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Mid-Spring Ben Ball Update

Now that we are well into the Spring signing period, this seems a good time to take another look into the status of next year's squad. While the Bruins have not seen any particularly big splashes since the end of last season, the departures of Bobo Morgan and Mike Moser, as well as the signing of Indiana prep guard Matt Carlino and rumors surrounding a couple more players from Orange County (by way of Chapel Hill) possibly coming to Westwood have provided some further level of departure for the program from last year's Drago-fueled malaise.

At this moment, the Bruins have 10 scholarship players slated for the 2010-11 squad:

PG Lazeric Jones (tJr, 6'1, 200) Jerime Anderson (Jr, 6'2, 174)
SG Malcolm Lee (Jr, 6'4, 191) Tyler Lamb (Fr, 6'4, 190) Matt Carlino (Fr, 6'2, 170)
SF Tyler Honeycutt (So, 6'7, 178)
PF Reeves Nelson (So, 6'8, 228) Brendan Lane (So, 6'9, 205)
C Josh Smith (Fr, 6'9, 300) Anthony Stover (rFr, 6'10, 225)


At this point, I have Lazeric Jones penciled in as the Bruins' starting PG. I don't know how the point guard battle will shake out in the fall, but there is no way in good conscience that right now I can call Jerime a starting PG in this conference. Not to be mean to JA, and like some here, I have not completely given up hope that he can become a contributor before his time in Westwood is up. But we all saw last season, and not all of us have yet been able to repress those memories. Also, there has been some discussion regarding which position holds the greatest promise for CBH's latest commit. I don't have any particular insight into whether Carlino is destined to play the 2, or if his desire to play the point will win out. For now, rates him as a shooting guard prospect, and i'll stick with that here.

A few more notes on this early depth chart, and our remaining rides after the jump.

Whatever one thinks of our point guard situation, the ability of our super-sophs to take the next step toward stardom, or the talent and readyness of the incoming class, there is no getting around the fact that next year will see another young, relatively inexperienced team defending John and Nell Wooden Court. The Bruins will feature only 5 players that have seen D-1 action, plus 1 player with JC experience. The trio of Lee, Honeycutt and Nelson that - together with Jones and Smith - will likely compose the starting lineup do account for more games started for UCLA than the initial starting 5 from last year's squad, though without the extensive supporting experience that Michael Roll and James Keefe brought to that team.

That said, Ben Howland does have 3 scholarships remaining at his disposal, and he has stated his willingness to use them all up this spring. The leading candidates to take two of those rides would not actually be eligible to play for UCLA in the upcoming season. As was earlier posted here, the Wear twins (David and Travis) have decided to leave North Carolina after one year in Chapel Hill. For those of you that may be out of the recruiting loop, David and Travis Wear are both 6'10" forwards, who after prep careers at Mater Dei (playing alongside incoming freshman guard Tyler Lamb) capped with each being named McD All-Americans, the twins committed to UNC after a recruiting battle that involved most, if not all of the Pac-10, notably Arizona and UCLA. Much of the opinion surrounding the twins move has them returning to the west coast, with UCLA as their most likely destination. Under NCAA transfer rules, the twins would not be eligible to play for the Bruins (or anyone else) until the 2011-12 season, when they will be redshirt sophomores, but they would be able to participate in practices during the upcoming season. If the popular opinion bears out, the Bruins will be left with one open ride remaining for next fall's squad.

While the pickings are slim among high-level recruits at this stage in the recruiting process, some feel that there is a hidden gem sitting near Sacramento that the Bruins have targeted. Coach Howland has offered French native Remi Barry, a 6'7 forward who after playing two years for a Florida prep school (remind you of anybody?), transfered to Del Oro-Loomis, though not without significant controversy which led the CIF to rule him ineligible to participate in the 2009-10 high school season. Interestingly, in addition to Pac-10 programs such as Arizona, ASU and Cal vying for Barry's commitment, the nation's now-second largest oil slick is making a late push to bring Remi to New York (he does have family living on Long Island). To be completely accurate, Barry is not a complete mystery; he was highly regarded early in his prep tenure, but fell off the radar of most recruiting experts after leaving his Florida high school to return to France during his junior year. He is seen by some observers as a legit NBA-prospect.

While the Bruins have made a late run at a number of players - connecting on Carlino, and with the prospect of bringing the above three players into the fold - one area that has not been addressed during the signing period is the frontcourt, which with the departures of Drew Gordon and Morgan has gone from a very well stocked part of the roster to a surprisingly shallow (and young) foursome of players over the course of a year. While the Wears' may have an impact at the 4, that prospect is a year away. For the 2010-11 season, the frontcourt positions are manned as follows:

C: Josh Smith, Anthony Stover. Smith is undoubtedly a talented player, but there are some concerns regarding his conditioning. While the main concerns came about due to his performance in games just after his return to the court from an injury, he certainly has work to do before he can become the central figure in the post. His plan to work out with Kevin Love over the summer in Westwood is an encouraging step in the right direction, not just for the diet/conditioning aspect, but to learn what CBH expects from a Center in his system from the best to play in that role for Howland. At this point, I don't yet have enough of a grasp on Stover to know what to expect. With what I imagine will be limits on Smith's effective playing time, particularly early in the season, the #2 spot at Center will be a crucial role to fill; whether Stover can earn the job, or whether Reeves Nelson has to slide over to cover (leaving Lane as the sole available 4 at those times).

PF: Reeves Nelson, Brendan Lane. The series of ankle injuries suffered by Lane over the course of the last year , and the off-season surgery that was necessitated struck a blow. Though hobbled by the end of his freshman season, Lane showed promise, and with that the prospect of a greater role on an improving squad. While his recovery from ankle surgery should not prevent him from being ready in the Fall, he is expected to be out of action until September, forcing him to miss the famous UCLA summer pickup games, as well as other opportunities to improve his game plus his strength and conditioning. Given the lack of depth at the 4 - particularly if Nelson has to spend time at the 5 - both Nelson and Lane have to cut down on their fouls. Over the course of Pac-10 play last season, Nelson committed an average of 4.5 fouls/40 minutes played (3.9/40 over the whole season), while Lane committed 5.2 fouls/40 minutes (5.5/40 over the whole season). While it is normal that a player will learn to play smarter, and begin to cut down on fouls after their freshman year, it is of particular importance here due not only to their sole coverage of the 4, but also having two freshmen playing alongside them at the 5, players who can be expected to have some issues with whistles of their own.

At this point in time, there is little that can be done regarding the frontcourt for the upcoming season; the departures of Gordon and Morgan, though seemingly necessary for the health of the program, did leave the squad a bit thin at those positions. Even if CBH still has a scholarship free, I don't know of any uncommitted players at the 4 or 5 worth going after that could be effective contributors for the Bruins in 2010-11. I do hope that I am making a bigger deal of this than it is worth. Time will tell.