UCLA: Malcolm Lee
Some, such as Drew Grodon, and Tyler Trapani, were alleged victims of Nelson's violent antics who said Nelson never did to them what the Sports Illustrated story said. Others, such as Blake Arnet and Alex Schrempf, said they spoke with Dohrmann and told him the information he had was incorrect only to see it end up in print anyway.
All of them disagreed with the Sports Illustrated depiction of Nelson as a player who intentionally injured teammates and was coddled by coach Ben Howland, who turned a blind eye to Nelson's transgressions.
"I never saw Nelson intentionally hurt or intentionally try to hurt any member of the UCLA basketball team or staff, nor do I believe that Nelson ever intentionally hurt or tried to hurt any member of the UCLA basketball team or staff," reads a passage in each of the 18 declarations. "I did not observe and do not believe that Coach Howland favored Nelson over the other players in any fashion, not with respect to discipline or anything else."
Some players addressed specific incidents alleged in the article. Gordon, for instance, was reported to have gotten into an off-campus fight with Nelson that resulted in a black eye for Gordon, but Gordon's declaration stated "The article’s description of Nelson’s behavior toward me is false. We have never had a fight, not at a teammate’s apartment or anywhere else, nor has Nelson ever given me a black eye from a fight or otherwise."
The Sports Illustrated story also reported that Schrempf, a former UCLA walk-on, suffered a serious back injury as a result of a Nelson attack during practice. Schrempf's declaration said that never happened. In his declaration, Schrempf acknowledged speaking with Dohrmann but told Dohrmann his facts were wrong.
"During our conversation, Dohrmann specifically told me that he had 'heard' that Nelson intentionally injured me during practice by knocking me to the ground from behind," Schrempf's statement says. "According to Dohrmann’s 'source,' Nelson’s conduct caused me to suffer a serious back injury. I explained to Dohrmann that this version of events was incorrect."
UCLA was successful in its return to the mainland, earning its first victory over a Division I opponent Monday night with a 62-39 drubbing of Pepperdine.
But by no means were the Bruins crisp, especially to start. They managed only five points in the first 7 minutes 46 seconds of play before going on a 20-2 run midway through the first half to pull away. The Bruins, fresh off an uninspiring trip to Hawaii for the Maui Invitational, got their first victory at the L.A. Sports Arena and improved to 2-4 overall.
Five observations from the game:
1Perimeter defense was in sync
Suffocating pressure from starting guards Lazeric Jones and Jerime Anderson played a major role in Pepperdine's first-half funk. The Waves went scoreless for over five minutes and managed just one basket in a rough stretch that lasted nearly nine minutes.
UCLA gave up only 11 points in the first half, the fewest since holding Florida International to 13 in 2008.
"Our team defense wasn't even close [at the beginning of the season] to what it is now," coach Ben Howland said.
Remember, the Bruins lost their best perimeter defender when Malcolm Lee left for the NBA last spring, and they don't have another player that will fill his shoes this year. Instead, UCLA will have to be good as a unit. Jones, who had a career-high six steals, attributed the change to better communication.
"I continued to hear people talk behind me," Jones said.
Sophomore forward Travis Wear took an inadvertent elbow that knocked out his two front teeth -- causing him to speak with a noticeable lisp during the postgame news conference -- but that didn't stop him from pegging it as his best game as a Bruin. Travis Wear had eight points, a career-high 10 rebounds and three blocks, and, before he left the court to get his mouth examined, spent a considerable amount of his minutes alongside brother David Wear, who added 10 points and a career-high seven boards.
Howland seems intent on having both on the floor at the same time, and their collective performance Monday probably won't make him stray from that strategy.
"I think we're on the right path to being a really good team," Travis Wear said.
A total of 22 minutes from Reeves Nelson and Joshua Smith is an alarming statistic to take from this one. The two projected frontcourt starters were afterthoughts, really.
Nelson, who hasn't made a start since the season opener, played only two minutes in the first half because of foul trouble. Smith, again plagued by the whistle, played only four minutes in the first half. The duo combined for six points and six fouls.
"They'll play better," Howland said, "I'm confident, as we move forward."
Former UCLA guard Darren Collison and Russell Westbrook thrived in fast-break opportunities during their time in Westwood, usually capping their runs with dazzling moves near the rim.
Freshman Norman Powell might be UCLA's next can't-blink-when-he-has-the-ball player. He had a flashy dunk late in the first half that drew a surprisingly loud response from the 3,885 in attendance. Powell also added a pair of 3-pointers and notched a career-high with 10 points.
Jones appeared to regain his shooting touch, scoring a team-high 14 points Monday following his 0-for-5 performance in the Maui finale against Michigan. The Bruins will need similar efforts from him the rest of the season, and Jones knows it.
"I feel like sometimes you've got to get a win to know how to win," Jones said. "To see us go out there and play hard, it showed us what we need to do to win."
With Pauley Pavilion undergoing major renovations and the team being displaced for its home games this season, the Bruins also will need to find a new practice home.
So they're going to reach a little into their past.
Workouts and game preparations will take place in "the Old Men's Gym" or the Student Activities Center on campus.
The team held its annual media day Wednesday in the Men's Gym -- a place where coach John Wooden once practiced with his teams from 1948 to '65.
"That chalk board over there is the actually chalk board that Coach used to write on," UCLA coach Ben Howland told reporters. "It's the actual board itself, it's pretty cool. His 101st birthday is Friday, always right at the start of the college basketball season. Coach Wooden's teams practiced in here until Pauley was built."
This season's UCLA team is looking to do big things, despite the departures of underclassmen Tyler Honeycutt and Malcolm Lee, who left school early to pursue professional aspirations.
The Bruins' strength appears to be on the front line, giving the team some size and bulk, especially with the additions of twins David and Travis Wear, former Mater Dei High standouts who transferred from North Carolina and sat out last season.
The Wear twins, each 6-foot-10 sophomores, could open things up on the inside for 6-10, 305-pound center Joshua Smith, who averaged 10.9 points and 6.3 rebounds as a freshman last season. UCLA also returns athletic junior Reeves Nelson, who was the team's leading scorer last season at 13.9 points per game.
Adding depth inside are 6-10 sophomore defensive specialist Anthony Stover and 6-9 junior forward Brendan Lane.
"Our real strength is our front line," said Howland, who is beginning his ninth season in Westwood.
The Chicago Bulls selected Lee with the 13th pick in the second round (No. 43 overall) and then immediately traded him to the Minnesota Timberwolves as part of a draft-day deal.
"I feel good," Lee said in a conference call with reporters after he was drafted. "I just have to work from here. I got one foot in the door and I just have to keep it going."
The middle of the second round is pretty much where most experts had Lee pegged to go. A 6-foot-6 combo guard, Lee is a staunch defender who shut down many of the country's top scorers last season while at UCLA. He has some offensive deficiencies but has nice quickness and good size for a guard.
"I thought I was going to squeeze into the first [round], but it is what it is," Lee said. "You can’t dwell on it, you just have to keep moving on."
Lee said he was too nervous to watch the draft, so he instead went to an afternoon showing of the movie "Super 8." By the time he got out, the first round was almost over, but he still stayed away from televisions.
"I felt like my nerves would be better if I didn't watch it," he said.
The theory goes like this: UCLA players who have played under coach Ben Howland tend to exceed expectations in the NBA because they enter the league ready to play in it. Players such as Kevin Love, Russell Westbrook, Darren Collison, Jrue Holiday, Arron Afflalo have all taken their games to another level once they reached the NBA.
It has been such a reliable trend for so long that ESPN NBA analyst John Hollinger this year added a "Howland variable" into his math-based Draft Rater because "for some reason, every Ben Howland product massively outperformed his estimate as a pro."
So how will this affect the draft status of Malcolm Lee and Tyler Honeycutt, the two UCLA products entered in this year's draft?
Most projections have Honeycutt slated as a late first-round pick and Lee as a mid-to-late second rounder. But there are some, including Hollinger, who have Honeycutt going in the top 15 and Lee sneaking into the late first and early second round. Could this be the UCLA factor at work?
“In a weak draft with little separation between players outside the lottery both will go higher than they should and some teams may overemphasize the perceived effect of playing in the UCLA system when making the decision to draft them,” said one NBA front office source who has scouted both players.
He’s spent more than a month chasing his dream on a whirlwind, jet-setting journey of 16 cities in 40 days.
Workouts, combines, one-on-one drills, three-on-three pickup games and skills exercises in front of NBA coaches, general managers and scouts have filled his life since May 18. Those NBA talent evaluators hold Lee’s future in their hands, but Lee said he’s more nervous now than he had been in front of them.
“I’m nervous, anxious, excited, everything,” Lee said. “It’s out of my hands now, so that makes me even more nervous. I don’t like that feeling that it’s something I can’t control.”
Perhaps that is why Lee, who left UCLA after his junior season to enter the NBA draft, put himself through such a punishing grind in the 40 days leading up to the draft. Workouts are something he can control.
After leaving UCLA, he moved to Las Vegas to work out for about six weeks with Joe Abunassar at Impact Sports. He left Las Vegas on May 18 and hasn’t been back since.
His journey went like this: Chicago-Minnesota-Detroit-Miami-New York-Charlotte-Indiana-Philadelphia-Washington D.C.-Boston-Chicago-Utah-Denver-Houston-Dallas-Minnesota.
He spent no more than three days in any of those cities, sometimes traveling immediately after a workout so he could be in another city for another workout the next day. The taxing schedule, Lee said, was necessary because his early entry into this year’s draft was a bit of a surprise.
“A lot of guys go to eight or 10 workouts, but I felt I needed to do as many as possible,” Lee said. “A lot of people basically didn’t know what I could do. They had a lot of questions on me and so basically I had to go in there and answer them for them.”
Lee became the target of criticism when he announced he was leaving UCLA. Some felt that he wasn’t ready to make the jump and even though UCLA coach Ben Howland supported the decision, he said Lee could have benefited from one more year in college.
He is kind of a tweener guard with exceptional athleticism, quickness energy and hustle, but lacking elite shooting or ball handling skills, so nobody knew where he would fit in the NBA.
Plus, he was coming off of knee surgery, albeit a minor one, and needed to rehab before working out for NBA teams. He said “I’ve been straight grinding and it held up 100% through this process,” so that wasn’t an issue.
As far as the other criticisms, well, let’s just say Lee loves to prove people wrong.
“I just internalized it and turned it into a positive and just used it on my side,” Lee said. "I’ve been on the road for that long and all that criticism helped keep my tank off of ‘E.’ It kept me going and traveling to all these cities with enthusiasm. I had a lot of opinions going against me, so basically I was looking to excel in these workouts. The criticism was a true motivator and it fed me.”
Whether or not he improved his draft status is a question that will only be answered on draft day. Right now, Lee is projected as a second round pick, so his workouts seem to have bumped his stock because when he first entered the draft, some analysts said he might not get drafted.
Lee says he is not worried about where he ends up. Throughout all of his workouts, he’d hear things once in a while about how this team liked him or that team will pick him if he’s still available. Some want him as a point guard, others as a shooting guard. He played both during his workouts and the needs of certain teams and how they envision Lee’s future will determine where he ends up.
“I’ve heard a few teams in the first round, like a late 20s pick, like me,” Lee said. “I heard some teams like me as a one but others see me as a two. So you never really know. I haven’t gotten any guarantees.”
And that’s what’s leading to some of the nervousness. After more than a month straight of showing off his skills around the country, of laying on hotel beds with ice on his knees and ankles preparing for the next workout, Lee has a little too much free time before the draft.
“I feel like there is more I should be doing,” he said. “There’s nothing I can do, but I feel like I should be.”
But, Lee said, he has no regrets about entering the draft and will happily accept whatever happens On Thursday.
“I’m the type of guy that doesn’t regret things and believe everything happens for a reason,” he said. “I don’t regret anything or have any doubt or second thoughts. I’m hoping for the best and preparing for the worst because whatever happens now, I can’t control that.”
"Its official," McCaskill wrote. "I have committed to #UCLA next year. #GoBruins."
According to numerous reports, McCaskill will join the Bruins as a preferred walk-on. The 6-foot-4, 190-pound guard gives coach Ben Howland a third player in the 2011 recruiting class. Incoming guards Norman Powell (San Diego, Calif./Lincoln) and De'End Parker (San Francisco, Calif./City College) will compete for former starter Malcolm Lee's minutes.
How did you fare in the San Diego County All Star Game Dunk Contest on Saturday?
Norman Powell: I won the whole thing. In the second round I dunked over one of my teammates, Kevin Smith, and then I did a between-the-legs at the end.
A good way to cap your high school career, I'm sure. What are your plans moving forward?
My first official day [at UCLA], from talking to the coaches, will be June 19th. I should be on campus earlier to move my stuff in, but I think that will be my first official day. Really, what I've been focusing on since my season ended has been working on my handles, trying to get my dribbling skills right. I'm working on attacking the bucket and getting my shot to go down on a consistent basis, a quicker release.
You won the CIF State title as a junior but couldn't get to Sacramento this year. How disappointing was that?
Really, at first I couldn't believe it. But with my performance [missed nine of 10 attempts from beyond the arc] it just wasn't our night. I was taking shots I usually take in a game, they just weren't falling. When I noticed that I tried to get it going to the bucket. It just wasn't my night.
How tough was it to shoot with that Galen Center backdrop?
It was pretty tough, but it was nothing we hadn't seen before. We won at Galen the year before. I was ready for it, I was just off.
UCLA received some bad news when Malcolm Lee hired an agent earlier this month, but it's a bit of good news for your playing time. What was your reaction when you heard about Lee's decision?
I was happy for him because it's a good time for him and his family. But I was also kind of mad because I wanted to compete with him. I wanted him to show me the ropes of being that guard everyone looks to to be aggressive, to be that defensive stopper.
But with him gone, it does open up a spot maybe for me to start. I'm really excited and hopefully I'll be able to live up to everybody's expectations, maybe exceed those expectations. I can't wait to do my part on that team.
There's some uncertainty with two starters now gone. Where do you want to play? The two? The three?
I really want to start right away and contribute to the team offensively and defensively. I feel like I can go in there as a freshman and be one of the go-to guys. I want to be the guy that gets the big bucket in the game or that big stop. I'm looking forward to making an immediate impact.
I'm focused on any position. Wherever you put me, I'm going to play to the best of my abilities. Whether that's the two, the three or the one -- I'll play any position that will help us win.
I remember seeing you at Pauley Pavilion a few times last season. What was your feeling watching that team?
Being at their games was great. The crowd was chanting my name, which made me feel like they're looking forward to me coming in next year. I picture myself on that court playing with those guys. Heading up there and talking to guys like Lazeric Jones, Joshua Smith -- they're real cool. They're planning on showing me around when I go up there for my official visit in May. They're the two guys I got close to.
Did you have the chance to watch them play in the NCAA Tournament?
Yeah, I watched both games. It was a tough loss for them.
What do you think went wrong?
I feel like (Tyler) Honeycutt didn't perform like he could have. On the defensive end they really needed him on some plays but he seemed lost.
You obviously weren't there but did those losses make you a little angry?
That fired me up. I wanted them to go far. They were underdogs going in there. People were saying, "UCLA is a good team, but they're inconsistent." Looking forward to next year, with me going in there it's like, "OK, we lost in the second round, now let's do better than that, let's push ourselves." Getting to the second round isn't good enough. We have to do better and prove everybody wrong. We have to keep excelling as a team. We're trying to bring back that tradition UCLA once had with John Wooden.
Nelson, a sophomore forward who is the only one of the three returning next season, led the team in scoring with 13.9 points per game and in rebounding with 9.1 per game. He also took home the team’s Gerald A. Finerman Award for team rebounding leader.
Lee, a junior guard who announced Tuesday that he is leaving UCLA and entering the NBA draft, was second on the team in scoring at 13.1 points per game and also won the team’s Irv Pohlmeyer Memorial Award for outstanding defensive player for the second consecutive season.
Honeycutt, a sophomore forward who also will enter the NBA draft, was third on the team in scoring at 12.8 points per game second in rebounding at 7.2 per game. He also led the team and the Pac-10 in blocked shots with 68 total and second on the team in assists with 2.8 per game.
All three earned first-team All Pac-10 honors and Lee was named to the Pac-10 all-defensive team.
Junior guard Lazeric Jones took home three team awards: The Bob "Ace" Calkins Memorial Award for free throw shooting (81.0 percent); The UCLA Alumni Association Award for assists (3.6 per game); and the Bruin Hoopsters J.D. Morgan Memorial Award for outstanding team play.
Junior guard Jerime Anderson was a two-time award winner, garnering the Elvin C. "Ducky" Drake Memorial Award for competitive spirit, inspiration and unselfish contributions and the Bruin Bench Basketball Award for most improvement in all-around play and mental attitude.
Center Joshua Smith won the Seymour Armond Memorial Award as Most Valuable Freshman. He was fourth on the team in scoring with 10.9 points per game and third in rebounding at 6.3 per game.
Junior guard Tyler Trapani and sophomore forward Brendan Lane were named co-winners of the UCLA Faculty Athletic Representative Award for academic achievement and team contribution.
- 94: Total games played
- 29: Career-high in points (Dec. 19, 2009 at Notre Dame)
- 9.7: Three-year scoring average
- 11-3: UCLA's record last season when Lee scored 15 or more points
Obviously, Lee's departure leaves a gaping hole in the Bruins' backcourt -- he was one of the nation's premier defenders and was making strides on the offensive end. Last season, Lee scored 45 more points than the previous season despite playing 19 fewer minutes.
Coach Ben Howland said Tuesday that rising sophomore Tyler Lamb and incoming freshman Norman Powell (San Diego, Calif./Lincoln) would get the opportunity to compete for Lee's minutes.
Here's what next season's projected depth chart looks like now (with starters listed first):
G - Lazeric Jones (Sr.), Jerime Anderson (Sr.)
G - Lamb (So.), Powell (Fr.)
F - David Wear (So.)
F - Reeves Nelson (Jr.), Travis Wear (So.), Brendan Lane (Jr.)
C - Joshua Smith (So.), Anthony Stover (So.)
Let's say Joshua Smith has the monster sophomore season many expect him to have and immediately bolts for the NBA. And let's make a similar projection with fellow big Reeves Nelson.
Barring injuries, point guards Lazeric Jones and Jerime Anderson will graduate after next season. The same goes for Malcolm Lee -- assuming he returns for his senior year, of course. We also know North Carolina transfer Larry Drew II will be in Westwood, but who will join him when the Bruins open the new Pauley Pavilion for the 2012-13 season?
Well, here's an early look at UCLA's potential starting five, assuming Smith and Nelson post attractive numbers and do what Tyler Honeycutt did last month:
G - Drew, Sr.
G - Tyler Lamb, Jr.
G - Norman Powell, So.
F - David Wear, Jr.
F - Travis Wear, Jr.
Or maybe coach Ben Howland goes for size, using Lamb off the bench to give Anthony Stover -- who will be a junior -- the nod at center? Keep in mind that the lineup doesn't factor in any freshmen (so far, Howland does not have any commitments for the 2012 class).
UCLA has a realistic chance to claim the inaugural Pac-12 crown. But can the Bruins contend the following season if Smith and Nelson leave early? Will they again be in "rebuilding" mode?
Ponder this: Would you trade another thrilling Final Four run next season if it meant losing Smith and Nelson to the NBA draft?
Feel free to leave a comment giving us your opinion.
The Bruins have no seniors graduating and will have loads of experience at every position, especially if none of the players leaves school for the NBA. They will also get some much-needed depth with the addition of North Carolina transfers David and Travis Wear and incoming freshman Norman Powell set to join the team.
UCLA showed an upward trend of improvement throughout this season and if the Bruins continue that rise during the offseason, it would come as no surprise to find them among the top 10 teams in the nation when next season starts.
Here, we take a look at the roster for next season:
F-Reeves Nelson, Jr., 6-8, 235
The emotional barometer for the Bruins, Nelson also led the team in scoring with 13.9 points a game and in rebounding with 9.1 per game. He's a workhorse who is not afraid to do the dirty work, gives UCLA a toughness edge and can finish around the basket. He made great strides on the defensive end throughout this season and also matured quite a bit from start to finish. He still needs to improve his help side defense and he could use another six or eight feet of range on his jump shot, but he has the kind of bulldog personality to make those things happen. If they do, he will become one of the top all-around inside players in the country.
F-Tyler Honeycutt, Jr., 6-8, 188
He's the most likely of all the Bruins to leave for the NBA, he led the team in minutes played and was third in scoring with 12.8 points a game and second in rebounding at 7.2 per game. He can score form anywhere on the floor and led the team with 55 three-point baskets. He struggled at times with on-ball defense, but made up for a lot of those lapses with recovery shot blocking. He led the Pac-10 with 68 blocked shots. His laid-back personality hurt him when he made carefree passes that led to a team-worst 100 turnovers, and he had a tendency to disappear at times during games, but if he leaves, UCLA will have a hole at small forward. If he returns, UCLA may be a top-five team.
C-Joshua Smith, So., 6-10, 305
A wide-bodied inside player who is almost impossible to stop at the post, Smith steadily improved this season and averaged 10.9 points and 6.3 rebounds. He dominated inside at times as there is nobody in the country who can match up with him down low. He also has soft hands and the ability to make passes out of the paint, which makes him a difficult player to stop with double teams. Youth and inexperience held him back early in the season, when foul problems cost him quite a bit of playing time, and he averaged only 21.7 minutes this season. His lack of conditioning contributed to those low minutes and haunted him throughout the season as he often missed point-blank shots simply because he didn't have the energy to dunk. He worked hard to get in shape last offseason, losing 40-50 pounds, and if he makes similar strides this summer he has the potential to be the best big man in the country next season.
G-Malcolm Lee, Sr., 6-5, 200
The team's unquestioned MVP, Lee can do it all. He was second on the team in scoring with 13.1 points a game and one of the top defensive players in the Pac-10, if not the country. He is a tireless worker whose energy level never waned. He is quick and athletic and is the best player on the team at creating shots for himself. His defensive instincts are second to none and he routinely matched up with opponent's top scorers and routinely shut them down. He could use a little more consistency on his outside shot (29 percent on three-pointers) and, as a team captain, you'd like him to take more of a vocal leadership role, instead of merely leading by example. He underwent surgery to repair torn cartilage in his left knee, but is expected to make a full recovery, and should pick up where he left off.
G-Lazeric Jones, Sr., 6-0, 187
A junior college transfer from Chicago, Jones brought an immediate toughness and on-court leadership presence to the Bruins, who lacked that the previous season. He's not a flashy point guard with elite speed and quickness, but he looked as if he was developing in to a nice offensive compliment to UCLA's strong front-court until the injury bug bit. He averaged 11.1 points on 42 percent shooting, including 38.9 percent on three-pointers, before crashing to the floor with a severely sprained wrist on Feb. 2. After that he averaged 5.6 points on 27 percent shooting and 26.8 percent on three-pointers. If the wrist was indeed the problem, he should be a valuable weapon because of his ability to get to the basket, get to the free throw line and hit outside shots.
G-Jerime Anderson, Sr., 6-2, 183
The team's most improved player, Anderson averaged 5.1 points and became an increasingly valuable player off the bench as the season went on. He lead the team with a 38.7 three-point shooting percentage and provided steady floor leadership with a team-best 1.78 assist-to-turnover ratio. He averaged 20.1 minutes, easily the most of any bench player, and started three games when UCLA a three-guard lineup for matchup reasons. He figures to play a similar role next season unless he can wrest the starting job from Jones.
C-Anthony Stover, So., 6-10, 235
Stover's numbers won't stand out: He averaged less than a point a game and 1.5 rebounds in eight minutes a game. Still he was an invaluable role player for the Bruins because of his tenacious defense inside. Easily UCLA's top post defender, he managed 28 blocked shots in his limited time--a number that would equal more than three blocks a game and put him in the top 10 nationally with 30 minutes a game. As he develops more of an offensive game, he will earn more playing time and become even more valuable.
F-Brendan Lane, Jr. 6-9, 223
A versatile reserve, Lane played power forward, small forward and center at times this season and averaged three points and 3.1 rebounds in 15.4 minutes. He started the season strong, averaging five points and 5.1 rebounds through the first 12 games, but tailed off once Pac-10 play started and his confidence began to wane. He had a solid NCAA tournament game against Michigan State with eight points and four rebounds which should help start the confidence rebuilding process. He needs to add some bulk in the offseason in order to better contend with bigger players and if he does, he should earn more minutes.
G-Tyler Lamb, So., 6-5, 200
A versatile swing man who plays shooting guard and small forward, Lamb will be relied upon a lot more should Honeycutt decide to leave school. He's an outstanding on-ball defender and often took on the opponents' top player when Lee needed a rest. His offensive game got off to a slow start when he made only four of 19 shots in the first two games, including one of 10 three-pointers, and he never regained confidence in his stroke. Look for him to be a much more dynamic scorer after a summer of working on his shooting touch.
F-David Wear, So., 6-10, 225
A transfer from North Carolina, Wear will be eligible to play next season after sitting out this season because of NCAA transfer rules. He's a former high school All-American who can play power forward or small forward. During his season at North Carolina and averaged 2.9 points and 1.7 rebounds in limited action. He has good shooting range, as he made eight of 16 three-point attempts and is a good defender. He'll help fill the void if Honeycutt leaves.
F-Travis Wear, So., 6-10, 220
Like his twin brother David, Travis say out after transferring from North Carolina, but has a year of practice in Ben Howland's program under his belt. He averaged 3.5 points and 2.2 rebounds in 10 minutes a game for the Tar Heels and earned defensive player of the game three times during his season at North Carolina. He'll compete for minutes at power forward.
G-Norman Powell, Fr., 6-2, 175
A shooting guard who coach Ben Howland called "as athletic as anyone on our team." Powell comes out of Lincoln High in San Diego where he averaged 20.4 points last season and led his team to the state Division II title in 2010. He's got good quickness to create shots and is considered an excellent defender. If he improves his outside shot (30 percent on three-pointers the last two years) he should be able to make an immediate impact next season.
“Not to my knowledge,” Howland said, then paused for a few moments, cracked a grin and added “maybe me.”
Howland said that he was kidding, but as he waves goodbye to the season his Bruins just put him through, a visit to a heart specialist or a psychologist’s couch might not be a bad idea.
The Bruins (23-10) ended their season Saturday in Tampa, Fla., with a 73-65 loss to Florida in the NCAA tournament, completing a four-month journey that featured a stress-inducing wild ride of highs and lows.
In the end, the season had to be considered a success based on the amount of improvement UCLA made from where they ended last season, but getting there wasn’t easy on anyone who followed the team simply because you never knew what you were going to get.
The Bruins made a run at the Pac-10 title, won some high-profile games and got into the NCAA tournament -- meeting the minimum of standards at UCLA -- but along the way delivered moments of hair-pulling frustration and scream-out-loud elation, sometimes within the span of the same game and hardly ever with any rhyme or reason.
With those near collapses and huge deficits to overcome, UCLA’s season easily could have gone the other way, but by continually pulling out victories in those situations, the Bruins showed that they were growing up and improving.
“We had a lot of improvement form a lot of our kids and that is really exciting for me,” he said. “I love to see that. And that’s what you want is you want to have that continued improvement. I do think that we were a good team at the end of the year.”
UCLA entered this season coming off a disappointing 14-18 season and was an inexperienced and unproven squad. Early in the season, their youth and inexperience showed as they were unable to overcome early holes against Villanova and Virginia Commonwealth, but gradually the team started to grow up in front of our eyes.
Howland said that over the next week to 10 days he would meet individually with any of his players who are considering entering this year's NBA draft to discuss the pros and cons of leaving school early.
UCLA has no seniors, but junior guard Malcolm Lee, sophomore forwards Tyler Honeycutt and Reeves Nelson and freshman center Joshua Smith are all considered pro prospects.
Players have until April 24 to declare they are entering the draft and can then withdraw on or before May 8 and maintain their college eligibility, so long as they have not hired an agent.
Smith, who is still working on his conditioning, and Nelson, whose brother, Raymond, will be a freshman tight end for the UCLA football team next season, both hinted last week that they would be back next season.
Lee’s Tuesday knee surgery figures to set him back a bit in preparing for NBA workouts and the draft combine, so that leaves Honeycutt, who said he would talk it over with his family and others close to him this week, as the most likely to leave.
ESPN.com's Chad Ford has Honeycutt projected to go in "late first to early second round," should he decide to come out. Ford has Lee and Smith both projected as "second round to undrafted." Howland said any player that is projected to go among the first 15 picks would have his blessing.
“I’m going to do some more research and we’ll go through the whole process,” Howland said. “If anybody in this program is projected to be in the lottery, then, yeah, they would have my blessing.”
Howland said the most important factor in deciding whether to enter the draft of stay in school is figuring out if each player has the tools to stick with an NBA team long enough to make a decent career out of it.
“The whole point is when you go, you want to be prepared to stay,” Howland said. “It’s not just about getting there, it’s about staying there.”
Howland cited former USC guard Gabe Pruitt as an example of a mid-draft selection who probably should have come back and improved his draft status. Pruitt was selected by the Boston Celtics with the 32nd overall pick in the 2007 draft, played sparingly for two seasons and was waived prior to the 2009-10 season.
He is now playing in Israel.
“That was a huge mistake that he didn’t come back for his next year,” Howland said. “He would have definitely been way higher in the draft than the first pick in the second round.”
Howland’s conversations with the players considering leaving UCLA this year will certainly focus on the projected draft position of each player. The earlier a player is drafted, the bigger the contract tends to be, which means a bigger commitment from the drafting team.
“I’ve done all the research,” Howland said. “If you go look at all the guys who get picked between 25-31 and where they are five years later versus the guys who are on to 15 it’s vastly different when you look at the career paths and the future.
“And I understand that kids want to play in the NBA and that’s always a dream for them and we’ve had a lot of them that have gone on and done well, but you want to be smart about it.”
The potential of an NBA lockout and a lengthy work stoppage next season is also a part of the conversation Howland must have this year. Labor strife, similar to that going on in the NFL right now, is lingering over the league and the draft.
“I have enough contacts and friends in the NBA; This is going to happen,” Howland said. “I can’t speak for what’s going to happen in the NFL, but I can tell you the NBA, in my opinion, there is going to be a serious lockout. They’re all preparing for it. They will not be playing, in my opinion, next December, maybe even January.”
And that makes it even more important for players to make the right decision about leaving school for a potential pro career.
“If you are a guy who is in the 20-30 or late first round/early second round, definitely you want to improve yourself because you’re not even going to get paid next year for half the year.”
The scratches across Reeves Nelson's face and shoulder showed that.
The Bruins left everything they had on the court in their 73-65 loss to Florida in the third round of the NCAA tournament. Joshua Smith's eyes, red from the emotional letdown, showed that.
The Bruins played one of their best games of the season Saturday at the St. Pete Times Forum. They equaled a season low with only eight turnovers and that includes three on their first three possessions when nerves and adrenaline were running high.
They won the battle of the boards, 35-32, got balanced scoring with Smith (16), Nelson (16), Malcolm Lee (14) and Tyler Honeycutt (13) reaching double figures and they were within a point with 1:15 left to play.
The young Bruins were eventually done in by a string of mistakes down the stretch, most certainly a product of their inexperience, and that is a lot easier to swallow than it would be had they lost because of a lack of effort and for that, they deserve to hold their heads high.
"Our guys played with a lot of character, a lot of heart today," UCLA coach Ben Howland said.
The No. 7-seeded Bruins left the No. 2 Gators impressed. UCLA outrebounded the Gators 20-10 in the first half, and put a legitimate scare into the SEC regular-season champions.
"UCLA was as good as any team we played all year long," Florida Coach Billy Donovansaid. "I don't think we really had been outrebounded like that at any point and ... we played a very difficult schedule. We were as tested by them as any team we've played all year."
Still, in the end, the Bruins walked out of the St. Pete Times Forum with no more season left in front them and unable to reach the Sweet 16 for the third consecutive season.
Here, Howland and some UCLA players discuss the difficult emotions of losing when they played so well, the disappointment of the season ending and the prospects for the future: