Smith braces for Seattle slew

Joshua Smith may be big and tall and loveable, the Panda Express, still smiling a shy smile at the tender age of 18, but that does not make him immune to pain.

He has grown even thicker skin because of the torrents of taunts that have been tossed his way, but it is a constant battle, and it’s about to get worse.

The UCLA freshman center, who hails from Kent, Wash., heads to Washington’s Hec Arena for the first time tomorow night. He’s anticipating a downpour of hatred from Husky fans who still think that the hulking center spurned them for the hated Bruins.

He’s seen it before, many times, especially the treatment of Seattle-born point guard Aaron Brooks, who became a star for the Oregon Ducks. UCLA fans have seen it before, too, in the accosting of Oregon-bred Kevin Love, who was vilified in his lone appearance in Eugene.

“I remember going to Oregon games when Aaron (Brooks) used to come back up and just how tough it was for him,” Smith said. “But it’s nothing to be scared of. … In their opinion, I’m a traitor, I’m this and I’m that. I made the decision that I thought was best for me, and I’m still sticking to it. I love it down here.”

Smith has grown accustomed to the heckling of opposing fans, but it’s taken some time.
Earlier this season he was roasted by USC fans at the Galen Center, heard chants of “Jenny Craig!” at Arizona and felt the brunt of criticism at Cal and Stanford.

Shylock had the right idea: If you prick him, does he not bleed? If you tickle him, does he not laugh? If you poison him, does he not die? And if you wrong him, shall he not revenge?

And revenge he has.

Smith has learned to channel the anger into production, as he has become one of the Pac-10′s most dominant big men in recent weeks.

Including his 17-point performance in UCLA’s 71-49 win over Arizona on Saturday at Pauley Pavilion, Smith has scored in double-figures in 10-of-13 games for the streaking Bruins, who won 11 of those games, following a two-game slide to Washington and at USC.

It was in the loss to the Trojans on Jan. 9 that Smith snapped from the scoffing, waving a middle finger at a USC fan and lambasting the referees for what he perceived as ill treatment, an outburst that brought a public reprimand from the Pac-10.

“I remember the USC game pretty well; there was some dude who just kept talking and talking,” Smith said. “I really let it affect me. This won’t affect me at all. It’s just maturity. Fans are like that, they try to say whatever they can to get you under. On the road, all you should care about is the family and friends you have there, your teammates and your coaches. That’s all that matters.”

Howland needed to have a talk with his gifted but fragile center after that game, and it’s been relatively smooth sailing since then. Smith has mentioned the foul issues less and less – perhaps not coincidentally, he has four-or-more fouls in just three of his last 12 games – and he seems to be tuning fans out better.

“I’ve talked to him a little bit already,” Howland said. “He’s had some inappropriate things hurled at him on the road already at a number of places we’ve been to. This is the last two regular season games of the year, and he’s going home. He’s got a lot of friends and family in the Seattle area. He’s a big deal, both figuratively and literally.”

Only one thing concerns Smith as he braces himself for what is sure to be a hurricane of jeers.

“The last thing I need is to look up there and see my mom trying to tell the whole student section to shut up,” Smith joked on Tuesday.

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  • Reformed Droog

    Jenny Craig’s post game was weak…

  • Anonymous

    The game is tonight?

  • UB (Ultimate Bruin)

    No, the game is tomorrow night. But the post by Jon is a “preview” of what will run tomorrow. At least that is my assumption because this has been the explanation in the past.

  • KingOfLA

    if you prick him he bleeds cookie dough.

  • BRUINBEATCH

    I see we have some classless troll visitors today.

  • anonymous

    Kevin Love vilified Oregon with twenty six points and eighteen rebounds.
    “If you guys win, we’ll come to your house and kill your family” was a message left on Love’s phone before the game.

    Joshua Smith went for fifteen and six against USC.

    Brilliant strategy.

  • Warren

    Is Joshua Smith’s new nickname “the Panda Express?”

  • http://www.insidesocal.com/ucla Jon Gold

    It is in my book. What do you think?

  • BigBear

    Big Bear is from Kent, WA and went to Kentwood high school.

    PS my vote is for “Big Bear” or my personal fav “J-Bone”

  • BruinFaithful

    Don’t know if I like the Panda Express. I thought Panda’s were supposed to be cute and cuddly. I don’t think that’s what I want out of Josh.

    Anybody have any idea what kind of stuff they were saying about Josh? What was SUC saying?

    I think K Love had to deal with much worse up at OU. What a classless bunch.

  • http://www.insidesocal.com/ucla Jon Gold

    Good catch on the Kent/Kentwood thing. Thanks.

  • James Kim

    Sorry Josh but Husky fans were more upset that Terrence Jones didn’t sign with UW not you. In fact almost all UW fans wished you well down in LA and thought Ben Howland’s system fit your game more than Romar’s. But if you need to use this as motivation then more power to you.

  • BruinFaithful

    Looks like UCLA’s RPI is going to take a hit because of BYU’s impending dive. Man did they look horrible without that Davies kid. I can’t believe they dismissed him for having sex with his GF. UNREAL!!!! The joys of going to a Mormon School.

    You kidding me? So, about 90% of the school should be dismissed? How about the coaches? Do they get fired if they have pre-marital or extra marital sex?

    Anybody know if they have a similar rule at other private religious colleges, such as the Catholic Schools like Notre Dame, St. John’s, and Villanova.

  • CrouchingBruin

    Washington is an 8.5 point favorite tonight. Seems awfully high, even if it is at their place.

  • BruinFaithful

    8.5 pts? WOW!!!! You would think we lost a key player. That is incredibly high, especially considering how bad they have been playing.

    They really haven’t beaten anybody at home, besides Arizona and they are 13-1 at home, with their only home loss coming to Wazzu last week.

  • FG

    I would not expect Smith to get too much of a negative reception.

    Having watched this season unfold, I think it’s clear he’s a much better match for UCLA, and vice versa. I think he’ll be much more successful there than he would have been at UW.

    It is always tremendously disappointing when a local Mcdonald’s All-american spurns the UW, but he really is a better fit for UCLA. Good luck to him and the Bruins, except when they play UW.

    As for “Panda Express,” if I was huge young man with significant trouble controlling my weight and my bodyfat percentage, I would not want a local beat reporter nicknaming me after an asian fastfood chain commonly found in shopping mall food courts. But that’s just me…