Holiday's Decision Key For UCLA Future

It’s a credit to what Ben Howland has done that 26-9 and a second round exit from the NCAA tournament is a down year for UCLA.

But next season could be even a little more down — Darren Collison, Josh Shipp and Alfred Aboya are leaving as seniors — unless some of those sophomores really step up. And Jrue Holiday comes back.

Holiday came in with high expectations but never really seemed comfortable as the shooting guard not handling the ball next to senior Darren Collison. He shot a nice-but-not-thrilling 45% from the field, an unimpressive 30% from three-point range, but did become one of the better defenders on the team.

His game against the big-time talent of Villanova did not help his draft cause — 1 of 6 from the field, six assists but four turnovers. Worse yet, his decision making was questionable, with him taking bad threes and forcing passes that became turnovers. He had played worse at the end of the year in general, including a bad game against USC in the Pac-10 Tournament.

If he comes back and runs the point next year, and shows improved shooting and decision making skills, he could be coveted in a draft in 2010 expected to be thin at point guard. But, in a down draft year, if he chooses to come out it is likely someone in the first round will draft him largely on potential.

If he comes back, Holiday will be joined in the backcourt rotation by Malcolm Lee and Jerime Anderson, two guys who had limited minutes as freshmen but did some good things with the chances they had. Still, both will need to take big steps forward for the Bruins.

The bigger concern overall is the frontcourt — Villanova was just the latest team in a series this season that pushed UCLA around inside. And nobody appears ready to step into Aboya’s shoes (and he was never able to really fill the shoes of Kevin Love).

Drew Gordon showed flashes of skill but looked raw and out of control, things he must work on. J'mison Morgan came in highly touted, and apparently out of shape, and now has to prove he can play at this level period.

UCLA also will have Nikola Dragovic returning, along with James Keefe and three=point specialist Michael Roll.

The Bruins have two talented freshmen coming in with Tyler Honeycutt (a small forward) and Brendan Lane (likely a power forward) but both are finesse guys that are going to have to toughen up — and learn to play defense — if they are going to get significant minutes next year.

Both probably could look good with Holiday feeding them the ball. If he returns.

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