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Wednesday, March 3, 2010
Howland admits recruiting mistakes

By Diamond Leung

UCLA coach Ben Howland is opening up a little more about what's led to this year's 13-15 team. What's to blame? His recruiting, he says.

From an interview with Los Angeles Times columnist T.J. Simers:
"You can say I know failure because that's what it has been relative to our expectations here," he says. "It's no fun. I have sleepless nights wondering how the heck did we get here.

"But all of it starts right here with me. I'm in charge of making this program competitive year after year, but I did a poor job of evaluation of some of our recruits — from a talent, as well as a character standpoint."

As Howland talks, it sounds as if there is a lot more to be said about what is going on internally with this present group of Bruins.

It's an interesting choice of words because while Howland takes the blame, he does spread it around to his players when he starts talking about character.

Take the players who left for the NBA early -- Kevin Love, Russell Westbrook and Jrue Holiday -- out of the equation, and those who Howland was left to rely on during a rebuilding year clearly didn't resemble some of his tough-minded teams of the past.

His senior class is made up of role players from his Final Four teams: Michael Roll, James Keefe and Nikola Dragovic, who has twice been arrested and suspended during his career.

There's not a single junior on the roster since Chace Stanback transferred (and is now flourishing at UNLV).

Howland clashed with sophomore forward Drew Gordon, who transferred to New Mexico. Guard Jerime Anderson and 6-foot-10 center J'mison Morgan have disappointed while McDonald's All-American Malcolm Lee is out of place at point guard, a position of need when Holiday caught Howland somewhat off-guard by being a one-and-done.

Freshmen forwards Tyler Honeycutt and Reeves Nelson have shown all-conference ability, but others in that class have struggled to get playing time.

It's a mix that has left the team lacking athleticism and Howland grudgingly utilizing a zone defense and deflecting questions about the NIT when his team is just struggling to reach .500.

There's still two more games and the Pac-10 tournament left, but Bruins are already looking to the future.

UPDATE: Morgan has been suspended for Thursday's Arizona game due to a violation of team rules.