A recruiting class that ranks as high as No. 1 in the nation (ESPN) has UCLA fans excited for next season, but it’s also leaving the Bruins upperclassmen very much out of the spotlight.
Even after last year’s 19-14 debacle, UCLA has plenty to build on with the players who are back for another season in Westwood.
These three incumbents will have the most to say about the Bruins’ success in 2012-13.
1. Travis Wear
The bulk of UCLA’s returning talent lies in that—its bulk. UCLA brings back a trio of 6’10” post players to complement its freshman wings, and none of them is coming off a better year than rising junior Travis Wear.
Wear is UCLA’s top returning scorer at 11.5 points per game (not to mention 5.9 rebounds per night), but his biggest contribution will be on defense. The new recruits will provide plenty of firepower offensively, but Wear’s length and shot-blocking (a team-high 1.2 rejections per contest) will be the Bruins’ best weapon in shutting down opposing scorers.
2. Tyler Lamb
The 2011-12 season was not a good year to be a UCLA guard, but then-sophomore Tyler Lamb did his best in his first year as a starter. The 6’5” Lamb flashed impressive athletic ability in averaging nine points and 2.8 assists per game.
In addition to the safety net he can provide for the freshmen on the UCLA perimeter, Lamb is also an outstanding defender. Not only will his 1.7 steals per game be invaluable in keeping the pressure on the opposition, but he’ll also be able to push freshmen Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams in practice to give them a taste of the defenses they’ll be facing in the Pac-12.
3. David Wear
One of the Bruins’ greatest assets—especially against the towering front line of conference rival Arizona—is their depth in the frontcourt. Although Travis Wear is the best of the UCLA big men, his twin brother David will also contribute plenty of inside muscle.
David Wear led the Bruins a year ago with 6.3 rebounds a night. He doesn’t have the raw power of 6’10”, 305-pound Joshua Smith, but David Wear’s combination of length and tenacity will make it very difficult for enemy forwards to impose their will on Ben Howland’s team.