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Growing Up In Westwood (AKA Howlandwood For Ben Ball Warriors)

As I was reading the stories this am about UCLA the theme became pretty clear right up front. It's about growing up experiences of student athletes who have (or will have the privelege) to put on a UCLA uniform in Westwood. Ovewhelming majority of the kids who have come through UCLA "gets it" in terms of what it means to develop and mature not just as an athlete but also as a young man or woman through their most memorable years on campus. Unfortunately every once in a while some don't make it and falter a bit. However, as noted above most of the time they shine, leave their mark as other Bruin greats and then come back to contribute even more to the family.

Today as we do this roundup, we will start with news on couple of kids who have a lot of growing up to do. First on the football front apparently E.J. Woods is considering transferring out of UCLA:

The 6-foot, 210-pound Woods plans to transfer to a junior college - College of the Canyons and Southwest Los Angeles College are two possibilities - and play for a season and then transfer to a four-year school, sources said.

He still wants to play in the Pacific-10 Conference, but it is possible UCLA would not release him to a team on the upcoming schedule. By going to a junior college and earning his associate's degree, Woods could transfer to any school.

UCLA planned to use Woods as a hybrid linebacker in 2009, with his focus on being a pass rushing specialist.

The hard-hitting Woods also has an outstanding legal matter. He still faces six misdemeanor counts of battery and sexual battery. A pre-trial hearing is set for Wednesday.

I don't think this is a story worth losing any sleep over. It doesn't matter what position E.J. settles into (if he wants to stick around at UCLA), it needs to take a back seat to his legal situation which needs to get resolved first. A kid like E.J. would be better served if he focuses on his off field related issues first (so he never ever again gets himself into a situation like that) before getting caught up with charging up the depth charts of a football program. If E.J. is not willing to learn that lesson, he and UCLA are better off if he learns it somewhere else.

Speaking of someone who has a lot of growing up to do, ESPN's Chad Ford has an amusing update on Jrue Holiday's workout in NYC (emphasis added):

Chad Ford: UCLA's Jrue Holiday was feeling the pressure. He was in New York today for a callback with the Knicks -- a team he would love to go to at No. 8. His first audition wasn't all that it should've been. He was overshadowed by more experienced players like Stephen Curry and Gerald Henderson. He struggled to shut down Curry defensively. He got frustrated. A little down. And then those old feelings of self-doubt, the ones that were on display all season at UCLA, started creeping up.

Apparently the Knicks (who you know have such a great reputation for talent evaluation) still invited him back for another workout during which he looked "much better" against Miami's Jack McClinton. Whatever. That's the second time in a week we have heard about Jrue getting frustrated in these workouts. It happened the first time in Minnesota. Reading these updates one gets the feeling that Jrue right now is doing everything he can to cash in on his reputation that was made in high school and during controlled settings of NBA draft workouts. Perhaps another reason Jrue Holiday didn't want to come back to UCLA was because he was afraid of getting exposed even more when given the responsibility of running a basketball team under intense pressure. Whatever it is, I guess under the current "one and done" rule can't really blame him for cashing out but on the other hand no one will ever mistake him of being a "Ben Ball warrior."

Speaking of Ben Ball warriors next year's freshmen are already on campus for summer school and look who is hanging around to teach the ropes. Coach Howland tweets:

Russell Westbrook came by earlier today. He is in the same summer school class as our freshmen! Its great to have him showing them the way.

RW is not the only alum hanging around Howlandwood:

Just sat with Arron Afflalo for a half hour in my office. He is up on campus lifting and playing everyday.

For some reason I can't see Jrue Holiday showing that kind of loyalty to Howland and the program after his first year in the NBA. Anyway, going back to the freshmen here is Howland's update from yesterday:

The Freshmen love it here already. What a great group! It was a lot of fun to sit with all of them together this morning before class.

If any of you are around campus this year and are checking out some of those legendary summer games at Howlandwood, would love to get some updates.

BTW freshman Ben Ball warriors are not the only freshmen who have checked in for summer school. Brian Dohn has this update re. freshmen joining the football team:

On campus today and saw freshmen offensive linemen Stan Hasiak and Xavier Su'a-Filo, and thought I would pass along how big and strong they look. In my six years covering UCLA, I cannot remember two offensive linemen coming into school with that size.

Here is to these guys having a healthy and productive summer. Right now going into next season our team is still a huge question mark. I think the difference between a 5-7 and 6-6/7-5 season will be a healthy and improved offensive line that will be able to keep our young QBs healthy and get our anemic running game going. These two kids might have the opportunity to emerge as a huge (no pun intended) factor in that OL.

So I can't wait to see and read about them in Fall camp starting this August. It will be fun to watch all of these growing up as Bruins in Westwood. I have high hopes that those two will have the opportunity to grow and develop and contribute to the efforts of rebuilding UCLA football, the same way AA and RW left their marks in Westwood.