The best freshman from Los Angeles this season might be the one who could hardly be farther from home.
Consider Craig Smith, a lightly recruited 6-foot-7 forward from Fairfax High in that city who entered the weekend averaging 21.8 points and 8.5 rebounds for Boston College.
Smith is a guy who couldn't get much closer to playing in the McDonald's All-American Game his senior high school season than ordering a Quarter Pounder.
Now Smith and Carmelo Anthony of Syracuse are trading Big East rookie-of-the-week honors. Smith ranks 15th in the nation in scoring this week and was leading the Big East in field goal percentage at almost 63 percent.
"A lot of guys on the West Coast have told me, 'We missed one, Coach,' " said Fairfax High Coach Harvey Kitani, who tried in vain to make a match between Smith and a California school. "This kid could have helped a lot of people out here."
In fairness to some of those who passed on Smith, he didn't have a qualifying aptitude test score as a senior in 2001 and didn't become eligible until he went to a prep school near Boston, Worcester Academy, to shore up his academics last year.
Still, the only Southern California school to offer a scholarship was Cal State Fullerton. Everybody else took a pass on Smith.
"UCLA looked at me; I think I got one phone call," Smith said. "USC, I remember I saw Henry Bibby my senior year in high school and he said, 'I'm very interested,' and I said, 'I am, too.' He came to one of our practices, I think just to watch Evan. I went up to him and said hello, but that was about it.
"Oregon State was my first scholarship offer. Then [former coach Ritchie McKay] took it back because he said I was pudgy. It was kind of devastating.
"Al Skinner believed in me. He did take a chance on me. So far, so good."
Skinner, the Boston College coach, has found overlooked players before.
Boston College's Troy Bell, the nation's seventh-leading scorer, wasn't highly recruited. Nor was Cuttino Mobley, the Houston Rockets' guard who was recruited to Rhode Island by Skinner.
"I think it was just a case of Boston College doing a great job of seeing things in him, and then player development," Kitani said.
Oregon State's assessment that Smith was pudgy wasn't baseless.
"He had a lot of baby fat," Kitani said.
Smith said that after weighing as much as 272 pounds, he worked feverishly to trim down last summer and is playing at about 260.
"My body's changed tremendously. I have way less body fat, and I'm much quicker," he said. "I knew I'd have to be able to run the floor well like most big guys do in college.
"My body is more slim, more solid, more muscle. No more pudge."
In his first start for Boston College, Smith went 10 for 10 against St. Bonaventure and scored 27 points. In his second, he made all six of his shots. He has scored as many as 30 points in a game, against West Virginia, and had 16 rebounds against Providence.
He's the homegrown product who got away.
"I knew I'd be an X-factor, but not this big," Smith said.
Reprimand Not Uncommon
The nebulous probation issued to Bibby by Pacific-10 Conference Commissioner Tom Hansen for criticizing referees isn't unprecedented.
UCLA's Steve Lavin was put on probation in 2001 after a game at Oregon State when he gestured wildly to Lou Campanelli, the supervisor of basketball officials who was seated in the arena, after being upset by a call on the court.
Two years earlier, Lavin was given a private reprimand after he received two technicals and had to be restrained from going after referee Terry Christman during a game at Washington, and the Bruins' Baron Davis was put on probation for saying UCLA was "cheated" by Christman.
Last year, USC women's coach Chris Gobrecht was reprimanded and put on probation for criticizing officials after a UCLA game in which she received two technicals and was ejected.
None of those disciplinary actions resulted in further penalties.
Even after losing at No. 13 Illinois, 67-60, on Wednesday, Michigan is still at the top of the Big Ten standings at 6-1, and the Wolverines are 13-7 overall.
It's a stunning reversal for a team that started 0-6 and saw much of the program's recent glory wiped away in the NCAA scandal that brought down the Fab Five's Final Four banners.
"Anybody, maybe even [Michigan Coach Tommy Amaker], if they were to just spill their guts and be honest, yes, this has been a great run and a big surprise," Illinois Coach Bill Self said.
"Yet when you study their team, I'm not surprised at all. . . . Look at their three best players. Who in our league has three better players? I'm sure you can make a case for others, but Blanchard, Robinson and Horton are playing really well."
LaVell Blanchard, a senior forward, ranked fourth among Big Ten scorers this week at 17 points a game. Freshman point guard Daniel Horton was eighth at 15.9 points and junior forward Bernard Robinson Jr. was 19th at 12.6.
No matter where Michigan's season goes from here, it won't end in the NCAA tournament. The university already banned itself from postseason play as part of self-imposed sanctions in the NCAA scandal involving loans and gifts to players from illegal lottery operator Ed Martin.
The NCAA infractions committee meets next month in Miami to consider whether further penalties will be imposed, with a decision expected four to six weeks later.