The Bruins have now lost eight of their last ten games, the last five in a row, and now languish at 4-10 (2-4 in the Pac-10). Moreover, UCLA has managed to lose their last six home games to these teams: Northern Arizona, Michigan, USC, St. John's, Arizona State, and Arizona. Head Coach Steve Lavin has made national headlines this year for all the wrong reasons and is generally now considered a 'lame duck' coach. It has been almost shocking to read the articles published by ESPN and Sportsline where they spoke directly with Lavin. "The rationale has been different every time," Lavin said when asked about past UCLA Coaches. "Bartow was out of his element, he was from the South. Gary Cunningham was a great coach, a great teacher, but didn't like the pressure. Larry Brown was too temperamental and too sensitive and expected too much. Walt Hazzard was supposedly too angry and too militant. Larry Farmer was too young and too nice. Harrick was West Virginia; he was the fifth choice, they never wanted him in the first place. And I was the interim guy, cream and sugar, (get the) coffee, who never should have never gotten the job in the first place."
Certainly, that is an interesting way to look at the situation. Under Lavin's guidance, the Bruins have made 5 of the past 6 Sweet Sixteens and only other coach in the country can make that claim (Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski). And despite March success, it's not close to good enough for UCLA. "Year after year, you hear the same thing," Lavin said Wednesday. "This year, well, it might happen."
It will happen.
Here is a quick look at the 2002-03 UCLA Bruins team:
Projected Starting Lineup: (Returning starters in Bold)
PG- Ryan Walcott 6'1 175 So (4.4 ppg, 1.8 rpg, 4.1 apg, 35% 3-Ptr's)
SG- Ray Young 6'4 210 Sr (6.6 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 1.6 apg)
SF- Jason Kapono 6'8 215 Sr (16.4 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 2.4 apg, 37% 3-Ptr's)
PF- Andre Patterson 6'7 200 So (8.2 ppg, 5.3 rpg)
C- T. J. Cummings 6'10 225 Jr (12.0 ppg, 5.2 rpg)
Key Returning Reserves:
Dijon Thompson 6'7 190 So (13.5 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 2.7 apg, 37% 3-Ptr's)
Cedric Bozeman 6'6 190 So (7.1 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 3.3 apg, 32% 3-Ptr's)
Jon Crispin 6'2 190 Jr (2.5 ppg, 0.8 rpg, 0.4 apg, 35% 3-Ptr's)
Michael Fey 6'11 245 Fr (1.8 ppg, 1.7 rpg)
Marcedes Lewis 6'6 240 Fr (1.7 ppg, 0.7 rpg)
Josiah Johnson 6'8 240 So (2.6 ppg, 2.3 rpg)
Janou Rubin 6'3 185 So (2.0 ppg, 0.8 rpg, 0.5 apg)
One particular deficiency really stands out with this Bruin team: the complete absence of a player with real 'Basketball IQ'. The Bruins do have some outstanding athletes, but knowing how to win basketball games and having athletic talent are two very different things. What's remarkable about this is that Jason Kapono came to UCLA with 'Basketball IQ', and he still possesses moments of knowing what it takes to win. But as the years have passed, those moments are growing fewer and shorter. Kapono is now slower than he used to be, and his near 50% three point shooting percentage (frosh and junior years) is now down to 37%. It's painful to see a player regress, but nothing can be more telling than his 3-time All Pac-10 1st Team selection - and now having zero chance for the award this year.
Helping out Kapono in the frontcourt are three sophomores, two freshmen, and a junior. Andre Patterson missed the 1st 3 games of the season due to academics, but has played well for Coach Lavin this year, leading the team in rebounding before injuring his ankle on Thursday night at Stanford. His status is questionable for Saturday's game. Sophomore's Josiah Johnson (brother of Kristaan Johnson, son of Marques Johnson) and Dijon Thompson also see time, with Thompson being the team's second best overall scorer this year. Thompson can score in a variety of ways. Michael Fey has been slow to adjust to college basketball, and is not the center that many UCLA fans had been led to believe would be a solid replacement for Dan Gadzuric. Marcedes Lewis (a former teammate of A.J Diggs at Long Beach Poly) is just starting to get in basketball condition after the football season ended and might see limited time. T.J. Cummings might be the worst decision maker in the Pac-10. This son of Terry Cummings has shown little patience on both ends of the court. Watch for him to lose his temper more than once at Haas Pavilion, a-la Matt Barnes. So even though there are a number of bodies that Coach Lavin can go with, you'll see little consistency and less teamwork.
In the backcourt, the Bruins have very little punch. Ray Young has regressed almost as much as Jason Kapono, which I think makes him ( a former star at St. Joseph's HS in Alameda) the biggest let down on the team. The Bruins have two seniors who have each shown little leadership this season. For the record, Ray Young is shooting 16% from three-point land and starts at the 2-guard. Jon Crispin, a transfer from Penn State, has also played poorly. Janou Rubin will get a bit of court time too now that the season is lost. At the point, Cedric Bozeman and Ryan Walcott continue to share the duties with Walcott now the starter. Bozeman will forever be a 2-guard with fantastic athletic talent playing out of position, which has led to his confidence being the size of a pea. Can anyone say, 'T-R-A-N-S-F-E-R' ?
California 2002-03 Team:
Projected Starting Lineup: (Returning Starters in Bold) 2002-03 Statistics