Christine Cotter/Associated Press
These two teams could easily split in the dunking competition between Tyler Honeycutt and Reeves Nelson.
Honeycutt was the smoother athlete with the mixture of length and leaping by which the greatest dunkers are created. Nelson, as a foil, was a mean, aggressive interior player who dunked to intimidate and demoralize an opponent.
Honeycutt played well for UCLA but left too early for the NBA, spoiling his opportunity. We recently learned he was nearly forced to leave because the money for himself and his mother had run dry and he was in perpetual danger of being caught for NCAA violations that could have caused serious problems for both himself and UCLA’s basketball program.
Honeycutt is playing professionally overseas now, but whether jumping over four men in foreign dunk contests, or in the summers when he shows for the Drew League in Los Angeles, Honey-C does not hesitate to showcase the slashing style, jumping acumen and coordination that got him pegged as a rising star his sophomore season at UCLA.
Nelson was not a smooth, finesse skywalker, but a cruel 6’9’’ belligerent wrecker. When his game-time-kill attitude was infused among his teammates and impelled them forward, he appeared to be an emerging leader on the team.
But something dark inside kept Nelson from focusing his vast energy toward positive ends, and his career at UCLA crashed and burned as spectacularly as any players in the history of the program.
The little-known truth of the matter is that a walk-on practice player was actually the best dunker on the team. A 5’7’’ walk-on named Spencer Soo went from Wooden center pick-up runs to a high-energy player charged with making things hard for the Bruins' elite backcourt players in practice.
I used to battle with Soo in pick-up games at the Wooden Center, and if I had known his ability was good enough to get a uniform and chair on the bench for every game I might have considered making a run myself. But I couldn’t jump like Soo, and he became a kind of cultish hero to those who knew who the little guy at the end of the bench happened to be.
Someone put together a video of Soo hammering 360-slams and several other variations of flush—more than one filmed inside the mystical confines of the Wooden Center where it all began.