Saturday, April 23, 2011

Beyond Preps: Parker parlays City success into scholarship at UCLA

Thanks goes to Kaz for posting on Bruin Zone.

After a prep career where he went from Sacred Heart Cathedral to Stuart Hall to Lincoln to City College, De'End Parker will play for UCLA next winter. (Photo by Eric Soracco)

Beyond Preps: Parker parlays City success into scholarship at UCLA

By Bonta Hill
Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Western Addition, known better to locals as the “Fillmore,” can be rigorous, as many families are surviving off government assistance.

In a ’hood that has seen its share of drug addictions, broken homes and teens dropping six-feet under before the age of 18, seeing the walls of a college classroom seem bleak.

Having both parents around is as common as a baseball player hitting for the cycle, but that’s what makes De’End Parker’s story amazing.

Parker has overcome living in foster care since he was two years old, not knowing his dad’s name, and going through three different City high schools, to earn a scholarship to one of the most prestigious college basketball programs in the country — UCLA.

De'End Parker cuts down a part of the net after City College's win over Citrus College in the state championship on March 20.

On March 13, Parker helped the City College of San Francisco win its first state championship since 1962, scoring on a tip-in basket with 2.4 seconds left to give the Rams a 83-81 victory over Citrus College.

He also won Co-MVP in the Coast Conference with City College teammate Jonathon Williams and was selected as Northern California Player of the Year.

“I’m very grateful for the opportunity to attend a school like UCLA,” Parker said. “I’ve had a lot of pressure on my shoulders, but I had to do it for my family and for the community.”

Parker, the youngest of seven children got the name De’End because his biological mom said that he was the was the end — the end of her having kids.

His foster mom Carmen Johnson, who is currently recovering from heart surgery, took in Parker and his two sisters, Lydia Nunley and Davida Young, after their biological mother was the victim of drug addiction and psychiatric problems.

Parker insists his relationship with his biological mother isn’t strained, but contact has been minimal between the two.

“My biological mom had a drug problem and needed psychiatric help,” Parker said. “My mom Carmen was one of her good friends … It was tough going to a new home, and [there] was some back-and-forth troubles with Carmen and my biological family over custody, but everything worked out for the best.”

As Parker went through the adjustment of foster care, he was a big kid for his size and developed a passion for basketball, after admittedly showing a love for baseball.

With Hamilton Recreation Center, or “Ham” to the locals, only a few blocks from his home, Parker started gravitating to the gym despite the drugs and violence that surrounded him.

“In my area, I saw what was going on. I saw the drugs, the violence. I saw the gangs, and I saw that everyone was going down that route,” Parker said. “Not one person I grew up with is successful, and many [are] dead or on their way to being dead, but I started walking to the gym by myself and would just dribble the ball and do anything with it.”

Victor “Creech” Jones, one of Parker’s older brothers, helped him carve his aggressive game at Hamilton.

Parker soared through the AAU ranks, thriving while playing for the Boys and Girls Club’s San Francisco Rebels under coach Nate Ford, one of his mentors growing up. One of the things Ford had to deal with was Parker’s inability to attain a birth certificate, which had Ford running in and out of the Social Services department trying to retrieve it.

“They could never find his birth certificate and it kind of made [De’End] wonder where he came from,” Ford said. “We had to get letters, documents, all sorts of paperwork to prove who he was.”

That didn’t stop Parker from making a name for himself on the court, as he traveled across the country with the Rebels, winning numerous awards.

“He always stood out. If you saw him play basketball, you wouldn’t think that he’d be as humbled as he is,” Ford said. “There were some rough roads, and we had to show him some tough love to get the big picture. Carmen would call whenever De’End would get in trouble, and there were times where we didn’t let him play due to his academics, but as we traveled, he really saw what he wanted.”

What Parker wanted was greatness, but the start of a treacherous high school journey was just beginning.

Parker’s high school career started at Sacred Heart Cathedral, only to leave after a year to attend Stuart Hall, and end up at Lincoln to play for late head coach Mike Gragnani.

De'End Parker in the Ella Hill Hutch Community Center, the gym where he spent many days training as a youth. (Photo by Eric Soracco)

At Sacred Heart, Parker didn’t feel wanted, and while he went to Stuart Hall for a year, strongly because his best friend Stephen Powell was attending school there, he left because he felt he didn’t fit in with the culture there.

But Powell got into some trouble and was kicked out, and was later killed in a shooting in the Fillmore.

Parker would take the Mustangs to new heights, winning the Academic Athletic Association’s Player of the Year award, averaging over 23 points a game as a senior.

He led the Mustangs to the championship game and had Division I colleges hovering over him, but due to academics, Parker had to go to community college.

“My grades were actually good up to my last semester, but after taking the SATs a number of times, I didn’t do well,” Parker said. “I wanted to go Division I, but I kind of stopped going to classes because I was sad about not going to Division I out of high school.”

After the disappointment of not going to a four-year university, Howard Smith Jr. was there steer him back into the right direction. Smith is the Executive Director at the Ella Hill Hutch Community Center, which is also in the heart of the Fillmore.

The idea of him leaving the Bay Area and attending a National Junior College in either Texas or Arizona was floated around, but Parker eventually chose to stay home and attend City College, a decision Smith stood behind.

“I’ve [known] De’End pretty much all his life. I felt like at the end of the day, it’s his decision where he goes. I’m there to support whatever he does,” Smith said.

When he arrived on campus, Parker had to sacrifice some of his offensive game under City College head coach Justin Labagh.

It took Parker a while to adjust, but he became a team leader, helping City College win their first state title in 49 years.

But his biggest challenge, as it was in his final semester at Lincoln, was to buckle down in the classroom.

“We talked to De’End about how it was important it was to come to school in the summer, because walking in the door, he was already a Division I player,” Labagh said. “He outworked everybody on the team, he studied the game and he was as big competitor.”

Knowing that Parker was talented enough to play Division I basketball, Labagh challenged him to raise his grades and improve in the classroom.

“[De’End] totally turned it around in the classroom and his academics really put him in position to go to a big school,” Labagh said. “I’m most proud of the fact that he’s eligible to go to a UC. He took the challenge of taking hard classes, and now he’s going to a premier college.”

During the final stages of this past season, Parker had to deal with another obstacle — making a choice to attend UCLA, Cal or Arizona State.

And after initially giving a verbal commitment to Cal, a week later Parker had second thoughts, changing his mind and deciding to play his final two years of college basketball in Westwood.

“I really liked Arizona State, I really liked Cal, but when I committed to Cal, I really didn’t have all the information from UCLA,” Parker said. “UCLA called, and I had a heart-to-heart conversation with them, and it was a no-brainer after that.”

From not knowing his dad, to having minimal contact with his biological mother, Parker now has kids in his community looking up to him as a role model.

Parker plans to eventually come back home after graduating from UCLA, and give back to the Fillmore, emphasizing that he wants to help the youth in foster care.

After a journey that started in the ‘hood, Parker has already persevered through the struggles. Now he’s on his way to leaving home for the first time, and is looking forward to the challenge that awaits him at the school John Wooden, Lew Alcindor and Bill Walton made famous.

“I’m appreciative of everybody who’s helped me along the way, I love all of them,” Parker said. “People say don’t fall into the distractions of L.A., but I’m not worried about it. I’ve been preparing for this moment for a long time and I’ve come too far to turn back.”

For more on new Bruin De'End Parker, see earlier blogposts (link1; link2).

UCLA Announces 2011-12 Men's Basketball Schedule and Venues

I know, I know, this is two weeks late, but here it is nonetheless. -- Atb

UCLA Announces 2011-12 Men's Basketball Schedule and Venues

Bruins will play 14 games at Sports Arena, four at Honda Center and one exhibition at Citizens Business Bank Arena

from The Official UCLA Men's Basketball website
April 8, 2011

UCLA today announced its men's basketball schedule and playing venues for the 2011-12 season. Fourteen regular-season games will be played at the Los Angeles Sports Arena and four will be played at the Honda Center in Anaheim. UCLA's one exhibition game will be played at Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario.

The Bruins called the Sports Arena home for six seasons (1959-60 through 1964-65) prior to moving into Pauley Pavilion for the 1965-66 season. Those UCLA teams won the school's first two NCAA basketball championships (1964 and 1965). In addition, the Sports Arena was the site of the 1968 and 1972 NCAA Final Four, both won by UCLA.

"We are happy to announce that dates and sites for our "Bruin Road Show" have been finalized," said UCLA Athletic Director Dan Guerrero. "The leadership groups at all three facilities have been very accommodating and we will do everything possible to make this a positive experience for our fan base.

"We will make the Sports Arena a great environment for our fans and our team. We will bring our championship banners and will paint our colors as much as possible in the interiors of the building, including the basketball court, to make it our home away from home. For the fans, there is ample secured parking adjacent to the facility. Our staff will be working with Sports Arena management to create a fun, fan-friendly atmosphere inside and outside the facility for the upcoming season.

"We are also excited about being able to play four games this season in a great facility like the Honda Center. Our players and our fans have enjoyed their experiences at Honda Center over the years and we hope everyone will take advantage of the opportunity to see the Bruins in Orange County.

"The opportunity to play an exhibition game at Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario will give us the chance to expose UCLA basketball to fans that don't normally make the drive to Westwood and we appreciate the arena management working with us on this project," said Guerrero. "We are offering this game to our season ticket holders at a deeply-discounted price that also includes parking with hopes that they will make the drive on a Sunday afternoon.

"We've talked all year about taking our show on the road and I'm happy everything is set," said men's head basketball coach Ben Howland. "The upcoming season will be unique for everyone involved but I am happy that we are playing most of our games at one facility and I know that our fans will continue to support us wherever we play."

In determining where the various contests would be played, UCLA examined several options on venues that hold at least 10,000 spectators. Included in that group was the Forum in Inglewood, but that facility became unavailable after its current owners reached an agreement to sell to Madison Square Garden, which has renovation plans for the former home of the Los Angeles Lakers and Kings.

UCLA also solicited feedback from its season-ticket base, as well as other fans that had purchased tickets in the past few years, by emailing a survey with various facility and game quantity options.

The results of the survey showed the vast majority of the season ticket holders preferred playing games in the Los Angeles area. At the same time, many also expressed the desire for some games in Orange County, particularly if they were weekend contests.

STAPLES Center was included on the survey because UCLA and STAPLES Center had a mutual interest in having several games hosted there. But, due to NBA/NHL scheduling requirements, STAPLES Center could not commit until the NBA and NHL released their schedules, which generally is in mid-July and was too late in the decision process.

In the first season of Pac-12 competition, the Bruins will have nine conference home opponents - Arizona, Arizona State, California, Colorado, Stanford, USC, Utah, Washington and Washington State. In addition, the Bruins will also host Big 12 opponent Texas, a No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament; Richmond, which reached the NCAA Sweet 16; local schools Loyola Marymount, Pepperdine and UC Irvine; Middle Tennessee as part of the Maui Invitational; Eastern Washington, Penn and UC Davis.

Included in the four games at Honda Center is the John R. Wooden Classic. Honda Center and the Wooden family, in cooperation with UCLA, have designated the Jan. 5 game versus Arizona as this season's John R. Wooden Classic. The event will include a number of unique and commemorative elements, which will be detailed in the coming months. Honda Center and the Wooden family will work together going forward to restore the Wooden Classic to its previous level of greatness.

The road schedule includes nine Pac-12 games (Arizona, Arizona State, California, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, USC, Washington and Washington State), a trip to Madison Square Garden to face St. John's (the Red Storm played at Pauley Pavilion this past season) and three contests at the Maui Invitational (the field includes Chaminade, Duke, Georgetown, Kansas, Memphis, Michigan and Tennessee).

UCLA will have a pre-season closed scrimmage with a Division I opponent in lieu of a second exhibition game this season. In accordance with NCAA rules, that scrimmage must be closed to the public.

"I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Bruin faithful and our loyal season ticket holders for their assistance in this process by participating in the survey regarding alternate venues for next season," said Guerrero. "We hope that you will continue to support your Bruins in this year of transition and we all look forward to the opening of New Pauley in the Fall of 2012."

For information on the various season ticket packages available, please click here.

UCLA is currently researching round trip busing to all venues for season ticket holders. More details will follow shortly. UCLA students will be offered the option of busing separately, similar to that which is offered to students for football games at the Rose Bowl. Student busing will be offered on a complimentary basis for basketball games.

Season ticket renewals will be sent in the next seven to 10 days.


(All Home Games at Los Angeles Sports Arena Unless Noted)

Sun., Nov. 6 Exhibition (@ Citizens Business Bank Arena, Ontario)
Fri., Nov. 11 Loyola Marymount
Tues., Nov. 15 Middle Tennessee State (Maui-on-Mainland)
Mon., Nov. 21 @ EA Sports Maui Invitational
(Chaminade, Duke, Georgetown, Kansas, Memphis, Michigan, Tennessee)
Tues., Nov. 22 @ EA Sports Maui Invitational
Wed., Nov. 23 @ EA Sports Maui Invitational
Mon., Nov. 28 Pepperdine
Fri., Dec. 2 Texas
Sat., Dec. 10 Penn (@ Honda Center)
Wed., Dec. 14 Eastern Washington
Sat., Dec. 17 UC Davis (@ Honda Center)
Tues., Dec. 20 UC Irvine
Fri., Dec. 23 Richmond
Thu., Dec. 29 @ California
Sat., Dec. 31 @ Stanford
Thu., Jan. 5 Arizona (Wooden Classic @ Honda Center)
Sat., Jan. 7 Arizona State (@ Honda Center)
Sat., Jan. 14 @ USC
Thu., Jan. 19 @ Oregon State
Sat., Jan. 21 @ Oregon
Thu., Jan. 26 Utah
Sat., Jan. 28 Colorado
Thu., Feb. 2 @ Washington
Sat., Feb. 4 @ Washington State
Thu., Feb. 9 Stanford
Sat., Feb. 11 California
Wed., Feb. 15 USC
Sat., Feb. 18 @ St. John's
Thu., Feb. 23 @ Arizona State
Sat., Feb. 25 @ Arizona
Thu., Mar. 1 Washington State
Sat., Mar. 3 Washington
Mar. 7 - Mar. 10 Pac-12 Tournament @ Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
Mar. 15 - Mar. 18 NCAA Second and Third Round

Friday, April 22, 2011

Probable 2011 target Kevin Ware (Conyers, GA 6-5 180 SG)

Recruiting NCAA rules prevent Kevin Ware from signing LOI with Central Florida

9:30 am April 20, 2011, by Michael Carvell
AJC College Sports

It is true that Kevin Ware is leaving on a trip for Louisville on Wednesday.

It is true that the letter-of-intent that Ware signed with Central Florida was denied.

It is true that Ware is still eligible to pick another college other than UCF.

However, it’s not what it seems like with Ware, the 6-foot-4 guard from Rockdale County High School who selected Central Florida over Louisville and UGA on Monday.

“There are a few rumors out there, some with good reason, but the bottom line is that Kevin is still going to play college basketball at Central Florida,” Ware’s stepfather, Wesley Junior, told the AJC.

What about the trip to Louisville? That’s not an official visit with the Cardinals and Rick Pitino, but to play in the Kentucky Derby Festival Classic all-star game.

“Some UCF fans are worried about the situation because they think the Louisville recruits also playing in the game will tell Kevin ‘Hey, come on and play with us,’” Junior said. “They probably will. Then there are a couple of autograph sessions with all the players and they think the Louisville fans will say ‘come play here at Louisville.’ They probably will.

“But there is nothing to be worried about because recruiting is over. Kevin is part of the Central Florida basketball family. It’s a done deal.”

What about the letter-of-intent (LOI)? That’s where it gets really interesting. NCAA rules prohibit prospective student-athletes (PSA) from signing two LOIs in the same signing year. Ware signed with Tennessee in last November’s early period but was granted a release by the Volunteers after the firing of Bruce Pearl.

On Tuesday, Ware signed another LOI and athletic-aid agreement with Central Florida on Tuesday but the LOI was denied. Meanwhile, the athletics-aid agreement was accepted and binds Central Florida to honoring the basketball scholarship to Ware. But not vice versa.

NCAA officials were kind enough to explain the situation to the AJC:

If a PSA receives a complete release, he is not permitted to sign another NLI in the same signing year. In this case, the second NLI would not be valid. The PSA could only sign an athletics aid agreement. The athletics aid agreement is only binding on the institution. Thus, the PSA could change his mind and attend another institution and not be subject to any penalty.

In other words, Ware won’t “officially” be attached to Central Florida until he attends his first day of college classes in June. Technically, Ware is still a free agent.

Will Ware keep looking around? “No chance,” Junior said.

For more on Kevin Ware and other UCLA recruits, check out right sidebar.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

WATS-ON MY MIND: Former Bruin, current Thunder point guard Westbrook proves a naysayer wrong

Video courtesy of NBA on You Tube

WATS-ON MY MIND: Former Bruin, current Thunder point guard Westbrook proves a naysayer wrong

The Daily Bruin
Published April 19, 2011, 12:01 am in Men's Basketball Sports

There is no greater feeling than the moment when you know you’ve transformed a naysayer into a believer.

Except if you are the naysayer, that is.

But in this instance, as I contradict myself for the second time so far, I am fine playing the role of the foolish naysayer in the case of Russell Westbrook.

The former UCLA Bruin is having the best season of his career, and coincidentally, the time of his life in the process.

Westbrook finished the regular season ranked No. 13 in points per game, with 21.9 per contest, and No. 9 in assists, averaging 8.2 per contest. He also made his first NBA All-Star Game appearance, and has helped lead the Oklahoma City Thunder to the top of the heap in the monstrously competitive Western Conference.

But somehow, just three summers ago, I was the guy who didn’t see any of this coming. I was under the pretense that the then-Seattle Supersonics had wasted a pick on a kid who had proved nothing in college – apart from the fact that he could jump like he was shot out of a cannon.


UCLA in the NBA Playoffs

Russell Westbrook is one of seven former Bruins in the NBA Playoffs, which started on Saturday and run until June.

Player Years at UCLA Current NBA team, playoff seed
Matt Barnes 1998-2002 Los Angeles Lakers, West No. 2
Russell Westbrook 2006-2008 Oklahoma City Thunder, West No. 4
Arron Afflalo 2004-2007 Denver Nuggets, West No. 5
Trevor Ariza 2003-2004 New Orleans Hornets, West No. 7
Jrue Holiday 2008-2009 Philadelphia 76ers, East No. 7
Jason Kapono 1999-2003 Philadelphia 76ers, East No. 7
Darren Collison 2005-2009 Indiana Pacers, East No. 8

Compiled by Ryan Menezes, Bruin Sports senior staff.


Well, when Westbrook jumps today, he still evokes the cannon reference, but that same cannon has also shot him into the discussion of best point guards in the league.

Coming into the 2010-2011 season, the Thunder were thought to be the biggest challengers looming to confiscate Western Conference supremacy from the mighty Los Angeles Lakers.

But after finishing the season with the fourth-best record in the conference, Oklahoma City may not have lived up to its preseason hype. However, that doesn’t bother the calm young point guard, who says his team simply had to adjust to opponents being prepared for a dogfight when facing OKC.

The days of the Thunder sneaking up on its opponents are over. It’s arrived and the league knows it.

“I didn’t really mind,” Westbrook said of the media’s lofty expectations for the Thunder coming into this season. “We didn’t really get a chance to surprise teams this year like we did last year. That’s the different thing. That can be a good thing and a bad thing, but this year, I think we handled it well. We’re not worried about it at all.”

I got a chance to speak with Westbrook on April 10, the day his Thunder were set to take on the Lakers in a game crucial to Western Conference playoff seeding.

But you could not tell the magnitude of the game from Westbrook’s pregame demeanor, as he attempted a few trick shots in a pregame shooting session after completing his shooting drills.
Westbrook then stopped to acknowledge a few fans and sign a few autographs, before going to the locker room for pregame media availability.

Upon arriving at the locker room, Westbrook asked a camera crew setting up outside if it needed him for an interview.

“No, unless you want to, Russ.”


Russ, with a smile, quickly dipped into the locker room door before the camera people could change their minds.

Westbrook is not the only former Bruin who is having a great NBA season. Kevin Love led the league in rebounding, Arron Afflalo has emerged as a star for a young Denver Nuggets team, and Darren Collison and Jrue Holiday are both starting point guards for Eastern Conference playoff teams.

“It’s great, man,” Westbrook said of the success for the new batch of Bruins in the NBA. “I talk to those guys a few times, mostly to check on them. I talk to Kevin more, just because we’re a little closer. It’s just great to see guys doing great things and representing UCLA.”

Along with a young group of Bruins in the league, you would think that a little competition would arise between the guys. But Westbrook, after a quick laugh, made it clear that only congratulatory conversation is shared between his guys.

“Not really,” said Westbrook with a laugh, when asked if he makes it a point to talk a little smack to his fellow Bruin alums. “Just always congratulating guys on what they’re doing and congratulating guys on their success.”

Russ is cool, so I let him slide by taking the easy way out.

I know some smack-talk has to go down on occasion.

Possibly Westbrook’s most noticeable characteristic, aside from his Space Jam jumping ability and Sonic the Hedgehog speed, is his humility.

Westbrook has surfaced as a premier NBA talent: Many compare him to the likes of Derrick Rose, who is the favorite to win the NBA Most Valuable Player award this season.

However, Rose only averaged three more points than Westbrook, and Rose dropped 7.7 dimes per game, falling short of Russell’s 8.2.

The two are certainly similar in many departments, including athleticism – they both are still perfecting their outside shooting, and they both are nearly impossible to guard off the dribble and in transition.

Westbrook often finds himself a bit in the shadow of teammate Kevin Durant, the league’s back-to-back scoring champion, but if ever you’ve watched a Thunder game, you know that both are equally valuable to that Oklahoma City franchise.

Despite making his first All-Star appearance – about which he says “he took every moment in” – the 20-plus points per game scoring average and the large amount of attention he has received throughout the season, Westbrook maintains that a “breakout season” has little to do with him.
It’s a team game.

“I base it on the ending,” Westbrook said when asked if he considers this his breakout season. “I’ll base it on how we do as a team and how we develop as teammates. I think based on how far we go in the playoffs, I’ll be able to better judge that.”

Being a lifelong Laker fan, it’s hard for me to root for Westbrook, considering he carves up my favorite team like scissors through construction paper. So part of me hopes that he doesn’t realize how incredible his potential actually is, that his humility gets the best of him during these playoffs.

Because sooner or later, Westbrook will see in himself what I see in him now.

And that day will be a scary day for Laker fans, NBA point guards and basketball rims alike.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

WATS ON MY MIND: Young Bruins Tyler Honeycutt and Malcolm Lee are not ready for the NBA

WATS ON MY MIND: Young Bruins Tyler Honeycutt and Malcolm Lee are not ready for the NBA

The Daily Bruin
Published April 12, 2011, 12:55 am in Men's Basketball, Sports

Every Bruin Den member, former Bruin hoopster or general follower of college hoops has an opinion about UCLA basketball.

The history of the program is too deep, Pauley Pavilion is too legendary and Reeves Nelson is too scary-looking not to.

A few weeks ago, I was left in awe when hearing the announcements that junior guard Malcolm Lee and sophomore forward Tyler Honeycutt would be testing the NBA draft waters – Honeycutt for certain and Lee just probably, not because they lack talent, but more because of their lack of preparation for the next level.

But I was not the only one, not nearly.

The opinions began flooding in from every which way, from UCLA students, sports writers and yes, former Bruin hoopsters.

Tracy Murray is a 12-year NBA veteran who was drafted out of UCLA in 1992 and is currently an analyst for the UCLA Sports Network, covering both men’s and women’s games.

And, to put it bluntly, Murray is a realist.

With the program suddenly in flux because of the departure of Honeycutt and assumably Lee, and the renovations to Pauley Pavilion, among other things, the questions about next season have begun to flow in my mind with this season barely having come to an end.

I spoke with Murray about the issues that I felt were currently most relevant to UCLA, issues concerning players leaving early, if UCLA is recruiting the right players, current players such as Joshua Smith and why we just cannot beat Florida.

It was a mistake for Honeycutt and Lee to enter the draft. Yes, the draft is weak this year, and yes, both are talented players, but there is something to be said about being proven, something that both have failed at accomplishing.

I expressed my thoughts to Murray about Honeycutt being unproven – considering he is hiring an agent – and this is what he hit me with:

“This is the perfect analogy for him: he’s a carpenter with a bunch of tools, but he hasn’t built nothing.”

There’s nothing better than a good analogy.

And Murray is exactly correct, as he continued on to say: “Tyler looks great. He’s tall, long, an NBA coach’s dream when you look at him.”

When you see Honeycutt, there is no ounce of doubt that he is a basketball player. He has the prototypical basketball body. And when you see him play, you cannot deny his ability to pass, rebound and create havoc offensively and defensively.

But I saw him put together the entire package only once this past season, and that was at Kansas on Dec. 2, where he racked up 33 points, nine rebounds, four assists, two steals and a block, and nearly won the game for UCLA single-handedly.

However, that was his only game over 20 points the entire season, prompting me, and coincidentally, Murray, to ask the same question …

“He had a great game against Kansas, and when I saw that game, I was like, ‘Is this a fluke?’” Murray said. “Or is this the Tyler Honeycutt that everybody is talking about?”

“I didn’t know. I still don’t know,” he added.

Me neither.

One thing I do know is that Murray is no fluke. The former Bruin, who averaged 18.3 points per game at UCLA, explained that after his first three years in the league, all of which he spent sitting on the bench, he nearly found himself out of the NBA.

“I played 12 years in the league and I came out after my junior year – not my sophomore year, my junior year – and I still wasn’t ready mentally,” Murray said. “I sat for three years before I played any considerable minutes. I was almost out of the league. If it weren’t for the Toronto Raptors, I was out.

“That league is for grown men. If you’re a kid coming into that league, you’re going to get eaten up.”

Strong words from a man who was almost swallowed.

On another note, over the course of the season, I’ve also been pondering if UCLA is recruiting the correct players for the program, and up until the most recent Florida game, I was leaning toward yes. It seems like Ben Howland is not the type of coach who wants superstars as opposed to a team of solid individuals.

Who am I to argue with the schemes of a guy who has been to the Final Four three times in eight years?

But then UCLA played Florida again this year, and it clicked – the Bruins needed a star player.

No one was able to take the game over for UCLA down the stretch the way that Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker did for the Gators.

Tracy, your opinion?

“There was no one, when the game got tough, you could go to and say they’re going to get me a bucket,” Murray said. “And if there was, there was no one that stepped up and said, ‘Give me the ball.’ When it comes down to it, that’s when you want Tyler Honeycutt to step up and say, ‘Jump on my shoulders, I’m going to carry you home.’”

At the beginning of the season, I thought that player would be Joshua Smith. Just seeing him walk on campus, it’s like a moving mountain, causing me to think, “This dude is going to be unstoppable.”

And in certain games, when he avoided foul trouble, Smith was unstoppable.

He is incredible with using his body to create space and is surprisingly nimble for a guy his size.

But with the departure of Honeycutt and Lee’s status in the air, Smith will not be able to get away with next season what he got away with this season. He will need to not only look like a beast, but play like one.

“He can be an unbelievable player if he drops about 50 pounds,” Murray said. “Because if he drops 50 pounds, he’ll be quicker and still be able to keep his strength. He has to prove to everybody that he can get his weight down and he can continue to get better.”

In the end, next season will come down to one thing: big-time performances.

As we’ve recently learned, UCLA will be playing most of its home games at the Los Angeles Sports Arena, making them not really home games. There will be no comfort when it comes to venue. Can this team handle that type of adversity?

Honeycutt, who was thought to be our rising star, is gone. Who will take his place as “the man”? It will be up to Smith or Nelson to step up to the challenge.

UCLA did not get a nationally recognized recruiting class similar to the one that included Lee a few years back. Will this veteran team finally be able to step up and live up to its potential?

Each of these questions will linger until next fall, and hopefully, what has all the makings of being a testy season for the Bruins will transform into one that UCLA students, followers and alumni can be proud of.

By UCLA’s standards, it’s long overdue.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

UCLA Signs De'End Parker to a National Letter of Intent

Yayareasfinest2006 on You Tube, De'End Parker wears #21.

A couple from ngyngiad on You Tube

HowieManzo23 on You Tube

UCLA Signs De'End Parker to a National Letter of Intent

The sophomore guard made the game-winning tip-in to lead CCSF to the State title.

The Official UCLA Men's Basketball website
April 13, 2011

LOS ANGELES - UCLA head coach Ben Howland announced today the signing of De'End Parker to a National Letter of Intent to attend UCLA in the fall of 2011.

Parker, a 6-foot-6-inch, 215-pound guard out of San Francisco, Calif., (Lincoln High School), will be a junior next season after transferring from City College of San Francisco where he played for head coach Justin Labagh.

Parker joins the early signing class, which consisted of Norman Powell, a 6-foot-3-inch, 200-pound guard out of San Diego, Calif., and Lincoln High School.

"We are extremely excited about De'End Parker joining our basketball program and family," Howland said. "He will give us immediate help as a transfer with the loss of our starting wings (Malcolm Lee and Tyler Honeycutt). He is a very good athlete and a great competitor, but most of all, he is an outstanding young man that will represent UCLA to our expectations in all aspects. He's a great kid and has been very well coached."

Parker averaged 12.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 1.0 steals per game as a sophomore this past year at CCSF. He shot 43.0 percent from three-point range while guiding the Rams to their first State title in 49 years (since 1962). Parker's tip-in with less than three seconds left gave CCSF an 83-81 victory over Citrus College in the 2011 California Community College Athletic Association championship game. The Rams finished the season 32-1 overall and ended the year on a 27-game winning streak. He was named as the Coast Conference Co- Most Valuable Player (with teammate Jonathon Williams), leading his squad to a league title and a 12-0 mark. The Rams were 29-5 in his freshman season, as he led CCSF to a 61-6 record in his two seasons.

"When UCLA offered me a scholarship, I was really excited, and I knew it was a no-brainer after speaking with my family," Parker said. "I have spoken to the UCLA coaches and know that I can come in and make an immediate impact. I'm excited about getting the opportunity to play because my natural position is on the wing as an off-guard. UCLA produces the most NBA players and I'm very thankful to have the chance to come in and compete."


UCLA, USC each sign one men's basketball player

Bruins land guard De'End Parker, a transfer from City College of San Francisco, and Trojans get Greg Allen, a guard from Navarro College in Corsicana, Texas.

By Ben Bolch and Mike Hiserman
The Los Angeles Times
6:10 PM PDT, April 13, 2011

UCLA and USC each announced the signing of one player Wednesday, the first day of the NCAA regular signing period for men's basketball.

At UCLA, the signing marked De'End of an era.

After going 23 years between noteworthy junior college transfers, the Bruins on Wednesday signed De'End Parker, a 6-foot-6 guard from City College of San Francisco who will become the second junior college player on their roster.

Junior guard Lazeric Jones, a transfer from John A. Logan College in Carterville, Ill., averaged 9.1 points for UCLA last season and was the only player to start every game.

The last junior college player to make a significant impact for the Bruins before Jones was Jack Haley during the 1986-87 season.

Parker averaged 12 points, six rebounds and five assists last season for San Francisco, which won the California Community College Athletic Assn. title in March. He shot 43% from three-point range and will help fill the void at shooting guard and small forward created by the departures of Malcolm Lee and Tyler Honeycutt.

"When UCLA offered me a scholarship, I was really excited, and I knew it was a no-brainer after speaking with my family," Parker, who had initially committed to California, said in a statement. " … I know that I can come in and make an immediate impact."

Parker, the youngest of seven children, received his first name during birth when his mother decided her childbearing days were over.

USC signed Greg Allen, a 6-3 guard from Navarro College in Corsicana, Texas. He averaged 11.0 points, 2.2 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.3 steals and shot nearly 40% from three-point range. Allen originally signed with Creighton out of Eureka (Calif.) High in 2009, but he never enrolled there. He averaged 25.1 points as a high school senior.

"He has the ability to shoot the ball and defend the opposition's best player, which will be important and allow him to make an immediate impact on our program," USC Coach Kevin O'Neill said.

USC's incoming class of recruits also includes wing Byron Wesley from Etiwanda High, guard Alexis Moore of Long Beach Poly and center James Blasczyk of Lee College in Baytown, Texas, who each signed in the early signing period.

The Trojans should also have forwards Dewayne Dedmon and Aaron Fuller. Dedmon transferred from Antelope Valley College and Fuller from Iowa.

UCLA signed Norman Powell, a 6-3 guard from San Diego Lincoln High in the early signing period, and have David and Travis Wear, 6-10 twins who sat out last season after transferring from North Carolina.

For more on new Bruin De'End Parker, see earlier blogpost (link).

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Malcolm Lee To Forego Senior Season

Malcolm Lee To Forego Senior Season

Head Coach Ben Howland announced today that Lee will hire an agent and withdraw from school.

The Official UCLA Men's Basketball website
April 12, 2011

LOS ANGELES - UCLA Head Coach Ben Howland announced today that Malcolm Lee will immediately withdraw from school and will hire an agent, forfeiting the remainder of his NCAA eligibility.

"After speaking to my family, I have carefully weighed all of my options, and at this time, I have decided to hire an agent and withdraw from my classes," Lee said. "My three years at UCLA were the best time of my life. I will miss my teammates, coaches, faculty, friends and all of the great fans at UCLA. I have had a lot of fun being a Bruin and I appreciate everything Coach [Ben] Howland has done for me. I am very proud to be a Bruin and I will always call this place home. My dream has always been to play in the NBA and I think that this is the best time for me to try and make that a reality."

Lee was second on the team in scoring at 13.1 points per game (14th in the Pac-10) and finished fourth in rebounding at 3.1 rpg. He also averaged 2.0 assists and 0.7 steals per game in 2010-11 and was named First Team All-Pac-10 this season as well as to the Pac-10 All-Defensive Team.

He scored a season-high 25 points in a home win over Oregon (Feb. 10, 2011) and scored 20 or more points five times this season. His free-throw percentage of .778 (112-of-144) was second on the team and ranked 11th in the Pac-10.

"Malcolm Lee gave a tremendous amount to this program over his three years here," Howland said. "I'm really proud of how he has improved each year as a player. He's one of the best kids I have ever had the pleasure to coach in terms of attitude, work ethic and commitment to the team. I'm very proud of everything he has accomplished in his tenure at UCLA. We wish him the very best in his pursuit of a professional career."

UCLA leads the country in NBA Draft selections with 106 and has had 10 players drafted in the last seven years of the NBA Draft during Coach Howland's tenure. Additionally, six Bruins have been drafted in the first round in the Howland era, including 2011 NBA All-Stars Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love, who were drafted as back-to-back lottery picks (fourth and fifth, respectively) in the 2008 NBA Draft. During the 2010-11 NBA season, nine of Coach Howland's players started at least 15 games in the league with six of them (Arron Afflalo, Trevor Ariza, Darren Collison, Jrue Holiday, Love and Westbrook) being a permanent starter.


Malcolm Lee getting agent for draft

By Peter Yoon
Updated: April 12, 2011, 9:18 PM ET

UCLA guard Malcolm Lee will forgo his senior season and enter the NBA draft with an agent, Bruins coach Ben Howland confirmed Tuesday.

Lee, 6-foot-5, had previously announced he was only testing the waters of the NBA draft without an agent, thus preserving his NCAA eligibility, but he said Tuesday that he changed his mind.

"After speaking to my family, I have carefully weighed all of my options, and at this time, I have decided to hire an agent and withdraw from my classes," Lee said in a statement. "My dream has always been to play in the NBA and I think that this is the best time for me to try and make that a reality."

Lee averaged 13.1 points for the Bruins last season and is considered one of the top perimeter defenders in the nation. He earned All Pac-10 and Pac-10 All-defensive team honors, but is thought by many to be a year away from being NBA ready.

An NBA front office source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Lee would go in the second round at best and could go undrafted.'s Chad Ford has him ranked as the No. 73 prospect in the country.

However, Howland said his NBA front-office sources have indicated that Lee would go in the second round, which carries some risk because second-round picks don't figure as prominently as first-round picks in the plans of the drafting team.

"So his thing right now is to try to do a great job in his preparation so that he can try to get himself ready and try to get himself into the first round," Howland said.

Complicating matters is the surgery Lee had to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee on March 22. Lee is still rehabilitating the injury and Howland said he is still at least three weeks away from being able to play at pre-surgery levels.

Howland said he advised Lee to come back to school to try and improve his draft status and spoke with Lee's family, but ultimately Lee had the final say.

"In my opinion, I thought that would have been in his best interest," Howland said. "Obviously that is what's best for UCLA basketball, but I honestly, in my heart, really believed that with all the factors that was in his best interest."

Lee's departure is the second this offseason for the Bruins, following Tyler Honeycutt's exit on March 29. The Bruins had been projected as a preseason top-10 team next season, but the losses of Lee and Honeycutt tempers expectations.

"I really believe that if we had both of them back we would have had a chance to challenge, no question, in that category," Howland said.

Howland said Lee plans to move to Las Vegas and begin his pre-draft workouts as he rehabs his knee.

Still, Howland has reason for optimism. Twins David Wear and Travis Wear, 6-foot-10 transfers from North Carolina, will be eligible, and incoming freshman guard Norman Powell will help fill the void left by Lee. Also, Howland said he would announce another signing -- expected to be City College of San Francisco transfer De'End Parker, another 6-foot-5, athletic guard.

Forward Reeves Nelson, the team's leading scorer and rebounder, will be back, as will 6-foot-10, 305-pound center Joshua Smith, who is primed to become the top big man in the country as a sophomore next season.

"I'm very, very optimistic and excited about our team next year," Howland said. "We're going to be very young. We're going to have a very formidable front line."


UCLA basketball: Malcolm Lee to forgo senior season, enter NBA draft

By Ben Bolch
The Los Angeles Times
April 12, 2011 | 5:55 pm

There was no stopping UCLA's best defender Tuesday, when Malcolm Lee announced he would forgo his final year of college eligibility to enter the NBA draft.

After learning last week that the junior guard was leaning toward leaving, Bruins Coach Ben Howland said he advised Lee in multiple conversations that he thought it was in Lee's best interest to remain in college. The coach said his sources in NBA general managers' offices project Lee to be drafted in the second round.

True to form for a lockdown defender, Lee wouldn't budge in his stance.

"My dream has always been to play in the NBA," Lee said in a statement, "and I think that this is the best time for me to try and make that a reality."

Howland did not conceal his disappointment in Lee's decision not to heed his advice.

"Obviously, it's what's best for UCLA basketball," Howland said of Lee returning for his senior season. "But honestly in my heart, with all the factors, I thought that was also in his best interest."

By departing early, Lee probably put a halt to some of the high expectations for the Bruins next season. Projected as a top-10 team by some pundits had everyone returned, UCLA must now replace two of its top three scorers with Lee and sophomore forward Tyler Honeycutt having opted to leave.

"I really believe that if we had both of them back," Howland said, "we would have had a chance to challenge, no question, in that category."

Making Lee's draft prospects all the more precarious is the fact that he is only three weeks removed from surgery on his left knee. Howland said Lee would not be back to full strength for two or three weeks, and it may take longer than that for him to recapture the form he showed prior to the injury he suffered during UCLA's regular-season finale March 5.

A potential NBA lockout could also deprive Lee of the opportunity to showcase his skills in summer league play. Howland said Lee, who averaged 13.1 points last season, had already withdrawn from school and was moving to Las Vegas to begin organized workouts.

"His thing right now is to try to do a great job in his preparation getting ready so he can try and get himself into the first round," Howland said.

With Lee gone, UCLA will turn to freshman Tyler Lamb and newcomer Norman Powell at shooting guard next season. City College of San Francisco guard De'End Parker, who is expected to sign a letter of intent Wednesday with UCLA, could also receive playing time at that spot.

But whoever assumes Lee's role will likely draw comparisons -- for better or worse -- to a player whom Howland labeled the best defender in the Pacific 10 Conference after flustering the likes of Brigham Young's Jimmer Fredette and Michigan State's Kalin Lucas.

"He can go into a game right now in the NBA and guard a one or a two [point guard or shooting guard] as well as anybody this year coming out of college," Howland said of Lee. "... Malcolm knows he's a good player and he really wants to take this step now and I have to respect that."