|Josh Smith has not been able to play up to his talent or keep his weight in check while at UCLA. (Getty Images)|
Ben Howland has lost a second player to transfer in less than a week, this in addition to coming off arguably the worst loss of his career at UCLA. Talented but troubled, and perpetually overweight, junior center Josh Smith is leaving, the school confirmed late Wednesday after Scout.com first reported the news.
"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 was not at UCLA's practice on Tuesday and informed the staff of his decision to leave Westwood on Wednesday. The coaches made their pleas for Smith to change course, but that won't be happening. Smith has also notified UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero of his intentions.
UCLA also lost junior guard Tyler Lamb to transfer over the weekend.
Smith has struggled with weight ever since arriving at UCLA and is seen as a talent who is held back by his off-court nutritional lifestyle. His conditioning has never allowed him to bloom into the NBA prospect he was forecast to be as a senior in high school, when he was a McDonald's All-American.
Smith's minutes have diminished each season, from 21.7 to 17.2 to 13.5 through six games this year, contributing as a bench player. His scoring average was also down to 5.2 points per game, as well as 4.2 rebounds per.
Overall, the two transfers and a home loss to Cal Poly have produced the latest melodrama for a UCLA program that's not been short of distractions over the past three seasons. UCLA has missed two of the past three NCAA tournaments after reaching three consecutive Final Fours from 2006-08. This past offseason, Howland and UCLA had to clear many hurdles to get highly coveted freshmen Kyle Anderson and Shabazz Muhammad eligible to play, amid distractions both players may have received improper benefits during the recruitment.
And player turnover and turmoil have been a pattern throughout, too. Reeves Nelson had an ugly divorce from the school last season. Smith's departure means Howland has had eight players transfer and three more dismissed from the program since the start of the 2008-09 season.