UCLA Basketball: Why Josh Smith's Departure Is Beneficial to the Bruins

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UCLA Basketball: Why Josh Smith's Departure Is Beneficial to the Bruins
Chris Chambers/Getty Images

To add to a season that seems be caught in quicksand,  UCLA’s  junior center Joshua Smith announced on Wednesday before the team’s game against Cal State Northridge that he would be leaving the program, as reported by ESPN Los Angeles’ Peter Yoon.

Smith said in a statement that his decision to leave UCLA in his third year as a Bruin comes under undisclosed “personal reasons.”

While he professed his enjoyment for his time at UCLA, the listed 6’10”, 305-pound center had been on a rapid decline since his freshman season and averaged a mere 13.5 minutes this season due to his poor physical condition.

While Bruins fans may be pounding their heads in torment under the notion that this basketball season is shaping up to be just as disappointing as the last, Smith’s departure comes as positive news for the team.

If you’ve watched UCLA basketball for the past few seasons, you might have found yourself screaming at the fact that Smith had so much potential as a basketball player but couldn’t make it up and down the court without needing to be subbed out every five minutes.

After a solid freshman season, in which he showed boundless potential by putting up 10.9 points and 6.3 rebounds per game, Smith’s physical condition (listed at 305 pounds but realistically over 330) not only limited his capabilities as a player but also proved detrimental to the team.

Coach Ben Howland knew Smith’s true potential and wanted him to reach it just as much as Smith did, so Howland continued to divvy minutes to the under-conditioned center. However, those minutes rightly decreased when Smith’s physical condition began to affect his play.

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

While his contributions to the team were average last season (9.9 PPG 4.9 RPG), he became a liability to his team, as his poor physical shape led him to easily garner fouls, most notably charging fouls and defensive blocking fouls due to lack of body control.

"Joshua is a fine young man who has meant a lot to this program," Howland said in a statement. "I know I speak for myself and my staff when I thank him for his time in Westwood and wish him well in his future endeavors."

We undoubtedly thank Smith for his contributions to the Bruins the past few seasons, but unfortunately, his downfalls starkly outweigh his strengths. We all wanted to see Smith become that next dominant college center—the next Jared Sullinger— but to his dismay he never became that.

As we salute Smith and genuinely wish him the best in amending whatever personal issues that forced him to leave the program, we look forward to the rest of this season and see a bright future.

Good riddance to unmet potential. Adieu to winded runs up the court. Salutations, four fouls in thirteen minutes.

Enter, Tony Parker. Not that Tony Parker. The 6’9”, 275-pound center Tony Parker, who is in line to fill Smith’s minutes as a sub for a resting Wear brother.

The freshman from Lithonia, Georgia  has only notched 8.4 minutes per game in the five games in which he played—most of which came in an 18-minute, 12-point performance in UCLA’s blowout win over James Madison (100-70)—but I’ll run the risk of saying he has potential.

Parker's high school highlight reel.

Unlike Smith, Parker is a big man who can hustle up and down the court and has explosive power when attacking the basket. Better yet, he’s an unselfish player who will meld well with freshmen guards Jordan Adams, Kyle Anderson, and phenom Shabazz Muhammad.

The energy that Parker brings to the court may be just what the Bruins need in order to pick up their lackluster tempo and lagging enthusiasm that has weighed them down so far this season and resulted in their two losses and subsequent swift exit from the Top 25.

The promise for this season is still present, but it’s dwindling at an exponential rate. Parker may be just what the Bruins need.

For now, keep your fingers crossed, Bruins fans. You well know that potential is only a fantasy if it isn’t realized. 

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