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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Young studs shine in SoCal sun

    Opponent Analysis

    They arrived at college with Hollywood-sized shoes to fill at their respective southern California schools.

    Freshmen Jrue Holiday of UCLA and Demar DeRozan of USC inherited the reigns, anticipated – expected – to wow America’s big city of A-list celebrities.

    After all, it’s easy to draw comparisons and anticipate the second coming of last year’s freshmen stars. Kevin Love of UCLA and O.J. Mayo of USC took not only the league by storm, but drew a national buzz and greater respect for the Pacific 10 Conference.

    Both eventually declared for the 2008 NBA Draft in today’s hottest trend of one-and-done college basketball superstars. As top-5 draft selections, Love and Mayo wore glamorous and gaudy wristwatches in New York, representing the West Coast’s flashy surge for the 2007-08 season.

    In wake of last year’s success, the anticipation for Holiday and DeRozan skyrocketed as LA’s fresh batch of nationally prized recruits.

    “”Me and him go way back,”” DeRozan said in a phone interview with the Wildcat on Wednesday evening. “”We’re doing real good. Me and Jrue had a chance to talk to each other when we played Sunday.””

    Homegrown southern California ballers, Holiday and DeRozan faced off Sunday in their first head-to-head matchup at the college level. After spending years together on the AAU circuit, Holiday felt comfortable enough to take on DeRozan in the Galen Center.

    So comfortable, in fact, that an ambitious Holiday wanted a mid-game adjustment.

    DeRozan rolled all over the Bruins early on; UCLA’s Josh Shipp and Michael Roll struggled to contain the 6-foot-7 off-ball guard.

    Then, during a timeout with roughly five minutes to play in the first half, Holiday had seen enough.

    “”Switch me on. I want to guard him. I want to take on the challenge,”” Holiday reportedly said to UCLA head coach Ben Howland.

    Holiday held DeRozan to just four points the remainder of the game, leading his No. 9 Bruins to a 64-60 victory.

    “”(DeRozan) was killing us, and Jrue came over and said, ‘I want him,'”” Howland said in a news conference after the game. “”What that tells me is he was going to take it personally.””

    Added Holiday after the game: “”For them to win, (DeRozan) has to take over more. I’ve played against him so many times. It’s more comfortable.””

    It was a bold statement from a freshman without a bold ego. Holiday, the reigning Gatorade Player of the Year, was recently described as humble and gentle by his high school coach, Terry Kelly of Campbell (Calif.) High.

    “”He has a lot of responsibility on his plate for being just a freshmen,”” said Howland in Tuesday’s Pac-10 weekly teleconference. “”He’s handled it unbelievably well. He’s a lot further ahead than most freshmen I’ve ever coached.””

    Even further ahead than Love, the first freshman to win Pac-10 Player of the Year? Further than Love’s 17.5 points and 10.6 rebounds per game?

    But it’s a different UCLA offense this season, less concentrated around one single scorer (Love) and more focused on a well-balanced attack. With All-American talent like point guard Darren Collison (15.2 points and 5.5 assists per game) and a versatile swingman Josh Shipp (11.7 points), the Bruins don’t rely on just one factor.

    Holiday averages 10.5 points and 3.9 rebounds thus far.

    “”UCLA’s gonna have a top recruiting class every year,”” said UA interim head coach Russ Pennell. “”If they’re not in the top five or six each year, they must not have needed any players. They can get about who they want with their tradition. Ben Howland is doing a nice job, obviously.””

    Like Holiday, DeRozan is striving to shed the comparisons to last season’s All-conference figure.

    And like Holiday, DeRozan sits third on his team in scoring. He’s behind Taj Gibson (15.3 points and 10.3 rebonds per game) and Dwight Lewis (15.3 ppg).

    DeRozan averages 12.0 points and 5.0 rebounds in primarily a small forward role.

    “”People drew the comparisons to O.J. which are unfair,”” USC head coach Tim Floyd said in Tuesday’s Pac-10 weekly teleconference. “”He has gotten so much better in half-court settings as far as coming off screens, knowing when to drive and when not to drive.””

    Added DeRozan: “”Especially at a school like this, you play sports, of course you’re going to get a lot of attention and everything, but you just treat it and offer no mind to it. I’m coming in, just taking everything from coach and from college basketball that I can and just learning from it.””

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