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Joshua Smith calls it quits at UCLA

Junior center, who cites personal reasons for decision, is the second player to leave Bruins this week. UCLA defeats Cal State Northridge, 82-56.

November 28, 2012|By Baxter Holmes
  • UCLA's Joshua Smith is harassed by Richmond's Derrick Williams and Cedrick Lindsay during a game on Dec. 23, 2011
UCLA's Joshua Smith is harassed by Richmond's Derrick Williams… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)

Joshua Smith graced the cover of the UCLA basketball game program Wednesday night, an awkward bit of timing considering that the talented but overweight junior center quit the Bruins' team earlier in the day, citing "personal reasons."

Smith's decision, announced several hours before the Bruins faced Cal State Northridge, made him the second player to leave the Bruins this week. Guard Tyler Lamb announced Sunday he would transfer.

The Bruins then rolled over the Matadors, 82-56, playing up-tempo on offense and zone on defense at Pauley Pavilion.

Norman Powell led UCLA with 17 points and Kyle Anderson had 15. Shabazz Muhammad scored 13 points and Larry Drew II had 13 assists.

More troubling for UCLA, though, was Tony Parker, who played one minute before leaving the game with an unknown injury. He remained on the bench for the rest of the night with a walking boot on his left foot.

The 6-foot-10 Smith, who was listed at 305 pounds, has struggled with weight and conditioning throughout his tumultuous UCLA career and played sparingly this season.

Smith did not practice with the team Tuesday and was considering whether to quit the team, said people close to the situation who were not authorized to speak publicly.

Smith met with Coach Ben Howland on Wednesday to discuss his future at UCLA, the people said. He has been granted his release, effectively immediately, and is expected to transfer.

"I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at UCLA and am grateful for the opportunity that has been presented to me here," Smith said in a statement.

Smith, a Kent, Wash., native, came to UCLA with McDonald's All-American honors and was ranked by ESPN as the No. 1 center recruit in the country.

Smith averaged 10.9 points and 6.3 rebounds while helping lead UCLA to the second round of the NCAA tournament as a freshman, but his production slipped each season. He averaged 5.2 points and 4.2 rebounds in 13.5 minutes in six games this season.

A West Coast-based NBA scout, speaking anonymously because he is not allowed to discuss college players, said Smith has the size, skill set and talent to be the most dominant center in college basketball.

"You're talking about someone who had the world in his palm," the scout said. "It's a tragic story."

The scout said a NBA team is likely to take a chance on drafting Smith in the second round if he decides to continue playing basketball, because "you just don't pass up on his size and skill set as a 20-year-old."

In a statement, Howland said of Smith, "I know I speak for myself and my staff when I thank him for his time in Westwood and wish him well in his future endeavors."

Smith is at least the 11th player to leave the UCLA team since 2008, the last year the Bruins reached the Final Four.

The others are Chace Stanback (2008), Drew Gordon (2009), Mike Moser (2010), J'mison Morgan (2010), Matt Carlino (2010), Reeves Nelson (2011), Brendan Lane (2012), De'End Parker (2012), Anthony Stover (2012) and Lamb.

baxter.holmes@latimes.com

Twitter: @BaxterHolmes

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