Monday, June 19, 2006

Good Deal For Bruins?

By Gregg Patton
The Press-Enterprise

Farmar and Afflalo. Afflalo and Farmar.

For the past two years, as that backcourt, sophomore pair helped lead UCLA back to the elite levels of college basketball, they were linked like peanut butter and jelly, Lewis and Clark, and Mercedes and Benz.

Now they're like Brad and Jen.

Arron Afflalo goes his way -- back to school for his junior year. And Jordan Farmar goes his -- on to the NBA draft and a professional career.

That's life in college basketball these days. You hold your best players as long as you can, even if it's only for one or two years, then wish them well.

The good news for Bruins fans is that it wasn't the other way around. Afflalo would have been missed more than Farmar on Nell and John Wooden Court.

Oddly enough, while point guard Farmar determined from his travels around NBA camps and workouts this spring that he would likely be a first-round draft pick, Afflalo gleaned from his research that he needed more work against the Arizonas, Washingtons and Floridas of the world.

Weird twist. In their Bruins uniforms, Afflalo would have been -- will be -- the more valuable one next year. The shooting guard is the team's best perimeter defender, the one asked to shut down the opposition's best forward or guard.

Coach Ben Howland, who has coached from the West Coast to the East Coast and back again, has called Afflalo one of the best defenders he has ever tutored.

Afflalo also happened to be the Bruins' top scorer in their run last season to the NCAA title game, but with the talent that will take the court next year, scorers figure to be the least of UCLA's worries. What the Bruins valued most offensively from Afflalo -- along with Farmar -- was the chip they wore on their shoulders, the willingness and eagerness to take the shot that counted most.

Besides that, Farmar was best at controlling the ball on offense and asserting his will on the floor.

Considering the progress that freshman Darren Collison made at the end of last year, and displayed most noticeably in the Pacific-10 and NCAA tournaments, the point guard spot should be in good hands. The Rancho Cucamonga native pushes the ball as well, if not quicker, than Farmar, and only needs to ride the learning curve.

Farmar will be missed, but the Bruins aren't in trouble. Assuming underclassmen get better, Lorenzo Mata, Alfred Aboya and Luc-Richard Mbah a Moute should be a dominating lead trio inside. Assuming Josh Shipp is healthy, and Howland's recruits are worthy, the Bruins will have an embarrassment of riches, even with Farmar in the NBA angling for playing time.

No doubt, visions of a fully stocked, Farmar-led UCLA team taking the Bruins back through a spine-tingling March adventure in 2006-07 were percolating among the Westwood faithful. But it's all such a serendipitous jaunt, who knows how these things would play out?

Farmar was ready to leave, and so he does. Just because last year unwound so magically, there is no reason to presume next year's Farmar would have been the right guy in the right place at the right time. A player who thinks he belongs in the NBA has his own liabilities at the NCAA level.

The Bruins will move ahead without him, possibly for the better. There should be no lamenting Farmar's departure. The NBA beckoned, he went. There are others behind him to pick up the assists, the clutch points and -- more than anything -- the sense of confidence and leadership he brought to Pauley Pavilion in two back-to-the-glory seasons.

Farmar said he was anxious to get to the next level.

Even without him, the Bruins should feel the same way.


(photo credit: AP)


At Jun 19, 2006, 10:36:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

UCLA basketball will in fact be fine with Farmar gone. We'll just have to get used to it: as UCLA basketball contines it's climb back to the national limelight, more and more underclassman will be leaving early for NBA glory. I will be glad to deal with this, it's what happens with elite programs and that's where we're headed (again)!

At Jun 19, 2006, 11:00:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

long live the Bruins dynasty!!!!!!


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