Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Battle For Center Spot Begins At Practice

By Bruin Basketball Report

Entering the final two weeks of the Pac-10 season, the Bruins remain unsettled at the center position.

Sophomore Lorenzo Mata played well enough in the early part of the season to earn the starting job until he was injured during the Washington St. game in January.

Upon his return from a groin injury, a renewed senior Ryan Hollins started at the five spot and provided the team with solid rebounding and defense, but over the last two games he seems to have lost focus and has resorted to bad habits.

Hollins scored no points and had four rebounds in 22 minutes of play against the Trojans. "I probably could have applied myself more," Hollins said. "I could have gotten more offensive rebounds, set more screens."

With the team struggling on offense, the coaching staff has been stressing to their big men the need to set more screens.

Using Ryan Hollins and the USC game as an example, Howland said. "We counted thirty-four opportunities he (Hollins) had to set a screen, but he only set nine screens of which five were good. Nine of out thirty-four is not a good screening percentage."

The effectiveness of the Bruin's half-court offense is predicated on their big men setting body-crunching screens.

"If we don't make good contact on the screens and hit the guard then we don't create mis-matches", Howland said. "Its not easy to set a screen. You know you're going to get hit, and you have to be tough and take it."

It's the lack of toughness at the center position which has Howland most concerned at this moment. He needs to learn which of his frontline players are going to step up during the final stretch run to the tournament.

"The starting center this week will be the player who performs best over the next two practices", Howland said.

"We have four players who will be competing for the starting spot; Alfred Aboya, Ryan Wright, Ryan Hollins and Michael Fey", said Howland. "We're going to base their performance at practice on rebounding, screening percentage, and block outs."

Freshman Alfred Aboya, who has been playing with a sore knee, has been getting a lot minutes at center, and perhaps is the front-runner at this point. He is active inside defensively and willing to give up his body; however besides his knee injury, a hip flexor may hamper him this week.

Against Washington he played a season-high 31 minutes scoring 15 points and grabbing 8 rebounds. "Alfred is the best of our bigs at catching the ball inside and scoring", Howland said.

Freshman Ryan Wright has struggled since the beginning of the Pac-10 season averaging only 2.5 points and 1.4 rebounds. He has only played a combined 9 minutes over the last two games.

In addition to Wright's scoring and rebounding woes, he frequently gets loss on defense and lacks defensive awareness at this point in his young career. Unless Wright can improve his defense in the next couple of games, his time to contribute may come next season.

Senior Michael Fey will have a shot to increase his playing time as well. Since his return from a severe ankle sprain, he has played a total of only four minutes in three games.

Despite having good physical size, Fey has not shown the willingness to bang bodies nor be a tough defensive presence inside, but he has shown the ability to score inside in the past, last year, Fey averaged 8.6 points per game.

"I'm just trying to keep my head up and stay positive," Fey said. "That's all I can do. I'm trying to go out in practice and get my minutes back."

And it will be at the next few practices where a decision will be made on the starting center this week.

Let the battle begin!



Post a Comment

<< Back To Bruin Basketball Report Home