Since the beginning of the Howland Era, UCLA Basketball has had the privilege of having the nation’s best…
…guards. Just guards.
Jordan Farmar, Arron Afflalo, Russell Westbrook, Darren Collison, and the incoming Jrue Holiday, Malcolm Lee, and Jerime Anderson are all of some of the nation’s best guards. Most, if not all, of those guards are or will be in the NBA.
When it comes to centers, Howland hasn’t been quite as fortunate. Of course, he’s had some decent centers in Lorenzo Mata and Alfred Aboya, but those guys are hardly gamebreakers. For a while, it was just swings and misses.
Then Kevin Love came along. Ben Howland has been scouring the earth (literally…he’s peeked into Europe more than once) to find big men because he just couldn’t get the gamebreakers at center like he could at point and shooting guard.
Kevin Love committed to UCLA after UCLA’s first Final Four trip under Howland. It would take two more Final Four trips before UCLA secured the commitment of another out-of-state big…and what do you think the catalyst for that was?
Kevin Love. I’m not the first person to suggest that Kevin Love has done more for the UCLA program in one year than other Bruins have in two, three, or four years.
Where other high-profile big men were afraid to take the plunge and commit to a coach who had not sent a single post player to the NBA, Kevin Love never really seemed to think twice about it.
Now, after a year of the national media not shutting up about Kevin Love, and all indications pointing to the fact that Love will be selected in the top five in the NBA Draft this week, big men will never look at UCLA the same way again.
J’Mison Morgan obviously noticed what was going on. After switching from LSU to UCLA, he said: “My comfort level was at LSU, but I felt like UCLA was a better fit for me as far as exposure.” He looked at how Kevin Love absolutely blew up at UCLA, how Love improved at both ends of the court, and of course, how his draft stock soared.
Alex Stephenson, a transfer out of North Carolina who left for the West Coast to be closer to his ailing father, noticed too. So did Josh Smith, who could easily end up being the No. 1 player in the country for 2010. Word on the street is that Anthony Stover and Jeremy Tyler noticed too.
All these players reportedly have UCLA high on their lists of schools. All of them are elite prospects. All of them are centers.
That’s obviously not the way it's always been with Howland. But thanks to Kevin Love, that's probably how its going to be from now on.