Oh, to long for the days when your program's biggest problem is that your big-bodied center added a few unwanted pounds in the offseason. How quickly such matters can seem trivial.
The travails of Jerime Anderson are far more serious. On Wednesday, UCLA announced that it had indefinitely suspended Anderson following his arrest Tuesday night on suspicion of grand theft. UCLA police arrested Anderson on campus in connection with a stolen laptop. According to UCLA's release, the sixth man will be excluded from all team activities and won't play in the team's first game Nov. 11 versus Loyola Marymount. Pending the outcome, Anderson's suspension could extend well into the 2012 season; his "status with the team will be re-evaluated as the legal process continues," according to the release.
Needless to say, Ben Howland is not exactly pleased about this development. How do I know? Because it's not often you can find actual disappointment behind a canned news release quote. In this case, though, it's there:
"This is a disappointing and unfortunate situation for Jerime," coach Ben Howland said in a statement. "We have a high standard and code of conduct that our student-athletes are expected to follow. He knows that he has made a huge mistake and that he has not represented himself, our program or UCLA in a manner that is required."
Beyond the various outside issues -- no program, especially one with a deeply respected tradition like UCLA, wants to be a place where basketball players go around stealing laptops -- Anderson's suspension will also hurt the Bruins on the floor. The guard had morphed into a quality sixth man as UCLA improved late in 2011, and with Malcolm Lee and Tyler Honeycutt gone to the NBA, Anderson was expected to assume a much larger role in the Bruins's lineup. That role is now in jeopardy, and Howland will be forced to rely on some combination of little-used sophomore Tyler Lamb and incoming freshman Norman Powell to play alongside senior Lazeric Jones in the backcourt.
It's hardly a season-killer, but it is a body blow, one of those unplanned lineup hits that simultaneously hurts your team and damages the perception of a program at the same time. Suddenly, 10 more pounds of Josh Smith doesn't seem like such a big deal.