UCLA’s Joshua Smith could come in for a razzing


Joshua Smith would have preferred to spend his New Year’s Eve sleepless in Seattle rather than warmhearted in Westwood.

Hear the derisive chants. Read the clever signs. Move on with his freshman season.

Instead, the super-sized McDonald’s All-American who spurned Washington for UCLA will have two more months to ponder the reception he’ll receive at Hec Edmundson Pavilion because the Bruins host the Huskies on Friday at Pauley Pavilion.

“I’d rather, to tell you the truth, to play them there first to kind of get it out of the way and be like, ‘OK, that’s the hazing game’ and just kind of go on with the season,” Smith said earlier this week. “But that’s one of our last games. Dreading it.”


Washington fans figure to be plenty testy toward the big man from Kent, Wash., when UCLA plays the Huskies on March 3 in Seattle. When Washington throttled the Bruins, 97-68, last February after Smith had signed with UCLA, the high school senior received scores of text messages and Facebook posts referring to the blowout.

And those came mostly from friends.

“When I committed, there was a lot of animosity,” Smith said. “I didn’t really care. I knew I wanted to come here.”

Smith actually might hear a cross word or two Friday. Washington had a large and vocal contingent of fans Wednesday at the Galen Center who watched a 73-67 overtime victory against USC.

Many of the fans were presumably on the way to San Diego for the Huskies football team’s game against Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl on Thursday. Those same fans could make another stopover in Los Angeles to cheer on the basketball team.

Picking something about Smith to jeer could take some work. He is widely considered the front-runner for Pacific 10 Conference freshman of the year. He is averaging 10.1 points and 6.8 rebounds while shooting 53.5%.

“His upside is really limitless, especially as he gets into better condition and better shape,” UCLA Coach Ben Howland said of the 6-foot-10 305-pounder, who has lost about 50 pounds since the summer.

Smith leads the Pac-10 with 4.0 offensive rebounds per game and ranks first on his team with 58 second-chance points. He also has some unexpected stats for a post player. He leads UCLA with 10 charges taken and ranks second with nine dives for loose balls.


“The sky is the limit,” Smith said. “The more I play, the smarter I get and the more stuff that happens that’s better.”

Until, perhaps, he hears what they have to say in Seattle.

Slowing it down

Howland said he might instruct only his power forwards and centers to go for offensive rebounds in an attempt to slow Washington’s vaunted transition game.

The Huskies have averaged a Pac-10-best 89.1 points per game in part because of their ability to push the pace, even on their opponents’ made baskets.

“They all run the floor so well,” Howland said Thursday, “so you really have to do a good job getting back with them in transition.”

Washington also leads the conference in rebounding and offensive rebounding, having outrebounded its last three opponents by an average of 13.7 per game.