UCLA’s weighty issues still center on Josh Smith

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(Too many puns in that headline?)

The last thing Ben Howland needs is another sub-par season at UCLA.

The Bruins missed the NCAA tournament in 2010 and shook off a rough start last season to get back to the Big Dance and finish second in the Pac-10. That was enough to silence any hot seat talk that popped up, but another slow start or Pac-12 issues in 2012 will create miffed fans in L.A.

An out-of-shape Joshua Smith won’t help, either.

Smith, the talented sophomore center who averaged 10.9 points and 6.3 rebounds a game last season, has gained about 10 pounds this summer – when he probably should’ve lost 10 or 20. Howland apparently wasn’t too happy when he told that to CBSSports.com’s Gary Parrish.

UCLA’s frontline will be its strength next season. Smith’s the most dynamic presence on that line and the key to the Bruins conference title hopes. When he’s on, he’s a force. But he’s 6-10 and 305 pounds (at least). Any heavier and he’ll lose effectiveness because of fatigue and no explosiveness.

Will he lose the weight by October? Maybe. It’s been an issue since before he arrived at UCLA and it’ll almost certainly be an issue when he’s in the NBA. He learned to control his temper and his fouls (somewhat) last year, which was a major factor in UCLA’s late surge.

But the weight is the big issue. And UCLA can’t afford it to be in 2011-12.

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.

Bill Self on Cheick Diallo: ‘It may be a couple of more weeks’

2015 McDonald's All American Game
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Cheick Diallo is currently practicing with Kansas, but his eligibility still remains in question.

On Monday, Kansas head coach Bill Self appeared on “The Border Patrol” on WHB-AM 810 and was asked to update the status of his freshman big man.

“He’s been cleared to practice,” Self told hosts Steven St. John and Nate Bukaty. “(His status) is depending on what they find throughout from the information we submit to them whenever we get it all together.

“A lot of people think, ‘Well, why wouldn’t it all be together?’ Well there’s a lot of reasons why. It’s because they told us recently some things that they just wanted. Instead of just throwing it to them piece by piece, they requested we to just submit it all together, so it may be a couple of more weeks before we’re able to submit everything when you’re talking about getting information from schools in Mali and everything like that.

“But we hope in two weeks, maybe three weeks, before we have a definite answer. But right now, Cheick is like everybody else. He’s practicing.”

Diallo, a 6-foot-9 forward from Mali is allowed to practice with the Jayhawks, but has been waiting to be cleared by the NCAA Eligibility Center despite enrolling in classes over the summer and earning six credits. Self anticipated this would be a long process, but has remained confident Diallo, the top-5 recruit in Class of 2015, will eventually be cleared to play this season.

For three years, Diallo attended Our Savior New American School in Centereach, New York, which is currently under NCAA review. In September, Pitt freshman Damon Wilson, Diallo’s teammate at OSNA, was cleared to play.

Kansas opens the season on Nov. 13 against Northern Colorado.

Albany’s Peter Hooley accepts Inspiration Award

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Last week, Albany senior Peter Hooley accepted the Inspiration Award at the Coaches vs Cancer Basket Ball in Troy, New York. The Albany athletic department uploaded his entire speech on Monday afternoon.

Hooley had one of the most uplifting moments of March after months and months of heartache.

The junior guard missed three weeks of the season to travel back home to Australia to be with his mother, who was battling colon cancer. She passed away in January. Hooley returned to the team in February and the following month, the Great Danes had a shot at an NCAA tournament berth. In the America East Tournament championship, Hooley sunk a game-winning shot with 1.6 seconds to go.

Hooley, who graduated in May, was selected to give the commencement speech.