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Unruly Times At UCLA

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SI says Gordon among players who used marijuana, alcohol

A story in the March 5 issue of Sports Illustrated detailing the decline of the UCLA men’s basketball program said current Lobos center Drew Gordon and several of his former Bruin teammates “partied … regularly drank alcohol and smoked marijuana, sometimes before practice.”

SI’s sources were more than a dozen unnamed players and staff members of the past four UCLA teams. The story, which was headlined, “Not the UCLA Way,” described how coach Ben Howland has lost control of the once-proud program that has struggled to live up to its storied history.

   

6-9 senior center, San Jose, Calif.
Avg. Avg. Year School Pts. Rebs. Other 2008-09 UCLA 3.6 3.4 Played in 34 games 2009-10 UCLA 11.2 5.3 Played in 6 games; transferred 2010-11 UNM 13.0 10.5 23 boards vs. Utah tied Pit mark 2011-12 UNM 12.6 10.9 27 pts., 20 rebs. vs. No. 11 UNLV
   

Many in the story criticized Howland for failing to discipline players for misbehaving on and off the court. Had he done so, they suggested, many of the players may have shaped up.

The story said Howland essentially kicked Gordon off the team when he left UCLA for New Mexico in December 2009. It quoted players as saying the reason was not because of Gordon’s alleged partying ways, but because “Gordon was the rare player who second-guessed Howland’s coaching,” both in practice and to the media. Gordon played in six games for the Bruins as a sophomore that season.

Gordon, who scored 17 points had 11 rebounds in the Lobos’ 86-56 home victory over Air Force on Wednesday (see story on this page), said he would not comment in detail on the SI story at least until after UNM’s season concludes.

“We’ve got something to accomplish right now, and I’m not going to involve myself in that situation, that mess over there,” he said.

UNM coach Steve Alford said he had not yet seen the SI story. But he said Gordon, a 6-foot-9 senior center from San Jose, Calif., has been “an incredible player and person for us” and “a great teammate.”

“He took 23 hours in the fall – I have never had a player in 21 years take that many hours in the fall – and it was his best GPA. I told him he should take 23 hours every semester. He has done everything that we have asked him to do. All I can comment on is what has happened here. I have no idea what took place there in 2008.”

Gordon enrolled at UNM in January 2010. Just prior to that, his mother, Shelly Davis-Gordon, told the Journal that her son and Howland “never found a good connection.”

SI pointed out that several players, including Gordon, thrived after leaving the UCLA program.

UCLA officials issued a statement Wednesday saying the school would address issues and concerns.

“We take seriously any challenge to who we are and what we are about,” Chancellor Gene Block said, “and I am confident that any issues in our men’s basketball program will be rectified.”

Howland added: “Like everyone else, I am always looking forward to improving as both a person and as a coach. I am proud of the coaches, staff and student-athletes in our program, and I look forward to our future.”
— This article appeared on page D1 of the Albuquerque Journal

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