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)
PG- Richard Midgley, 6'1 200 Fr. (9.8 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 2.9 apg, 46% 3-ptrs)
SG- Brian Wethers, 6'5 215 Sr