By Joel Welser
32-7, 14-4, 1st
the absence of three starters from last year’s second best team
in the nation,
UCLA returns plenty of experienced players. That is due to
the fact that 13 players started at least one game last year.
And this year’s depth is even better.
Jordan Farmar, and his 13.5 points and 5.1 assists per game, is
the big name that is lost, but the absence of Cedric Bozeman and
Ryan Hollins will hurt just as much. Bozeman was the senior
leader of the team and Hollins came on strong at the end of the
year and gave the Bruins a true post threat. Janou Rubin and
Michael Fey were down a ways on the depth chart and walk-ons
Kelvin Kim and Nican Robinson were at the bottom.
freshmen Russell Westbrook, Nikola Dragovic and James Keefe will
battle for minutes. Westbrook could see some minutes running
the point this year if the Bruins run into problems replacing
Farmar. Dragovic is a quality scoring wing from Serbia and
Montenegro and is expected to immediately contribute. Keefe, a
6-8 power forward, might be most talented of the bunch and will
be in the mix to help replace the departing Hollins. Mustafa
Abdul-Hamid will bide his time and provide some emergency depth
on the perimeter.
Who to Watch:
Afflalo is the odds on favorite for Pac-10 Player of the Year
after leading the Bruins with 15.8 points per game last year.
The 6-5 junior is a solid shooter from anywhere on the court and
will be looked upon as the team leader. He’ll have some
competition from the rest of his backcourt mates though when it
comes to the team’s Player of the Year award. Josh Shipp
started 23 games as a freshman and had high expectations going
into last year before succumbing to a hip injury and seeing
action in just four games. Now back in full force, the 6-5 wing
is ready to put his name back on the marquee. Darren Collison
may prove to be the most important player on the team. Collison
has the fun job of replacing Farmar at the point. Collison has
gained strength and has enough talent to take over the job. If
things go bad, Afflalo and Westbrook can handle the point guard
duties. Michael Roll started five games in the backcourt last
year, but never really got the opportunity to show his stuff.
Unfortunately, with all the talent ahead of him, Roll isn’t
expected to make much more of an impact this year.
Luc Richard Mbah
a Moute will be the leader up front. The 6-7 power forward put
together a great season as a freshman, averaging 9.1 points and
8.2 rebounds and fans now remember his game more than his name.
Lorenzo Mata, Alfred Aboya and Ryan Wright are all decent post
players who will replace Hollins. Mata is a great shot blocker,
but can be a liability on the defensive end. Off-season surgery
on his right knee may keep Mata on the sidelines early in the
season. Aboya and Wright, both sophomores, are less experience
than Mata, but each have the potential to impress and earn more
playing time. Washington and Arizona won’t make it easy, but
the Bruins are the class of the Pac-10. The depth will keep the
stars well rested down the stretch and that means another big
run in March is in store for Coach Ben Howland and all of
Sophomore, Guard, 5.5 points per game
Junior, Guard, 15.8 points per game
Sophomore, Forward, 11.2 points per game
Luc Richard Mbah
a Moute, Sophomore, Forward, 9.1 points per game
Junior, Center, 3.6 points per game
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