Pac-12 Senior Days: The Wear Twins at UCLAPosted by AMurawa on March 3rd, 2014
I’ve been thinking about how to write a piece on the college careers of the Wear twins for several days now, and, well, it just isn’t coming to me, so I’ll just start writing and see what happens. You see, it’s hard. This is supposed to be a piece honoring their college careers, looking back fondly on what they’ve accomplished, but it is no secret that there are many – on both coasts – who view this pair of former McDonald’s All-Americans as disappointments in college. So this is an exercise in balancing honesty about their faults with optimism about their accomplishments.
Because, really, when you get right down to it, measured up against even most high-major recruits, the Wear twins have had strong careers. (Now is as good of a time as any to apologize to David and Travis for probably never having written their first names in the past three years, but rather just referring to them as The Twins. They’ve been judged not as individuals, but as a singular entity, and that probably won’t change much here either.) Combined, they’ve started 144 of the 242 games in which they’ve played. They’ve each put up offensive ratings over 100.0 for the final three years of their career. And they’ve never caused trouble and generally always done whatever it is their coaches asked them to do. And yet, for some reason, from sea to shining sea, from blue-blood program North Carolina to blue-blood program UCLA, fans remain disappointed in the Wears’ production.
Yes, a lot of this goes back to expectations. The pair signed with the Tar Heels as part of a big-time 2009 recruiting class that was ranked second in the nation at the time. You heard recruiting analysts talk about their strong basketball IQ and their ability to score either by knocking down face-up jumpers or back-to-the basket post moves. And largely those things have panned out. But what you didn’t see in those scouting reports were glowing descriptions of strong, athletic power forwards who were amazing rebounders and shut-down defenders. Those traits that were absent on the scouting reports have been largely absent on the floor for their college careers. What the Wears do well, they do well; but there are simply limits to what they can do, period. They don’t have jump-out-of-the-gym ability; they’re not inherently physical; their hands are on the smaller side and not particularly strong. But for the past three years at UCLA, they’ve been about the only consistent options the Bruins have had up front. So while they’ve been strong at knocking in face-up jumpers and setting picks and getting into good position, Bruin fans have wanted them to also play the role of the physical frontcourt specimens that you see on most major college basketball teams. That ain’t the Wears. And it isn’t their fault that that isn’t who they are. If anything, it is the fault of the program’s recruiting that UCLA has been left with a pair of stretch fours as the sole interior option for a team with national power aspirations. The Wears subsequently take the blame, without so much as a complaint.
See, here’s the thing. In five years, the Wears have played four seasons of college basketball. They’ve played those seasons under three different head coaches in three different home arenas and have been asked to do entirely different things in each of those four years. Under Roy Williams as freshmen, they were bit players getting few minutes and limited offensive chances on a team with a pair of future lottery picks among the crowded frontcourt in Chapel Hill. After a season of frustration and homesickness 2,500 miles from home, they decided to come back and play at UCLA. They returned one year later as part of the ill-fated 2011-12 UCLA squad, with such luminaries as Reeves Nelson, Joshua Smith and Anthony Stover among their frontcourt partners. In that year, with Bruins’ home games played at the Los Angeles Sports Arena, the Wears had the best year of their careers – sporting high efficiency numbers and solid rebounding tallies, with Travis in particular called on to use 21 percent of the team’s possessions, with plenty of those in and around the paint. It was a year to build on for both of the twins.
But last year, with Shabazz Muhammad, Kyle Anderson, Jordan Adams, Tony Parker and even Larry Drew Jr. coming aboard, it was a completely different team for which head coach Ben Howland envisioned different roles for them. Instead of hitting the offensive glass and scoring around the paint, the Wears turned into face-up guys on offense. Their offensive rebounding numbers dove as they were called upon to spend more time spacing the floor to clear out the middle for their talented young teammates. Still, plays were run for them with Drew in particular finding them in position as they spotted up.
And then this season, new head coach Steve Alford saw another completely different role for the pair. They’re using fewer possessions and a greater percentage of their own possessions on shots from behind the arc; in essence, they have returned to being role players, albeit with far larger roles and importance. Long before Travis hit David on a three-quarter court pass for an improbable three at the buzzer against Oregon last Thursday night to force overtime, it became clear that the Wears were going to have a large impact on the eventual success – or lack thereof – of this team come March. There’s no doubt that at the point guard and wing positions there is enough talent on this team to go very deep into the NCAA Tournament. The Wears don’t have to be spectacular to achieve that goal, but they have to be solid. They have to be seniors who know their roles and are able to fulfill them. They have to stand up to bigger, stronger, more athletic frontcourt players and face them down with the strengths that they’ve developed over their years in college. If they do those things, you can bet that when they take off that UCLA jersey for the last time sometime in the next few weeks, Bruins fans will have come to appreciate them a little more. There’s no chance that the Wears will go down in anyone’s minds (outside of family and close friends) as the most beloved Bruins ever, but there are still plenty of chances for this much-maligned pair to go out as well-respected.