This past season was a very difficult one for UCLA coach Ben Howland. The Bruins started the season ranked in the top 2, but after a few weeks into the season it became very obvious this team was going to have a lot of problems. The Bruins lost to Loyola Marymount and Middle Tennessee State out of their first 3 games of the young season. Just when UCLA fans thought things couldn’t get worse star forward Reeves Nelson (13.9 ppg, 9.1 rebounds per game) started having issues with Coach Howland which ultimately led to his release from the program.
Once Nelson was released from the program the Bruins had a very difficult time having a go-to guy who could score. The Bruins expected former 5 star recruit F/C Josh Smith to have a bigger role in the offense but he often struggled to stay on the court due to conditioning issues, something that has derailed Smith for his whole career. The Wear brothers who had transferred from UNC had very solid numbers but often struggled on the defensive end of the court. Just when the Bruins started to play as a team Sports Illustrated released an article claiming Coach Howland had lost control of his team. The article caused a lot of controversy and raised questions of whether Howland would be around to coach the Bruins the following season. The Bruins finished the season 19-14 and 12-7 in the PAC-12.
At the end of the season the Bruins decided to retain coach Howland.
At the time a lot of people were not very happy about the decision but now all UCLA fans are smiling. The Bruins just signed McDonalds All American Tony Parker. Parker’s addition to the recruiting class was huge and arguably helped the Bruins have the #1 class in the nation. The class is led by #1 recruit in the nation Shabazz Muhammad (a player most analysts expect to be the number 1 pick in the 2013 NBA draft). The class will also include highly touted Jordan Adams and Kyle Anderson. The Bruins are counting on former McDonalds All American and UNC Tar Heel Larry Drew II to contribute to next year’s squad.
Next year’s UCLA Bruins team should contend for a PAC-12 championship and a potential final four appearance. Expect Shabazz Muhammad to be a candidate for national player of the year. If Josh Smith can stay on the court and improve his conditioning and the Wear brothers meet their potential this team will be complete and will be very dangerous come tournament time. The best news for UCLA fans is the Bruins will be returning to Pauley Pavilion (where UCLA teams shined under the leadership of Coach Wooden) next year after having to play last year’s home games at off campus locations due to renovations. Say what you want about Coach Howland, but the man can flat out recruit.