Hoops Preview - UCLA

For the UCLA Bruins, it's not what could have been, but more of what should have been. Highly touted as a pre-season Pac-12 favorite, the Bruins have disappointed, and disappointed in a big way. Thursday night, Washington will get their first shot at the underachieving Bruins. The tip is set for 6 p.m. and will be aired on ESPN live from Alaska Airlines Arena.

Although UCLA was considered to be well-rounded, the biggest reason for the high expectations was because of their frontline, which had four guys who could have started for most other schools in the conference.

However, the words disappointing and frontline have become synonymous with each other for the Bruins these past few years, and this year is no different.

With the departure of the highly recognized Reeves Nelson, head coach Ben Howland and the Bruins lost their fourth touted big man in three years. The others were J'Mison Morgan, Drew Gordon and Mike Moser. But Nelson was the most developed player of that group at the time of his removal.

Coming off a season in which he averaged 13.9 points a game on 57 percent shooting while pulling in 9.1 rebounds a game, the often enraged forward only averaged 5.7 points and 4.5 rebounds in 19.3 minutes in six games. Nelson, who could have been in the mix to win conference player of the year before the season started, had several on-the-court incidents, and eventually was dismissed from the team.

The other disappointment is a name quite familiar with Husky fans; Josh Smith. The once heralded recruit from Kentridge High School chose his dream school over the local school when it was all said and done, despite protestations from UW fans. However, as coach Lorenzo Romar likes to say, sometimes the grass isn't always greener somewhere else.

Despite all of the talent that made him a five-star, can't-miss high school prospect, the mammoth center – some claim his weight is well over 350 pounds – has had all sorts of trouble staying on the court due to conditioning and foul trouble.

From last season to this season, it appears the 6-foot-10 Smith has taken a step back in his development, averaging 9.7 points and five rebounds in 17.6 minutes on the court.

With the frontline in shambles, the other UCLA big men have actually done well, and they're twins; Travis and David Wear. Transferring from North Carolina, the California natives have been very solid. Travis is averaging 12 points a game on 57 percent shooting, with five rebounds and 1.1 blocks a game. David is averaging 10 points on 51 percent shooting and 6.2 rebounds.

KEY PLAYERS:
Lazeric Jones: The 6-foot senior guard is averaging 13.4 points on 44 percent shooting from the field and 37 from 3-point territory. He also averages 4.6 assists, 3.6 rebounds and 1.9 steals.

Tyler Lamb: A 6-foot-5 sophomore, Lamb is averaging 9.1 points on 41 percent shooting from the field. He is also pulling in 3.5 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.3 steals per game.

Jerime Anderson: One highly thought of recruit, the 6-foot-2 senior is averaging 8.5 points on 45 percent shooting from the field and 44 percent from beyond the arc. He also averages four assists, three rebounds and 1.7 steals a game.


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