Joshua Smith (Getty Images)
The school confirmed Wednesday the talented but overweight center is leaving the program, ending a frustrating career in Westwood hampered by weight and conditioning issues. BruinReportOnline first reported Smith informed UCLA of his decision earlier Wednesday and the coaching staff tried with no luck to persuade him to change his mind.
"Joshua is a fine young man who has meant a lot to this program," 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's departure comes at a time when his playing time was dwindling. Upset that Smith had failed to meet his target weight-loss goals during the offseason, UCLA coach Ben Howland brought Smith off the bench for a second straight season behind Travis and David Wear and played him only 13.5 minutes per game.
Even though Smith was playing almost half the minutes he had averaged the previous two seasons, his departure is a huge loss for UCLA. It deprives the Bruins of easily their most talented big man and signifies the failure of the program to get Smith the help he needed to overcome his weight issues and tap into his NBA potential.
Smith, a decorated recruit considered one of the top centers in his class, flashed immense potential as a freshman when he helped lead UCLA to the second round of the NCAA tournament. He regressed as a sophomore as weight issues led to constant foul trouble and prevented him from playing more than a few minutes at a time without getting winded.
Without Smith and the recently transferred Tyler Lamb, UCLA is down to just eight scholarship players, four of them freshmen. Tony Parker will inherit the role of third big man and UCLA will continue to have to count on the Wear twins for 30-plus minutes per game.
The hope that Smith would tap into his potential or at least become the player he was as a freshman was one of the reasons many felt UCLA had a high ceiling this season. Now that he is gone, the frontcourt lacks size or depth and that ceiling is considerably lower.
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