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10 UCLA
Alan Shipnuck
November 15, 1999
The Bruins lost one of the nation's top point guards—and may be better without him
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November 15, 1999

10 Ucla

The Bruins lost one of the nation's top point guards—and may be better without him

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STARTING LINEUP

POS.

HT.

CLASS

KEY STAT

SF

Jason Kapono

6'7"

Fr.

7.6 apg*

PF

JaRon Rush

6'7"

So.

7.3 rpg

C

Dan Gadzuric

6'11"

So.

8.6 ppg

SG

Ray Young

6'3"

So.

5.4 ppg

PG

Earl Watson

6'1"

Jr.

13.3 ppg

1998-99 record: 22-9 Final rank (coaches' poll): No. 21

Returning Starter *As high school senior

A team's personality is shaped by its point guard," says UCLA coach Steve Lavin, which explains the smiles around West-wood these days. Gone is Baron Davis, who after two seasons bolted to the NBA. Davis was so talented he was the third player taken in the draft, by the Charlotte Hornets, but his departure may be the best thing that could have happened to the Bruins. He was undisciplined on defense—he fouled out eight times last season—and often out of control on offense, and he was far too uneven a presence to lead the talented but painfully inexperienced Bruins, a fact that was obvious during UCLA's first-round flameout against Detroit in the NCAAs. Taking over for Davis at the point will be junior Earl Watson, who for the past two seasons has been UCLA's shooting guard. "Earl's game is rooted in fundamentals and a deep knowledge of the game," says Lavin, who's tactful enough not to draw the obvious comparison.

The transition to point guard should pose no problem for Watson—he played the position in high school and last year had more assists (142) than Davis (138, though Davis did miss four games with a knee injury). He'll have a strong rotation of 10 players to get involved in the offense, including a big front line anchored by Jerome Moiso, the 6'10" sweet-shooting lefty; JaRon Rush, who needs to develop an offensive package to go with his relentless efforts in transition and on the glass; and bruising center Dan Gadzuric, who's fully recovered from the knee problems that beset him last season.

The key for the Bruins is finding a perimeter game. They finished ninth in the Pac-10 in three-point shooting (32.8%) last year. Help in that department should come from highly touted freshman Jason Kapono, a 6'7" deadeye shooter who made 211 threes in high school. "We've got so much talent and depth that all it's going to take to be successful is leadership," says Watson. "I'm looking forward to providing that, in excess."

[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]

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