Pac-12 basketball: Castaways would make nice catch

Since season began, Pac-12 has lost at least five significant players
2012-01-25T00:00:00Z 2012-01-25T00:01:55Z Pac-12 basketball: Castaways would make nice catchPatrick Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
January 25, 2012 12:00 am  • 

The reasons vary from academia to playing time. The decisions come from both coaches and players.

"It must be the coach's fault or the janitor's fault or something," USC coach Kevin O'Neill joked.

At least five meaningful Pac-12 players have been sent off their teams since the first game of the basketball season, capped by Richard Solomon being declared academically ineligible at Cal last week. Solomon will stay in school and hopes to return next season.

Starting with former UCLA star forward Reeves Nelson, the castaways are enough to field a fictional team that could, perhaps, beat half the squads in the conference.

O'Neill and other Pac-12 coaches have diagnosed the movement as a nationwide problem. Colorado coach Tad Boyle said the incidents, coupled with Pac-12 players leaving for the NBA draft following last season, have affected the Pac-12.

"And," he said, "probably not in a positive way."

There might be one benefit, Boyle said. It's easier to whittle down opponent game film by disregarding contests featuring star players no longer on the team.

"At least, as a head coach, it cuts down on the number of films I'm going to watch," he said.

With that in mind, and with apologies to the Martin Scorsese classic, here's a look at "The Departed," the Pac-12's all-transfer, suspension and ineligible team:

Josh "Jiggy" Watkins, PG

What happened: After being suspended one game in December for being late for practice and sleeping through class, Utah's senior point guard was kicked off the team last week for similar issues.

Stat line: He averaged 15.6 points, tops on the team and fourth in the Pac-12.

Where he is now: Out of college eligibility.

Replaced by: Freshman Kareem Storey, who started and averaged 30.5 minutes the past two games.

They said it: "The integrity of our program as a whole cannot be sacrificed for any individual. The well-being of our program will always come first. - Coach Larry Krystkowiak, in a statement

Jabari Brown, SG

What happened: After just two games of his freshman season, the five-star recruit left the Oregon Ducks despite serving as the team's starter. He led the Ducks in scoring during five summer games overseas.

Stat line: He averaged six points on 27 percent shooting in two games.

Where he is now: He signed with Missouri and will be eligible to play in December.

Replaced by: Devoe Joseph, who became eligible in December and has starred for Oregon.

They said it: "I will say it up front: I don't want him to leave. The door is still open." - Coach Dana Altman, to the Oregonian

Keala King, SF

What happened: After being left at home during the Los Angeles trip for attitude issues, King was kicked off the Sun Devils last month. King, a wing by trade, had served as the team's starting point guard after Jahii Carson was ruled ineligible. (We won't count Carson as part of our team, because his status never changed in-season.)

Stat line: King averaged 13.7 points, 10 more than last season, with 4.9 rebounds and 3.3 assists.

Where he is now: King said on Twitter he enrolled at Long Beach State.

Replaced by: Trent Lockett, another small forward that moved to point guard in his place before getting injured.

They said it: "We spend a lot of time together, and in the final analysis, it just seemed to me that it made great sense for our program and for Keala, that we had a new beginning. That's never an easy decision when you're wrestling with a young man's future. That's an agonizing process." - Sendek, to the Arizona Republic

Reeves Nelson, PF

What happened: Nelson, who appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated's Western basketball preview magazine, was dismissed by coach Ben Howland after being suspended twice earlier in the season for insubordination. In a loss to Texas, he was benched for the second half, yet laughed and smirked.

Stat line: The junior averaged 5.7 points and 4.5 rebounds this year but scored 13.9 points per game last season.

Where he is now: He has played seven games for Zalgiris Kauna, a pro team in Lithuania.

Replaced by: Nelson's departure from a crowded frontcourt opened playing time for David and Travis Wear, who combine to average 21.9 points.

They said it: "After much thought and deliberation, I have made the decision to dismiss Reeves Nelson from the UCLA men's basketball team effective immediately." - Howland in a statement

Richard Solomon, C

What happened: On Jan. 18, Solomon was ruled academically ineligible. Coach Mike Montgomery said he hoped Solomon would return next season after improving his grades. He was suspended Dec. 4 for "conduct detrimental to athletic department values."

Stat line: He averaged six points and 6.2 rebounds in 13 games, eight as a starter.

Where he is now: He is still enrolled at Cal.

Replaced by: After not playing more than 13 minutes per game all year, forward Robert Thurman averaged 19 last week.

They said it: "We had depth issue to start with. We were concerned about our depth. When Richard came up ineligible, that put a lot of stress on a lot of the seams." - Montgomery

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