Wednesday, August 29, 2007
If I told you to look out for some intense UCLA vs. USC wars this year, the first things to come to mind would probably be Pete Carroll vs. Karl Dorrell or John David Booty vs. Patrick Cowan. But I'm not talking about college football, people. (Well, look out for these two squads on the gridiron too, but still.) The Trojans and Bruins should put together some interesting battles on the hardwood this year, and for the next few years.
UCLA basketball has forever overshadowed the history of its crosstown rivals, in the same vein of USC's football dominance over the Bruins. UCLA has 11 national championship banners in Pauley Pavilion ('64, '65, '66, '67, '68, '69, '70, '71, '72, '73, '75, '95); the Men of Troy have none in the brand new Galen Center. (The closest USC has ever come to a title is an Elite Eight appearance in 2001.)
The boys from Westwood have John Wooden; the Trojans have...Henry Bibby? UCLA has unreal number of NBA players, past and present. They have Hall of Famers and future Hall members (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Walton, Gail Goodrich, Reggie Miller) plus new-school guys making their own name (Baron Davis, Jason Kapono, Trevor Ariza, Matt Barnes, Earl Watson).
USC only has one alum currently in the League, and guess who he is (come on, guess). None other than the redhead himself, Brian Scalabrine. That sucks. Matter of fact, after scowering through USC's roster of past and present NBA players, it's safe to say that the best basketball player to ever come out of Southern Cal is Reggie's sister, Cheryl.
Could the Tide be turning for the Red and Gold? Head coach Tim Floyd has taken huge steps in building a redefining a new branch of the USC sports legacy. He led the Trojans to the Sweet 16 (where they lost to North Carolina) with the strong play of Los Angeles natives Nick Young and Gabe Pruitt, who were drafted this summer by the Wizards and Celtics, respectively, and Brooklyn native forward Taj Gibson. His NBA pedigree, though horrible on all levels (exactly like football coach Carroll), has definitely aided on the recruiting network. His free-willing offense and the allure of playing at one of the nation's most heralded universities, which just so happens to be under the bright lights of Los Angeles, also are pluses.
However, Floyd's top recruit in 2007 (and the hoops program's most celebrated recruit EVER!) actually recruited him last year. Go figure. O.J. Mayo headlines a top 2007 class that also features forward Lynwood, CA native Davon Jefferson (who was featured in Slam Magazine as a sophomore), guard James Dunleavy (North Hollywood, CA), point guard Angelo Johnson (Simi Valley, CA), forward Marcus Simmons (Alexandria, LA), and big man Mamadou Diarra (Simi Valley, CA). The group of incoming freshman give the Trojans their best basketball recruiting class in its history. They join Gibson and guard Daniel Hackett in an already talented, though depleted, SC squad.
The Bruins counter with arguably the best big man recruit in the class of 2007 in Kevin Love (Lake Oswego, OR; pictured above), last year's Player of the Year. Love, like Mayo, is considered by many to be a one-and-done player in Westwood. He's the bruiser in the middle with excellent back to the basket and face-up moves in the post. Put it this way: If Love would have graduated in 2006, the Bruins would have most likely beat Florida in the Final Four this past spring. He joined by incoming freshman Chace Stanback (Los Angeles, CA), which is the whitest name I've heard in a while. The Bruins still feature Josh Shipp (who is primed for a breakout year), steady point guard Darren Collison, and forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. There's no reason to believe they can't make a trip to San Antonio in 2008 and actually take home number 12.
Speaking of 2008, both of these schools are already loading up for next year. USC nabbed a solid group of '08 recruits, including top guard Demar DeRozan, the number two ranked senior by Rivals.com. (And look out, world. "Lil" Romeo Miller is coming! Only a 2-star recruit, Rom? Thought you was the man. You ain't balling, you pump faking.
Tim Floyd had no. 1 point guard Brandon Jennings in its grasp, which would have immediately vaulted USC into elite status, but BJ backed out of his commitment and verbally committed to Arizona this spring.
Across town, UCLA has put together a 2008 class good enough to make Love want to stay in L.A. for another year. Jrue Holiday (North Hollywood, CA), a 6'4 point guard with excellent defense and playmaking skills, will join fellow top-rated recruits (and Cali natives) combo guard Malcolm Lee (Riverside, CA), bruising big man Drew Gordon (San Jose, CA), and speedster point guard Jerime Anderson (Anaheim, CA). If the college game is won by superior guard play, then the Bruins should instantly be favorites (or one of the most exciting team in college basketball) in '08-'09.
Of course, the recent influx of top-notch talent in southern California benefits more than just USC and UCLA. It validates the West Coast as a elite basketball breeding ground. The Left Side, though unjustifiably, has long thought to be far behind its East Coast and Southern counterparts in producing great players. It almost validates the Pac-10, which has taken a hit as soft conference with only 2-3 top teams.
One thing is for sure, after a few months of seeing Pete Carroll and John David Booty run through their rivals in the Coliseum and Karl Dorrell and Patrick Cowan try to upset the Trojans in the Rose Bowl, the USC/UCLA rivalry will take on a new shape in Pauley Pavilion and the Galen Center.