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Ben Howland, players react to UCLA's recent rash of departures

November 29, 2012|By Baxter Holmes
  • UCLA forward Travis Wear drives against Cal State Northridge's Tre Hale-Edmerson and Stephen Maxwell (21) at Pauley Pavilion.
UCLA forward Travis Wear drives against Cal State Northridge's Tre… (Stephen Dunn / Getty Images )

UCLA's basketball team lost two players this week: Tyler Lamb and Joshua Smith.

But dating back to 2008, the Bruins have had at least 11 players leave their program.

Those departures include 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), Lamb and Smith.

UCLA Coach Ben Howland was asked about the exodus of players after the Bruins' 82-56 win against Cal State Northridge on Wednesday, and he basically gave a non-answer, saying he'd answered it before.

Howland did say he was "shocked, surprised" by Smith's departure. 

UCLA guard Norman Powell agreed. 

"It hurts our team," said Powell, who scored a team-high 17 points in the Bruins' win against the Matadors. "None of us wanted Josh to leave. And to find out he wasn't coming back, it does hurt our team and what we want to do this year. But we've got to move on."

As for the idea of two players leaving within the span of the week, Howland said he was disappointed. 

"With Tyler, it was pretty straightforward," Howland said. "He wanted playing time and was worried about that with our current roster. He leaves with no ill will. And then Josh, I was really caught off guard."

Powell said he didn't think that the idea that UCLA has had so many departures of late takes any shine off the program, nor affect how recruits might view it.

"I don't think it really affects anything," Powell said. "The people transferring, they probably have personal decisions. You can’t make your recruitment decision on, 'Oh, people are leaving the program.'

"UCLA is a great program. It has great tradition, great players who have come out of here and went to the NBA and made a name for themselves.

"UCLA alone is going to stand for something good about basketball, and that’s going to attract players no matter who's in the program or who's leaving. It doesn't really matter or affect anybody’s recruitment."

Forward Travis Wear said he and his teammates get along fine, that there aren't any chemistry issues. 

"We have great team chemistry," he said. "We have a lot of new pieces and stuff, but as a collective unit, we all generally like each other. We hang out all the time off the court. Tyler and Josh, I think they just made personal decisions that they’d be better off going elsewhere."

A Sports Illustrated article last year painted Howland as a coach who had lost control of his team, but talented freshman swingman Shabazz Muhammad said he stands by the Bruins' coach.

"I think Ben is the perfect guy for this team," Muhammad said. 

When asked about all the drama surrounding the team of late, Wear said, simply, "It's not fun."

"I’d like to be able to focus on basketball and not have these issues occur," he said. "Especially at the beginning of the season when you're trying to form an identity, it really affects you.

"You’ve got to push through it. Those guys are making decisions that are ultimately helping them in their minds. We’ve just got to keep doing what we’re doing and get wins."

ALSO:

Joshua Smith calls it quits at UCLA

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Footage of upset loss is a horror film for UCLA

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