Yesterday I wrote about the Bruin that UCLA fans had largely ignored, Larry Drew II. Today let's focus on the Bruin that Ben Howland has seemingly ignored: Tony Parker. For the whole article and some actual journalism go to this by Peter Yoon at ESPN. Let me just focus on the Tony Parker quotes.
A little background, there were rumors and indications that Tony Parker was about to leave UCLA as Nestor wrote about here. Although there are reasons to believe otherwise officially Tony Parker was homesick.
I will say that I never believed for a second that Parker was going to commit to UCLA. Part of the reason for my belief was that he is a small town southerner from a very culturally different place than LA. (By contrast Kyle Anderson is from "big city" New Jersey and his twitter handle is "Vinny Chase" in a nod to HBO's Entourage.) Proof of that difference came when Tony Parker announced that he was going to UCLA, a thread that gbruin named the funniest of the year. If this was Alabama, it would not have been funny. Tony was the biggest fish in a small pond and his southern community saluted him.
And now he is the fourth freshman, kind of like the forgotten fourth Marx brother or the fourth member of the Police.
Tony is doing his best riding the pine. Tony shows he is a competitor.
"It's different," Parker said. "I've never sat on the bench before. I've never been on a team where I was on the bench like that. It's different. I'm kind of getting used to it, but I don't want to get used to it. It's not a thing I'm going to get used to."
Make senses. Every player should want to play. But in Tony's case this is more troubling. When Tony was recruited he was logically the third string center. For at the time he committed to UCLA in front of him were (not in order) Josh Smith and Anthony Stover. When Tony came to UCLA during his recruitment he practiced against Josh Smith who destroyed him in a scrimmage.
So going into it, Tony had to suspect that he may have a tough time finding playing time. But then Stover got kicked out because of grades and Smith left. Now it really seems like Tony should have a chance to play meaningful minutes.
In a sense this is similar to what happen with his fellow southern recruit Jordan Adams. In April for a position as a wing, Adams was behind in no particular order Shabazz Muhammad, Tyler Lamb, Kyle Anderson, and Norman Powell. He was not just on the depth chart as a backup he was buried. But Shabazz was under NCAA investigation and didn't play at first, Tyler got hurt and transferred, and Kyle washed out as a wing. Adams got his chance and used it.
Tony in a somewhat similar spot never got his chance. That leads to this comment.
Asked if he regretted coming to UCLA, Parker said, "No comment."
Wow. Of course Howland will say that the reason he is not playing is because of Tony's nagging injuries which began in the summer when he couldn't participate in the China exhibitions. That certainly contributed to it.
"I've been hurt. I've been nicked up," said Parker, who averaged 16.8 points and 11 rebounds as a senior in high school. "I just have to get healthy so I can actually play and help my team. I haven't been able to show what I can do because I haven't been able to do it."
Parker for his part says the right things about Howland.
"He's coaching me and making me get better," Parker said. "He's a good coach. He's a good person. I don't think he's pushing me out at all. It's just a learning process, and I just have to keep working."
Howland can teach basketball and will certainly help Tony with his mechanics. But how is Howland as a coach for UCLA? Different question.
I will be the first to admit Tony Parker is not our best center right now. But he is the only person on the team with the potential to be an all-Pac 12 Center in the future. There was a reason Tony was one of the top 30 recruits in the country. It's not as if Tony hasn't been trying. Howland has praised his efforts in practice and over the summer Tony lost weight. I must admit I was impressed with his relative speed.
But here is the problem. Right now, Parker may only be a one and done at UCLA . If you weren't troubled by the "no comment" statement wait to what Tony says about next year and staying at UCLA:
"I don't know yet," Parker said. "I have to talk to my parents and see what they say."
His parents never wanted him to go all the way to Los Angeles in the first place. (His Mom even said she would come and do all his laundry if he stayed home and went to Georgia.) If his parents decide, he is gone. IMO, that is likely a nice out for the kid. If he goes, it will be his decision.
The bigger question is does Howland care? This is not as easy a question as one may think. There is a growing argument that Howland is gone at the end of this year as UCLA head coach regardless of what happens. Tony Parker may be exhibit one in that Howland believes it.
Howland apparently only cares about Tony Parker as an insurance policy if one of the Wears or Kyle Anderson gets hurt. (Even though if Kyle got hurt, I bet Howland would play Shabazz at 4 some.) Howland has not tried to develop Parker at all but tried to win every game with the better-right-now but with less-long-term-potential Wears. Howland is coaching for his resume not for the long term good of UCLA. If Howland carried about the future of UCLA after this season you have to believe Tony would be getting more minutes.
Personally I believe that Parker will decide to stay or go from UCLA in part dependent on who the next coach is. Because it seems both Howland and Parker know, that Howland is unlikely to be coaching here next year.
Like Zeppo and Henry Padovani, I am not sure Tony Parker will ever be more than a footnote for his time at UCLA . . .unless Howland goes.