The Wear twins give Ben Howland a second chance

Coach Ben Howland looks forward to the addition of David and Travis Wear.

Coach Ben Howland looks forward to the addition of David and Travis Wear. Daily Bruin file photo

CORRECTION: The column was changed to reflect that Drew Gordon now plays for New Mexico.

Excited. Happy. Elated. Blessed. Happy. Really Excited.

These are the words Ben Howland used to describe how he felt Tuesday about the Wear twins, David and Travis, coming to play for his basketball team.

I’ll add one more word to the list: giddy.

Howland started recruiting the pair of 6-foot-10-inch, 230-pound forwards when they were ninth graders at Santa Ana’s Mater Dei High School.

So, you can understand why he feels the way he does when the Wears, who had turned their backs on the whole legendary North Carolina thing, announced they were coming back home to do the whole legendary UCLA thing.

For the twins, it’s a second chance at the college experience with a little more home cooking and a few less care packages.

But this is also a second chance for Howland. As the Bruins’ coach starts his eighth year as CEO of the expectation factory that is UCLA men’s hoops, he wants to make sure he does things right this time.

It is no secret that there were some unhappy campers last season, which led to early departures. And they weren’t to the NBA this time.

Three players who were expected to be running sprints and hitting the bench press in the Acosta Athletic Complex right now are off the roster. Instead, there is an empty apartment in the North Village that used to house another pair of 6-foot-9-inch-plus players in it.

When he spoke to the media about his new additions this week, Howland mentioned the Wears’ work habits several times, citing the success and efficiency of the Mater Dei program as a testament to their pedigree.

“They’ve been very well-coached from when they were little, by Dave Sr., all the way up,” Howland said.

Last season, Howland believed he never received enough effort in practice from former-UCLA, now-Baylor center J’Mison Morgan, and he “butted heads” with former-UCLA, now-New Mexico forward Drew Gordon. Howland even benched a senior, Nikola Dragovic, for an off-court incident at a Hollywood venue. Howland has countered those experiences by finding two big forwards he praises for their fundamentals, character and coachability.

This last men’s basketball season was only the third losing term in half a century. You can bet that Howland, who understands the history and weight of the crown he wears, has not let that fact go by unnoticed. Howland sees the Wear twins as a part of a new beginning.

“As I look down the road, they’ll have two years of eligibility when we move back … into the brand new Pauley (Pavilion),” Howland said. “You just look at the future, people will be very excited to watch these young men play.”

Those people will have to wait another 17 months to see them play, as the NCAA transfer rules dictate. Some of us won’t even be around to see the Wear Era (the Wear-a?) begin, let alone end. Their presence, however, will surely be felt. I can promise the twins, who start classes next month, will be hard to miss on Bruin Walk.

But, especially if this next season goes any way like the last, I’m sure Howland will let us know where the Wear twins will be: probably working out in Acosta, building up their big shoulders to carry their portion of Howland’s big dreams.

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