Friday, April 07, 2006

St. Louis High School Guard Chooses To Walk-on at UCLA

By Nate Latsch
St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

MICDS point guard will walk on at UCLA
(Mary Institute and Saint Louis Country Day School)

MICDS point guard Mustafa Abdul-Hamid saw what Harvard had to offer when he made an official visit, but on a recent trip to UCLA he felt more at home and found what he was looking for.

So Abdul-Hamid committed to walk on to the UCLA basketball team rather than head to Harvard or any of the other schools recruiting him.

The decision "really was tough, with the academic aspect that Harvard offers," the 6-foot-2 MICDS senior said, "but when I went down (to UCLA) I really felt at home. I met a lot of great people. I got to speak to coach (John) Wooden. I got to see a game. ... I felt like I was wanted there, more so than at Harvard."

Abdul-Hamid, who averaged 22.8 points a game this season, caught the eye of Bruins coach Ben Howland at a UCLA basketball camp last summer.

"Coach Howland said I was one of the more underrated guards in the country," Abdul-Hamid said.


(photo credit: Paul Kopsky/STL Prep Sports)

Wooden to Skip Awards in Dispute

By The Associated Press

The John R. Wooden Awards will be presented Saturday in Los Angeles to the top men's and women's basketball players in the nation, but the namesake of the awards won't be present. And former UCLA coach John Wooden's absence has nothing to do with his hospitalization this week for diverticulitis.
Wooden, 95, who led the Bruins to 10 NCAA titles, was released from the hospital Wednesday.

He disclosed in August that he would not attend Saturday's ceremony because of a trademark dispute with the Los Angeles Athletic Club, which has sponsored the prize in concert with Wooden. The dispute began last year with Wooden's decision to lend his name to an unrelated award, which is given to pro and collegiate athletes for community service.

Wooden gave the athletic club the John R. Wooden trademark for the basketball awards. The first was presented in 1977, two years after Wooden retired.

Mark Humenik, an agent who represents the Wooden family, including the former coach's daughter, Nan Wooden Muehlhausen, and his son, Jim Wooden, said the ex-coach "still is not going" to the ceremony.

The overriding issue, Humenik said, is the Wooden family wanted more say in how the name could be used. "Nan and Jim, in August, expressed their feelings, consistent with father's feelings," he said.

However, Chip Namias, spokesman for the Wooden Award, said the LAAC "has no interest in having a say-so in how coach uses his name."

"The athletic club is crushed over this," Namias said. "We hope at some point the agents for coach will be willing to communicate with us so he can be with us as soon as possible."

The finalists for the men's Wooden Award are Randy Foye of Villanova, Adam Morrison of Gonzaga, J.J. Redick and Shelden Williams of Duke and Brandon Roy of Washington. The women's finalists are Seimone Augustus of LSU, Duke's Monique Currie, North Carolina's Ivory Latta, Oklahoma's Courtney Paris and Cappie Pondexter of Rutgers.


Howland Recognized With National Coaching Award

By Bruin Basketball Report

UCLA Head Coach Ben Howland has won the Jim Phelan National Coach of the Year Award given each year by

Howland, who received five first place votes, edged out North Carolina head coach Roy Williams by eight points in the final voting which was tabulated on March 12, before the start of the NCAA tournament.

"It is a privilege to receive an award named in honor of Jim Phelan, who is one of the great coaches in the history of college basketball," says Howland. "Most importantly, I want to credit my players and outstanding staff for this honor. I have the best staff in the country and feel very fortunate. And, as I have said many times, it's all about players and here at UCLA we have great players who are great human beings. Our UCLA players represent our basketball program and their families in a first-class manner."

Howland becomes the fourth recipient of the Jim Phelan Award, which was previously known as the coach of the year. In March 2003 the award was renamed to honor the former Mount St. Mary's head coach who coached more games then anyone in the history of the game.

"Coach Howland did a phenomenal job with such a young team," said voting panel member and former Kentucky All-American Kyle Macy. "Despite all the injuries and adversity the Bruins won the Pac-10 championship. In a very short period of time he has changed the mindset of the program. He has returned the tradition to a tradition-rich program."

Despite all twelve scholarship players suffering from some type of injury this season, the Bruins continued to win, as they claimed their first Pac-10 title since 1997 and finished the regular season with a 27-6 record (14-4 in the Pac-10).

A great deal of UCLA's success this season was a result of a much-improved defense, which has become a staple of Howland's programs. The Bruins held opponents to less then 59 points per game and limited the opposition to under 42% shooting from the field.

Howland received a total of 52 points. Williams was second with 44, followed by Tennessee's Bruce Pearl (36) and Villanova's Jay Wright (30). George Washington's Karl Hobbs and Ohio State's Thad Matta finished tied for fifth with 27 points each.

"I want to thank the 20-member Phelan panel who recommended me for this prestigious honor," says Howland. "I want to congratulate the other 14 finalists. And a special thanks to Joe Dwyer and Angela Lento for their in-depth and entertaining coverage of college basketball on"

Previous winners of the Phelan Award include Tubby Smith (Kentucky, 2005), Phil Martelli (St. Joseph's, 2004) and Mark Slonaker (Mercer, 2003).


Thursday, April 06, 2006

Farmar, Afflalo Weigh NBA

By Steve Springer
Los Angeles Times

UCLA Coach Ben Howland says he will try to call every general manager in the NBA during the next week to gauge interest in his starting guards, sophomores Jordan Farmar and Arron Afflalo.

"If the feeling is they are top-20 picks, that is something they would have to consider," Howland said. "We always do what is in the best interests of our players. I will meet with them and their families next week [after his GM survey]. Ultimately, Jordan and Arron and their families will make the decision."

Although general managers can't comment publicly on underclassmen, one, speaking on condition of anonymity, said, "Jordan Farmar is a bubble guy. He might go in the first round, and he might not. Arron Afflalo is a second-round pick.

"Right now, I think Farmar is more advanced than Afflalo. Farmar is a point guard and they are harder to come by. But he has to cut down on his turnovers and work on his shot. They both have a chance to be NBA players as long as they continue to develop, but, personally, I think they should both stay in school right now."

Farmer was non-committal.

"I can't say one way or the other. It may be a possibility," he said of turning pro. "I'm not thinking about it now. I love UCLA. It was a great ride, but it was emotionally and physically draining. It's taken a lot out of all of us."

Asked if agents had tried to contact him, Farmar said, "You wouldn't believe it. They find a way."

(reprinted with permission)


Bruin Recruiting: Prep News Roundup (4/6)

Prep News Roundup published periodically during the offseason.


In the McDonald's All-American game held at Cox Arena is San Diego, the West defeated the East team, 112-94. UCLA-bound forward James Keefe had 5 points, 3 rebounds, and 2 blocked shots in 14 minutes of play. Bruin Basketball Report 3/31

Combined with UCLA signee James Keefe, a forward from Santa Margarita (Calif.) High School, the Pac-10 had five signees in the game. That was second-highest total behind the Atlantic Coast Conference, which had seven. Arizona Daily Star 3/31

Harvard-Westlake of Studio City senior Alex Stepheson has been selected to Parade Magazine's All-American High School Boys' Basketball team [...] UCLA recruit James Keefe, from Santa Margarita of Rancho Santa Margarita, is a second-team selection. L.A. Daily News 3/31

Looking ahead to the 2006-07 boys basketball season: Of the top teams from this past season, the one might be most hard-hit by graduation is Santa Margarita, which loses All-County/All-American center/forward James Keefe, hustling forward Christian Hernandez and a very good defensive point guard in Jonathan Gunderson. O.C. Register 3/29

All-County Basketball: James Keefe, Santa Margarita, Senior, 6-9
Season highlights: James Keefe put together another All-County first-team season despite an early-season back injury. He had some of his best games in the playoffs. Keefe scored 25 points with 20 rebounds when the Eagles beat Gahr of Cerritos in the CIF-Southern Section Division III-AA quarterfinals. He had 24 points and 13 rebounds in a victory over La Cañada in the III-AA semis.
Quotable:"The one thing makes him so good is drive and determination to improve himself as a player. He worked hard to improve himself and his team." - Santa Margarita coach Jerry DeBusk O.C. Register


PARADE’s All-America High School Boys First Team: The son of former NBA player Stan Love is making his own headlines as a junior at Lake Oswego High in Oregon. Kevin Love, a 6-foot-10 forward, averaged 16.2 rebounds and 28 points this season, which included 46- and 42-point games. Parade Magazine 4/2

Lake Oswego junior post Kevin Love was named the Player of the Year after averaging more than 28 points per game and leading the Lakers to the state championship Sun-Sentinel 3/29

Kevin Love said at the recent state tournament that he has trimmed his potential colleges to UCLA, Duke and North Carolina, but is in no hurry to make a verbal commitment.
Kyle Singler will return to the basketball court in two weeks at an AAU tournament in Las Vegas as a member of the Nike-sponsored Portland Elite Legends coached by Troy Berry. While Love has been a member of that team in the past, Singler said he believes Love will be playing his AAU basketball this offseason with a Reebok team in California.
Kyle Singler’s short list includes Duke, UCLA and Arizona, although Kansas and North Carolina are still in the mix. He has said that he planned to make his decision before the school year is out but likely won’t do so until he makes official visits to the aforementioned programs. Neither player can sign a letter of intent — the binding document that would officially connect them to a school — until November. As juniors, they also aren’t permitted to make official visits to a university, but can make unofficial visits, as each has done in the past few months. Mail Tribune 4/1

But even South Medford High standout Kyle Singler had to take a step back recently upon learning that he has been named to the 50th annual Parade magazine All-America high school boys basketball team (second-team). "It came as a shock to me," the 6-foot-8, 210-pound wing said of the honor Friday Mail Tribune 4/1

Representing the SOC on the boys all-state rosters were a trio of South Medford players. Junior wing Kyle Singler was named to the first team News-Review 3/29

Darnell Gant, a 6-8 junior power forward from Crenshaw High in Los Angeles, Calif., is among the top players in the country at his position. UCLA has offered the talented forward, with Texas, Washington and North Carolina among the other programs showing interest. FoxSports 3/26

Undoubtedly, Arizona and UCLA (among others) will clash on some Southern California prep stars of 2007 and 2008. In fact, they already are. Both are chasing Chace Stanback, a wing player from Fairfax High, home of many ex-Bruins and former Wildcat Chris Mills. Fairfax coach Harvey Kitani coached Budinger in the McDonald's game. Perhaps the top-rated point guard of 2008, Compton Dominguez's Brandon Jennings, projects as an Arizona or UCLA signee. AZStarnet 4/1

Farmar was one of the reasons much-heralded sophomore guard Larry Drew Jr. chose to come to Taft. Before he even arrived on campus, teammates and coaches told Drew Jr. he would have to step in for Farmar. "I'd go to their games all the time. Then that year they win City and I'm like, 'Man, I gotta fill those shoes?' "Drew Jr., the son of former Lakers' guard Larry Drew, is used to the spotlight and high expectations. He seems to have adopted Farmar as a mentor in those matters. Drew even went down to San Diego to watch UCLA in the first and second rounds of the tournament. He has followed the rest of UCLA's games on television. "I'm proud of him," Drew said. "At Taft, he wasn't as athletic as some other guys, but he was smart. He knew what he was doing. He was just such a great leader." L.A. Daily News 4/1

The Southern Section team features four more South Bay players, including Leuzinger's Russell Westbrook, a two-time Daily Breeze All-Area selection. Courtney Beach of Rolling Hills Prep is scheduled to play, as are Serra's Donavan Bragg and West Torrance's Darrin Kirk. Daily Breeze 4/4

Derek Glasser, a 6-1 senior point guard from Artesia High in Lakewood, Calif., has decided to play at USC next season. Glasser had an outstanding senior season as he led Artesia to the state championship. Glasser's teammate, junior wing James Harden, is also considering USC. FoxSports 4/5

All-Arizona Boys Basketball Team: Harper Kamp, 6-8, Jr., center, Mesa Mountain View: Kamp, last season's Big School Player of the Year, could share scoring duties on a balanced Toros team but was a load inside with great passing ability and tremendous defensive skills. AZCentral 3/25


(photo credit: McDonaldsAllAmerican)

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Wooden Released From Hospital

By The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES -- Former UCLA basketball coach John Wooden went home from the hospital Wednesday after a bout of diverticulitis.

The 95-year-old Hall of Fame coach was released in the morning and will rest at home for the next few days, UCLA sports information director Marc Dellins said.

"He's doing well," Dellins said.

Wooden was admitted to the hospital Sunday for diverticulitis, an inflammation of the area around the colon. He needed several blood transfusions, but other tests showed the former coach was healthy, his daughter Nancy Muehlhausen said.

Wooden's illness caused him to cancel speaking engagements this week, she said.

He retired from UCLA in 1975 with a record of 620-147 in 27 years as coach. The Bruins won 10 national titles under Wooden, including seven in a row. The streak included 38 straight NCAA tournament victories.


Run to Final Seen as Recruiting Key

By Steve Springer
Los Angeles Times

Kerry Keating went back to work Tuesday.

It's not as if he's been loafing. As an assistant coach at UCLA, Keating, Coach Ben Howland and the rest of the assistants have gone through the rigors of the longest season in school history, a record 39 games, a school-record-tying 32 victories and a berth in the NCAA championship game, which the Bruins lost to Florida on Monday night.

But that's already ancient history.

The 34-year-old Keating, named among the top recruiters in the nation by various publications, hit the ground running Tuesday upon returning from the Final Four in Indianapolis, working the phones in pursuit of the Bruins of the future.

UCLA's future looks bright. This was a team top-heavy in freshmen and sophomores, none of whom appear ready to consider the NBA, because of age limitation or stage of development.

"It was a long road for us," Keating said, "but I think, because of our success, we have already accomplished a lot in terms of recruiting. We've been selling this program for the last three years, saying that we are going to be playing for national championships. This gives us a little more validity, this was a pretty powerful thing. Now they believe you because they've seen it. It can only help."

So can the fact that a relatively young team experienced the pressure cooker of the NCAA tournament and all the distractions and expectations that go along with it.

Although most of this season's players will be back, there are two large pairs of shoes to fill, those of seniors Cedric Bozeman and Ryan Hollins.

The Bruins hope Bozeman's successor is already in uniform.

Sophomore Josh Shipp would have been starting at wing/small forward had he not required hip surgery last summer.

Enter Bozeman, who proved a more than able fill-in, excelling at the position in Shipp's absence until Bozeman himself went out because of a shoulder injury.

Enter Shipp, who played four games but then opted to sit out the rest of the season because of continuing pain from surgery.

Reenter Bozeman, who came back a few games later and finished up playing possibly the best basketball of his UCLA career.

Shipp was back at practice with teammates as the season wore on, taking a limited but steady role that enabled him to test the hip, keep in shape and maintain his rhythm.

At center, replacing Hollins, who also finished up his years in Westwood at peak efficiency, may not be as simple. Sophomore Lorenzo Mata showed flashes of excellence but was inconsistent in an injury-marred season. Freshman center Ryan Wright showed he was still far down on the learning curve.

Freshman Alfred Aboya, who had been penciled in at power forward before undergoing arthroscopic surgery on both knees before the start of the season, never seemed to catch up. But despite standing only 6-8, his aggressiveness and athleticism may enable him to eventually play center.

The Bruins have signed two big men to letters of intent, but both are natural forwards. James Keefe is a 6-8, 220-pound McDonald's All-American from Santa Margarita Catholic High School. Marko Spica is a 6-9, 225-pounder from Belgrade, Serbia and Montenegro. Spica, however, has not satisfied his academic requirements.

Keating expects that when he, Howland and others on the staff step up their recruiting, they will find an even more receptive audience than they have in the past. Suddenly, it's not just a prediction that the Bruins will return to the national stage they once owned, it's reality.

"This certainly makes for a better conversation," Keating said. "We definitely have something to talk to the kids about."

One objection Keating does not expect to hear from potential recruits is that the Bruins focus too much on defense. Yes, kids want to run and dunk and see their highlights on "SportsCenter." But, Keating insists, it is not their priority.

"I don't think our image will hurt us at all," he said. "I have not encountered any negativity. One player told me, 'You know why I like your team. Because you play good defense.' Kids don't get turned off by winning."

(reprinted with permission)


(photo credit:

Bruins Vow to Fix Mistakes, Return to Final

By The Associated Press
Beth Harris

Defense got UCLA to the national championship game after an 11-year drought. Even though it also proved to be their undoing, the young Bruins vowed to fix their mistakes and make a quick return trip.

The Florida Gators spent Tuesday celebrating their 73-57 victory in the NCAA title game. The sombre Bruins flew home to Los Angeles, still stinging from getting trumped at their own game. "It's going to definitely put a scar on us," freshman Darren Collison said. "We're going to remember this feeling."

Throughout the NCAA tournament, UCLA had imposed its will on other teams, getting hands in opponents' faces, blocking shots and dictating the tempo.

But on Monday night in Indianapolis, it was the Gators who played stifling defense and forced the Bruins into 36 per cent shooting from the floor and 12 turnovers.

"It hurts bad," Jordan Farmar said in a hushed locker room. "We don't want to feel like this ever again."

Even before the disillusionment had fully engulfed them, coach Ben Howland delivered a message to his team.

"Our goal is to get back here again next year and win it," he said. "The biggest thing when you lose a game, especially a game of this magnitude for the national championship, is learning from and responding to defeat, disappointment. How you respond to that means everything."

The Bruins proved a resilient bunch throughout an injury-wracked season. Every scholarship player was hurt at one time or another, which provided valuable minutes for the underclassmen-dominated team.

Josh Shipp was lost for the season in January because of constant pain in his right hip after surgery. The sophomore forward provided a glimpse of his potential, though, by scoring in double figures in the four Pac-10 games he played in.

UCLA plans to petition the NCAA for a medical hardship waiver for Shipp, which could get him an extra year of eligibility.

Even with the injuries, Howland got terrific production off the bench and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute blossomed into one of the nation's top freshmen rebounders, helping the Bruins (32-7) equal a school record for victories - the most since they won the 1995 national championship.

"We got lucky a few times along the way by staying together and believing in each other," said Farmar, who had 18 points against Florida.

They brought a 12-game winning streak into the title game, including a 73-71 comeback victory over No. 3 seed Gonzaga in the Oakland Regional semifinal and a 50-45 defeat of No. 1 Memphis in the regional final.

The Bruins dismantled LSU 59-45 in the national semifinals, when Glen "Big Baby" Davis was outscored 17-14 and outrebounded 9-7 by Mbah a Moute.

"We did a lot to bring UCLA back to where it belongs," Mbah a Moute said. "This is something to build on. It just gives us more anger in trying to come back next year."

The Bruins will lose starting seniors Cedric Bozeman and Ryan Hollins, along with reserves Michael Fey and Janou Rubin.

But Hollins feels good about leaving the team's future in the hands of sophomores Farmar and Arron Afflalo, along with freshmen Darren Collison, Alfred Aboya, Mbah a Moute, Michael Roll and Ryan Wright of Mississauga, Ont., who gained valuable experience on a national stage.

"They'll be right back," Hollins predicted. "They truly understand what it takes to be a championship-level team. These next years are going to be exciting."

Afflalo was particularly glum after his 10-point, two-rebound, three-turnover performance in the title game. Like the rest of the Bruins, he struggled offensively throughout the tournament.

"Any competitor and any person who's at this stage needs to hurt to go far to improve and get better and don't let it happen again," Farmar said.

Afflalo is the Bruins' top defender, and it pained him to see Joakim Noah burst through the paint for dunk after dunk. He'll remember the image well into the summer, when he practises against NBA players on the UCLA campus.

"Whenever you don't feel like working out or whenever you don't feel like doing things necessary to get to this point, that's what's going to put me over the top individually," Afflalo said. "I'm already a hard worker and now it's going to make me even more."

A year ago, the Bruins lost to Texas Tech in the first round of the tournament, not having fully grasped Howland's gritty defensive style.

"We worked hard and got better and tried to help our younger guys understand what we were talking about," Farmar said. "We gained so much experience as a unit, it'll be interesting coming back."

Adding to the Bruins' core next season will be James Keefe, a six-foot-eight, 220-pound McDonald's All-American forward, and Marko Spica, a six-foot-nine, 225-pound centre from Serbia and Montenegro.

"We'll be very good next year," Afflalo said. "This team knows what it takes to get to this point. We should be right back here, hopefully."


Tuesday, April 04, 2006

BBR: UCLA's Remarkable 2005-06 Season

By Bruin Basketball Report

The 2005-06 UCLA basketball season will be remembered for the exciting journey through the Pac-10 regular-season championship, Pac-10 tourney title, and NCAA Final Four.

Despite multiple injuries which sidelined key players throughout the year, and in some cases for the season, this team and their coaches never gave up and provided Bruin faithful with one of the most memorable runs through the NCAA postseason tournament.

Who will ever forget Arron Afflalo's last-shot defensive effort against Alabama's Richard Steele; or Jordan Farmar and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute connecting for the winning basket in the miraculous comeback against Gonzaga, or the stifling 45 point defensive efforts against Memphis and LSU?

The players on the UCLA basketball team were a cohesive group of young men who displayed impeccable character and grace in both victory and defeat.

Fifth-year senior Cedric Bozeman, who fought back against a series of injuries and inconsistent play as an underclassmen, finished his Bruin career proudly and will forever be placed along side the favorites who ever played at UCLA for his unselfishness and leadership on and off the court.

Senior Ryan Hollins had a rather undistinguished first three 3 1/2 years at UCLA, but his strong inside presence in the latter part of this season was a key to the Bruin's postseason success. His play during the tournament will likely earn him a deserved spot on a NBA roster next season.

The Bruin sophomore guards, and undisputed leaders on the team, Jordan Farmar and Arron Afflalo, willingly carried the team all year. These two young men best represent the revival of the UCLA basketball program, and their determination and leadership is an example for all future Bruins who follow them in the program.

The freshman class, led by Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, provided the team with contributions all season. Due to injuries, they were forced into larger roles on the team than expected, and each took advantage of the playing time, providing depth at every position.

There is no doubt UCLA will return one of the finest freshman and sophomore classes in the nation next season; in addition, Josh Shipp will return as a red-shirt sophomore.

Each young player will be a year more experienced, and no doubt will work hard during the offseason to be ready for another outstanding season in 2006-07.

The Bruins will welcome two outstanding recruits next year in McDonald's All-American high school star James Keefe, and hopefully Marko Spica from Serbia-Montenegro, who will both add depth to an already formidable frontline.

UCLA has the country’s best college coach in Ben Howland who is not the reincarnation of John R. Wooden, but instead is creating his own special legacy at UCLA.

He cares about his players, and understands and embraces his role as coach of the greatest college basketball program in history.

Ben Howland is a worthy caretaker of the UCLA basketball tradition, and we are fortunate to have him in Westwood.

A final eight-clap for our four graduating seniors: Cedric Bozeman, Ryan Hollins, Michael Fey, and Janou Rubin.

They entered the program while it was in transition and at a low point, but due to their dedication and hard work, they all leave the UCLA program in better shape than when they entered. We wish them all the best of luck in their future endeavors in and out of basketball.

Bruin Basketball Report (BBR) has enjoyed sharing the experience of this remarkable season with all its readers.

We will continue to report on UCLA basketball news and information during the offseason, check back regularly and please leave us your comments and email messages. We really do enjoy hearing from you.

October isn't a very long time away. Go Bruins!

Bruin Basketball Report (BBR)


Wooden in Hospital - and on Bruins' Minds

By The Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A half-hour before the NCAA championship game, UCLA coach Ben Howland gathered his team together and told his players John Wooden was in the hospital.

The 95-year-old Hall of Fame coach was going to be fine, Howland said. He was in a Los Angeles-area hospital for an undisclosed condition, but team spokesman Bill Bennett said it wasn't life-threatening and Wooden should be home in the next day or two.

But Wooden means so much to UCLA — all of college basketball, really — that Howland couldn't help but get emotional.

"He's the patriarch," Howland said Monday night. "He is why this program is where it is. It's one of the elite programs in the country, and has been since he started that job in 1948.

"I was really hoping we would play really well tonight, so he and his family could enjoy that in the hospital room."

There was little in the game for Wooden to enjoy, though. Florida romped to its first national title with a 73-57 victory Monday night, preventing UCLA from adding to all those championship banners won by Wooden's teams and still hanging in Pauley Pavilion.

"We were pretty focused on the game, but our heart and everything we do on the floor is always a tribute to him, whether he's healthy or not," Arron Afflalo said.

Added Darren Collison, "He's the one who started this tradition. He's the reason we play so hard in the tournament. He's the one who started this. He is the god of this program."

Wooden had hoped to come to Indianapolis and watch the Bruins play for a 12th national title. When the Bruins won No. 11 in 1995, under coach Jim Harrick, Wooden was at the game in Seattle, quietly slipping out before the final buzzer to keep the focus on the players.

But while his blue eyes still sparkle, he walks with the aid of a cane and doesn't travel much anymore. He spent last week in San Diego for the McDonald's high school All-American games. He was sure to be in even greater demand at the Final Four, and decided the back-to-back trips were simply too much.

Instead, he planned to stay in Los Angeles and watch the game from home. But his family insisted he go to the hospital on Sunday night, wanting to make sure he hadn't gotten too worn down.

"He didn't want to go," Howland said. "Sounds just like coach."

Wooden retired from UCLA in 1975 with a record of 620-147 in 27 years as coach. The Bruins won 10 national titles under the "Wizard of Westwood," including seven in a row. The streak included 38 straight NCAA tournament victories.

"Will anybody ever get a program at that level? It will be very difficult to win 10 in 12 years," Howland said.

But Wooden's impact went far beyond his record. Humble and deeply principled, he was more concerned about helping his players become good men than champions on the court. He tried to give them life lessons every day, and they continued to revere him decades after leaving UCLA.

Bill Walton calls often to say thank you, and has passed on Wooden's words of wisdom to his own sons. His former players are also frequent visitors to his home, and the coach is mobbed like a rock star wherever he goes.

"Greatness to me is the way John Wooden's players talk about him. That's greatness," Florida coach Billy Donovan said. "Because you know what, tomorrow this is over. It's over with. It's on to the next thing. But when you affect people's lives, that can carry on for generations and a lifetime."

Howland has made sure Wooden's impact extends to the current generation of Bruins, too. The players see him at games and visit with him. Last fall, Howland had a barbecue at his house for his team, and included Wooden and dozens of his former players.

"I hope he's doing OK," Cedric Bozeman said. "I'm sorry we couldn't come back with a victory. But I think he's still proud of us."


(photo credit: AP)

UCLA Loses To Florida In Title Game

By Bruin Basketball Report

Box Score

The UCLA Bruins 2005-06 championship run ended Monday night with a 73-57 loss to the Florida Gators.

Florida started the game more aggressive than UCLA, and executed well on both ends of the court.

Unlike the LSU game in which the Bruins controlled the perimeter with excellent defensive pressure on their guards, they were unable to to effectively defend Florida’s guards, especially Taurean Green.

Although Green did not shoot well from the field – just 1 of 9, he was able to dribble-penetrate effectively against he Bruins all game. UCLA started 6’6 forward Cedric Bozeman defensively on him, but Green was too quick for Bozeman at times.

One of the reasons Green was able to easily attack the Bruins defense was because Florida spread the court, similar to what USC had done in the second game to UCLA, and Green used his speed to get into the paint for easy assists to the Gator’s big men.

The Gators had 21 assists in a game in which they made 26 field goals. Green recorded a game-high 8 assists to lead his team. For the game, the Gators committed only six turnovers.

In addition, Florida’s big men, Joakim Noah and Al Horford, demonstrated surprising quickness and good ball-handling skills on the perimeter as they helped relieve some of the defensive ball pressure UCLA tried to apply on the guards.

Both Florida big men were also very effective in passing out of the UCLA double-teams in the low post to open teammates underneath for numerous dunks.

Defensively, Noah and Horford controlled the paint, combining for 10 blocked shots in the game – Noah had 6 blocks himself, and essentially shut down the Bruin inside game.

Jordan Farmar led the Bruins with 18 points but was 8 of 21 from the floor . Whenever he was able to penetrate into the paint, he was met by the long-arms of Florida's big men who either deflected his passes or made him take difficult shots.

UCLA’s Arron Afflalo had a tough shooting night, he was held scoreless in the first-half by Florida’s Corey Brewer, and finished the game scoring 10 points on 3 of 10 shooting.

After playing a string of solid tournament games, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Darren Collison showed their inexperience. Both players were bothered by Florida’s pressure defense and up-tempo which caused them to speed up their game, and took them out of the flow of the Bruin offense.

Mbah a Moute took several ill-advised outside shots when the Bruins should have tried to work the ball inside for higher-percentage scores. He did finish with 10 rebounds but he scored only 6 points on 3 of 9 shooting.

At times, Collison pushed the ball too deep in transition and many times forced tough scoring chances for his teammates. He finished scoreless with just 1 assist and 3 turnovers.

Ultimately, the Bruins lost because they were unable to get the job done defensively. The Gators shot 44% for the game, and answered with either a slam dunk or three-point shot whenever it appeared the Bruins were ready to make a run.

The Gator defense held the Bruins to only 36% shooting and 3 of 17 from beyond the three point arc.

UCLA faced a Florida team which played better than them on Monday night, and the Gators rightfully deserved to win the game.

Bruin seniors Cedric Bozeman, Ryan Hollins, Michael Fey, and Janou Rubin played their last game as Bruins in this game.

Bruin Basketball Report wishes all the UCLA seniors the very best success in the future, and thank them for all their contributions to the program.

Finally, congratulations to Head Coach Ben Howland and UCLA's men’s basketball team on a truly remarkable season.

For a team picked to finish third in the Pac-10 conference during the preseason, it was certainly a special journey all the way to the Final Four championship game.


(photo credit: AP)

UCLA Post-Game Press Conference Notes

Indianapolis, IN
UCLA Bruins Basketball Team
Post-Game Press Conference Transcript
April 3, 2006

THE MODERATOR: Coach Howland, we'll start with your opening statement, please.

COACH BEN HOWLAND: Well, we're obviously disappointed that we lost the game tonight. It was a great opportunity to have a chance to win the national championship in the last game of the college basketball season of '05/'06.

You have to credit Florida. I thought they were terrific tonight. They did an outstanding job of dealing with our pressure. They only had six turnovers for the game. That's a very, very important stat because we were trying real hard. We came out, and I thought we got a little sped up by their pressure in terms of not shot-faking at the end of some plays. We got some shots blocked early in the game. I think we had seven shots blocked at halftime. I don't know how many we actually got back. But usually you either want to get a block, get fouled.

We'll learn from this. I mean, our players that are returning in the program are definitely going to have grown a lot from this season. Again, I'm really, really proud of their efforts. These two guys right here have just been terrific all year.

A special thought to our four seniors, Cedric Bozeman, Michael Fey, Ryan Hollins and Janou Rubin. They've just been terrific helping build this program because of their work ethic, attitude, commitment to team first. So I'm really proud of those seniors in particular. All of these kids.

We had a great year. We came up in the national championship game short. My message to the team is that, you know, our goal is to get back here again next year and win it.

THE MODERATOR: Questions for Arron and Jordan first, please.

Q. If both players could talk about Florida's defense tonight.

ARRON AFFLALO: They're a very good defensive team. You know, Corey Brewer is a heck of a defender, standing in front of the ball. Their bigs are great shot blockers. They played to perfection tonight.

JORDAN FARMAR: Yeah, same thing. I mean, they did a great job both ends of the floor. You know, left us relying on dribble penetration. Once we get in there, it either was a blocked shot, they changed a lot of shots. That's just what their two bigs bring to the table.

Q. Arron, talk about the first half. You had trouble offensively. You just mentioned that Brewer is a good defender. What other things were giving you guys problems on offense?

ARRON AFFLALO: You know, nothing for me personally. You know, sometimes we rely on our defense to get offense for us. Just had to let the game come to me. Maybe I was trying to hunt the ball a little too much, and as a result took myself out of the flow. I had a couple opportunities in the paint. Probably just need to slow down, shot fake, do some things better, to get my shot off.

Q. Both players, I don't know if you've heard about Coach Wooden's condition, when you heard about it, how that's factored into your thoughts.

ARRON AFFLALO: Our coach talked to us about it before the game. We were pretty focused on the game, though. But, again, you know, our heart and everything we do on the floor is always a tribute to him, whether he's healthy or not.

JORDAN FARMAR: Same thing. We heard right before the game. We found out that, you know, he would be okay. He was admitted with his family's consent. It was their wishes.

We heard that, we just tried to maintain our focus and go out and play.

Q. Could you talk about how physical Florida was. How surprised were you that Florida was able to be as physical and take you guys out of a lot of things you like to do offensively?

JORDAN FARMAR: They do a great job. I didn't think we were out of what we like to do. Once shot clocks went down, late in possessions, we were doing the same things we've been doing all year, just later on. Once you get to the key, they had people there contesting. They did a great job rebounding, as well.

Offensively, they were very poised and strong and ready for everything we had to throw at 'em.

ARRON AFFLALO: Same here. You know, they were just -- you know, outside the physical aspect of it, they were well-prepared. Whatever they did, they were able to do it very strong. They knew what to expect tonight and they executed. You know, they're definitely, you know, well-conditioned. Their guards, they play very strong. Big man played very strong.

It's just a little incentive for our returning guys to really strive to get that much better for next year.

Q. Can you talk specifically about Joakim Noah, just sort of the type of player he is, specifically on the defensive end.

ARRON AFFLALO: You know, he's very good. First of all, on offense, he has the ability to go outside. He's not a stiff at all. He's able to make plays from up high, which caused us a few problems today.

Defensively, he's just long. You know, he has the ability to change shots if he's not blocking 'em. He plays with a lot of energy. You know, he played very well tonight.

JORDAN FARMAR: Same thing. I mean, he's long with good timing. He does a good job of staying on the ground, you know, not going for shot fakes, using his length to his advantage.

He does change a lot of shots if he doesn't block them. He had six blocks tonight. He definitely was a factor.

THE MODERATOR: Arron and Jordan, congratulations on a great season. We'll let you get back to the locker room.

COACH BEN HOWLAND: Good job, guys.

THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions for Coach Howland.

Q. Could you speak to the balance that Florida showed and the depth. It seemed like that's been a consistent theme throughout this tournament, tonight obviously, too.

COACH BEN HOWLAND: I think they averaged five guys in double figures on the year, if I'm not mistaken. Taurean Green, although he was only one for nine, zero for seven from three, I thought he did a great job handling the ball, handling the pressure. He had eight assists, only one turnover. He did a very, very good job.

They're obviously an outstanding team. They won the national championship. They played in all phases. Their defense was terrific. They did a great job defensively. We got sped up. We got a little hurried. We had opportunities to actually come into the paint and stop, but we were moving too fast. They got a couple from behind where they were pressing, pushing the ball. We talked about it.

Again, you know, that's Brewer really running the ball down and doing a great job. Again, you have to shot fake against a guy like Noah. We had opportunities where we had him angled and didn't shot fake. You know, again, I thought our guys were probably a little sped up there, especially early in the game.

Q. Is it possible to list three or four things going into this game you were really hoping to accomplish. Could you mention what those might have been?

COACH BEN HOWLAND: Going into the game, we wanted, number one, to take away their transition offense, which I thought for the most part we did a pretty good job. There was a couple of threes, one on the far left wing by Humphrey. Humphrey made eight attempts, all eight were threes. He was four for eight. He's a good player. He had 15 points and didn't turn the ball over.

But we wanted to take away their transition offense. We wanted to do a good job once they got in the halfcourt of trying to double the post.

Our rotations got a little bit slow. I thought they hurt us. They did a good job of tackling -- attacking the double teams in the post. In retrospect, maybe we should have tried to play them one-on-one in there. They were really good inside. Both those big kids shoot 60% from the field on the year.

Offensively, we wanted to try to attack their press and push it, try to hurt them at the other end. We had some opportunities that were missed opportunities. Again, you have to credit them.

I thought probably the fourth thing is that we had to do a better job in terms of blocking out and not giving up second shots. Especially in the first half, they had some second-chance opportunities. We got beat a couple out-of-bounds plays early for layups. A lot of mistakes.

Usually the team that makes the most mistakes is going to end up being on the wrong side of the win/loss column. Again, credit Florida. Florida was terrific. They were very, very well-coached. They have outstanding players. This is their night. Unfortunately for us, that's the case.

But UCLA is going to be back.

Q. How much did the threat of the three spread out your defense and affect your defense?

COACH BEN HOWLAND: Well, they're obviously a great shooting team. Any time you shoot 39% on the year from three as a team, that's outstanding.

The in-out game works hand-in-hand. In other words, you know, it would be a lot easier to guard those three-point shooters if you weren't so worried about their big guys inside. If you didn't have three-point shooters, it would be easier to cover down on those guys and make it tougher. So they have very good balance.

Q. You told the players about Coach Wooden right before you took the floor. What did you say to them? Is there any way to adequately sum up what he means to your program?

COACH BEN HOWLAND: What I told them, actually before we took the floor for the second time at the 32-minute mark, we came out, I told them just basically what was announced. I got a little emotional.

But that didn't affect our performance tonight. What I said was that Coach Wooden has been admitted to the hospital. He didn't want to go. Sounds just like coach. His family made him do it. He's going to be fine based on all the information we have. I was really hoping we would play really well tonight so he and his family could enjoy that in the hospital room that he was in tonight.

You know, in terms of what he means to the program, he's the patriarch. He is why this program is where it is. It's one of the elite programs in the country and has been since he started that job in 1948. It's continued.

Has it been to the level he had it his last 12 years? No. Will anybody ever get a program at that level? It will be very difficult to win 10 in 12 years.

But I don't want to diminish what our team accomplished this year and our players, what an outstanding job they did all year long. I mean, our players have been absolutely terrific this year. Those kids are just great kids, great human beings, outstanding basketball players.

The biggest thing when you get beat and you lose a game, especially a game of this magnitude for the national championship, but any game, it's learning from and responding to defeat, disappointment. How you respond to that means everything.

THE MODERATOR: Coach, thank you very much. Congratulations on a great year.


(ASAP Sports)


Monday, April 03, 2006

UCLA Title Run Ends

UCLA 57 - Florida 73

(photo credit: AP)

John Wooden Hospitalized For Non-Life Threatening Reasons

By Bruin Basketball Report

ESPN reported former UCLA Head Coach John Wooden was admitted to a Los Angeles area hospital for non-life threatening reasons.

He is expected to be released from the hospital over the next 2-3 days; and will be watching the Final Four championship game from his hospital room this evening.

Get well soon Coach!


UCLA vs. Florida: Game Day Stories

Stories from outside the L.A. Writer's Beat Beltway

UCLA makes its legends proud: Already in this Bruins' title run, one of the legends has made a difference. "It's crazy, we were playing and losing to Gonzaga, taking the ball out, and up on the big screen they show Bill Walton,'' forward Ryan Hollins said. "And he was maaad."Hollins crossed his arms and mimicked Walton's pained expression. "That just personally hit me like, 'We've got to win this game,' " Hollins said. " 'We've got to step this up regardless. They wouldn't settle for less, and we can't settle for less.' " Indy Star

How sports books keep their sanity during March Madness: Florida is favored by 1 to 1 1/2 points in Las Vegas in today's title game, with Roberts seeing strong two-way action across the board, including straight bets, parlays and the total of 127 1/2 points. That's in marked contrast to the semifinal card Saturday, when bookmakers were rooting hard for UCLA against LSU. The Bruins won outright as a small underdog after bettors pounded LSU at the windows. Florida handily covered the point spread against George Mason in Saturday's other game. "I'd say 65 to 70 percent of the tickets were on both SEC teams," Roberts said. "If UCLA doesn't win, the books do very poorly." Las Vegas Sun

Noah, Farmar double switch: Imagine Joakim Noah playing for Ben Howland and Jordan Farmar for Billy Donovan. Had it happened a couple of years ago, tonight's national championship game would have had a drastically different look. Farmar, a Los Angeles native, nearly committed to Florida before Howland took over at UCLA. After joining the Bruins, Howland made Farmar one of his top priorities, quickly contacting him to change his mind — and perhaps the Bruins' destiny. Inside Bay Area

Five Reasons Florida will win: Nine months later, the basketball Gators stand one game away from officially sealing my idiocy status, and while the jury's still out on Urban Meyer's football counterparts, Billy Donovan's boys are the real deal. Here are five reasons why they'll cut down the nets tonight Sports Illustrated

Five Reasons UCLA will win: In a subdued UCLA locker room after the Bruins 59-45 thrashing of LSU on Saturday, there was a lot of talk about UCLA's style of play. The team isn't pretty to watch, to be sure, but given the transformation coach Ben Howland has engineered in just three years, the Bruins aren't about to apologize for it. Sports Illustrated

20 reasons why Florida will beat UCLA: For a guy who just stumbled out of spring training and discovered the college basketball season three weeks ago, Gene Wojciechowski sure thinks he knows some things. I'm here to set him straight -- and tell him why Florida will beat the powder-blue pants off UCLA Monday night: ESPN/Forde

Possible tornado rocks downtown Indianapolis: A possible tornado or series of twisters that touched down as many as eight times caused widespread property damage and at least nine injuries across central and southern Indiana, emergency officials said today. Washington Times-Herald

Underdog Image OK By UCLA: Something new is brewin' at UCLA: They guard. Oh, boy, does UCLA guard. It's the Ben Howland way.''They are very, very disciplined with the way they play defense," says Florida coach Billy Donovan. ''They help each other out extremely well." Boston Globe

Howland-led Bruins reviving UCLA tradition ahead of schedule: The Tradition, all 7 feet, 3 inches of him, was walking out of the RCA Dome Saturday night, expressing his admiration for the UCLA Bruins. "They play 40 minutes," Kareem Abdul-Jabbar said. "Everybody plays hard. That's the mark of a great team." A few feet away was another splash of The Tradition. The Seattle Times

UCLA wakes up the echoes of a star-studded past: When the coach at UCLA has a backyard barbecue, it's quite an affair.Hey, there's Bill Walton. Is that John Wooden? Good to see ya, Marques Johnson. "I really wanted to do this because I want our players to get the tradition and the history,'' said Ben Howland, the Bruins' third-year coach. "They hear about it. They see it. They read about it. But the best way to feel it is to know the players and the coach himself.'' Mercury News

UCLA will rely on stingy defense to deny Florida: There hasn't been a defense like this in Los Angeles since L.A. Law was on the air and O.J. Simpson was on trial. UCLA coach Ben Howland, who made a reputation with tough, defensive-minded teams at Pittsburgh, preaches it. Sunday morning, his players said they were believers in his system, singing its praises as they prepare to face Florida tonight in the NCAA Tournament championship game at the RCA Dome. Houston Chronicle

It's the Best of Times For UCLA's Bozeman: When UCLA's Cedric Bozeman watched last year's national championship game, he took particular note of one player: North Carolina's Jawad Williams, a longtime acquaintance from high school summer camps. Washington Post

Win or lose, UCLA back among nation’s elite: Jim Harrick wasn’t what you would call basketball royalty. With his dumpy frame and molasses drawl, he came across more like a ticket scalper at a NASCAR event. When it was announced in 1988 that he would replace Walt Hazzard and become UCLA’s basketball coach, many alumni and fans reacted as if the school had been bought out by USC in a hostile takeover. MSNBC

UCLA, Florida ready for unlikely title game: OK, raise your hands if, back in November, you thought that, come April 3, we would be watching the 2006 national championship game pitting Duke and Connecticut in the RCA Dome. Yep. Me, too. OK. The rest of you raise your hands if, 4 1/2 months ago, you thought we might be watching UCLA and Florida hooking up on the first Monday night in April? I thought so. Fox Sports

Florida will outrun UCLA for title: Ben Howland does not like the way his renovation at UCLA is being portrayed. The press wanted to talk about the Bruins’ wicked defense on Sunday. Howland tried to steer the conversation toward pleasant things recruits like to hear. He brought up the NBA and how many skill guys he has on his roster. We brought up defense and blue collar stuff. MSNBC

This UCLA takes its own path to final: John Wooden's teams scored 100 points or more 88 times. That could be the UCLA you know - the hook shots of Lew Alcindor (before he became Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), the bank shots of Bill Walton, the silky-smooth jump shots of Keith Wilkes (later Jamaal Wilkes), the long left-handed ones of Gail Goodrich, the swoops to the hoop of Marques Johnson. Or maybe that's too old school for you. The Mercury News

Threes few, far between vs. UCLA: If Florida is to get its first national title tonight, the Gators probably will have to do something about the statistic that stands out most on a stat sheet full of impressive defensive numbers posted by UCLA in the tournament.Bruins defenders are holding three-point shooters to a 17.5% conversion rate in the postseason. UCLA foes are 11-for-63 in five tournament games, missing 52 times. USA Today

UCLA, Florida for supremacy: UCLA had Bill Walton, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and all those championship banners. Florida had Vernon Maxwell and Norm Sloan. Different programs on opposite coasts with divergent histories play for the national championship tonight, though the game is more than that. Worcester Telegram

Defense is thread that binds UCLA and Florida: Florida coach Billy Donovan probably was right: If you hit the restart button on this NCAA tournament, just played the same first-round games again and went from there, you'd end up with four different schools at the Final Four. But the right schools are playing tonight at the RCA Dome for the national title. All the cliches are true: Florida and UCLA are loaded with top-level athletes who bought into a system, who understand the defensive principles that guide them, who got better at just the right time Philadelphia Inquirer

Sharpshooter could get Gators over the Hump: Don't let the aw-shucks attitude and choirboy looks fool you. Lee Humphrey is an assassin. His weapon of choice? A deadly three-point shot that not only is dead-eye accurate, but usually delivered at the perfect time for his Florida Gators (32-6), who will be seeking their first national championship tonight when they face UCLA (32-6) at the RCA Dome.Humphrey doesn't have the lineage. Philadelphia Daily News

NCAA National Championship - Bruin defense: From the city that raised "Showtime" to a basketball art form, UCLA is taking a markedly different route to success. The Bruins have employed ferocious defense to move into tonight's national championship game against Florida. In the process, UCLA has changed the image of the nation's most tradition-steeped college program from one of glitz and glamour to a trapping, hustling bunch that relies as much on skinned knees and intensity as ability. San Antonio Express-News

‘Cameroon Crazies’ wild for UCLA duo: Soccer is on the back burner in Cameroon after the national team, the Indomitable Lions, failed to reach the World Cup finals for the first time in five tries. Kansas City Star

Florida hopes to defy 'soft' image against UCLA: Florida has a high-scoring offense, plays an up-tempo game and possesses plenty of shooters. So critics contend that while the Gators can shoot, run and score, they're not tough enough to win a national title. Don't try telling that to Florida's players. KRON-4

Scouting Report: Florida vs. UCLA: INDIVIDUAL MATCHUPS (UCLA listed first) Kansas City Star

Florida's Noah has UCLA ties, thanks to Ashe: Noah traced his family's athletic success back to UCLA grad and tennis legend Arthur Ashe. When Noah's father, Yannick Noah, was a 12-year-old tennis prodigy in Africa, Ashe discovered him during an African tour in 1971. Ashe called his agent, and soon Yannick was shipped off to a boarding school in Nice, France, where he paved the way for his professional career. Baltimore Sun

Coaching Right Move For Donovan: Florida coach Billy Donovan is attempting to become the third to play in a Final Four, then coach a national championship team.Bob Knight was on a national championship team at Ohio State, then coached Indiana to three titles. Dean Smith won as a player and a coach at North Carolina. Hartford Courant

Defense could make for ugly title game: There is ugly, coyote ugly and butt ugly. Tonight's national championship basketball game between UCLA and Florida could be the latter.
Or worse.What? You expect attractive basketball on a Final Four stage? Fluid motion, accurate shooting and scores to match the median age at granny's retirement village? After all, 12 of the last 13 national champions scored at least 75 points in the title game. Good luck tonight. Akron Beacon Journal


Sunday, April 02, 2006

UCLA vs. Florida - Championship Game Preview

By Bruin Basketball Report

The UCLA Bruins seek their 12th NCAA men’s basketball championship when they face the Florida Gators in the title game Monday night in Indianapolis.

UCLA Head Coach Ben Howland has the Bruins (32-6) peaking at just the right time. They enter Monday’s game with a nation-leading twelve game-winning streak.

During the tournament, UCLA has limited opponents to just 36.8% field goal shooting; in addition, they have held three of their four NCAA tournament opponents to 45 or less points: Belmont (44) and Memphis/LSU (45).

The Bruin defense is preventing opponents from getting into the flow of their offense, and pressuring them into unfamiliar shots they ordinarily would not attempt.

"We see teams not do what they normally do," UCLA point-guard Jordan Farmar said. "Their eyes get big, they get that deer-in-the-headlights look. They start pointing fingers and yelling at each other."

The nation is finally taking notice of UCLA’s defense, especially after the way the Bruins easily dispatched both Memphis and LSU limiting each team to just 45 points apiece.

"They are one of the top, if not the best, defensive team in the country," Florida assistant Larry Shyatt said. "They have habitually the best half-court understanding I've see up to this point."

UCLA’s defense is what got the Bruins to the championship game, and it will be defense which will win the title; however, lost in the midst of the Bruin's defensive display has been the steady transformation of the UCLA offense.

The Bruins began the tournament with a reputation as a backcourt dominated offensive club, led by one of the finest backcourt tandems in Jordan Farmar and Arron Afflalo.

Yet, the two star sophomore guards have combined to shoot only 35% from the field and have scored six points less than their season's average in the NCAA tournament.

How have the Bruins reached the title game without stellar offensive games from their backcourt stars?

They have transformed into a "balanced" offensive team.

In five tournament games, four UCLA players are averaging double figures in points scored: Afflalo (11.8), Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (11.8), Ryan Hollins (11.8 and 85%FG), and Jordan Farmar (11.4).

UCLA’s ability to score from both the low post and perimeter has made it easier for them to dissect opponent defenses, especially when they are faced with a man-to-man defense. Farmar has been especially effective with the high-screen pick against straight man-to-man defenses.

The Florida Gators mix their defenses during a game - which includes a zone defense, and will be expected to utilize the zone against UCLA, at least until the Bruins show they can be effective against it.

The Gators used a zone defense against Georgetown and essentially shut down the Hoyas’ tough frontline, but Georgetown doesn’t have the outside shooting of UCLA nor does it have the effective point-guard duo of Farmar and freshman Darren Collison.

Against the zone, the Bruins will certainly have to hit from the outside but they can't passively settle for outside three-point shots; instead, they have to attack the seams of the Gator zone with dribble-penetration to set-up inside scoring opportunities or open shots on the perimeter.

Collison has shown his effectiveness in breaking down a zone with his quickness, and the Bruin big men have been quite capable of catching the ball in the paint for scores – especially in the latter part of the season.

The Florida Gators are a well-balanced basketball team themselves with all five starters averaging double-figures in scoring.

They lead the nation in field goal percentage shooting (50.4%), while limiting teams to just 39% shooting; not surprising they are third best in the nation in scoring margin (14.7 points).

The Gators are an excellent three-point shooting team (39%), and have a strong and athletic frontline, led by sophomore center Joakim Noah

Noah (6'11, 227) leads Florida in scoring (14.1 points) and is third in the nation in field goal percentage shooting (62.9%). He is quick off the floor which allows him to finish well around the basket.

Although his slight frame prevents him from being a strong post defender, his excellent basketball instincts makes him a good defender in the paint, especially on help-defense as he averages 2.3 blocks a game.

Most likely, UCLA’s Ryan Hollins will be matched up against Noah. Hollins who bruised his thigh in practice on Friday showed minimal effects from the injury in the game against LSU.

Noah is teamed on the frontline with forwards Corey Brewer and Al Horford.

Brewer (So, 6'8, 185) is good perimeter shooter but is just as effective in attacking the rim with his superior athleticism. He is streaky from three-point range, but can change a game when he gets hot from beyond the arc. In addition, he is an excellent perimeter defender who averages 1.5 steals a game.

UCLA’s senior Cedric Bozeman is the team’s second-best on-ball defender, after Arron Afflalo, and his defense on Brewer will be one of the keys to the game.

Horford (So, 6-9 242) is a tough interior player and post defender who complements the wisp-thin Noah in the paint. Willing to sacrifice his body for the team, he leads the team in rebounding (7.6) and averages 1.6 blocks per game. He scored 11.3 points a game shooting 60% from the field. Mbah a Moute and company need to effectively keep Horford off the offensive boards.

Sophomore Taurean Green (6’0, 177) guides the team from the point and averages 13.6 a game. He gets the ball to his teammates usually in the right spot but has a tendency to turn the ball over often, more than three a game – although he had zero turnovers against George Mason.

Green is not a great penetrating guard but shoots well from the perimeter, averaging 39.6% from three-point distance.

Afflalo will likely get the assignment against Green with Collison coming in reserve. Similar to against LSU, the Bruins will try to keep the ball out of Green’s hands and make it difficult for Florida to initiate their offense.

Guard Lee Humphrey (Jr, 6'2 192) averages 10.8 points per game. He is a spot-up three-point specialist (45.8% 3-PT%) who was allowed by George Mason to go off for 6 of 12 from three-point distance. The Bruins will need to close out on Humphrey effectively on the perimeter.

Florida’s key reserves include two big bodies in Adrian Moss (Sr, 6'9 247) and Chris Richard (Jr, 6’8 255). Richard gets the major minutes (17.6 minutes) substituting in for either Horford or Noah to provide a strong low-post presence and rebounding.

Walter Hodge (Fr, 6'0 170) and David Huertas (Fr, 6’5 185) provide depth on the perimeter. Hodge is a good shooter from outside (37% 3-PT%) and provides an offensive spark off the bench.

The Gators typically used a nine-man rotation during the season; however, in close games during the tournament Donovan has played their starters close to 34-35 minutes a game, unless they were in foul-trouble or ineffective in the game.

Florida would be wise to resort back to their regular season substitution patterns, giving more minutes to the bench, against the Bruins.

UCLA coach Ben Howland has actually increased his substitution frequency during tournament time to keep the level of defensive intensity high throughout the game.

The Bruins are 24-1 when leading at halftime this season, a testament to their depth and physical play which wears opponents down the stretch.


UCLA Pre-Championship Press Conference Notes

Indianapolis, IN
UCLA Bruins Basketball Team
Press Conference Transcript
April 2, 2006

THE MODERATOR: We'll let Coach Howland make an opening statement. We have some questions lined up.

COACH Ben Howland: I just want to say, I'm impressed of all of you. You were here at 11 a.m. after leaving 2 or 3 in the morning. You guys are tough, very hard-working. You all deserve a raise. That's my opening statement (smiling).

Q. Can you talk about Cedric Bozeman, all he's been through at UCLA, to be playing in the national championship game tonight. Jordan, could you follow up on that question after coach, about what he's meant as a mentor to you.

COACH Ben Howland: I tell you what, Ced has been just terrific. It goes back to last year. After his first year, my first year at UCLA, we did not have a very good team. We finished that season 11-17, lost a lot of close games. Just didn't have a lot of depth. We were part of the building process. Didn't have a lot around him that was real helpful. We had some injuries that year.

But I thought he really came back really, really focused and pushed himself, worked so hard that summer between his sophomore and junior year to improve his game, every aspect of his game. As you noticed, his free-throw shooting, his three-point shooting percentages, all his numbers have just dramatically gone up. That's all through his hard work and dedication when no one else is watching in the gym by himself or working out with his teammates, but all the time. Really worked hard in the weight room, got in great shape.

Really unbelievably tragic and upsetting when, the day before our opening exhibition game a year ago, he tore his ACL in practice. I had no idea it was going to be that serious. When he went down, it looked like it was going to be a sprained ankle. I remember seeing Ced -- I remember having to tell Ced, seeing him up in the training room. I mean, he's already had the shoulder issue. When I first got the job, he couldn't go that spring because he had a shoulder issue, I forget what shoulder it is, I think it was the right. Wasn't it the right?

Cedric Bozeman: Uh-huh.

COACH Ben Howland: Right shoulder, left shoulder, knee. He's had it all. Getting back to my point, I talk about this even, there's going to be a silver lining in the fact that although he couldn't play last year, he was out for the year, he would have to go through so much to come back this year, had to be very frustrating for him personally after working so hard and being so ready and so prepared to have a great season last year. The silver lining is this: we would not be sitting here talking right now if it weren't for Ced Bozeman being on this team this year. Make no mistake about that.

He is probably the best example of giving himself up for the team and doing whatever it takes to win, being totally selfless. At the end of the day, I'll be so happy if this comes to fruition and we are the national champions because for Ced Bozeman, that will be exactly what he deserves.

Jordan Farmar: He pretty much covered everything (smiling).

The same thing, though. I mean, Ced is definitely our glue. He does all the little things that we need. Coach said it, he's selfless. He's the ultimate team player. For him to go through so much and work so hard to get back, it would just be a great feeling for me and I know for the rest of the guys because we really care about each other, to send him out on a good note.

Q. Can you talk about what Luc has meant on the court and briefly what he's like off the court.

Cedric Bozeman: I mean, with Luc, you get consistency. That's the main -- that's the key word for Luc, "consistency." We know what we're going to get from him every night. He's only a freshman. The sky's the limit. I mean, I expect bigger and better things from him in the future. I'm just happy to be on his team.

Jordan Farmar: Same thing. He does whatever's asked of him. If we need an extra ball handler, if we tell him to go guard Big Baby, you know, whatever's asked of him, he can do it. He's always poised, always under control, great team player, real supportive of his teammates. Off the court, he's really fun. Him and Alfred are comedians in their own right. They bring a different spirit to the team. I think we have so much diversity on this team, having them from Africa, players from Canada, all around, just makes us a real family when we come together on the floor.

Q. Cedric and Arron, there's been a lot of talk in the last few days, weeks about UCLA and its history, tradition. You guys have spoken about that. Those teams seem to be much better known for high-scoring games, fast breaking. How do you see yourselves as a team compared to what you know about those older guys? Are people these days surprised by your defense? Do they still picture UCLA as more of a fast-breaking, high-scoring team?

Arron Afflalo: I don't think they're surprised too much. We're definitely in a different era. That's just our mentality. We're a defensive-minded team. I think all our fans and supporters, they enjoy winning more than just showtime.

Cedric Bozeman: Yeah, basically it's substance over style. All we care about is the W. We pride ourselves on defense. If defense is going to win games, that's what we're going to do.

Q. Coach, is there a sense of urgency when you get to this point now, because of the way college basketball is now, where guys are leaving, is there a sense of urgency when you get to this point you need to win because you never know what the team is going to look like next year? Billy Donovan said he altered his approach to recruiting because of that, trying to evaluate better guys down the list who might be around three, four years.

COACH Ben Howland: I want to speak to your question over here before I answer those questions.

We were really doing a good job of pushing the ball last night. I think you noticed there were actually a couple times that Big Baby called a timeout because of the changing ends and the pace of the game. We were at 39 in the first half, right? We're going to have to do that tomorrow because Florida wants to get up and down, they're going to try to press us, they're going to try to create a tempo that's up and down. That's great. We scored 86 points against Arizona at home. We can play any way you want to play. At the end of the day, we've got to defend, rebound, take good shots and take care of the basketball.

In terms of your second question, I have to be reminded of the first question, we want to recruit the very best players in the country here. A good problem is having players that are leaving early for the NBA. The more NBA players, we've got a number of them sitting right up here to my left, they're going to be future NBA players, without question, without a doubt, that's why we're sitting here right now, we have great players. We're not looking for anything less than the best possible player who also fits the profile of a UCLA student-athlete, and that is an outstanding student who is very, very committed both on and off the floor to representing himself, his family, our family, the UCLA tradition and history in every way, in every walk of life.

Q. The first part of the question was because guys leave sometimes, maybe you don't anticipate it, do you feel an urgency to win the title when you get there because you don't know you can come back with the same team?

COACH Ben Howland: I'll tell you what, that aspect to why we want to win this title has zero to do with it. It's just a matter of competition. We're here now. We have a chance to win the national championship. Of course, there's a sense of urgency that has absolutely zero to do with what you're asking about. That's just -- I don't know where you want me to go with it.

The pride of UCLA basketball, the pride of these kids, everything they've gone through, all the adversity, sticking together, supporting one another, playing for one another, that's what it's all about.

Q. As much success as you had before you came to UCLA, how long were you there before you became less conscious of John Wooden looking at everything you did? Are you still perhaps conscious of that?

COACH Ben Howland: Coach watches every game. Coach is always there at the home games sitting behind our bench. Believe me, I knew that. I embrace it. He's the greatest coach in the history of basketball. What was accomplished by John R. Wooden, 1930 Player of the Year, Purdue University, right from here in this local area, will never, ever be seen again at the college level. They won 37 - so you guys know - 37 straight NCAA tournament games in a row at one point. 10 championships in 12 years.

But the whole key to his run was recruiting really good players that were really good people and good human beings, that were selfless, that worked hard, that improved every day, that gave themselves to each other, just like our kids are doing now.

So the basic framework of the program in terms of what I believe in is very much what coach believes in and has set up. The first day I took this job three years ago tomorrow, I said there will never be another John Wooden. Everybody wants to be like Mike if they're a player, Michael Jordan, that's Arron's favorite guy, everybody wants to be like John. There's only one Michael and there's only one Coach.

So I don't feel any of the shadow. I embrace it. I know who I am. I'm proud to be the one carrying the torch at this time. But it will always be Nell and John R. Wooden Court. It's always going to be the Wooden Center across the street from where my office is, as it should be. As great a coach as Coach Wooden was, only those of you that have had a chance to get to know him, get a chance to sit and visit with him, know what I'm saying. This is the honest to God's truth, he is a better person than he is a coach. He took all the opportunity of his fame and his recognition for being a great college basketball coach to help others. He helped so many charities. The Special Olympics is one that he really is fond of, having a grandson who is afflicted with mental challenges. He's just so giving of himself, with all the children's books he's done, he's a very religious man. It's shocking how well he can still recite poetry right from whatever you want to talk about at age 95. He is so sharp mentally, it's incredible.

Q. Your team, like Florida, at times this year has been perceived to be a year away. What's been important to your success during the season and your run in the tournament?

COACH Ben Howland: Well, I don't know who says we're a year away. Probably the same experts that didn't think the PAC-10 had very good basketball teams, et cetera, et cetera.

Our team understands night in and night out we can beat anybody on a given night and anybody can beat us. That was proven early in the year when we were very fortunate to beat Drexel or we were very lucky to beat Wagner at the buzzer, or we were down at halftime to Coppin State. Teams that all played hard, had good years. Delaware State played us tough at home, taking air out of the ball, using clock.

We've played a lot of different levels of teams. They've all been tough. This team has gone through more adversity in terms of injuries than any team I've ever heard of, ever been a part of for sure.

What I think it's done, it's made us better. You just go right down the list here. Five sprained ankles, four on one side, one on the other, and a groin. You go to Ced, he's playing with a torn labrum right now in his left shoulder, missed eight games, the first eight games of the conference. Down there Ryan Hollins, he was out three weeks with a hamstring. He also returned from knee surgery two years ago where he had a patella, the back of his patella, they had to go in and deal with. Then Luc started out the year missing the first week of practice because of a shoulder injury. He's had a little tendinitis flaring up in his knees because he plays so hard, we're pushing him hard, playing him so many minutes.

Arron's had his share of bumps and grind, his thumb. Lorenzo Mata broke his leg, out for two months. He's had two broken noses, his second was on Monday, thanks to Luc smacking Alfred who then smacked into Lorenzo. Ryan Hollins just got a knee contusion, what day was that, Wednesday. It's something different. They just keep coming back.

But what it's done, it's allowed a lot of the players that may not have played as much of a role early in the season to get a lot of playing time, a lot of opportunity. You have to remember that Josh Shipp is not playing right now. Josh Shipp is terrific. Josh Shipp is a big-time player who played four games for us this year, had hip surgery, the labrum of his hip, which is a rare surgery, and we were trying to get him to come back. He actually made an attempt and played in four games. There was just too much pain, discomfort, swelling to continue on the season. But while he was with us, we did beat Stanford, Arizona, Arizona State on the road. Those were all obviously huge wins.

So everybody is contributing to this program. Even the guys that aren't playing, that don't get to play as much. I was so happy to see Janou play a role. Janou Rubin has been a great kid for us for six years. Here is a kid that worked so hard, been through three knee surgeries. Last night he's playing in the national semifinals because we need him to get in there. He comes in, does a great job for us.

Q. Can you talk about Lorenzo. Is he playing at the level he's at now when he broke his leg?

COACH Ben Howland: I think he was on his way. I think Lorenzo -- when Jordan broke his leg - kidding, Jordan - that's actually how it happened. In fact, I remember very vividly now, we were up 10. Jordan steals the ball at mid-court, Washington State, left going towards our bench, three-something to go in the game, and Lorenzo is sprinting down the floor. Jordan goes in and actually misses it but hustles to come back into play. Here comes Lorenzo. They run into each other.

I mean, if you look at that play, it's incredible that he didn't get hurt. Anybody else probably would have had an ACL tear, Lorenzo, first of all, his legs are like tree trunks. He has tree trunk legs. Unbelievable. Look at his calves. He played great, eight rebounds in 17 minutes.

He's on his way to being that productive all the time. I'm excited about it. He plays good in that mask, too. That mask I think gives him a little added boost to be more aggressive. Not worried about getting hit in the face with a mask on. He's doing a very good job. I thought his shot fake last night, he really slowed down. Shot fake, made a layup on a nice pass from somebody. Just did an outstanding job. We're excited about how Lorenzo Mata is playing.

Q. There's a perception out there that you young kids today are enthralled with dunks.

COACH Ben Howland: They are.

Q. And also the flashy game as far as going out and running up and down the court. You have always been successful with tempo, playing good defense. How do you do that?

COACH Ben Howland: We want to push the ball. I mean, if you ask these guys, we're trying to push it. We'll get better. This program will continue to evolve. For example, my teams at Northern Arizona led the country in three-point shooting percentage three years in a row - the country. We were number two, number two and number one in overall field goal percentage. That's why I know how incredible Florida is offensively when you start talking about their numbers.

Did I say they're shooting 56% from the field inside the three? Are you guys aware of that? They're shooting 57.5, if you equate it the right way, from three. It's 39% equating to 57.5. Those are high numbers. They have a great offensive team. It really is going to be a big challenge for us to be able to try to defend such skilled players, good passers. Everybody can shoot it. You look at Green, how well he shoots the ball from three. Great shooter.

Obviously Humphrey, I'm just amazed as I look at his numbers. I don't know where he is in the national scene in terms of percentage, but 45.8%, 46%, it's like shooting 69% from two. That's going to be a challenge. They have a very, very good team. I think Luc had a couple nice dunks last night that Jordan fed him. I remember Ryan Hollins having a lob dunk which was exciting for everyone. So, yeah, we like to dunk, too, whenever it's there, it's the right play to make. It's always a high-percentage shot.

Q. As someone who made a cross-country move and back in your career, what are the things that someone who goes from one coast to the other, an East Coast guy who goes west, it has to do in getting acclimated to new recruiting situations, territories?

COACH Ben Howland: You know what, that was really for me west going east. In other words, I am a West Coast guy. When I went to the East Coast in the Big East, coming back west, I was on the phone with the premiere expert of high school basketball asking, who do I have to have if I get this job, if I'm lucky enough to get this? I'm talking about Arron Afflalo and Jordan Farmar at 3 and 4 in the morning right after I got back from our last game at Pitt, which was to Dwyane Wade unfortunately in Minneapolis, who I watched last night, had a good game, he had 44. He's a great player.

In fact, it's exciting for me that I have four of my former players, three of my former players that are here right now watching these young men. I am so proud that they're able to make it. Brandon Knight is here, Jaron Brown is here and Ontario Lett is here, whose mother just passed away last week, had a funeral for his mother this past Wednesday. Because for me to be sitting here coaching these kids, that would have never happened were it not for the players I've coached before them who have been so successful and so good.

But recruiting for me in the west is much easier because that's my familiarity, that's my comfort zone in terms of having a network of people I know. Out east was more difficult. That's why I had to hire someone like Barry Rohrssen, Slice, who is from New York, who is really, really connected into New York recruiting, knows everybody. Jamie Dixon, that's the greatest recruiting job maybe ever. Jamie, come up from Hawaii, move to Pittsburgh with me. Let's go recruit to the Field House up here. Anybody remember the Field House in Pittsburgh? Recruiting out of that is no joke. Mirrors and smoke.

We were fortunate to get a lot of tough kids. Recruiting UCLA is much, much easier because of the tradition, the history, the quality of the institution, the location. I mean, he's about eight miles away, he's about 15 miles away, Ced, how far is Englewood there? 10 or 12 miles away. Ryan is a whole 20 miles away from Pasadena. Luc is about 8,000 miles away over in Cameroon.

Q. We've talked at every news conference about the history, tradition. Earlier today we were talking to some of the Florida players. I don't think you would disagree, they said tradition is great, but it doesn't make any difference come tomorrow night. Can you talk about that?

COACH Ben Howland: That's fine. I mean, what's your question?

Q. Do you essentially agree with that? Does tradition mean anything when it comes to playing the actual game?

COACH Ben Howland: Absolutely it means something. We're playing for ourselves. These kids are playing for one another. We're also playing for the program and for UCLA. There's no program that has more tradition or rich history of winning than UCLA. These kids know that and embrace that. They represent those four letters. They're part of a very special fraternity of players that is very, very special to be a part of and they know that and embrace it and represent it well.

I think that obviously is a motivator. For us, I'm sure for Florida it doesn't matter, for us it matters.

Ryan Hollins: As far as the tradition, UCLA has a great tradition, a pride, and we'll never match what the team did in the past. We're just coming to each game with the same focus and mentality knowing this is a new team, what we have to do to be successful. Florida shouldn't pay any mind to that either. It's UCLA and Florida, not the teams of the past.

THE MODERATOR: We'll let the student-athletes go to the breakout rooms. We'll continue with questions for coach.

Q. Did your coaching philosophies get altered by your years at Pittsburgh? Is there any kind of mentality or style in the Big East that you don't see in other conferences?

COACH Ben Howland: Well, what the Big East has is they probably have more athleticism 1 through 16 now, amazingly, 1 through 16 teams than any league in the country. Athletically it's just incredible the amount of athletes. Those northeastern cities produce so many players which are the bulk of the talent comes from that plays in the Big East. You just have a great advantage because you have the biggest population centers to recruit from. It's really advantageous.

The thing I like about the Big East is, as a basketball coach, selfishly, the whole thing was developed and made for basketball. That was the original purpose for that conference, was for basketball, for television. I remember, you know, ESPN first started doing the Syracuse games, you'd come home, 4:30 there would be the game on, there's Stevie Thompson from Crenshaw High School going crazy dunking the ball. You look back at the history and tradition in that league, it's a special, special league. I saw John Thompson last night here. He's one of my heroes. What he accomplished, what he did for college basketball with his teams at Georgetown, now his son who is doing an unbelievable job there. Georgetown is back. Jamie Dixon has done an incredible job. I'm so proud of him. These last three years, he was having a real rough go. He's 76-22 over three years, including a Big East championship, two trips to the Big East championship game in the tournament. He's doing a great job. There's just so many good coaches.

Like all the power conferences. We just added Herb Sendek, I learned, last night 2 in the morning to ASU. Herb is a great coach. He's from Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University. He's like so smart and intelligent. Our league is a great league. It's getting tougher and tougher. Herb just made it tougher. Tim Floyd made it tougher. There's always going to be really good players, good coaches. It's a well-run league.

Q. Billy Donovan made a hard push for Jordan. Taurean said if Jordan went there, he wouldn't have went to Florida. Can you talk about what you remember from recruiting him?

COACH Ben Howland: I was sick to my gut from that whole thing. Jordan Farmar, I went and saw him the first day I could possibly go out recruiting at his school, which was at that time legal with his mom, his high school coach. Basically promised that he would have an opportunity to come in and be a starter, what a great opportunity, it's UCLA. UCLA hadn't really recruited him. It was Lavin's last year. He probably knew he wasn't going to be back. There wasn't a lot of follow-up to what we were doing, which is understandable.

He wasn't getting a lot of love from UCLA because they just weren't involved in doing a lot of recruiting at that point in time. When we came in right away as a staff, obviously Arron and he were the two primary targets. We knew how good we were, that we had to have good guards. It always starts with good guards.

He went down to visit Florida. They did a great job on the visit. They have the board there, whatever their arena is called, they're coming in with all the highlights. I think you can't even do it now. That was the last year you could do it. They made this incredible highlight film with Jordan Farmar. You would come in, someone would be announcing. He's a 16-year-old kid at the time. He was very, very excited by it all.

I forget who his host was. His host was a kid from Michigan who went pro, really good shooter. What is his name? Roberson. He loved him, had a great relationship with Roberson. So when he came back, he was really leaning that way I think. It took a couple days to try to get him settled down. Then when he came over and played with our guys, he was so dominant, he knew he was coming in and playing.

The bottom line at the end of the day, why go far away if you can have at least the same type of situation at home. I think when he reflects now upon his decision, his mom and dad are at every game. His grandparents are at every game. His girlfriend is the best soccer player, Jill Oakes, in the country maybe at UCLA. She's an All-American. She'll be on the 2008 Olympic team. He's met a really nice girl. He's doing great academically.

To be halfway done towards graduation at UCLA, you need 90 hours. We're a quarter school. You need 180 hours to graduate. Right now after this last quarter just finished, I believe he's at 95 or 93 with this quarter to go. He is way ahead of schedule to graduate. He's a sharp, sharp kid. The only real tough part right now is that his grandfather, his maternal grandfather, is fighting cancer and could not be here, along with his mother who is staying home to take care of her father Howard. Then Mindy, his mother, is just such a special person. I spoke to her day before yesterday. She's just a great, great person.

This is the kind of connections we have to UCLA. That's why it was interesting last night talking about LSU. Arron Afflalo was born in the UCLA Medical Center. Jordan Farmar's grandfather was the first physician that worked in emergency care at the UCLA Hospital back in the early '60s. Those kids were connected at birth, as far as I'm concerned. I just happened to be the coach that was lucky enough to get them to come.

Q. Could you talk about the surprising positive effects that the NBA age limit rule has had on college basketball?

COACH Ben Howland: Well, first of all, I don't think it's fair or it's legal. I don't think it's right in that respect. I think if we ask kids to go fight in Iraq for their country, they can do that at age 17 or 18, there's no reason why kids should not be able to go straight to the NBA out of high school. I'm talking about from a legal perspective only. I also think for the game, it's the right thing, that kids that are so focused, 16 and 17, hear about it from everybody. They lose focus of what's important, which is doing the right things in school, continuing to improve and get better as a player. You've seen a lot of kids that have been able to do it, and do it really well.

You look at our league right now. Who are the best players in the NBA? Most of them -- I shouldn't say most of them. Half of them are the guys that made the jump right now. Garnett, right? Kobe Bryant? Tracy McGrady? LeBron James, Jermaine O'Neal, so on and so forth. But you've also had a vast majority of guys that have gone that it didn't work out. Where are they now?

One kid that comes to mind is a kid that was out of Houston that signed with Lute at Arizona. [] he bee. He's nowhere. He never developed. I think the NBA teams are actually doing a much better job now at getting kids, they're going to develop them. I think this new league is going to be good.

How good would the team be right now that had Dwight Howard last year? How good would a team be if they had LeBron James for a year? How good is Ohio State going to be with Greg Oden. Greg Oden would not be going to college, I don't care what anybody says, if he didn't have to.

I think it's great for the college game. Again, I don't think it is right. I think Greg Oden has the right to be to the NBA and should be afforded the right for that. Selfishly speaking, it's great for college basketball.

Q. (No microphone.)

COACH Ben Howland: I can't speak to that so much. I just think every kid's dream, my dream, I wanted to be Jerry West. That was my dream as a little kid. I wanted to be Jerry West. They all are looking. Of course, I wanted to be Gail Goodrich, too. I watched all those great UCLA. Jerry West, I grew up a Lakers fan. That's what I wanted to be. All these kids have goals to play at the next level, just like every kid who plays football wants to be Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger. That's just how it is. That's understandable.

We have the second most amount of NBA players that have come out of our program over the last 20 years than anybody in the country, I believe.

Q. When you think of LA across the country, you think of the Hollywood glitz, Lakers showtime, all the great teams you grew up watching in LA. Can you talk about how your team's gritty work ethic on defense seems to contrast that showy image?

COACH Ben Howland: You know -- I hate to keep starting off all my sentences like that. There's three of them in a row now. Let's see if we can get one beginning without a "you know," Ben.

I think that Jerry Buss, and I saw Mark Cuban talking about this. Jerry Buss is ahead of his time. This guy was great at marketing the NBA and the NBA teams. 'Cause although the Lakers were great, they had great showtime with Worthy coming at you, Cooper, Magic making all the great passes, at the end of the day they won because they played the best defense in the league. They were a great defensive team.

You talk about their talent level. They had four No. 1 picks during that run on each of those teams that won it. The No. 1 pick in the draft. Bob McAdoo, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy, and Mychal Thompson. You also had Michael Cooper, which in my opinion was one of the two best defensive players on any single player, other than Michael Jordan, that there is in the league. The other being Dennis Johnson. Both being LA products, I might add. Had a lot of toughness, heart, character.

You just talk about guys that are gritty. Let's go to Dennis Johnson out of Compton High School -- excuse me, Dominguez High School in Compton, LA Harbor Junior College, played for Jim White, one year at Pepperdine, ring in Seattle, ring in Boston. He's an LA product. Gary Peyton, Jason Kidd. I can go and give you a lot of guys that are tough and play hard. I guess perception is reality. When you start really studying it and thinking about it, I thought Pat Riley's teams won on defense and definitely as well did Phil Jackson teams, both in Chicago as well. Michael Jordan is the greatest player ever. He's the best defender ever at his position. Pippen. Why did Phil Jackson want to bring Ron Harper to the Lakers? His length, his ability to defend. I'm just telling you, best defensive teams are usually winning. Let's go to Detroit Pistons two years ago and now. San Antonio Spurs. That's where I think the Mavericks have made a huge increase this year, when you look at what a great job Johnson has done. Those guys are playing hard. George Karl's teams play great defense. Chuck Daly's teams.

Bottom line is people like to win. Players like to win. That's the bottom line.

Q. Your team seems to belie the image of LA.

COACH Ben Howland: I'm not buying it. I grew up in Southern California. I'm not buying into that has to be the image of LA. To me the image of LA are hard-working, good people that play together and are tough, just happen to live in the greatest place in the world to live in. That's fortunate for all of us that are from Southern California.

Q. Can you talk about how you and your colleagues have had to adapt to the fact that kids are getting younger and younger. You're playing with freshmen and sophomores mostly. How has that changed in terms of recruiting and game coaching?

COACH Ben Howland: You know, there I go again. Someone buzz me, throw something at me next time I do that.

At Pitt, I had older players. At Pitt, I had Carl Krauser who just graduated this year, 25. He was my last year there, he was a 22-year-old sophomore. Jaron Brown was 23. Ontario Lett was 24. Brandon Knight and Julius Page were young. Who else? We had some other guys. I had a bunch of guys that redshirted. Chevy Troutman was a redshirt. Mark McCarol was a redshirt.

We had a lot of different guys that were older. That's just four years ago, five years ago. It just depends. Right now we're in a cycle at UCLA where we've got a lot of young guys, yes, nine freshmen or sophomores, that includes Josh, who is not playing.

It will cycle its way. Sometimes you'll have some four-year guys that have been there. Other times you'll be playing with freshmen. That's just how it is. That's one of the things I think that you're going to continue to see. This George Mason run, it's not the last time we're seeing that from a "mid-major" program. I think they had three players that were fifth-year seniors. It's such an advantage to be older than your opponent both mentally, physically and to have that experience of having gone through adversity and the ups and downs of being a college basketball player.

Gonzaga, look what they've done, Mark Few has done as good a job in the country with their program in the last seven years. When he took over that program, he took it to a new level. You don't think of them as a mid-major program. Their league is a mid-major, but they're a high major program.

Q. Billy Donovan said he plays the way his team plays because if it hadn't been an up-tempo game he might have never gotten a shot at Providence against Georgetown. Why do you play the way you play?

COACH Ben Howland: How do we play (smiling)?

Q. You tell me.

COACH Ben Howland: We play really hard, really hard. We try really hard. We're unselfish. We try to take good shots. We try to pressure you by pushing the ball. Again, we forced a couple timeouts last night on the other team by just running the ball at 'em and keep coming at 'em. You know, I think sometimes people get into generalities and pigeonholes. We can play however you want to play. At the end of the day, it comes down to defending, rebounding, contesting shots, taking good shots, and obviously taking care of the basketball, executing at both ends of the floor.

Q. When you took over the UCLA program, did it seem like a mammoth obstacle that you had in front of you in terms of getting things the way you wanted? Is this run happening quicker than you might have expected?

COACH Ben Howland: I knew that we had a lot of recruiting to do. That's where it all starts and ends. You have to have good players. You see our league is just loading up right now. The big kid who I tried to recruit, Lorenzo did a great job. Brockman and now Spencer Haas, they have two NBA players inside Washington. Washington, just for all of you that didn't get a chance to see Brandon Roy much, I was really happy that he got first team All-American. I hope in some little way me talking about him all the time on the national media maybe gave him a little more exposure for people to really watch because that kid deserved it. What a great player.

Lorenzo is just a classy act. He's a former UCLA assistant, was here last time the Bruins were victorious in this game Monday night.

I look back when I first arrived at UCLA, I was so happy just to have the job. The daunting task of rebuilding was something you expected. It was a long first year. The bottom line is I have a great staff, unbelievable group of assistant coaches. You can't do any job without a lot of good people all working together on the same page, pulling the same direction. We have great chemistry not only within our team but within our staff. They do just an outstanding job in every aspect of the game to help this program be where it is right now, in such a quick amount of time.

Q. Have you allowed yourself a moment yet to think about what impact a national championship might have on your career, life, the big picture? Have you talked to other coaches that have done it and how it affected them?

COACH Ben Howland: No. I'm just really focused -- we got out of here last night as the clock changed. Luc came back. Luc Richard had his knee x-rayed here last night because he bumped it. If you stub your toe, we're going to do an MRI now at UCLA with all the injuries we had. Came back negative.

I didn't get out of here till 2:00. I got back to the room, saw my wife, saw my kids, saw my mom momentarily, went down to the film room till about 4, 4:15, 4:30, came back up, tried to sleep. Got up at 10 so I could be here with you on time, watching a little film before I got here, having something to eat.

All I'm focused on right now is the day at hand, just trying to focus on giving our team the best chance to prepare for tomorrow's game.

Q. This weekend used to be dominated by juniors and seniors, now you have all the freshmen and sophomores. Why are they able to succeed so early? Does it make the situation a little more volatile because you don't quite know what you're always going to get from a young team?

COACH Ben Howland: I don't know if you know you're going to get out of juniors and seniors either. They're still kids. They're still 18, 19, 20 years old, whatever they are. Sometimes they're older, like I was fortunate to have at Pitt. Teams are what they are. There's a lot of young talent out there. Kids are really good players.

Billy had some guys last year that probably should have come back for another year and got some bad advice, in my opinion. Imagine if they have Walsh right now, Roberson. What about the kid that left Alabama early? I was glad we didn't have to see him. What was his name? Winston, Kennedy Winston. They had five or six guys that left the SEC early last year that didn't get drafted.

You know, you have -- there's another one. We're always going to support our players, whatever decision they make. But it's got to be the right decision that's best for them. I think oftentimes kids get bad advice. Like the kid at Kentucky, thank goodness they let him back. What's the big kid's name? Morris?

Q. Can you talk, what was the first advice somebody gave you when you took the UCLA job or words of wisdom you got?

COACH Ben Howland: I don't know. I'm thinking about conversations with Coach Wooden. He's so great. He's just supportive. He's not telling you how to do anything. He's just there to be supportive and has been for all the coaches that have followed him. I think now I'm like the eighth guy in the last 31 years or whatever it is.

He's the example. That's who you want to be like. Listening and talking to him, all the things that he speaks to, it's just neat to see the reverence towards him from his former players, all the people associated with that program. Especially for me having grown up watching those teams, living those games on TV with Dick Enberg, 23-footer at the top of the key to a 35-footer by Henry Bibby. It's so much fun for me to see Dick at these games, because I grew up with Dick calling the games. He was very good at embellishing outside shots.

Q. At any of your previous stops, Northern Arizona, Pitt or now, have you ever recruited a kid, other than an obvious shot blocker, whose talents were heavily skewed to defense as opposed to offense? Over the years, has there been a change of the average mentality of the average kid about the (indiscernible) of offense over defense when they're in high school? How much of a sell do you have to do with kids?

COACH Ben Howland: We always look for players that can put the ball in the basket. I love guys who can shoot. Arron and Jordan, for example, are very, very good shooters. That's what Mike Roll does really well. I think this kid coming up next year is a McDonald's All-American, James Keefe, really shoots the ball. You also want to have kids that are athletic. That's our real strength right now, is our athleticism. We're very quick. We're playing Luc as a four. His NBA position will be a three.

In terms of selling defense, I mean, I think any coach that's going to win is going to have to get their kids to play good defense, not just in basketball, but football, baseball, whatever sport you're talking about. Players want to get better. Jordan Farmar knew he had to become a better defensive player. He's going to be challenged big time here come tomorrow night because he'll be guarding someone really good on the perimeter, whoever it is, whether it's Green, Humphrey or Brewer, whoever he ends up guarding, it's going to be a challenge.

You know, he's going to be an NBA player as well. At that level, you've got to be able to play both ends. They all want to get to the league. They all want to be in the NBA. Fortunately, we're going to have a lot of them that get there. You've got to be able to play at that level.

Q. (No microphone.)

COACH Ben Howland: Yes. I mean, not exclusively on the basis, but I look for guys that can really be a good defender. When I was an assistant at UC Santa Barbara, we had a local kid named Paul Johnson who was really highly recruited, recruited by Cal, ASU. I started recruiting him when he was in eighth grade or seventh grade. He grew up in the Boys' Club there at Santa Barbara. I knew a lot of the people around him.

His first thing was going to be he was going to be able to defend. We beat Loyola Marymount with Hank and Bo at home at the first ESPN game at UC Santa Barbara. He picked the ball up full court to slow the break, did an incredible job. He was a great, great defensive player, no question.

Q. When you took the job at UCLA, did you do anything specific to reach out to the former legends of the program? How did you get them back involved with your program?

COACH Ben Howland: Well, they did a really nice thing for me when I first got the job. They invited a lot of the former players to a kind of meet the coach at the Hall of Fame there, which is a beautiful building that displays the 97 national championships in all sports, which is the most in the country by far of any college, university athletic program, including by 18 by Al Scates in men's volleyball, which is a record. Coach Wooden only has 10. We've got them in everything. 97 national championship trophies displayed. If you have never been in the Hall of Fame at UCLA, it's something you want to do. This is where Arthur Ashe went to school, Jackie Robinson went to school. You're talking about Flo-Jo went to school at UCLA. The breadth of excellence within our athletic department is unbelievable.

Getting back to your question, that was a room we were in. I met a lot of them. What we did last fall, this past fall, I really wanted to do this because I want our players to get the tradition and history. They hear about it. They see about it. They read about it. But the best way to feel it is to know the players and the coach himself.

So Coach Wooden, his assistant Jerry Norman, a part those first four championships. I invited everybody. Only so many guys to make it on fairly short notice. It was probably six weeks. We had players from all the eras, about 75, 80 strong that came to my house, had an unbelievable tri-tip barbecue. For those of you who don't know what that is, you're missing out. Cooked by my best friend who I grew up with in Santa Barbara. It was great.

We had Bill Walton there. It was kind of fun for a little UCLA groupie eight-year-old who grew up watching all these guys play to have Bill Walton in my backyard with Greg Lee, Coach Wooden sitting there. You had Marques Johnson, Rod Foster, Don MacLean, Lucius Allen, Lynn Shackelford. You had players from the '48 team, Eddie Sheldrake. George Stanich, who played for 1948 for coach on his first teams.

You could go on and on and on, all the players that were there. Mike Warren, from right here in Indiana. A great guy. His son is my hero because he's dating Jessica Alba. Only in America. There were so many great players there. Bill Sweek was there. John Salley was there. It was so much fun. Coach was sitting out by the pool. So much fun. Coach Wooden is sitting out by a little pool, a very small backyard actually to be able to entertain. Everybody is just coming.

Washington was there. Billy Washington. It was really special for me and for our players. Anyway, Bill Sweek has been over in France. It's great. He's sitting there talking to Alfred and Luc in French fluently in a conversation that goes on for half an hour. Alfred Aboya speaks four languages. Luc only speaks three. These are bright, driven kids in the classroom. Luc's dad doesn't even care about basketball. All he wants to know is what are your grades. His dad was a great soccer player for the Cameroonian national team. The bottom line is, the kid is the way he is because we all are a reflection of our parents and how we were raised.

Q. The tradition and history which you've been speaking quite a bit, which you say you have embraced, also seems to have created very high expectations, maybe unreal expectations, very high standards that a lot of coaches couldn't live up to. Did you consider that before you took this job? If so, how did you plan to deal with that?

COACH Ben Howland: Steve Lavin went to the Sweet-16 five of seven years as the head coach, including one Elite 8. He was also in the NCAA tournament that sixth year. The only year he didn't go was his last year. Yeah, I guess you could say there's high expectations because it was thought of that we've got to make a change. I'm not a part of that. But I'm not afraid of the expectation. I embrace the expectation. I want our players to embrace that. That's part of the reason we are where we are right now. They're not afraid. If you're afraid to fail, you will.

Q. Could you talk about when you got there, Jordan Farmar was talking earlier he was really considering going other places until you talked to him.

COACH Ben Howland: Begged him. Begged him. Groveled with him.

Q. Can you describe the conversation, how quickly you were on the phone to him.

COACH Ben Howland: It's about like she is right there and you're Jordan. I was begging and groveling for a few hours.

I thought -- I mean, UCLA has so much to sell. This kid is a great student. His mother Mindy and his dad Damon, they both get it and understand what UCLA means and has to offer beyond basketball, beyond when their career is over. When his career is over, his opportunities because of the relationships and his standing in the community are going to really be I think important to his future. That's one of the special things. Our alumni base, you're talking about a school that's one of the great public institutions in the world, arguably the University of Michigan, University of California LA, University of California Berkeley, University of Virginia would be the top four public universities in the United States. Our budget is $3.2 billion. The hospital is a top hospital per US World News and Report west of the Mississippi. The research that's going on there now is incredible, not only in the medical field, but in every other -- there's over five thousand research projects going on at any given time at UCLA in many different disciplines. The Anderson School of Business is one of the top business schools in the country. Our law school is incredible, especially when the emphasis is on entertainment law because we are in the center of the entertainment industry. There is so much that is special about UCLA to sell, much less getting into basketball.

We are the most applied-to campus in the United States of America. One of the things that's been proven, one of the few things that has been proven about college athletics, with success in athletics, people get excited. More kids apply to go to school there because they want to be a part of that great exciting experience that happens in college athletics that is unbelievable. It raises the amount of applications to where you have more to choose from.

That happened at Pitt between my second and third year. Our applications went up dramatically. That was really special. That means a lot to me. That's a great school. I love that in some way we're helping through athletics to raise the level of applications so you have more students to be able to choose from. I think people lose sight of that sometimes. College athletics is very much a part of the college experience. It's very, very special. People have a love for their university for the rest of their lives after their four years of college. It's fun.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, coach. Good luck tomorrow.

COACH Ben Howland: Thank you.

(ASAP Sports)