Josh Smith is perhaps the most talked about and most scrutinized player in UCLA’s basketball program. He went from a fantastic freshman season looking absolutely dominant, to the ultimate sophomore slump in which he looked slow and uninspired.
We’ve all seen flashes of brilliance from Josh, he has a high basketball IQ, great hands and a tremendous skill set. However, defensively he is a liability and under a defensive-minded coach like Ben Howland you won’t see the floor if you don’t commit to defense.
The fact of the matter is, Josh Smith’s size is his advantage. Yes, he does need to drop weight but it’s his conditioning that is simply not up to par. There is no big man in the country that can defend a conditioned Josh Smith, he’s just too strong and too skilled.
Ben Howland’s biggest mistake, literally, was to let Josh Smith return to his hometown Kent, Washington after his freshman season for such a long period of time. It was clear when last season started he was even more out of shape than his freshman season and that was before seeing him play all you had to do was give him the eye test. He looked like he gained weight, and that eventually led to one of the most disappointing sophomore seasons we’ve seen in years.
Josh made the conference all-freshman team in 2010-11 by averaging 10.9 points and 6.3 rebounds, playing almost 22 minutes a night.
But as a sophomore last season, his production dipped to 9.9 points and 4.9 rebounds, in large part because he played barely 17 minutes a game. Too often he looked slow and tired, which led to foul trouble. His inability to rotate defensively also played a pivotal part in his constant foul trouble and lessened minutes.
UCLA fans must go into this season with an open mind, Josh gets it now, he’s acknowledged his critics were right instead of brushing them off like last year. Josh should benefit tremendously from being on campus the majority of the summer and from the China trip which allowed him 10 extra practices. Also, it must be noted he worked out with blue collar guys like Lorenzo Mata and Alfred Aboya all summer.
Josh Smith arrived at UCLA with ample expectations just like any blue-chip recruit, and now in his junior season surrounded by tons of talent it’s time to exceed those expectations. Josh smith has no room to slack off because if he does freshman Tony Parker is more than ready to take his job as the starting center. UCLA fans will love Tony, but let’s hope that doesn’t happen because we need Josh Smith to be a difference maker if UCLA wants to compete for a national championship.