UCLA Basketball: The 5 Key Players To UCLA’s Success in 2012-13

1 of 3

UCLA basketball is on the cusp of what could become a special season which may or may not culminate in a national championship come March. Of course, this is a hell of a jump from last season’s “didn’t get invited to the NIT” finish, largely considered an embarrassment. So before the season begins (y’know, more than four months away; it’s coming fast … !) we thought we’d take a closer look at the prospect of success in 2012-13 season (which, mind you, is based largely on our top-ranked recruiting class).

In case you haven’t noticed, we don’t do lists here, at GJB. We don’t know why, but we think it’s because we have an innate fear of numbers. It happens. Leave me alone. I’m not a South Campus major.

But to analyze the players most important to our success come November, we’re going to have to step into the realm of lists, for our own sake, and for yours.

So here are the five most important players in regards to UCLA’s success in 2012-13.

5. Shabazz Muhammad

OK, so this is one of the more obvious ones to outsiders because if most of the Bruins’ success is predicated on our top-ranked recruiting class panning out, then the kid who headlines UCLA’s recruiting class should be the one most integral to UCLA becoming a national contender come March.

The reasons go beyond that, though, and requires a bit more knowledge of the Bruins’ offensive attack, namely what was wrong with it last season.

Because a hell of a lot of things were wrong with it. For starters, the Bruins’ were stagnant on offense, and that was largely due to center Josh Smith’s inability to stay on the court, but even more important than that was the fact that UCLA had no shot-creators or perimeter scorers. The team was sorely lacking in knock-down shooters and players that can create shots for themselves or others.

Shabazz Muhammad fills a huge hole that UCLA had on the perimeter. With ‘Bazz, it would be a hell of a lot nicer to watch a pick-and-roll to clear him up for a mid-range shot, or with a high pick to attack the basket using his athleticism. The dude is built for a half-court offense with set plays given his ability to create space and force defenders to cover everything in his huge arsenal (despite fans of traditional college hoops’ offenses wanting to see Shabazz in a high-paced offense).

Shabazz needs to keep working, though, and he needs to prove he can create his own shots and create space (as well as attack the basket) off the dribble. If not, well, things don’t get so rosy for UCLA.

4. Larry Drew II

We know for a fact that Larry Drew II isn’t the most heralded transfer in UCLA history. You’d find quite a few guys who are skeptical that this dude makes an impact in his final year in college.

The story is well-known by now around UCLA circles, we’re sure. Drew’s exit from UNC wasn’t one that left both sides on good terms, and if you wanted to lambast Drew, you’d be in the right to.

But the fact of the matter is, Drew is an important piece to UCLA’s success because UCLA needs a point guard that can distribute the ball. Ben Howland’s squads have succeeded when there’s a dude commanding the offense at the point, and have flailed when there hasn’t been. Knock the dude all you want, but whether he’s coming off the bench or starting (and, we’re hoping, he’ll be competing and will be relegated to one of the two, as opposed to just sitting out because he sucks) he’s going to have to be the guy who can distribute touches between potentially prolific scorers in Shabazz Muhammad, Jordan Adams, Josh Smith, Tony Parker or any combination of them and the Wear Twins.

This squad has needed a true point guard, or at least a half-decent true point guard, for the better part of four years. Although Drew isn’t our only option at point (Norman Powell’s there, but we all have our gripes about him), but he’s likely the best in a very thin distributor rotation.

That said, we have to admit: There’s another player who can distribute the ball, and he’ll come up later in this list.

Still following along? Jump to the next page to see who’s #3 and #2.