UCLA BASKETBALL: Point guard Jerime Anderson is the last man standing from Bruins' heralded 2008 class
Posted: 01/13/2012 10:44:07 PM PST
Updated: 01/13/2012 11:05:24 PM PST
They are all smiling, all five UCLA recruits of the class of 2008. From left to right are Malcolm Lee, J'mison "BoBo" Morgan, Drew Gordon and Jrue Holliday.
The smiles are so bright, so genuine and quite literally straight out of a magazine.
The boys, they were.
And there, right in the middle, clutching the ball as if it carried some magic potion, the adidas logo proudly pointed out, his head cocked back, eyes shut, sun beating down, white-and-bronze watch shining and wearing the widest grin of them all, stood Jerime Anderson.
One by one, they were picked off, erased from the picture and out of the space-time continuum.
First was Holiday, who darted off to the NBA after just one season at UCLA.
Then Gordon, then Morgan.
After a solid run to the third round of the NCAA Tournament last year, Lee left the Bruins only to be taken in the second round of the NBA draft.
Anderson now stands alone.
Take that picture now, just more than three years later, and there is Anderson in front of a striking blue sky and some trees in the distance. The smile might not be so wide.
"I definitely wonder, `What if?' " Anderson said as the Bruins prepare to play USC on Sunday at the Galen Center . "What if we had the time to play a lot of minutes
together? I think those five guys could've done some things together. But I don't live in a fairy tale.
"The reality is I'm the last one left."
The ball is right back in his hands, and he aims to keep it there.
With fellow senior Lazeric Jones moving off the ball more frequently, Anderson is manning the point guard duties for UCLA and ranks second in the Pac-12 in assist-to-turnover ratio, sixth in steals and eighth in assists.
He now treasures the ball - "I think I just understand the game a lot better now than I used to," he said - in large part because for the briefest of times he did not know if he'd get it back.
Anderson was arrested July 26 on charges of theft after taking an unattended computer on campus and settled in court on misdemeanor appropriation of lost property and trespassing.
He was suspended for two games, given community service and had to stare down the eyes of people who wondered if he was a good kid gone wrong or a bad kid who got caught.
"It was a little surprising," UCLA sophomore forward David Wear said. "It's tough because he's not the type of kid to do something like that. He's always been a good teammate, a good guy, you can always talk to him.
"It was tough to see what he went through - he addressed the team, apologized for everything that happened - but to see where he's at now I think he's better for it."
Anderson processed the sideways glances the best way he could, by getting back on the court and living up to a promise he made to those closest to him. Even if UCLA's current group isn't exactly what Anderson envisioned when he chose to play for the Bruins as the third-rated point guard out of Anaheim Canyon High.
"All the people who count on me the most kept me in this," he said. "I had to do this for them. My family, my teammates. I felt like I owe these people.
"I owe them to give them my best effort to get through a tough situation I put myself in. I had to step up, admit I was wrong, continue and move on and try to be a better person. I think I've done that."