Four years ago, Larry Drew II left Los Angeles to North Carolina with much fanfare. A four-year starter at Woodland Hills Taft High School, he was hailed as the next great point guard out of the state.
As a senior, he won a LA City Section championship and took Taft to the state regional semifinals. He was an All-State player and named a McDonald’s All-American with fellow Cali natives (and future NBA pros) Jrue Holiday, Brandon Jennings and DeMar DeRozan.
I covered him often in 2007 and 2008 and what impressed me the most was his quickness, vision and control. He knew how to run his team perfectly and could score if he needed to but he was more concerned about setting guys up.
He was expected to be the next Carolina point guard after playing sparingly in the Tar Heels’ 2009 national championship run. Despite finishing 2nd in the ACC in assists (6.0 per game) as a sophomore, he suddenly transferred as a junior.
The promise seemed to fade as Drew’s replacement, Kendall Marshall, became of the nation’s best floor generals as a sophomore and now plays for the Phoenix Suns. Which brings us back to Drew today trying to resurrect his career at UCLA.
For those of us who watched him play, it’s given us optimism that his prep hype can be validated in the city he used to dominate. He’s already made a great impression on head coach Ben Howland, who marveled at his skills at Pac-12 Media Day.
“I think he makes good decisions with the ball,” Howland said. “He really has a very good assist-to-turnover ratio in our practices in the games we played.”
His quickness has Howland salivating what he can do on the defensive end. While he wasn’t known as a lockdown defender in high school, he wasn’t a slouch either and he’ll make the Bruins better on both sides of the ball.
However, Drew won’t be running the team by himself. Howland added that he would share ball-handling duties with freshman Kyle Anderson.
I think it’s a great idea because while Drew is a stellar point guard, you would limit Anderson by using him only as a forward. It’s no knock on Drew’s shortcomings and I think he will eventually validate himself as a leader on the floor.
Better yet, two floor leaders will help the Bruins as both players transition into the program. It means the team won’t be without a floor general on the court most of the time and considering that’s been the key for UCLA success (see Tyus Edney, Baron Davis, Jordan Farmar and Darren Collison), the more the better.
More importantly, I think Drew will be more comfortable playing at home than he was in North Carolina. It worked out well for David and Travis Wear last season after they transferred from Chapel Hill to Westwood and I believe Drew’s impact will be greater as someone who can create for himself and others, defend and have no fear in making the right play.
Most of us in L.A. were sad to see Drew leave but now there’s one more chance in Westwood to catch him and I feel he’ll be ready to remind everyone why he was special four years ago.