2008 UCLA Bruins Basketball Preview
For 2008-2009, the UCLA Bruins’ (35-4 overall, 16-2 Pac-10) head coach Ben Howland has managed to recruit yet another stellar class. That’s important because the Bruins have lost three of their best players, including center Kevin Love (17.5 PPG, 10.6 RPG, 1.4 BPG). Is there yet a third straight Final Four appearance in this team’s near future? There answer is—yes most likely.
Freshman center J’Mison Morgan looks to be more of a defensive than an offensive player, which means the points put up by Love must come from somewhere else. Morgan will score some but his ability to control the inside game when on “D” will be his biggest contribution. Freshman forward/center Drew Gordon looks to be a point scorer and will compete with James Keefe ((11.7 MPG, 2.8 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 0.2 APG, 49.1 FG%, 56.5 FT%) for the starting spot. Keefe, who is in his third season, has had injury problems. The frontcourt will be helped if guard Mustafa Abdul-Hamid (4.9 MPG, 1.2 PPG, 0.4 RPG, 0.7 APG, 35.7 FG%, 50.0 FT%) returns for a fourth season.
The backcourt was given a huge break when playmaker and defensive specialist Darren Collison (34.7 MPG, 14.5 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 3.8 APG, 48.1 FG%, 87.2 FT%) decided to return. Collison is a fine three-point shooter. Last season, he knocked in over 50% of his threes. Freshman Jrue Holiday was ranked the top high school point guard by Rivals.com and the top shooting guard by Scout.com. He’ll start at the 2-spot for the Bruins. Late last year, swingman Josh Shipp (32.5 MPG, 12.2 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 2.1 APG, 43.3 FG%, 77.0 FT%), who had been a consistent shooter, lost his jump shot in the final two months of the season. He has worked in the off-season to get it back.
The Pac-10 title looks to be UCLA’s to lose and going deep
into the NCAA Tournament is quite possible as long as various team
members play to their potential. Another national title, their 12th,
is within their grasp. An appearance in the title game is expected
but in a single-game elimination tournament not assured.