Joshua Smith, Brian Bennett, Chris O'Brien

Report: Joshua Smith to leave the UCLA program


According to a report from Tracy Pierson of BruinReportOnline, Joshua Smith has left the UCLA program.

Smith didn’t show up to practice Tuesday, and Wednesday indicated to the UCLA coaches he intended to leave the program.

The coaching staff then tried to convince him to stay, but many sources are telling us Smith has decided to leave, and has informed UCLA Athletic Director Dan Guerrero of his decision.

“Joshua is a fine young man who has meant a lot to this program,” said UCLA head coach Ben Howland said in a statement. “I know I speak for myself and my staff when I thank him for his time in Westwood and wish him well in his future endeavors.”

Smith was a disappointment throughout his career in Westwood. He’s got the talent to be an all-american and a top ten pick in the NBA Draft, but he simply was never able to get himself in good enough shape to do so.

“I have made the decision to leave the program for personal reasons,” Smith said. “I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at UCLA and am grateful for the opportunity that has been presented to me here.”

This is yet another hit for Ben Howland’s program, which has looked quite a bit different than the team that some projected as a national title contender in the preseason. They are coming off of a two-point home loss to Cal Poly in which they were outscored 37-17 in the final 12 minutes and are nothing like the defensive stalwarts that Howland took to three straight Final Fours. Smith is also the second player to transfer out of the program this week, as Tyler Lamb left the team on Monday.

Here’s to hoping Smith finds someplace to land on his feet. Frankly, this may be the best move for his career. Howland has clearly been unable to get through to him or get him in shape. He needs a fresh start.

I no longer make jokes about Smith’s weight, and I’d encourage you not to, either. Watching someone throw away talent that could earn them millions of dollars because they are unable to control their eating habits isn’t funny. It is sad.

Louisville backcourt struggles in first scrimmage

Quentin Snider, Jerian Grant
Associated Press
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While a few teams did manage to hold special events for the official start of practice this weekend, most simply went about their business with drills and conditioning. One team that was the exception to all of this was Louisville, which held the first of its two intersquad scrimmages on Saturday. The Cardinals had a head start of sorts on the season, as they played six exhibition games in Puerto Rico this summer.

One hope heading into Saturday’s scrimmage was that guards Trey Lewis and Quentin Snider would have better chemistry than they did in Puerto Rico. But according to Jeff Greer of the Louisville Courier-Journal, that remains a work in progress for the Cleveland State transfer (Lewis) and rising sophomore (Snider).

They struggled in Puerto Rico, and they struggled again in Saturday’s Red-White scrimmage, the first public intrasquad practice since August. They played one half of the game together, paired with the presumed starting lineup with Mangok Mathiang out with an eye injury, a group that also included Damion Lee, Jaylen Johnson and Chinanu Onuaku.

That team lost the first half by 13 points to a younger group of Louisville players, and Lewis and Snider combined for eight points on 3-of-12 shooting, five turnovers, five steals, four assists and three rebounds.

“I thought (Snider) and (Lewis) did not play well together,” U of L coach Rick Pitino said. “They’ve got to get used to that. Neither guy made other guys better. That’s what they need to learn to do.”

As Greer also noted in his story the Cardinals have in recent years employed backcourt tandems in which both guards are capable of making plays for themselves and others. On the 2013 national champion team Peyton Siva and Russ Smith led the way, with Smith being joined by Terry Rozier or Chris Jones the following season and Rozier/Jones being the grouping last season before the latter was dismissed from the team.

Once Jones was dismissed Snider saw more time on the court, and his development was one of the keys for a Louisville team that fell one win short of the Final Four. Louisville needs him to take another step forward heading into the 2015-16 season, because even with Lewis’ experience at the Division I level Snider has more experience playing in Pitino’s system.

But while Saturday’s scrimmage didn’t go as well as anyone involved hoped, there’s still plenty of time for Louisville to work out the kinks before they open the season November 13 against Samford.

Knee injury sidelines Memphis assistant

Toronto Raptors vs Charlotte Hornets
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With practices beginning this weekend, not only are players looking to avoid the injury bug but their coaches are as well. And in the case of Memphis, the Tigers won’t have one of their assistants on the court for a little while due to a knee injury.

Assistant coach Damon Stoudamire, who returned to Josh Pastner’s staff this summer after a two-year stint at Arizona, suffered the injury during a recent workout according to L. Jason Smith of the Memphis Commercial-Appeal. And Stoudamire will require surgery, which will put him on the shelf for a little bit.

“He was working out himself and I think he thought he was in his rookie year,” Pastner said. “We think he’s got a torn meniscus, which will require surgery and put him out for a couple of days.”

Stoudamire isn’t the only assistant coach working through pain either. Syracuse’s Mike Hopkins, who is also Jim Boeheim’s heir apparent as head coach, suffered a neck injury body surfing during a family vacation last month. Hopkins spent some time in a neck brace while putting players through workouts as a result of the injury.

As for the Tigers, they’ll have a mixture of experience on the perimeter and youth in the front court as they look to get back to the NCAA tournament after missing out last season. Among the newcomers are talented forwards Dedric and K.J. Lawson, with experienced guards such as Kedren Johnson, Trahson Burrell and Ricky Tarrant (grad transfer from Alabama) expected to be key contributors on the perimeter.