It’s been a basketball season to forget.
The Lakers are fading out of playoff contention, the Clippers are even lower, UCLA was knocked out of the NCAA Tournament in the first round, USC didn’t even make the Pac-10 Tournament and high hopes at Pepperdine concluded without post-season play.
Westside fans who follow these teams might find optimism only at UCLA. In Ben Howland’s second season as coach, the Bruins won 18 games and were rewarded with an NCAA berth. Although they lost to Texas Tech in the opening game UCLA showed off freshmen Jordan Farmar, Arron Affolo and Josh Shipp.
In an aside, Farmar’s father, Damon, is assistant baseball coach at Santa Monica High. He’s a former football star at University High.
USC has much further to go in re-establishing its program. Tim Floyd will coach the team next season and currently is recruiting after accepting the job following some early season turmoil when Henry Bibby was fired and Rick Majerus resigned just five days after accepting the job.
Floyd has received his first verbal commitment from RouSean Cromwell, a 5-foot-8 forward from Florida.
Only four players from this season’s Trojan team are eligible to return. Leading scorer Gabriel Pruitt says he will.
“He’s coached in the NBA and that’s where I’m trying to get,’’ said Pruitt.“I’m looking forward to playing for someone like that.’’
Pepperdine began with expectations but lost seven conference games. Teams with a .500 record or better are eligible for the NIT even if they’re not chosen for the NCAA but despite a 17-14 record the Waves weren’t invited anywhere.
Coach Paul Westphal will have to replace 6-foot-9 forward Glen McGowan, the one-time Venice High star. NBA teams will evaluate McGowan, who has demonstrated NBA ability but has suffered injuries.
Junior guard Alex Acker will be the Waves’ best player next season if he returns. He’s expected to showcase his talents at the NBA draft camp in Chicago, but if he doesn’t hire an agent he could return to school.
That’s the route Dijon Thompson took last summer. Pro scouts told him what he had to work on and he then played another year for the Bruins.
The Lakers began tumbling after trading center Shaquille O’Neal to Miami prior to the season and their declining playoff chances were dealt a blow with a four-game losing streak last week, combined with hot play by the surging Denver Nuggets.The Clippers’ loss at Denver Friday probably ended any chance they had.