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 last year, and we’ll discuss the kind of improvement (or, God forbid, regression) we’ll see in the player this year.
Next victim? Junior UCLA Center, Anthony Stover.
Anthony Stover gained a lot of fanfare for very little production last season. UCLA basketball fans made some serious noise about wanting to see Stover get more minutes on the floor. Indeed, Stover only got just over eight minutes of playing time per game in 2011-12, not much of an increase over his 2010-11 playing time.
And for good reason, too.
The cries for Stover getting more minutes were more about Josh Smith’s ineffectiveness at the pivot than Stover’s abilities or know-how. In fact, Stover is far from polished offensively and most of his game was dependent on his tenacious defensed while actually being a liability on offense.
Stover shot at a 33 percent clip last season, and for a guy who stands at 6’10” in college basketball, that’s a serious no-no, regardless of how much playing time you get. Even further, his rebounding rate (the percentage of available rebounds a player gets while he’s on the floor) was a pretty dismal 11 percent, which is sixth among UCLA’s active big men, and ninth among all UCLA players. He also had some serious issues with holding on to the ball, with the highest turnover rate of any perennially-active UCLA player.
But don’t think for a second that Stover is some lost cause and can’t contribute to the team if he does stand pat.
Because Anthony Stover is an animal defensively. Stover led the team in blocks per game, a laughably ridiculous fact, because he only managed to play eight minutes a contest. His block percentage is a monstrous 18.2 percent, with Travis Wear coming in second, barely scraping past five percent. The fact that he’s going up to block shots probably hurts his rebounding numbers too, considering the fact that he can’t crash the boards if he had just blocked a shot.
Offensively? He can be explosive, if he works at it. Although it’s a little too late to play the “let him develop and see what happens” card, it wouldn’t be out of the blue to see Stover use all that length and athleticism to deliver on some explosive lobs, especially with point forward Kyle Anderson and point guard Larry Drew II joining the Bruins in New Pauley. Playing close to the rim offensively (and defensively, too) is going to be critical for Stover.
Of course, we’ll have to see if he can improve enough to break the rotation, because UCLA isn’t thin at the frontline. David Wear played the pivot often last season and Josh Smith figures to be a starter if he can get his shit together (which I firmly believe he will), all while recruit Tony Parker will be joining the Bruins come summer time, meaning Stover’s going to have to work at his deficiencies if he wants to be a force in UCLA’s big-man rotation.
Personally, I’m optimistic that Stover is working hard to improve his game. At the same time, these “Broken Down” features here at GJB have been (admittedly) pretty damn positive, and not everyone can break the rotation. If UCLA wanted a 12-man rotation then, well, that’d suck because it won’t work.
If I had to place a bet on one of the players who won’t break the rotation, it’s Stover.
But when I get somewhat pessimistic-y like this, I’m usually wrong. Here’s to hoping Stover keeps that trend going.