflalo or Jordan Farmar were as freshmen, he's right there or even better at this point," Howland said.

Holiday has made 13 of his past 33 shots (39.3 percent) and acknowledged the transition hasn't always been smooth.

"You can pretty much do whatever you want in high school," Holiday said. "You can play out of control, do all these acrobatic, amazing moves. In college, everybody else is more skilled and the refs are stricter. As a freshman, you aren't getting any calls."

I think the key here is for JH and other freshmen is not to worry about the expectations and lock in on imporving on defense. The best way a young player can get minutes in Coach Howland's rotation of he makes a total committment to playing on ball defense and concentrate on rebounding. The offensive game will take care of itself. If JH can improve his defense a bit and develop the ability to lock down his player and attack like AA and RW, his offensive production will follow. Same goes for DG and other freshmen.

What is so exciting about these guys are their upside. The potential for their development is the reason there is so much upside for our team this year on both sides of the court. I have no doubt our freshmen will play huge roles as we go through this season. Yet, I am not looking for "explosion"from them in terms of points and spectacular plays. What I am looking from them is get better game by game on defense and develop the ability to play that "inside the jersey" defense like a prototype Ben Ball warrior. They will get there. They all do under Coach Howland.