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Tuesday, September 6, 2011
UCLA's No. 1 class no guarantee of success

By Diamond Leung

UCLA coach Ben Howland told Andy Katz that guard Jerime Anderson will miss a few games after being arrested in July in connection with the theft of a laptop. While that means Anderson is expected to be sidelined for more than the team's regular-season opener, as had been previously announced, it also puts the senior on track for possible reinstatement by the time the Bruins leave for Hawaii to play in the championship round of the Maui Invitational and open with Chaminade.

That will be big for a team that is short on guards. But discussion of the suspension status of the last remaining member of the nation's top-ranked recruiting class of 2008 heading into the senior year was far from what was expected.

When UCLA brought in five top-50 recruits coming off a third straight Final Four appearance, there were expectations that more big-time success was on the way for Howland.

Thus far, those recruits have combined to win two NCAA tournament games, and the two McDonald's All-Americans in the group -- Jrue Holiday and Malcolm Lee -- ended up becoming NBA draft picks.

But Holiday left after one so-so season, and Lee perhaps bolted too early and became a second-round pick rather than bolster a Bruins roster for this coming season.

Drew Gordon clashed with Howland and left the program midseason before transferring to New Mexico. J'mison Morgan was dismissed from the team and went to Baylor.

Anderson had been a disappointment for UCLA because of his inability to hold a starting job, and it's his off-the-court incident that generated bad offseason headlines.

It was a long time ago when the five-player class looked so cheerful the day it posed for pictures for a feature story in UCLA Magazine called "Hoop Dreams."
When asked a serious question about team goals, however, all five freshmen adamantly agree: Nothing short of a Pac-10 championship, followed by an NCAA national championship, will do.

"That's the goal here at UCLA, period, for any sport to win the national championship, you know? It's not just us," Anderson says. "I want to see that happen for the seniors, who've been there three times in a row. Definitely, that's what I want to see."

Now it will be left up to Anderson, who after serving his suspension will get one final chance at achieving what the group originally set out to do.