With the UCLA’s basketball season around the corner (read: a long-ass time away), we thought it’d be nice to break down each player set to become a major contributor — or, at least, should be a major contributor — this upcoming year. We’ll review the kind of year they had this year, and we’ll discuss the kind of improvement (or, God forbid, regression) we’ll see in the player this year.
First up? Center Josh Smith.
We’re not sure what to say about Josh Smith at this point; we realize that he’s a good kid and that he has a lot of potential and, holy hell, can he be crafty down there on the block.
But there’s a few things that have stopped him from declaring for the NBA draft and making millions of dollars at the next level: He hasn’t played very well. Like, at all.
Smith’s drive has been questioned, over and over, and for good reason: Josh was overweight all season long and failed to get (or stay) fit over the summer. Whether or not he practiced playing basketball has nothing to do with it. The fact of the matter is, his weight issues hurt his game in countless ways: The dude’s stamina was awful all of last season and it seemed like he couldn’t be out on the court for more than 20 minutes without completely burning out, while also committing needless fouls due to the fatigue he had to put up with. And that fatigue affected his defensive ability, too, and when guards penetrated, Smith looked almost entirely clueless, and was often found spinning, looking for a guard that had already made its way to the basket for two points.
The good thing? He realizes it.
We can bitch about Smith’s inability to lose weight all we want, becoming dejected at what could have been and pretty much calling it a career for big Josh Smith. We can tease him from the comfort of our own home, while watching on TV, eating a bag of potato chips and drinking a can of soda, laughing (ironically) at his weight.
Or we can wait and see. Because if Smith does drop some serious weight over the summer, and his stamina does improve? This dude’s going to be unstoppable.
Smith has had his moments; when he’s fresh and active and getting position in the paint? When you give him some space to operate and allow him to work his defender on the block? He’s crafty. We’ve seen him get under the basket, take a bounce, spin into the baseline and go up and under. (OK, that’s not the favored repertoire here, but work with me, yeah?) It isn’t hard to imagine the dude dropping poundage and working to get his footwork where it needs to be to make the dude even scarier.
You’re not wrong in thinking this kid has the potential to be one of the elite centers in college basketball, given his strength and size and finesse.
But his potential for dominance, for greatness? His potential to hold the fort down defensively by plopping down low? It’s contingent upon his work ethic, and if that’s there, everything else will take care of itself.
Yes, even the weight.