LOS ANGELES — Josh Smith’s commitment and dedication have clouded his time as a UCLA Bruin.
Weight has been the topic of nearly every discussion associated with the Bruins 6’10” 305-pound center.
When the Bruins enter the 2012-13 season, Smith will do so with a new uniform number —No. 2— and a new attitude.
UCLA will welcome Indiana State to the new Pauley Pavilion on Friday after using the Sports Arena for their home games with a few stops at Honda Center in between last season.
Smith and junior guard Tyler Lamb are the only current Bruins that played a game in the old Pauley Pavilion.
“It makes us feel old,” Smith said. “I’m only 20 and I’m the second oldest guy to play in here.
“It’s kind of funny to say, we’re the older guys but we’re ready.”
On a team infused with a load of young talent, Smith is, well, one of the older guys and feels the need to take on more of a leadership role.
While head coach Ben Howland will not bring up names like Loyola Marymount and Middle Tennessee State, Smith will.
“I’m going to be reminding them all the time,” Smith said, referring to his younger teammates.
The Bruins 2011-12 campaign essentially ended before it could even get started because of the LMU and Middle Tennessee State.
Ranked No. 17 entering the season, the Bruins dropped their first two games of the season thanks to the aforementioned mid-majors —neither of which made the NCAA Tournament.
The loss to LMU extended to problems away from the court for Smith. As the Bruins headed back to Westwood from the Sports Arena following the 69-58 season opening loss, Smith tweeted: “Just lost to some straight bums lol.”
He later deleted the tweet and issued an apology. It’s a situation he says he learned from. Yet, he remembers the frustration behind the tweet and doesn’t want that to happen to this team, which enters the season ranked and full of expectations.
“We got to take it one game at a time and not be like last year where we looked ahead in our schedule and forgot that when we play teams, teams are going to bring their best and if we don’t bring our best we could lose to anybody,” Smith said.
Smith’s leadership, at least at the beginning of the season, will have to come as a reserve. Howland announced a probable starting lineup of David and Travis Wear in the frontcourt along with freshman Kyle Anderson for the opener against Indiana State. In the backcourt will be Norman Powell and transfer Larry Drew II.
Smith’s conditioning is going to be key. In the halfcourt he can be a lot for the opposition to handle. This season, however, UCLA is putting an emphasis on pushing the ball up and down the court, which could be problematic for Smith, who averaged 17.2 minutes per game last season.
“It’s getting him to be able to play for longer periods of time and be effective without getting in foul trouble and doing a good job defensively,” Howland said.
The Bruins head coach says conditioning is something Smith is going to have to deal with for his entire career.
“He has a body type that’s a blessing and a curse at the same time,” Howland said. “If he eats anything that’s extra or out of the ordinary it’s going to show up right on the waistline and Josh knows that.”
With the opening of the new Pauley Pavilion brings a fresh start and Smith wants to cut down on the mistakes he’s made in the past, especially foul trouble.
Playing a lot of man-to-man defense for Howland, Smith needs to break his “bad habit of reaching.” That bad habit had him in foul trouble regularly last season.
IAs for the young guys, Smith is constantly reminding them that they have to bring it on every night.
“Everytime we play somebody it’s their Super Bowl,” Smith repeats sayings of Howland. It’s something he’s heard for the last couple of years.