UCLA: Steve Fisher
December, 1, 2012
By Peter Yoon | ESPNLosAngeles.com
Kelvin Kuo/US PresswireShabazz Muhammad and the other UCLA freshman are being asked to carry a heavy load right off.
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- It's time to hit the reset button on the expectations for UCLA's basketball season.
A 78-69 loss to San Diego State on Saturday night at the Honda Center confirmed what has been pretty obvious throughout the early part of the schedule: The Bruins have a long way to go if they are going to make any kind of run this season.
They are young and still figuring out how to play with one another. Coach Ben Howland primarily used a zone defense for only the second time this season and the players are still figuring that out, too.
The sky-high expectations for this team entering the season were apparently premature. A recruiting class ranked No. 1 in the nation was supposed to lift the team to national title contender status, but the Bruins have now lost two games to teams from their home state.
It's time to recognize that the Bruins are a developing squad with on-court chemistry that has yet to sort itself out, and players who are still figuring out the college game.
"I'd say I'm not really comfortable out there still," said Shabazz Muhammad, the top recruit in this class. "I'm still working through it and it's a learning process so I'm going to learn through it."
Muhammad had perhaps his best game of the season Saturday with 16 points on 7-of-12 shooting and showed signs of the killer instinct that made him one of the nation's most coveted scorers out of high school last season. But he's not nearly the dominant player anyone expected him to be. Not yet, anyway.
Kyle Anderson, the other prize freshman in the class, was 2-for-8 shooting Saturday and is now shooting 32.7 percent for the season. He has been solid as a rebounder, but his 28-17 assist-to-turnover ratio is not yet what was advertised when he was dubbed the No. 5 recruit in the nation last year.
Tony Parker, another freshman, sat out Saturday because of an ankle injury and he hasn't played more than three minutes in the last five games because of injuries.
Only Jordan Adams, the least heralded of the four freshmen, has lived up to his billing. He had a team-high 23 points Saturday and leads the Bruins in scoring with 17.8 points per game.
"There's a lot of learning still that we're doing," Howland said.