Not to be confused with another eye opening article Sports Illustrated written about Ben Howland and the UCLA program around this time last year, George Dohrmann wrote another great piece about the moment Ben Howland seemed to lose his way. Dohrmann pointed to the summer of 2009, when at the end of the summer evaluation period, Howland pulled a scholarship offer for a 6-3 point guard commit to the Bruins.
Their had been rumors that UCLA had cooled on him and were opening recruiting PG's, rumors shot down by Howland himself when questioned by the commits father. Than, at the end of that summer, Howland finally came to the young mans home and told him he no longer had an offer from UCLA. The reason for the late notice was that it was believed that UCLA did not want their Pac-12 opponents to get good scouting opportunities for the once solid commit. This players name was Kendall Williams.
I do not know what Kendall Williams looked like going into his senior year, maybe they felt like he had slipped or was not holding up his side of the bargain. Maybe the slight made Kendall into the player he is today. What I am guessing is, that their is next to no reason they should have pulled that offer. That Kendall Williams, the Mountain West Conference player of the year for 2013, could have really helped the UCLA Bruins for the past three seasons.
If one says "well, they had Larry Drew", than, good for you. Larry Drew had a nice senior year. Would still rather have Kendall Williams at point. Also, depth at guard was a crushing blow for UCLA, who had no real back-up PG besides the man known as Slo-Mo. Two other names mentioned as local products passed over by Howland: Allen Crabbe and Spencer Dinwiddie. Yep, the Pac-12 Conference Player of the Year and an All Pac-12 level performer, respectively.
Local talent may not be everything and surely UCLA has an incredibly wide range to recruit from. I always say, me, personally, if I were a top recruit, UCLA would be a VERY difficult place to turn down. The campus is fantastic. You are in LA, which can be awesome. NBA players flock their in the summers, the runs are epic. A lot of distractions, yet a rich basketball history right in sunny Los Angeles, just a short shot from Hollywood. Now, to get a kid who is not blown away by this, who considers this home? All the better, right?
Well, Howland had only one player he had signed out of So-Cal since 2010. That player was Norman Powell. Do not think Powell was a bad get at all, the only funny thing is he is from San Diego, which is not really considered to be part of the LA area by any means. Say what you may about a talent drop-off, their were always connections right in Ben Howland's backyard. Just seemed like he had alienated them.
Highly suggest you read the article. Think the cool thing about what Tom Crean did at Indiana was that he did it with many recruits FROM Indiana. Oladipo is obviously a DC area guy and Watford is from Alabama, but it started with him landing Cody Zeller and continued with Yogi Ferrell. Local talent can always be such a huge asset. Maybe if Ben Howland signs Allen Crabbe, he misses out on Shabazz Muhammad. My guess is, he would probably be in a better position the past few years with Crabbe being a contributor. Same with Williams, same with Dinwiddie.
My hope is that UCLA lands the right coach for the program. Have my ideas of who that may be, though can't say I know for sure or have an idea of all the logistics involved. One thing I do know is that coach will most definitely want to build strong recruiting ties into the area. UCLA will always have appeal on a wide scale, the problem is not looking at what you have right in your backyard.
I live in Los Angeles and I don't understand how UCLA and USC aren't bringing in major recruits on a regular basis. They both have incredible facilities, great weather and women, and are in the second largest market in the country. Both are relativley close to Hollywood where anything goes if you know the right people and 20 minute drives from the beach. More over I think Pepperdine and LMU (my alma mater) have so much to offer and should have much stronger programs. I'm not a Los Angeles native but have been out here for 7 years and I can tell you that the fanhood out here is weak at times because if one's team is not doing well there are so many other things to keep you occupied. Derrick Williams, James Harden, Soloman Hill, and Momo Jones also weren't recruited by Howland.
I hope they find the right coach, too, whose main focus will be on landing SoCal talent. UCLA is the kind of program that just needs to be elite. If UCLA hoops isn't on point then the sport doesn't feel complete. With the direction that Arizona is headed, I would like to see UCLA or someone else emerge to create a strong rivalry out West.