Bush and Mayo cases combined means impending penalties? Derozan and Gibson leaving early? Prince starting? Don’t pop any champagne corks just yet
A lot of articles have filled the early Spring Sports pages, making hope spring eternal. Teaser stories about the NCAA Death Penalty supposedly coming down on usc’s Football AND Basketball programs, the anticipated exodus and decimation of their Basketball roster, and the expected ascension of a young Bruin QB are just three topics that have been circulating.
Yet you have seen little to no celebration here. Perhaps it would be better to WAIT, and see what really happens, before partying like it’s 1998.
Even though it seems like the NCAA’s combining of the investigations into the Reggie Bush and O.J. Mayo scandals is a good thing, it might not be. While it SHOULD make it easier to demonstrate a clear and blatant lack of institutional control, it could also consolidate the feeling that all the violations were committed by perpetrators not attached to the school (i.e agents), which the school can’t be expected to monitor that thoroughly. Of course, a school SHOULD be held accountable, but the NCAA may not see it that way, when it comes to their Favorite West Coast Son. Who cares that Bush, Mayo, Jarrett, etc. all flaunted their un-allowable luxuries to everyone that could even look at a magazine cover?
A magazine cover is what the trojan Basketballers could have been on, as a 2010 Final Four contender, if all their eligible players returned. But Daniel Hackett signed with an agent, and Taj Gibson and Demar Derozan have declared for the Draft, although without hiring agents.
While Hackett is definitely gone, Gibson and Derozan could easily return, and if they do, Tim Floyd would have another solid team that could make a run at a Pac-10 Title. With Floyd’s expected incoming class, even without Hackett, Derozan could actually be thinking about a Final Four run — something worthy of returning for. There is one caveat, and it’s another un-sure thing: Big-time Recruit Renardo Sidney may not even qualify, academically. If this guy actually fails to meet sc’s “lofty” standards, it would definitely put a damper on sc’s hopes for immediate, big-time success.
Speaking of success, UCLA also faces a potential early departure: Freshman Jrue Holiday has declared for the Draft. He is projected to go in the first round, so even though he didn’t retain an agent, he is still unlikely to withdraw from the Draft. Of course it’s too bad that at UCLA, Jrue never got to play his natural Point Guard position, where he would have excelled next season. However, it’s hard to get too upset, especially after watching Trevor Ariza lift up the Lakers night after night. Holiday may be invisible in the Pro’s for a few years, but eventually, he’ll be another solid and successful Bruin Pro, as UCLA and Ben Howland continue to inundate the League with an infusion of talent and character.
And speaking of talent and character: While Kevin Craft has lots and lots of character, Kevin Prince continues to show lots and lots of talent, and at this point, talent is winning out over character. Not that Prince LACKS character, but after what Craft went through last year — pummeled on and off the field — it would be hard to equal that kind of character-building experience. And Craft handled the abuse with class, 98% of the time, which is a pretty good percentage when you’re constantly getting chewed out on TV, despite playing behind a dreadfully weak Offensive Line.
But character ALONE doesn’t win Football games, and Prince looks like he has the overall edge, based on Spring practice. But again: Let’s not get too excited. If history has taught us anything, UCLA’s first-string Quarterback will not take 100% of the snaps. Others will most likely get an opportunity, especially considering that the O-Line is not completely “fixed” yet.
Most importantly, it’s still April, Prince has already shown a tender shoulder, and a million things can happen between now and the Opening Kickoff. So keep those corks firmly in place, try not to over-speculate, and enjoy what might be the swan song months of this incarnation of the UCLA Dance Team and Cheer Squad. And don’t forget: Click on them to enlarge them.