UCLA's Most Important Players Not Named Shabazz, Parker or Anderson
In case you haven’t heard, UCLA has a pretty darn good freshman class coming in for the eminent college basketball season. It’s a class that features elite players Shabazz Muhammad, Kyle Anderson and Tony Parker.
There’s already been talk about how this will be the new Big Three in college basketball. But as we know, it takes more than three players to field a dominant team on the court.
If UCLA is going to truly compete for a national title, they’re going to have to rely on Bruins not named Muhammad, Anderson and Parker.
Here are some of them.
Larry Drew III
The importance of a quality point guard for a college basketball team can’t be underscored enough. Many times, it can be the difference between an average and a great team.
Currently, the only experienced point guard on UCLA’s roster is North Carolina transfer Larry Drew III. Given that he’s been away from the game for a year, it may be easy for college basketball fans to forget about Drew’s departure from North Carolina. He was the starting point guard for the Tar Heels before he lost his job to the upstart Kendall Marshall.
Now Marshall is in the NBA and Drew is in Westwood, fighting for the starting point guard job with the Bruins. While Drew may not be the most dynamic of point guards, he’s got experience.
And for a team breaking in a bunch of freshmen, Drew will serve as an asset at some point for head coach Ben Howland this season.
David and Travis Wear
Think of this year’s version of the UCLA Bruins men’s basketball team as Tar Heel West. Ben Howland’s team boasts three North Carolina transfers in point guard Larry Drew III and the Wear twins—Travis and David.
Both Wear brothers—California natives—played very well for Howland last season, their first in a UCLA uniform. They’ll need to serve as the ideal role players if UCLA is to have success this upcoming season.
It will be very important for David and Travis to score timely buckets, bust their butts on the glass and give the Bruins the same spark they did for much of last season. As highly touted as freshmen like Shabazz Muhammad, Kyle Anderson and Tony Parker are, you can never quite predict what a freshman will do in his first college basketball season.
If for whatever reason this freshman trio struggles out of the gate, it will be critical for proven veterans like the Wears to pick them up until they break out of any potential struggles.
UCLA center Josh Smith is a big boy. Weighing in at over 300 lbs, Smith’s weight was a big—literally—factor in his performance last season for coach Ben Howland and the Bruins.
Smith played last season out of shape and it definitely showed on the court. He averaged only 17 minutes per game last year for the Bruins. With Smith spending as much time on the bench as he did on the hardwood, he wasn’t able to have the same impact he did during his freshman season, when he averaged nearly 11 PPG and 6.3 RPG.
By at least one account from ESPN, it appears that Smith has rededicated himself to getting into solid playing shape for the upcoming season, which spells good news. If Smith can live up to his potential as one of college basketball’s most promising centers, then UCLA could be unstoppable in 2012-13.
Imagine Smith teaming up with freshman center Tony Parker to form a Twin Towers-like combination in Westwood. Now pair that duo with intriguing freshmen like Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson.
If Smith can step it up, then the possibilities are endless for UCLA.
Can UCLA junior guard Tyler Lamb play like a lion this season? If so, then coach Ben Howland will have a veteran scoring threat to rely on to compliment freshmen like Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson.
Lamb showed signs of breaking out at times during his sophomore campaign last season. He scored a season-high 26 points against Pac-12 rival Cal on New Year’s Eve en route to averaging a solid 9.0 PPG in 2011-12.
If he can take the next step in his promising career and put up 26 points in a game more often, it will take the scoring pressure off UCLA’s young guns. With teams having to account for Lamb’s scoring abilities, it will free up Muhammad and Anderson a bit more to do their thing with the ball in their hands.
A Lamb-Anderson-Muhammad scoring trio could potentially light up the scoreboard at the new Pauley Pavilion this upcoming season.