Report: Joshua Smith to leave the UCLA program

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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.