The past few weeks have been rough on the point guard position for the UCLA men’s basketball team.
Less than a week after senior point guard Jerime Anderson was suspended indefinitely from the team following his arrest, senior point guard Blake Arnet has chosen to leave the team, citing a desire to focus on his academics and future career.
Arnet’s decision was discovered on his Facebook page and was subsequently confirmed by UCLA Athletics. He has requested not to be contacted by reporters. Coach Ben Howland is currently on vacation and was unavailable for comment. There remains the possibility that, upon Howland’s return from vacation, he will attempt to persuade Arnet to return to the team this year.
However, if Arnet sticks with his decision, the team will be left desperately thin at the position, as senior Lazeric Jones is the only true point guard available for this season. Larry Drew II, the other scholarship point guard, has to sit the year out after transferring from the University of North Carolina. The point guard position is crucial for a Howland-coached team, as the half-court offense relies on direction from the point guard.
Arnet was a former walk-on for the Bruins, and only became a scholarship player during the 2010-2011 season. Arnet was not a regular contributor for UCLA, having played in only nine minutes during the 2010-2011 season and attempting only one shot, a miss, during those scant few minutes.
However, following Anderson’s suspension, there was a thought that Arnet would earn regular minutes as a backup option for Jones.
With Arnet leaving, those minutes will again fall to a player whose primary position has not been point guard up until now. It appears as if the answer will come from one of UCLA’s many shooting guards ““ sophomore Tyler Lamb, incoming freshman Norman Powell or even incoming junior transfer De’End Parker.
Still, it would not be the first time point guard minutes were given to off-guards, with former Bruins Russell Westbrook and Malcolm Lee being the most recent examples. The success Howland has had in developing point guards would indicate that the situation is not as dire as it might seem.
Even so, this season has been considered a prime opportunity for the Bruins to return to the level of success seen earlier in Howland’s time with UCLA.
The team has plenty of talent down low, with returning stars sophomore center Joshua Smith and junior forward Reeves Nelson, as well as redshirt sophomore forwards Travis and David Wear providing a formidable threat to opposing front courts.
Having a steady veteran presence at the point guard would have been a valuable commodity; instead, Howland will have to rely on an unproven player to spell Jones.
What Howland does at the position will be of critical importance in the coming months, and the success of the 2011-2012 campaign likely depends on it.