Already mired in a frustrating start to the 2012-13 campaign, the UCLA Bruins were given yet another distraction on Wednesday, as center Joshua Smith has left the program and will be transferring, according to an official release from the school.
In the release, Smith, a junior, cited "personal reasons" for his departure:
I have made the decision to leave the program for personal reasons. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at UCLA and am grateful for the opportunity that has been presented to me here.
A former McDonald's All-American, Smith came to UCLA with 5-star hype, but has struggled to live up to the billing.
In fact, Smith's time with the Bruins was most notable due to his struggles with weight. Listed at 305 pounds, the junior center came into camp each of his first two seasons heavier than expected, becoming a thorn in the side of many UCLA fans.
Despite those issues, Smith seemed to have a renewed passion for the game before this season. According to ESPN's Peter Yoon, the center said in late October that he was ready to prove all of his doubters wrong:
It's fine. I'm not going to shy away from that. It's one of those where I accept it. I'm just ready to go out and just play and prove to people that the last two years are in the past.
Nevertheless, Smith's seemingly renewed commitment to staying in shape did not result in more playing time. Sitting behind Travis and David Wear on the big-man depth chart, Smith is averaging a career-low 13.5 minutes per game thus far.
He's shown flashes in those limited minutes, averaging 5.2 points in 4.2 rebounds. Still, it seemed like the damage was already done, as Smith had mostly fallen out of favor with coach Ben Howland. With other guys like freshman Tony Parker also clogging the rotation, it seemed unlikely that his minutes would increase anytime soon.
While Smith transferring doesn't have massive basketball implications, it's yet another distraction for a UCLA squad that has already seen its fair share them in 2012.
How the Bruins fare in these tumultuous times could be the difference in whether they live up to their massive preseason hype.