Saturday, February 25, 2006

UCLA vs. Oregon - Game Preview

By Bruin Basketball Report

The No. 17 ranked UCLA Bruins take on the Oregon Ducks in a Sunday afternoon matinee Pac-10 conference game at Pauley Pavilion.

After routing the Oregon St. Beavers on Thursday, 78-60, the Bruins hope to be back on track after snapping their only two-game losing streak of the season.

UCLA (21-6, 11-4) scored 52 points on 75% field goal shooting in the second half to pull away from the Beavers.

"What a great second half," Howland said. "I can't wait to go watch that again. I'm sorry the last game of the season at Pauley is coming up Sunday. This is fun. I wish it was still December."

While the Bruins were defeating the Beavers in Westwood, the Ducks were at the Sports Arena facing the Trojans in a game with important implications to the upcoming Pac-10 tournament.

The Ducks (13-15, 7-9) and Trojans are battling for sixth spot in the conference. Teams 1st through sixth get a bye while teams in seventh through tenth play in first round games.

At the Sports Arena on Thursday, the Ducks Aaron Brooks scored a season-high 20 points and Malik Hairston scored 12 of his 18 points in the final twelve minutes of the game to lead Oregon to a 73-61 victory, their second in a row. The Ducks are now only 0.5 game behind the Trojans for sixth place.

In the last meeting at Eugene, the Bruins cruised to a 56-49 victory. Arron Afflalo, with help from some double-teams, held Hairston to only 6 points on 3-8 shooting. The Ducks were held to just 32% shooting in the game.

Since the Bruin game, the Ducks have played well although their record does not reflect it. In the last nine games, Oregon is 3-6 but has lost by only an average margin of 3.5 points a game.

Sophomore Malik Hairston (6’6, 200) is the quiet leader of the Ducks averaging 14.9 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. He is shooting well this year hitting at 48% from the field and 41% on three-pointers.

Oregon’s sophomore wing Bryce Taylor suffered a hyper-extended knee injury on February 6 and is doubtful for Sunday’s game. Taylor was the Duck’s third leading scorer at 9.3 points per game.

Another Oregon sophomore, Chamberlain Oguchi (6’5, 195) has been playing extremely well since he was inserted in the starting line-up in place of Taylor. Oguchi is averaging 17.8 points in his last five games and has made 23 three-pointers in this span.

Oguchi gives the Ducks another scorer which the Bruin defenders need to concentrate on which may give Hairston more room to operate.

In the last game, the Bruins doubled Hairston whenever he touched the ball within 20 feet of the basket. We’ll likely see Afflalo and Cedric Bozeman switch off on assignments throughout the game and see time against both Hairston and Oguchi.

Howland has been giving Afflalo, who usually guards the opponent’s best offensive player, breaks on the defensive end by switching Bozeman onto his man. The Bruins rely heavily on Afflalo’s offense as well; he leads the team in scoring at 16.9 points per game.

The Duck’s starting point guard, Aaron Brooks, has had a difficult and inconsistent season. He is averaging 11.2 points per game but shooting barely 40% from the field and only 32% from beyond the three-point arc. In his last ten games, he has scored in double figures only three times.

In the last contest, Farmar did a good job on Brooks holding him to 8 points on 3-10 shooting. Farmar also made two key steals on Brooks late in the game which he converted into scores to key the Bruin’s last victory.

Sophomore Ray Schafer (7’0, 235) has been giving the Ducks quality minutes in the middle. He scored 13 points on 6 of 8 shooting against the Trojans.

The coach’s son, Jordan Kent, completes Oregon’s starting five. Although he is not a big scorer, he is the glue on the team, the player who does all the little things which can make a team successful.

Maarty Leunen (6’9, 215) has been coming off the bench lately. He still is the Duck’s leading rebounder at 6.6 and also averages 7.4 points per game.

Also coming off the bench is junior college transfer Ivan Johnson (6’8, 255), a bruising power forward, and who has had a tumultuous year at Oregon. He has been suspended for a few games this season due to his conduct. He is averaging 7.8 points and 3.1 rebounds per game.

The Ducks have been playing solid defense this year, and can match the Bruin’s athleticism.

UCLA’s offense was more fluid in the second half with the players sharing the ball around the court, including inside the paint.

"This is the most fun I've had playing as a Bruin," said Afflalo, who finished with 20 points with 13 coming in the Bruin’s second half spurt.

The Bruins hope to have fun again on Sunday, and come away with another victory.

UCLA is tied for first place in the Pac-10 conference with California. The Bears face a tough match-up on Sunday against the No. 19 ranked Washington Huskies in Seattle.


Friday, February 24, 2006

Watson Returns to Seattle, Ariza To Orlando

By Bruin Basketball Report

Two former Bruins were dealt before the NBA trading deadline yesterday.

After months of endless speculation, former UCLA star Earl Watson was traded from the Denver Nuggets to the Seattle Sonics in a four-team swap.

Watson was initially drafted by the Sonics as a second round pick (No.40 overall) in 2001. He signed with Memphis in 2002 and played with the Grizzlies for three seasons.

This summer Watson signed a five-year, $29 million deal with the Nuggets. Despite being praised for his work effort, Watson never fit comfortably in the guard rotation which already included two other points guards, Earl Boykins and Andre Miller.

"Watson's a competitor defensively and we can definitely use the help there," Sonics general manager Rick Sund said. "We really liked him as a rookie and didn't want to lose him. We're glad to have him back."

Watson was averaging 7.5 points and 3.5 assists per game in 21 minutes for the Nuggets this season. He was also shooting 40% on three-pointers.

Earlier in the week, former Bruin forward Trevor Ariza was dealt along with Penny Hardaway by the New York Knicks to the Orlando Magic for all-star Steve Francis.

Ariza was drafted by the Knicks in the second round (No.43 overall) in 2004. He has clashed with new Knick's head coach Larry Brown this season and his playing time has been inconsistent. He was averaging 4.6 points and 3.8 rebounds per game in 19.7 minutes.

"A new start is always good," Ariza said. "But I'll miss those guys. That was my first NBA experience. There's always going to be some love there."


Farmar Ignites Second Half Rally Against Beavers

By Bruin Basketball Report

Box Score

It took twenty minutes and a six point halftime deficit before the Bruins finally awoke from their hibernation.

Jordan Farmar scored 17 of his 21 points in the second half to spark the 17th ranked Bruins to a 78-60 win over the Oregon State (OSU) Beavers at Pauley Pavilion.

Similar to the game against the Trojans on Sunday, the Bruins (21-6, 11-4) started off slowly against the Beavers (11-16, 4-12) as OSU jumped out to an 8-0 lead in the opening minutes.

Despite a game plan to get the ball inside more often, UCLA's first three out of four field goal attempts were long jumpers. For the half, the Bruins shot only 37.5% from the field and 1-7 (14.3%) on three-pointers

Once again the Bruins had difficulty scoring against a zone defense with most of their scores coming while the Beavers were in a man-to-man defense.

UCLA’s own defense was no better allowing open jumpers and easy lay-ups. OSU scored two lay-ups in the opening two minutes of the game.

The Beavers shot 48.3% from the field on their way to a 32-26 first half lead over the Bruins.

At halftime the Bruins had a players-only meeting. "We talked about how we had been underachieving," Farmar said. "We didn't want to go out like that.”

To start the second half, the Bruins came out of the locker room determined to play with intensity and energy - and they were led by their team leader, Jordan Farmar.

Farmar hit two three-pointer and assisted on two others to put the Bruins ahead 38-37 in the opening minutes of the half, then his teammates followed Farmar's lead.

The Bruins scored 52 points in the second half, doubling their first half output. They shot a sizzling 75% (18-24) from the field and hit on 69% of three-pointers (9-13) in the second half.

OSU head coach Jay John helped the Bruins by playing primarily man-to-man defense in the second half despite the effectiveness of their zone in the first half against the Bruins.

UCLA went on a 33-11 run to finish the game to snap its only two-game losing streak of the season.

Senior center Michael Fey started his first game of the season and finished with 1 point, 3 rebounds, and 1 blocked shot in just 7 minutes of play.

Coach Ben Howland put the starting center position up for grabs this week after disappointing efforts by Ryan Hollins in the previous two games. The player who practiced best was to start against OSU. Fey won the starting spot, but Hollins played the most minutes in the game.

Hollins played inspired ball, and although he scored only 4 points, he grabbed 6 defensive rebounds and was active defensively in the paint.

Sophomore guard Arron Afflalo added 20 points (6-11) with 13 of his points coming in the second half as well.

UCLA also got offensive support from freshmen Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Darren Collison who scored 9 points apiece.

Freshman Alfred Aboya scored 5 points and grabbed 5 rebounds while playing primarily from the power forward position. He was questionable due to a left hip flexor injury suffered during practice, but he was able to play 13 minutes in this contest.

The Bruins out-rebounded the Beavers 32-20; and committed only 12 turnovers in the game. After committing 5 in his last game against the Trojans, Farmar only had 2 against OSU.

OSU's Sasha Cuic, who scored 24 points against UCLA in the previous meeting at Corvallis, was hampered by foul trouble and Bruin double-team coverage. He finished with only 6 points. Nick DeWitz led all Beaver scorers with 14 points.

After horrendous free throw shooting in their previous two losses, the Bruins shot 82% (14-17) in this game. Alternatively, the Beavers shot only a single foul shot in the entire game.

With the win UCLA remains in a first place tie with California in the Pac-10 conference. The Bears beat the WSU Cougars 43-41 earlier in day to keep pace with the Bruins.

UCLA plays the Oregon Ducks on Sunday. It is the last game of the season at Pauley Pavilion, and it will be Senior Day.

Notes: A UCLA student made a shot from mid-court during the halftime shoot-out contest Thursday night at Pauley Pavilion to win free tuition and school books for a year.


(photo credit: AP)

Thursday, February 23, 2006

UCLA vs. Oregon State - Game Preview

By Bruin Basketball Report

The No.17 ranked UCLA Bruins play host to the Oregon State (OSU) Beavers at Pauley Pavilion Thursday night.

UCLA is heavily favored in the game, but the Bruins know they can not take any game in the Pac-10 for granted, especially with just four games remaining.

“We have a young team," UCLA coach Ben Howland said. "We can beat anybody and anybody can beat us. We could lose the rest of our games or win the rest of our games."

The team will need to bounce back from their unmotivated play against USC on Sunday. UCLA, the top-ranked defensive team in the conference, allowed USC to shoot 56% from the field on their way to a 71-68 upset loss.

The Beavers come into Pauley only 1-8 in their last nine games, and are challenging Arizona St. for last place in the Pac-10 with a 4-11 Pac-10 record, 11-15 overall. OSU has struggled since they lost their senior point guard Lamar Hurd after he suffered a severe groin injury. OSU is 2-9 since the injury to Hurd.

OSU head coach Jay John considers Hurd the leader of the team who holds them together especially on offense, and without him they’ve struggled.

In the team’s last meeting in Corvallis on January 28, the Bruins had one of their best defensive efforts of the year holding OSU to just 35.4% shooting. At halftime OSU trailed by only one point, but UCLA started the second half with a 13-4 run and never looked back. The Bruin’s physical play took its toll on the OSU players.

"You've got to credit them for what they do to people," OSU coach Jay John said. "They run you down with their defense."

It is this of level intensity on both the offensive and defensive ends of the court which the Bruins need as they head into tournament play.

“We’re going to have a real good practice today”, Howland said at yesterday’s press conference, “in terms of intensity and competitiveness.”

Howland expects his team to regain their edge which helped them to a 20-6 overall record, 10-4 in the conference, and first place in the Pac-10 tied with California.

“When you lose”, Howland said, “the important part is how you react, how you respond to adversity”.

The Bruins get their first chance to show what they’re made of against a struggling OSU team, but no one is struggling more on the team than Chris Stephens.

Stephens (Sr, 6’2, 195) entered the last game against UCLA as OSU's leading scorer at 14.5 points per game, shooting 51% from the field, and 48% on 3-pointer, but he has fallen off dramatically since.

One might call it the “Afflalo Effect”.

In the last game, Arron Afflalo completely locked down Stephens and held him to only 4 points. Since then, Stephens has not scored in double-digits in any game averaging only 5.1 points, 19% from the field, and a meager 10.5% from beyond the 3-point arc. Against Washington, John tried starting Stephens off the bench.

While Stephens’ basketball star has fallen in Corvallis, European import Sasha Cuic’s has risen.

Cuic (So, 6’10, 253) has averaged 19.8 points over his last seven games and now leads the Beavers in scoring at 13.5 points per game and shoots 49% from the field. He also shoots extremely well on three-pointers hitting at 51.7%. Against UCLA in Corvallis, he scored a then career-high 24 points.

Cuic has a decent inside game but he is most effective stepping outside and hitting from the perimeter. He was particularly effective against the Bruins on screen an pops where he would step outside after setting a screen and then hit a long jumper, but the Beavers did not exploit this often in the last game; however, we may see OSU use this more on Thursday.

Senior Nick DeWitz, (6’8, 230) had one of his worst career games against UCLA in January. In 26 minutes he scored only four points on 1-5 shooting. He did not start the game against UCLA after missing a team meeting earlier in the day.

DeWitz is averaging 11.5 points and 4.9 rebounds a game. He also leads the Pac-10 in blocked shots with 2.2 per game.

The OSU frontline also includes Kyle Jeffers (Jr, 6’9, 258) at center. Jeffers is a good interior defender, and he averages 6.2 points and 4.2 rebounds.

Sophomore Marcel Jones (6’8, 215) has been coming off the bench the last few games but still leads the team in rebounding at 6.8 and also contributes 8.4 points per game.

With a big frontline, which includes two big men, Cuic and DeWitz, with good outside shooting touches, OSU creates a potentially tough match-up for the Bruins.

Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Cedric Bozeman will likely get the starting assignments against Cuic and Dewitz. Both players are out-sized by their OSU counterparts and will need to rely on their speed and help defense from their teammates.

The Bruins may be without freshman Alfred Aboya after he re-aggravated a left hip flexor at practice on Thursday. Aboya would have been a good defensive match-up against the big OSU frontline.

Good guard play has been problem for the Beavers, especially with Hurd injured and made worst by a struggling Stephens. Turnovers have hindered the Beavers this year; they’re averaging 16.0 per game, last in the conference. They are also last in assists at 11.5 per game. Not surprisingly they have a horrendous assist-turnover ration of 0.68.

OSU plays a mix of man-to-man and zone defense; in the game at Corvallis they played mostly the former. With the way UCLA has been struggling against zone defenses this year, we may see more zones this time around.

The Bruins will be looking for stronger play in the middle. It is uncertain who will start this week against the Oregon schools. Howland has offered the starting job to the player who performs the best at practice.

"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."

Howland is also looking for better offensive production from another player, not named Afflalo and Farmar.

Cedric Bozeman would be a good option. Howland would like to see Bozeman get to the foul line more often by attacking on offense. Currently, he averages less than 2 free throw attempts per game. Although his shoulder is still sore, it is the tendonitis in his knee which is giving him more problems at this time.

Although Howland is obviously not looking past the two games with the Oregon schools this week, he does acknowledge the Pac-10 conference title will come down to the wire. “The conference title will be determined next Saturday.”


Keefe Named To McDonald's All-American Team

By Bruin Basketball Report

UCLA-bound high school senior James Keefe was named to the 2006 McDonald's All American Team.

Keefe, a 6'8 220lb power forward from Santa Margartia Catholic High School in California, averaged 19.7 ppg this season leading the Eagles to a 22-3 overall record. Santa Margarita High School is the No.3 ranked team in Orange County.

One of the nation’s top-rated power forwards entering his high school senior season this year, Keefe signed a National Letter of Intent to attend UCLA last November.

Keefe will join fellow McDonald All-Americans, Jordan Farmar and Arron Afflalo on the UCLA squad next year. UCLA senior forward Cedric Bozeman was also a McDonald All-American.

The complete list of players and coaches named to the 2006 McDonald's All-American Team:

East Team

Name Pos. Hgt. High School, State, College
Earl Clark SF 6-9 Rahway High School NJ, Louisville
Mike Conley PG 6-1 Lawrence North High School, IN, Ohio State
Javaris Crittenton SG 6-5 SW Atl.Christian Academy, GA, Georgia Tech
Wayne Ellington SG 6-4 The Episcopal Academy, PA, North Carolina
Gerald Henderson WF 6-5 The Episcopal Academy, PA, Duke
Tywon Lawson PG 6-0 Oak Hill Academy, VA, North Carolina
Vernon Macklin C 6-9 Hargrave Military Academy, VA, Georgetown
Greg Oden C 7-1 Lawrence North High School, IN, Ohio State
Scottie Reynolds SG 6-1 Herndon High School, VA, Oklahoma
Lance Thomas PF 6-8 St. Benedict’s Prep, NJ, Undecided
Brandan Wright PF 6-9 Brentwood Academy, TN, North Carolina
Thaddeus Young SF 6-8 Mitchell High School, TN, Georgia Tech

Head Coach Doug Lipscomb, Wheeler High School (Marietta, GA)
Assistant Coach Marc Carver, Wheeler High School (Marietta, GA)

West Team

Name Pos. Hgt. High School, State, College
Darrell Arthur PF 6-9 South Oak Cliff High School, TX, Undecided
D.J. Augustin PG 6-0 Hightower High School, TX, Texas
Chase Budinger WF 6-8 La Costa Canyon High School, CA, Arizona
Demond Carter SG 5-11 Reserve Christian School, LA, Baylor
Sherron Collins PG 5-11 Crane Technical Prep, IL, Kansas
Daequan Cook SG 6-5 Dunbar High School, OH, Ohio State
Kevin Durant WF 6-10 Montrose Christian School, MD, Texas
James Keefe PF 6-8 Santa Margarita Cath. High School, CA, UCLA
Spencer Hawes C 7-0 Seattle Preparatory School, WA, Washington
Brook Lopez PF 7-0 San Joaquin Memorial High School, CA, Stanford
Robin Lopez C 7-0 San Joaquin Memorial High School, CA, Stanford
Jon Scheyer SG 6-6 Glenbrook North High School, IL, Duke

Head Coach Harvey Kitani, Fairfax High School, (Los Angeles, CA)
Assistant Coach J.D. Green, Fairfax High School, (Los Angeles, CA)
Assistant Coach Scott Ogden, Carlsbad High School, (San Diego, CA)


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!


Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Earl Watson Brings It Home

Watson Brings It Home
By Howard Richman
The Kansas City Star

DENVER — Earl Watson plans to come home someday and make Kansas City, Kan., the best it can possibly be. He already has a head start on that task.

Just ask Steven Griffin, a junior at Schlagle High School. He never has met Watson, a 26-year-old guard for the NBA’s Denver Nuggets and a former star at Washington High School in KCK. Griffin, though, will benefit from Watson’s generosity.

“He’s been successful, and he is motivating us to do the same thing,” Griffin said.

Griffin is one of the charter members of Project EARL: Encouraging All to Reach for Learning.

Watson’s role? He has given $5,000 out of his pocket to each of the Kansas City, Kan., high schools — Schlagle, Washington, Sumner Academy, Wyandotte and Harmon — to pay for students in need that want to take the ACT examination plus the preparatory workshops that will help prepare them for the ACT.

Watson, who signed a five-year, $29 million contract with the Nuggets, already has been supplying his old high school with funds. Late last year he gave $25,000 for KCK schools to buy computers, TVs and sports equipment.

This isn’t simply lip service, either. The money Watson has pledged for the five schools is at work.

“It’s actually beginning to happen right now in the schools,” said Larry Englebrick, assistant superintendent for business services in the Kansas City, Kan., School District. “Earl is a celebrity, and still is a member of our community. The wonderful thing is that Earl wants this to go beyond just kids in athletics. Earl said he wants to help all the kids.”

Washington instructor Nancy Browne said students with a high enough grade-point average (3.0 or better) who might not be able to pay what she said is the $29 to take the ACT can gain from Watson’s aid.

“He’s kind of a hero to the kids,” said Browne, who so far has more than 20 students signed up to participate in Project EARL. “He’s very sincere about it.”

After a home game late last month, Watson talked to The Star about why he is so driven to help youths in the region where he was molded.

“I want to be very involved. I want to watch the kids grow and become successful in life. That’s the ultimate goal. I couldn’t care less about winning and losing games,” Watson said. “Kansas City, Kan., is important because it’s my foundation. It’s where I grew up as a young adult. It’s everything about me. It’s my city. I’m very proud of my city, and from being from Wyandotte County.”

Watson, whose 129 starts at UCLA are a school record, doesn’t know boundaries when it comes to giving.

During the holiday season in the Denver area, Watson was the host for a party for families who had been displaced by Hurricane Katrina. Watson also joined forces with the Magic Johnson Foundation to provide gifts and clothing to the needy.

None of this comes as a surprise to Denver coach George Karl, who might not be coaching Watson much longer.

Watson, who in his first seven starts helped the Nuggets go 7-0, has been involved in trade speculation, most recently in a published report this week that had him headed to the New York Knicks. Entering the Nuggets’ game tonight against Dallas, Watson is averaging 7.9 points and 3.6 assists.

“He’s a great human being. I’ve not seen many pros that have a focus about wanting to give back and wanting to serve the community with his contract,” Karl said. “He knows he’s blessed by the game of basketball, and I think he does a wonderful job of giving back.”

It won’t end anytime soon, Watson says. He is devoted to KCK. It’s where he first heard about legendary names like Wyandotte’s Lucius Allen. His immediate hero growing up was Vinson Smith, a basketball star at Schlagle.

“Vinson Smith lived right behind me. I remember Saturday mornings he would come out and play one-on-one with me in the back yard and just beat me,” said Watson, who didn’t mind the whippings. “I was a little kid. I went to every one of his games. I was a big fan.”

Watson wants the youths of KCK to know how it feels to have solid support, whether it be financially or morally. He learned during his previous stop at Memphis from Hall of Famer Jerry West. What better person to emulate, Watson said.

“He’s a logo (the NBA figure in its logo is modeled after West). Mr. Clutch,” Watson said with a big grin. “When I was 18, I worked out in LA with Magic. As a player, (former UCLA legendary coach) John Wooden sat behind the bench.

“I felt like I needed to utilize all the knowledge I had to not fail. There was no way I could see myself not making it to the NBA. I had too many people around me that knew the game. I want the kids back home to feel that kind of support that I got.”

Watson has big plans for the future in KCK. He wants to sponsor AAU basketball teams, focusing on education as much as hoops.

“We’re going to have fun, but we’re also going to learn,” Watson said.

There’s more on his agenda.

“At some point, I’d like to put together a crime-and-drug-prevention program back home,” he said. “A lot of my friends lived it. I want to try and tackle those issues in a positive way.”

James Cavender, a junior at Washington who says what Watson is doing will help him prepare for the ACT so it won’t be a “total shock,” doesn’t play basketball. But he fully understands what Watson means as an athlete but more importantly as an ally.

“He’s a big person. I think he’s a great person to come back and do this for us,” Cavender said. “I’d just like to say thank you to him.”

(reprinted with permission)


(photo credit:AP)

Interview With Denny Crum

Denny Crum played two seasons at UCLA from 1956-58, and was an assistant coach under Coach John Wooden from 1958-60, 68-71.

In 1971 he was hired as head coach of the Louisville Cardinals. He compiled an astounding 675-295 record over a 30 year coaching career. He was named National College Coach of the Year three times, and inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1994.

While at Louisville his teams appeared in six Final Fours and won two NCAA championships (1980 & 1986). His Cardinal teams faced UCLA three times in the Final Four, losing twice (1972 & 1975) and winning once (1980).

Below is an interview with Denny Crum about his own coaching career and time at UCLA.

Denny Crum - Out Loud
Steve Rosenbloom
Chicago Tribune
February 2006

"Coach Wooden was not only my coach, he was like a father to me. When you get to play for someone and coach under him, you get really close.

We won the national championship all three years I was an assistant there (UCLA). I'm not taking the credit for that, believe me.

I took my first team here (Louisville) to the Final Four. It was kind of funny at that stage of my career, because I thought it was supposed to be that way because at UCLA we did it every year. I think I was the first first-year coach to do that.

And we got beat by UCLA with all the guys I'd recruited -- Bill Walton, Greg Lee, Keith Wilkes.

We beat them one year for the national championship in 1980 in Market Square Arena.

Then we won it again in '86.We were in four Final Fours during the '80s.

I was actually offered that job three different times. It wasn't anything to do with UCLA. I just loved living here in Louisville. I loved the lifestyle, the opportunities you have here.

I remember when Gene Bartow took the UCLA job out there, he had a really hard time with the media.

I think I could've handled it. And coach Wooden thinks I could've handled it. And he's pretty smart.

I honestly think I could've won more championships had I gone back to UCLA."


(photo credit: UCLA Sports Dept.)

Monday, February 20, 2006

UCLA Drops in Polls After Disappointing Loss

By Bruin Basketball Report

With the 71-68 loss to the Trojans on Sunday, the Bruins fell to No.17 and No.19 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches and AP polls, respectively.

UCLA (20-6, 10-4) is tied with California (16-7, 10-4) for first place in the Pac-10 conference. The Bears remain unranked this week, however, they received eight votes apiece from both polls.

In an interesting departure between the polls, Coaches poll voters ranked the Washington Huskies (20-5, 9-5) behind the Bruins at No.19; but AP voters moved the Huskies to No.17 and ahead of the Bruins. The Huskies are one game behind the Bruins in the Pac-10 conference race.

More importantly, the Bruins moved down in the RPI rankings. Although, the official NCAA RPI will not be released until Wednesday, the Ken Pomeroy RPI rankings have been a good reflection of the NCAA's RPI rankings.

In the most recent Ken Pomeroy RPI rankings, the Bruins are ranked No.14 in RPI and No.22 in SOS (strength of schedule). Last week the Bruins were No.17 in RPI and NO.17 in SOS.

With their current RPI ranking, the Bruins are likely projected to be a 5th seed in the NCAA tourney at this point.

With four regular season Pac-10 games remaining and the upcoming Pac-10 tournament, UCLA still has a good chance to improve upon their seedings, but the loss to the Trojans (No.105 RPI) was certainly a setback for UCLA's higher seeding hopes.

Duke (25-1) is the new No.1 ranked team in both polls. Connecticut (23-2), the former top ranked team, lost to Villanova last week.


Time Off May Have Been Too Much for Bruins

It was a rest stop for the Bruins on their journey through the arduous conference schedule, their only week with one game. So their coach, Ben Howland, gave them three days off, allowing the injured to heal and the fatigued to rest.

But looking back after Sunday's loss to USC, UCLA freshman guard Darren Collison says it might have been too much of a good thing.

"I think, as a team, we got complacent," Collison said. "We didn't play as hard in practice because we were trying to stay away from more injuries, trying to rest up. Then, after Cal lost Saturday," to Arizona State, "we were happy to be playing SC because we had a chance to be in first place in the conference. But it backfired on us.

"This was definitely a wake-up call. We had a sense of urgency at the end of the game, [when the Bruins cut an 11-point USC lead with under two minutes to play to three], but we needed that urgency at the start of the game. The main thing is, we need to get back in the gym and work hard." L.A. Times


Bruin Recruiting: Prep News Roundup (2/20)

By Bruin Basketball Report

Prep News Roundup published every Monday during the season.


The Santa Margarita Eagles traveled to Pomona high school for their first-round CIF III-AA play-off game. James Keefe scored 20 points while Mychel Thompson chipped in 14 points as the Eagles cruised to a 52-39 to advance into the next round. Bruin Basketball Report 2/18

Christian Hernandez scored 19 points and James Keefe added 16 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Santa Margarita to an easy 62-36 victory over Santa Paula in a CIF III-AA wildcard round game at Santa Paula high school. Bruin Basketball Report 2/16

DIVISION III-AA 2005 champion: Santa Margarita. Artesia has emerged as the clear favorite to win this division, but Santa Margarita remains the two-time defending champion and starts one of the Southland's best players in UCLA-bound forward James Keefe. LA. Times 2/15

UCLA-bound Marko Spica scored 18 points and 5 steals for to lead his Beovuk team to an 87-83 victory over Partizan. Eurobasket 2/17


Russell Westbrook never found his shooting touch, but he made two key throws late in the fourth quarter to help host Leuzinger avoid a first-round loss in a 59-58 CIF Division I-AA victory over Vista Murrieta on Friday. Daily Breeze 2/18

Kyle Singler threw a block party, while Myles Daley and the rest of the top-ranked Panthers feasted on whatever point guard Michael Harthun was serving as South rolled by Ashland, 71-36, to secure the conference’s No. 1 seed and clinch at least a share of the SOC title. Mail Tribune 2/15

Here's a breakdown of who is primed for a playoff push and who is destined for an early exit among those ranked in The Associated Press Top 10 Poll: No. 1 South Medford (20-1) -- Contender. The Panthers feature four starters 6-feet-7 or taller, one of the state's best players (Kyle Singler) and haven't lost since Dec. 28. A double-digit victory at Jefferson in January cemented their top ranking. No. 2 Lake Oswego (17-3) -- Contender. Kevin Love. Do I really need to say anything else? . The Oregonian 2/14

Tarver sometimes plays the point on the press; against Westview, he’ll hustle down to guard 6-11 sophomore Andy Poling. “He’s very physical on Andy and uses his quickness and athleticism to bother him,” Coons says. Westview beat Jesuit 48-46 in the Les Schwab Invitational, with Poling scoring 22 points. Jesuit won the first Metro League encounter 50-47, holding Poling to 12. Tarver had 19 points. Portland Tribune 2/14

Out and about: Floyd, who spent much of this week recruiting, attended Friday night's game between Crenshaw High of Los Angeles and San Fernando Poly. Crenshaw features 6-foot-8 forward Darnell Gant. Press-Telegram 2/19

Junior center Julian Vaughn (28 points, 17 rebounds and 5 blocks) helped the Seahawks outscore the defending district tournament champions 23-8 in the second quarter to take a 35-26 halftime lead. Washington Post 2/17

Fairfax 98, Granada Hills 51: Jerren Shipp scored 22 points and Chase Stanback scored 21 and had 10 rebounds as top-seeded Fairfax of Los Angeles (22-3) defeated Granada Hills in a first-round game. L.A. Daily News 2/18

No More Shipps Coming In at Fairfax: Coach Harvey Kitani of Los Angeles Fairfax has set sail with a Shipp on his boys' basketball team in every season except one since the 1995-96 school year.Brothers Joe, Josh and Jerren Shipp have been more than good players. They have set the standard for what it means to be good people. "You meet the parents and the grandfather, and you understand why the kids are like they are," Kitani said L.A. Times 2/18

Dominguez 82, Claremont 58. Guards Brandon Jennings and Quintin Watkins scored 17 points each to lead the Dons over visiting Claremont in a Division II-AA first-round game. L.B. Press-Telegram 2/18

Campbell Hall 71, L.A. Baptist 35: Jrue Holiday scored a game-high 27 points as Campbell Hall of North Hollywood (23-4) defeated L.A. Baptist of North Hills (13-9) in a second-round game. Justin Holiday added 14 points for the Vikings. L.A. Daily News 2/18

Remember these names: Taft's Larry Drew and Oscar Bellfield, Campbell Hall's Jrue Holiday and Hillcrest Christian of Granada Hills' Dallas Rutherford - all 10th-graders, each making impacts now, years ahead of schedule. "In basketball, you can tell at an early age if a kid has potential or not," said Sonny Vaccaro, a Calabasas resident and one of the most influential figures in amateur basketball. "There's some pretty darn good young players in the Valley, and I say that because I've seen them play. L.A. Daily News 2/17

Point guard Larry Drew had a game-high 18 points and Calvin Haynes added 17 as the third-seeded Toreadors defeated No. 14 Grant of Van Nuys 66-27 Friday night at Taft High. L.A. Daily News 2/18

Mitty boys 50, Serra 49: Kevin Toth hit a free throw with 4.6 seconds left as the third-ranked Mitty won its 13th straight game in taking the WCAL playoff title game at Foothill College. Drew Gordon led Mitty (24-3) with 19 points and 10 rebounds. S.F. Chronicle 2/19

The 6-foot-5 Jones scored 19 points and pulled down 17 rebounds, while 6-8 Drew Gordon tallied 18 points and nine rebounds, but Mitty - behind a balanced attack and 16 points from sixth man Collin Chiverton - pulled away in the second half for a 62-50 victory. S.F. Examiner 2/17


Bruins Come Out Flat, Lose To Trojans

By Bruin Basketball Report

Box Score

In perhaps their worst defensive effort of the year, the No.14 UCLA Bruins were upset by the USC Trojans, 71-68, at the Sports Arena.

After a long eight day lay-off, the Bruins (20-6, 10-4) started off the game lackadaisical and flat against their cross-town rivals. In the first half the Bruins committed 10 turnovers; Jordan Farmar had five turnovers in the first five minutes of play.

This game was a huge contrast to the first meeting between the two teams at Pauley Pavilion in January. In that game the Bruins began with an 18-2 run and won the game going away.

At the Sports Arena, the Bruins did not score their first field goal until four minutes after the tip-off.

But the Bruins were still in the game at the end with 4.9 seconds left and down by only three, but freshman Michael Roll made an errant pass from on an out of bounds play which skipped past Arron Afflalo as time ran out.

"I don't remember touching the ball," said Afflalo, who had 19 points. "I tried to get a hand on it, and I thought it might have gone off the defender."

After spending much of the last week practicing better defensive ball pressure, coach Ben Howland’s Bruins did not have much to show for it in this game. USC (16-9, 7-7) shot 48.1% in the first half and finished the game with a blazing 56.3% from the field.

UCLA, who came into the game with the best defense in the Pac-10 by allowing just 59.4 points per game and 41% field goal shooting, simply did not show up for the game.

The Trojans 5’10 mini-sized guards of Ryan Francis and Dwayne Shackleford penetrated at will against the Bruin’s Farmar and freshman Darren Collison. Both Farmar and Collison had difficulty staying in front of the smaller Trojan guards.

USC’s coach Tim Floyd did a good coaching job in exposing the Bruins lack of defensive quickness on the perimeter. In the last five minutes of the game and his team clinging to a small lead, Floyd spread the court and had both Francis and Shackleford in the line-up together. They ran the clock down and then dribble-penetrated with ease for easy baskets or assists to teammates.

Francis and Shackleford are not the quickest guards the Bruins have faced this year, yet they absolutely had no problems getting past the Bruin's perimeter defense – or lack of it.

Farmar, who had been playing good defense in past games, appeared a step or two slower in the game. “His ankle injury was not the problem today”, Howland said.

Moreover, the Bruin’s secondary line of defense against penetrating guards – the center position – was AWOL for the game.

UCLA’s starting center Ryan Hollins, who had been impressive in recent games, resorted back to bad habits and was nearly non-existent. The only time he was noticed by the crowd was when he senselessly volleyball spiked a shot which was two-feet short of the rim for a goaltending violation. Hollins finished with 4 rebounds, no points, and no blocked shots.

Alfred Aboya, who was questionable before tonight’s game due to a groin injury, played center and scored and rebounded well - but for the second game in a row he was lost on defense.

It’s difficult to blame Aboya for missing defensive assignments at the five spot – he’s played power forward all season, and is only playing center due to the loss of Lorenzo Mata and the inability of fellow freshman, Ryan Wright, to play the back-up center spot effectively.

Wright, who is perhaps the most athletic player on the team, has only played limited minutes in past games due to his defensive liabilities. He still frequently gets lost on defense and is frequently out of position for rebounding. He played only two minutes in the game.

USC’s leading scorer Nick Young scored 10 points on 5-10 shooting for the Trojans in the first half and finished the game with 15 points. With fellow sophomore star, Gabe Pruitt out with an injury, the Trojans knew they needed additional scoring besides Young – and they got it as five Trojans scored in double figures.

Loderick Stewart scored 13 points, Francis and Shackleford had 12 apiece, and center Abdoulaye Ndiaye had 10 points on 4-5 shooting.

The Bruins were led by Arron Afflalo and Jordan Farmar who scored 19 and 21 points, respectively.

The two combined for 40 of the team’s 68 points which perhaps was the problem tonight, and has been a season-long concern for the Bruins - the lack of balance on offense between their inside and outside game. The center spot combined for only four points.

The Bruins shot 40.7% from the field, and just as importantly, were only 10-18 (55.6%) from the free throw line.

It is the second straight game the Bruins have shot horrendously from the free throw line. Against Washington, the Bruins missed ten free throws and lost by three. In tonight's game, they missed eight free throws and again lost by three.

UCLA kept the game close, despite being out-shot from the field and free throw line by the Trojans, due to their overwhelming rebounding advantage.

The Bruins out-rebounded the Trojans 32-19 and grabbed 13 offensive rebounds which resulted in them taking 11 more shots than the Trojans (59 to 48). Luc Richard Mbah a Moute led the Bruins in rebounding again with 10 in the game.

UCLA missed a golden opportunity to move an entire game in front of the Cal Bears for first place in the Pac-10, and with the loss, they are now tied with the Bears going into the last four games of the Pac-10 conference season.

"We have a young team," UCLA Coach Ben Howland. "We can beat anybody and anybody can beat us. We could lose the rest of our games or win the rest of our games."

Their next two games are at home against the Oregon schools, and then the Bruins must travel to the Bay area for tough season-ending games against Cal and Stanford.

Today’s game was indeed a missed opportunity.


(photo credit: AP)

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Bozeman In Position To Succeed

For much of Cedric Bozeman's UCLA career, he appeared to represent what was wrong within the program.

He couldn't make the open shot. He couldn't run a half-court offense, or find the open guy all the time. As the program crumbled after his freshman season, he was a central figure in the blame game.

But it might have been the program wronged Bozeman. As his UCLA career winds down and the Bruins are again on the national radar, Bozeman is being praised for being the non-statistical glue holding the team together during this injury-riddled, yet promising, season.

Furthermore, Bozeman is doing it while shedding another label - that of being soft - by playing with a torn labrum in his left shoulder. That comes after he missed last season because of reconstructive right knee surgery.

But how did Bozeman's transform his game after missing last season?

Arizona coach Lute Olson, who recruited Bozeman hard out of Mater Dei of Santa Ana, said Bozeman, a point guard in his first three seasons at UCLA, is finally playing where he belongs - on the wing. L.A. Daily News


Interview With Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Why hasn't a man of your experience and prestige ever been offered a major head-coaching job in college or pro ball? "I think it had a lot to do with the fact that I didn't want to talk to anybody when I was playing. I just wanted to play and go home, and they didn't think I had the communications skills. I could've been more accommodating and opened up to the press, and that might've changed some perceptions. But when I got interested in coaching, a lot of people in the press said, 'He can't do it.' And that has become maybe an urban myth.''

From the times I've seen you work as an analyst, I thought you showed great knowledge and were articulate. "It's a simple game. I talk to [former UCLA] coach [John] Wooden from time to time. He reinforces that concept. I think there's a lot I know about the game that needs to be transferred to the new generation. I got my basic knowledge from coach Wooden and what I saw in high school. Attending a lot of doubleheaders at Madison Square Garden, I got to watch a lot of Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain, and I saw how the game is played. My high school coach really promoted the Celtics' team play.

Oftentimes after they had played, he'd ask us, 'How many guys on the Celtics got 20 points?' Nobody had 20 points. But their shooting percentage was close to 60 percent. They played team defense. They passed the ball, found the open man and that guy took the shot. It made me understand what the game should be about.''

How are you enjoying your present job as a Lakers assistant? "I'm having fun training Andrew Bynum. He's a nice kid. He wants to learn. I have some knowledge that definitely will help him, and he has been very respectful and receptive. He has the ability to dominate inside with his size, length, quickness and agility. I expect him to do well. I still hope to get a head-coaching job somewhere. But for now, I just want to do a good job for the Lakers.'' Chicago Sun-Times


(photo credit: ESPN)