UCLA Basketball: Projecting 2012 Stats for Bruins' Big 3
It’s been a dry stretch recently for the storied UCLA Basketball program, missing the NCAA tournament two of the last four years and not making it past the second round in the two times they did reach the NCAAs. Which means their status as a preseason Top-10 squad, ranked as high as second by some outlets such as Sporting News, would seem to make little sense.
Except it does.
Why? The incoming four-man class can flat-out ball. Shabazz Muhammad, Kyle Anderson, Tony Parker (no, not that one) and Jordan Adams are all Top-100 players in their class. Muhammad and Anderson will be in the NBA soon enough, and the pair is the main reason that UCLA’s incoming class is considered the nation’s best.
Jordan Adams is talented enough to play a role in the 2012-13 season, but the other three’s performances in the upcoming season will be the difference between a quick NCAA tourney appearance or earning their One Shining Moment.
Here’s what to expect from UCLA’s highly-talented and even higher-touted freshman trio.
Quick Outlook on the Rest of the Roster
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Not so fast, not so fast. Despite the attention these prize three are receiving, there is still talent on the roster. This group has enough talent to fight for an NCAA berth on their own, and the addition of the big trio allows coach Ben Howland to allow the new set of role players to better play towards their strengths.
Josh Smith has turned from a 5-star recruit to a sure-fire punching bag after battling weight issues and foul trouble last year. He’s lost weight this offseason, and if he can continue to shed pounds then he could remind fans of the powerful, rebound-gobbling center that made the Pac-10 All-Freshman team in 2010-11. His performance will directly impact Parker’s time in the court.
On a non-basketball note, it’s great that UCLA ended up with a uniquely-named player in Shabazz compared to Smith and Parker. To be fair, seeing Howland’s face clenching while watching French Tony Parker lob the ball off the backboard for a J-Smoove windmill dunk would be entertainment in itself. Memo to Danny Ferry: Make it happen.
Travis Wear was a top shot-blocker last year in his first season after transferring from UNC, and was reunited with his old point guard in transfer Larry Drew II. The son of current Atlanta Hawks head coach Larry Drew should start at point guard, and could become a key actor in the Shabazz Show given Drew II’s pass-first playing style.
Norman Powell is arguably the team’s most athletic player, and Howland is sure to find a way in his system for Powell to shine off the bench.
Shooting guard Shabazz Muhammad, the nation’s second-ranked player in his class behind Nerlens Noel, brings the most hype for a freshman arrival in Los Angeles since Kevin Love.
First off, he will flat-out score the basketball. At 6’6” and 215, he is the perfect size for an NBA shooting guard and will use every pound of his girth in overpowering opponents on his one-way trips to the basket.
He’s big, but is also athletic and will leap over his poor Pac-12 defenders as he sniffs the lane. He scored 35 points for Team U.S.A. in April’s Nike Hoop Summit, was named MVP of the McDonald's All-American Game, and has put up impressive performances against top competition in tournaments and showings throughout his high school career. Competing against college-level players will not be a difficult adjustment.
No one else on the roster is a volume scorer on Muhammad’s level, so expect him to carry the load on the offensive end and use his athleticism to become at least respectable on the defensive side.
Projected stats: 33.5 MPG/ 19.3 PPG/ 3.4 RPG/ 1.2 APG/ 1.6 SPG/ 0.7 BPG/ 48.9 FG%/ 32.9 3PT%
A beanpole of a point forward, Anderson measures out near 6’8” and has the versatility to be a Swiss Army Knife of a player in coach Ben Howland’s pocket.
Anderson has the ball-handling skills of a point guard, yet uses his size in order to play down low on defense. In fact, expect him to find his way on the boards even on a squad stacked with big men. He’s even added an offensive post game to his repertoire.
Nicknamed “Slo-Mo," Anderson’s special strength is his ability to use his moves and feel for the game to weave through defenders.
Rather than be like a majority of today’s point guards that rely on their burning speed, Anderson relies on his court vision and is a playmaker.
He might be a liability on the defensive end in the NBA, since he’s too slow to guard point guards but needs to bulk up to take on forwards.
At UCLA, expect him to start at small forward and steadily chip away at Larry Drew II in order to become the Bruins’ sole playmaker. He needs to work on his shooting, but his drive to succeed and versatility will please Howland in ways that don’t show up in the box score.
Projected stats: 30.7 MPG/ 12.8 PPG/ 5.3 RPG/ 4.4 APG/ 1.2 SPG/ 0.4 BPG/ 46.7 FG%
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Rivals’ 27th-ranked player in the class, Parker now reunites with his AAU coach (both from Georgia) as he joins the Bruins. Hmmm. My own kerfuffle aside, Parker was the final signing for 2012’s class and will be thrown into the mix in the frontcourt.
Unlike Muhammad and Anderson, Parker does not appear on a straight path for starting come this fall. At 6’9” and 270 pounds, Parker has the size to play either center or power forward, but both spots are occupied by Josh Smith and Travis Wear. David Wear and Anthony Stover are also in the mix down low.
Parker is the best rebounding talent on the roster, but is raw all-around. He worked his way in the post during high school, but does not have the supreme offensive talent to immediately dominate at the collegiate level.
Another dozen or so games of massive struggles from Smith could translate into Parker’s entrance into the starting five. However, I expect Ben Howland to make sure Parker finds the floor more than Stover and David Wear this season and develops confidence along the way.
Don’t worry Bruins fans, big (literally) things are coming in 2013 from this Tony Parker
Projected Stats: 16.7 MPG/ 5.7 PPG/ 4.8 RPG/ 1.2 BPG/ 54.2 FG%