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Troubled Waters: Uncertain Times For UCLA Basketball

I still don't have any interest in going over in detail what went wrong last night. I found it pretty amusing people getting excited when the Bruins took a lead in first half showing signs of life. Somehow people kept forgetting how Ben Howland managed to coach our team out of ball games against Notre Dame, Oregon, California, Stanford and Arizona earlier this season. Guess I shouldn't be surprised considering how people always fall for "new season" BS even though a team's body of work pointed towards an unacceptable underachievement during regular season.

We will now have to go through rest of March and early April being constantly reminded of our disgusting basketball season as hoops blankets sports coverage around the country. I will try my best to soak up as much of our baseball team and football related tidbits to forget that we even have a basketball program in the coming weeks. There is no need to rehash in detail what Ben Howland needs to do this off-season and next two years to rebuild a foundation he shattered in Westwood. He has our support (still) although it is hard to feel all warm and fuzzy given what has transpired on the court and off it in recent season.

For the immediate feature here are the issues we are going to have to keep an eye on:

Testing Waters: It is ridiculous that we have to even keen an eye on this but chances are we will have no choice. I think it is very likely Malcolm Lee is going to make a meak attempt to get out of Ben Howland's cage in the coming months.  The idea of someone like him even thinking about the NBA is kind of joke. With his slender frame, poor shooting touch, and less than average performance as a starting point guard, he shouldn't get a sniff. Yet if he attempts to go pro this offseason, it will be another telling sign concerning the relationship Howland has with his players. 

I don't believe if Lee was playing for a coach like Bill Self, Roy Williams or Jim Calhoun, he would even consider it.  Similarly there are also stories about Tyler Honeycutt being unhappy in Howland's program. During our last two games his body language gave us the sign of a kid was completely dispirited and disinterested in playing in this team. From uclaluv (emphasis added):

[I]t’s one thing to leave ND in a game, but even worse to be calling on him to take the shots. This would even more clearly explain the disgust among the other players. When TH fouled out Thursday, as he walked by Howland, Howland tried to say something to him and TH just brushed him off, literally with his hand and figuratively, walking by and ignoring him. At the time I wasn’t sure what to make of it, TH could have been upset with himself, but who knows, it could be part of the frustration with Howland. I just can’t believe the dude kept calling his number!!!!!!!

If Honeycutt actually think about going pro this season, it will be an ugly mark for Howland and will be difficult to forget even if he decides to come back.

Transfers:  It will not be a shock at this point if Bobo Morgan and Mike Moser follow the paths of Chace Stanback and Ryan Wright this off-season. Morgan should have seen the writing on the wall during the home-stand against Oregon when he was kept on the bench even though UCLA was without Reeves Nelson, James Keefe and a gimpy Brendan Lane. I am guessing he will have no problem finding a home or scholarship offers at a mid-level Big-12 program.  Similarly Mike Moser might be better off at another program which will give him a genuine shot at proving himself on the court. None of this is a done deal yet and could be averted through effective and heartfelt communication between Howland and these players.

I am assuming there are some who wish Jerime Anderson transfers out of the program. I don't see it happening or him having an offer somewhere else considering he was PWNed by the guards from Cal State Fullerton.  He did show some promise yesterday on the offensive side. So who knows perhaps there is a hope if he can work hard this offseason and develop some kind of confidence on the defensive front. 

Scholarships:  Right now we have 8 scholarship players on the roster for next season:

We could be down to 6 or 5 depending on how testing waters and transfer situations work out referenced above. We have three guys who are coming in with scholies next season:

  • Josh Smith (with weight issues)
  • Tyler Lamb (who can't be counted on being a savior)
  • Zeke Jones (no one has any clue on how good or serviceable he can be as a lead guard)

Depending  on transfers/testing waters, with these three guys we could still only have 8 or 9 scholarship athletes or in the worst case scenario in only 7 total scholarship athletes on roster. That is not a strong nucleus for this program.

So Howland and his staff needs to be on recruiting trail LIKE NOW getting in at least two more serviceable options for next year. We can forget about Terrence Jones, Ray McCallum or Trey Zieglar. Why, well let me offer up Sideout11's poignant observation:

It's a lot easier to say to recruits

"Let's clean up that guys mess and return UCLA to glory" than it is to say "let's clean up my mess so we can return UCLA to glory."

There's a huge difference between those 2 statements and if I'm a recruit I turn down the second one.

Howland is going to have to settle for left over recruits at this point who will be desperate for scholies. I will be more than happy to eat crow if we get someone like Ray McCallum or pipe dreams like Kadeem Jack (PF) or Will Yeguette (SF). But I just don't see it happening.

In other words, the situation is a total mess. If we see mass defections out of this program, I don't see the situation magically improve again. We could still end up with another team that will struggle to get to a winning season (scrapping for the NIT) as the brand of UCLA basketball further deteriorates under the current regime.

We are still rooting for Howland to get it right. However, can't say we have a lot of confidence left in him in getting the job done.  We will get a lot of hints at answers for our questions in the coming weeks and ultimately in next two seasons.