Friday, April 21, 2006

Bruin Fans Naturally Want Backcourt To Stay

By Bruin Basketball Report

While many UCLA basketball fans were expecting yesterday’s announcement by sophomore guards Arron Afflalo and Jordan Farmar to declare for the NBA draft, it’s tough for them not to be disappointed about the prospects of losing one or both its top players from a team which was only a single game away from winning a national championship.

And rightfully so, Bruin fans should be disappointed and frustrated about it.

It’s only natural.

UCLA faithful have been here before.

After advancing to the 1976 Final Four and losing in the semifinal game, junior Richard Washington became the first Bruin to ever declare early for the NBA draft. The following year, the 1977 UCLA team which included Marques Johnson, David Greenwood, Roy Hamilton, and a freshman by the name of Kiki Vandeweghe would have been the odds on favorite to win the championship with Washington still on the team, instead the Bruins lost in the second round.

If the 1970s is too far back for some to remember, then consider how much better this year’s UCLA team would have been if Trevor Ariza had not decided to pursue his dream of playing in the NBA early after just his freshman year.

But of course, this is exactly where the disconnect between the desires of UCLA fans and elite Bruin basketball players resides.

UCLA fans want national titles, and while UCLA players want to win championships too, the ultimate goal for many of them is to play in the NBA.

When both players committed to play at UCLA, Arron Afflalo and Jordan Farmar announced they wanted to help return UCLA basketball back to elite status, but at the same time, they carried with them their life-long dream of playing in the NBA.

And although the Bruins didn’t win the national championship this year, the basketball program under Head Coach Ben Howland, with the help of his first two star recruits – Afflalo and Farmar, has been returned to its rightful place as one of the top basketball programs in the nation.

Top blue-chip recruits want to play at Pauley again, and Bruin fans can realistically expect a run at the national championship every year in the foreseeable future.

UCLA is back. Mission accomplished.

As for Afflalo and Farmar's chances of playing in the NBA, they both have been deemed by some NBA general managers as possible first and second round picks in this year's draft.

UCLA coach Ben Howland said he talked to 17 or 18 NBA general managers, who projected Afflalo and Farmar would be selected late in the first round or early in the second round of the June 28 draft.

With those kind of odds who can blame them for pursuing their life-long dream of playing in the NBA after only two years of college?

In addition, both players are playing it smart. Neither of them has signed with an agent and thus they maintain their collegiate playing status as long as they withdraw from the draft by June 18.

By this date, both players will have received enough feedback from NBA scouts to decide whether they should stay in the draft or return to UCLA for additional seasoning.

“It's also good for me to test and feel and see what NBA people think about me and where I am in terms of reaching my goal,” Farmar said. “I can use this as a learning experience. If they say I'm not ready and I need to work on things, I can learn what I need to work on."

"It's a good opportunity to go in and feel out how I compete with some of the other players," Afflalo said. If he does well, "that will weigh on my decision. Otherwise, if this was not the smartest decision, I'm coming back to a great situation."

Afflalo and Farmar realize this is a thin draft, talent-wise, and both players received significant national exposure after UCLA’s thrilling run through the tournament. This is definitely the right time for both players to find out whether NBA teams are interested in drafting them.

While Bruin fans wish Afflalo and Farmar the best in their quest to play in the NBA, they certainly wouldn’t mind having them both back for another title run next season.

It’s only natural.



At Apr 21, 2006, 8:11:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

While I don't think they are ready for the NBA, I can't blame these guys for testing the waters. However, the fact that they will be doing only individual workouts may hinder them from improving some of the flaws in their games, such as Farmar's inability to take the ball inside against defenses or Afflalo's streaky shooting. While both of them do many other things very well, I was at least hoping that they would play against some NBA-caliber competition (as I believe they did last summer) so as to improve their games. I think they will be back, and will both be 1st rounders for sure next year, but I was hoping that they would play some more in a team setting.

At Apr 21, 2006, 8:42:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've seen a lot of posts at BRO, Rivals, etc. regarding JF/AA in a negative light. I'm a diehard Bruin fan but some of our fans need to "check" themselves. Quit being so critical of these kids and let them do what they believe is "right for them". JF/AA have done what they were brought to UCLA to do as you note in your article. UCLA is back in the national spotlight and we will contend for NC's year in and out as long as Howland is the captain of our ship. What Wooden did will never be repeated. Let me say this again, "what Wooden did will never be repeated". The landscape of college basketball now as opposed to the past does not allow for one school to dominate with NC's for an extended period of time.

I too believe that they should return for another year because they will get better and the additional exposure will be there showcasing their skills considering the talent that is returning. Having said this, it is a "smart" move by JF/AA to test the waters right now. This is a "very, very" thin draft when it comes to talent due to the rule of not allowing HS stars to make the immediate jump. Guys like Greg Oden (Would be the #1 pick) & Kevin Durant would have never seen a college campus in the past but now they are required to at least play one year of college ball. Their stock is high right now due to the run we had in the tournament. In addition, during this process, they will get feedback on what they need to do to raise their stock in the eyes of the NBA.

Jordan could be a lottery pick next year and AA could put himself in round 1. Think of it as a learning experience for both of our kids. Kinda like an internship or going through their first formal interview. I know I learned a lot myself after my very first job interview after college no matter how much I practiced. I as well as a lot of other people did not expect Farmar to be here till Senior Night. AA maybe but not Farmar. These kids have done more than enough for UCLA. Give them your support instead of questioning whether they made the right move or not. It is not your call but theirs to make. These are smart kids who have only brought prestige & honor to UCLA. I was ticked seeing all those FLA kids hoggin' the camera but I'm proud when I think back at AA picking up Morrison after their loss. Don't sell these kids short, they are mature beyond their years and will do what is best. If you were in their position, you would likely do the same thing. And don't try to kid yourself about it, yes you would.

Jordan & Arron, I wish you the best of luck and know that the entire UCLA community thanks you from the bottom of our hearts for your contributions & the way you carried UCLA with dignity during your tenure here. I wish you guys come back for another run but if the NBA is where you need to be, run without turning back & go realize your dreams.

At Apr 21, 2006, 11:28:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brilliantly said. Thanks for your article.

At Apr 21, 2006, 3:43:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice article. I believe both players would be better served by spending at least one more year at UCLA. I hope both will simply use this as a learning experience finding out what areas of their games need work and coming back for another great year.

I sure do hope both are back next year.

At Apr 21, 2006, 4:02:00 PM, Blogger BBR said...

There is no doubt both players would be much improved with another year at UCLA under Howland.

Jordan and Arron are two quality kids with quality families. At the end, they will make the right decision.

Although it may be subject to change, the fact both players are only auditioning for selected teams, it appears they are hoping to receive a "guarentee" draft card from one of the teams they try out with - whether it be a 1st or 2nd round guarentee.

It limits their marketability on the open-market, but it also limits their downside risk (i.e.poor tryout/performance at the NBA pre-draft)


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