PG: Malcolm Lee (Jr)/Jerime Anderson (Jr)/Lazeric Jones (Jr)
Gone: PF-Nikola Dragovic, SG-Michael Roll, F/C-James Keefe, SG-Mustafa Abdul-Hamid, PF-Drew Gordon (transfer-New Mexico), C-J'Mison Morgan (transfer-Baylor), F-Mike Moser (transfer-UNLV)
A season-opening three-point loss to Cal State Fullerton was surprising. Getting blown out by 27 points against Portland three games later set the tone for an uncharacteristically down season at UCLA that included three players transferring out of the program.
Playing the inexperience card will likely as eight of their 10 scholarship players are underclassmen. That excuse is no longer an option for junior guards Malcolm Lee and Jerime Anderson. Both have been extremely inconsistent in their two years with the Bruins, failing to live up to lofty expectations. They will be part of a backcourt that includes highly touted freshman Tyler Lamb, JUCO transfer Lazeric Jones and early high school graduate Matt Carlino who was originally supposed to be part of UCLA's 2011 class.
The frontcourt has talent but is very young. Reeves Nelson was perhaps the most pleasant surprise last season as he brings a relentless motor to the court. Tyler Honeycutt got off to a slow start after missing the first six games of 2009-10 but is extremely athletic and versatile. Freshman Joshua Smith is a big body. I mean 6-10, 305 pounds BIG (though he has reportedly cut a good amount of weight since arriving on campus.) If he can control his weight issue, which has been a problem in the past, Smith will be a needed force down low.
This young team will receive even more help next season when the Wear twins, who transferred from North Carolina this summer, will become eligible. As for this season, the Bruins have the talent to be a factor in the conference race, but can they do what they failed to last year and pull it all together?
Player to Watch: Tyler Honeycutt, SF
Early-season injuries hampered Honeycutt during his freshman season, but he still displayed some of the potential that was so highly spoke of when he arrived at UCLA. Honeycutt has a well-rounded game and needs to become more aggressive during his sophomore campaign. Adding weight to his skinny frame will be a process as the 6-8 wing only weighs 183 pounds, but his length and versatility on both ends of the floor make him a major asset for Howland.