Thursday, July 28, 2011

Jerime Anderson's arrest puts the finishing touches on the disastrous 2008 UCLA recruiting class

Jerime Anderson was arrested on Tuesday night and suspended indefinitely after being charged with grand theft in connection with a laptop being stolen.

"This is a disappointing and unfortunate situation for Jerime," said head coach Ben Howland in a statement on Wednesday. "We have a high standard and code of conduct that our student-athletes are expected to follow. He knows that he has made a huge mistake and that he has not represented himself, our program or UCLA in a manner that is required."

Anderson will miss, at the least, the team's opener against Loyola Marymount on November 11th, but just how long his suspension lasts in still up in the air. Anderson faces a felony charge and is currently out on $20,000 bail, which is a sure sign that this case is being taken seriously by all involved. But if you remember, Nikola Dragovic was arrested for felony assault in November of 2009 (the second time in the span of a year he was involved in an assault that required police involvement) but only missed one game.

So, like I said, how long Anderson is out and just how much more important Lazeric Jones is going to be this year is still unclear.

What we do know, however, is that the 2008 UCLA recruiting class can officially be termed a disaster.

Ben Howland left Pittsburgh for the West Coast in the spring of 2003, and in less than three years he had turned a UCLA program that needed an upset of then-No. 1 Arizona in the Pac-10 Tournament to crack double-digit wins into the powerhouse you expect in Westwood.

They won three straight regular season titles from 2006-2008, two Pac-10 Tournament titles in that span, and reached the Final Four each of those three seasons. The problem with that kind of success in this day and age of college hoops is that it requires having talented players, and when those talented players experience a lot of success at the collegiate level, they don't stick around too long. Seven players now play in the NBA off of those three UCLA teams. Five of them were drafted with collegiate eligibility remaining.

When you have that kind of talent leaving your program every year, bringing in recruits that will be able to contribute right away is a necessity for sustained success.

In 2008, everyone believed that was exactly what Ben Howland did by landing the No. 1 recruiting class in the country according to both Scout and Rivals. The class consisted of five-star recruits Jrue Holiday and J'Mison Morgan and four star recruits Drew Gordon, Jerime Anderson, and Malcolm Lee.

That group never came close to living up to their expectations. Holiday was the only member of the group to have a significant impact, starting as a freshman on a team that was in and out of the top 25 and lost in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Holiday, who entered the draft after one year in college, has become a much better NBA player than he was in college.

The following season was tremendously disappointing for Bruin fans. UCLA struggled throughout the season as Lee and Anderson were unable to fill the void left by Darren Collison at the point guard. Gordon transferred to New Mexico in December of 2009 while Morgan transferred to Baylor after the season ended. The Bruins missed the NCAA Tournament.

This past season, UCLA did experience a resurgence of sorts, winning 23 games, finishing second in the Pac-10, and making the second round of the NCAA Tournament. But that resurgence wasn't the result of a breakout performance by the leftover members of that 2008 recruiting class. Lee had a successful season, averaging 13.1 ppg, but he continued to struggle to figure out just what position he played -- he shot 29.5% from three and averaged 2.0 apg and 1.7 t/o's. Anderson was worst, as he averaged just over 20 mpg and lost the starting point guard spot to Lazeric Jones.

This summer, Lee left school for the NBA (43rd pick) and Anderson was arrested for the theft of a laptop.

The 2008 class has now been on campus for three full seasons. They produced two NCAA Tournament trips (neither of which lasted to the second weekend), no Pac-10 championships and twice as many transfers as first round picks.

I think you know who to blame for UCLA's recent struggles.

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