The nation’s most prestigious college basketball program uncharacteristically struggled last year.
Some of that was due to graduation. First round NBA draft picks Darren Collison and Jrue Holiday weren’t around last year.
The Bruins were left with a inexperienced team that finished 14-18. One of the worst records in the last fifty years of UCLA basketball.
But optimism is growing around Westwood.
Returning starters Reeves Nelson and Tyler Honeycutt are going to be counted on to do most of the heavy lifting.
And if you haven’t seen Nelson play yet. Think of a crash test dummy with a round ball in his hands. The guy’s not afraid to do the dirty work. His black eye on media day was evidence of that.
Incoming prep high schools stars Tyler Lamb (Mater Dei, Santa Ana) and Josh Smith (Covington, Wash./Kentwood) will also bring new life to the Bruins.
While Josh Smith may have to lose some weight before he actually makes an impact, the same cannot be said for Tyler Lamb.
Lamb, the 2009 Orange County basketball player of the year, is ready to contribute right away.
“He’s going to play a major role this year. There’s no question,” said UCLA head coach Ben Howland.
A lot of that has to do with the conditioning Tyler Lamb has kept himself in.
“He’s got a man’s body, so it’s not like he’s going to be outclassed,” Howland said.
Perhaps the biggest impact Lamb will make will be on the defensive side of the ball. His full court pressure defense he played along with all-county selections Keala King (Arizona State) and Gary Franklin (Cal) stifled opponents last year.
“All the defensive techniques, I learned at Mater Dei,” said Lamb. “It’s really helped me a lot, so I haven’t had to adjust as much.”
The Bruins haven’t won a championship since 1995, and while championship aspirations are a lofty goal for this young Bruins squad, Tyler Honeycutt remains excited.
“I haven’t been more excited for a season,” said Honeycutt. “I feel good about this team.”
UCLA opens up the regular season against Cal State Northridge on Friday.
Watch my coverage this week on California Life by visiting www.californialifehd.com
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