Saturday, October 14, 2006

Wooden Honored By Post Office On 96th Birthday

Associated Press

Legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden got a special gift for his 96th birthday on Saturday.

The Reseda post office in the San Fernando Valley was dedicated in his honor.

University of California, Los Angeles, cheerleaders were on hand and the school's alumni band played "Happy Birthday."

Wooden, looking dapper in a navy suit and bolo tie, and walking well despite a cane, told a crowd in front of a blocked-off street that he was humbled and appreciative, said Richard Maher, a spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service.

"Nobody expects to be around to 96," the coach told the crowd, according to Maher.

"Someone asked me if I was afraid of death," Wooden said. "I've been blessed too many ways to be afraid of death. You people here today have blessed me."

Maher said someone asked Wooden the secret of his longevity.

"I've always practiced moderation and I have peace within," he replied.

Wooden coached UCLA for 27 years, retiring in 1975 with a record of 620-147 and 10 national titles.

Legislation to dedicate the Reseda post office for Wooden was sponsored by Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Los Angeles, and signed by President Bush in August. A plaque noting the dedication will be placed inside the building, Maher said.

Wooden has lived in nearby Encino for more than 30 years but his local post office was renamed in 2002 in honor of the late Los Angeles Lakers announcer Chick Hearn.

Wooden's daughter, Nancy Muehlhausen, lives in Reseda. She and Wooden's son, Jim, were on hand for the dedication.

(photo credit: AP)


Thursday, October 12, 2006

Nearly 96, Wooden Still A Driving Force

By Steve Bisheff
Orange County Register

It shouldn't be surprising that John Wooden, still in remarkably good health, is cruising toward his 96th birthday Saturday.

What is surprising is that he still is cruising - literally. "Oh yes, I drive on occasion," the legendary former UCLA coach said. "I'm still pretty good at it, too."

Somehow, the image of Wooden out in the street near his Encino condo doing wheelies in that trusty 1994 Ford Taurus seems a bit of a stretch.

But nothing this wise, dignified gentleman does now should shock anyone. No matter how many times you're with him, he always leaves you thinking he's unlike anyone you have met along the busy road of life.

On my most recent visit, I brought my son, Greg, a basketball coach and teacher in Calabasas, figuring it was time he listened to a few pearls of wisdom from the finest basketball coach of all time.

Like everyone else I have taken to Wooden's condo, Greg was transfixed. He asked questions, he laughed heartily at one of Wooden's jokes he couldn't wait to repeat later to friends, and he generally squeezed every ounce he could out of the experience.

Later, I asked him what his overall impression was.

"You kind of come away feeling better about yourself," Greg said. "He looks at the good in everything. There's nothing negative about him."

It is remarkable how Wooden transcends generations. The young, the old, the in-between, it doesn't matter. He somehow manages to relate to them all.

John Vallely knows. A former Corona del Mar and Orange Coast College star, Vallely transferred to UCLA and became one of the better shooting guards of the Wooden Era.

He played on two national championship teams, one in 1968-69, in then Lew Alcindor's senior season, the other in 1969-70, Sidney Wicks' breakout year.

Since then, Vallely, 58, has had his luck take a much harsher turn. He and his wife, Karen, suffered through every parent's nightmare, the loss of a child. Their daughter, Erin, died at 12 after a courageous, two-year fight with cancer.

As if that hadn't been gut-wrenching enough, then Vallely was diagnosed with cancer. He has been battling non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and has had to undergo two stem cell transplants.

In one, he received DNA from an unknown German donor. Upbeat Vallely immediately fantasized that the gentleman was related to NBA star Dirk Nowitzki.

"My jumpshot might improve!" Vallely e-mailed his friends.

"That's all fine, John," wrote back Kenny Heitz, his old teammate, "but does the German guy pass?"

His former backcourt mate's humor helped, but at one point Vallely acknowledged he had become understandably despondent over his situation. So he reached out to an old friend.

"I called Coach Wooden to say, `I had lost faith. I had no hope,'" Vallely said. "Within a second, this wise man responded, `be patient, John. Your faith will return.'"

His coach's soothing reassurance proved true. His faith did come back.

Vallely recently was inducted into UCLA's Sports Hall of Fame, and although he loves to talk about his playing days, most of his conversation with a reporter centered on the man who helped shape him as an athlete and a person.

"His greatest joy is giving to others," he said of Wooden. "I really thinks he gets energy from doing it."

Like so many of Wooden's former players, Vallely tries to visit the coach as often as he can, whether it's joining him for breakfast at Wooden's favorite Encino coffee shop or just sitting around the tiny condo that is like a basketball museum.

"If you had a chance to play for this man, you realize you have a friend and mentor for life," Vallely said.

"What he taught was the essence of relationships and competition. It applies on the basketball court and, more important, it applies to how you live your life."

It is no wonder Wooden seems to receive a special honor every time he turns around. Already a school in the San Fernando Valley has been named after him. Next will be a post office.

As part of his 96th birthday celebration, the John Wooden Post Office in Reseda, near his daughter Nan's house, will become a reality.

Congressman Brad Sherman sponsored the legislation that won congressional approval, and President Bush signed the bill in August.

The official ceremony will be held Saturday morning in Reseda, where politicians, friends, family and many of his celebrated former players will gather to again pay tribute to this extraordinary man.

It is set to begin at 10 a.m., but like most of these functions, the festivities tend to be less punctual than the coach prefers. This man who always demanded his players be on time believes in practicing what he preached.

So expect Wooden to be among the first to arrive Saturday.

Especially if he decides to drive there himself.

(reprinted with permission)

(photo credit: AP)


UCLA's Lorenzo Mata's Surgery Complete

By Bruin Basketball Report

UCLA junior center Lorenzo Mata had arthroscopic surgery today on his right knee at the UCLA Medical Center outpatient surgery facility, performed by UCLA team physician Dr. Gerald Finerman.

A small tear of Mata's right medial meniscus was removed back on June 16, 2006. Today, Mata's medial meniscus was found intact, but cartilage fragments from his knee were removed.

It is anticipated that Mata will be out four-to-five weeks for recovery.

"We are happy with the outcome of the surgery and look forward to his complete and full recovery," UCLA Head Coach Ben Howland said. "He is a very important part of our team and we will take a conservative approach in bringing him back. Once we get him back, we want him back for good."


Media Day At UCLA - Photos

By Bruin Basketball Report

BBR at UCLA Basketball Media Day

Nikola Dragovic Adjusting To Life At UCLA

By Bruin Basketball Report

Incoming freshman Nikola Dragovic joins the UCLA Bruins basketball team when it officially starts practice on Friday.

He earned a spot on the team after recently completing additional classes required for admission to the school.

"I officially received my scholarship after I finished my summer session courses at UCLA." Dragovic said.

Dragovic, a 19 year-old from Serbia-Montenergo, realizes he faces many new challenges coming to the U.S to play basketball.

"So far the biggest transition for me has been keeping up with my own schedule," Dragovic said. "The games, the practices, and school are keeping me very busy, and I'm still learning English."

Dragovic made his first visit to UCLA last February when he met with coaching staff and attended two games at Pauley Pavilion.

"After my visit I knew I wanted to come here." Dragovic said. "UCLA has a great basketball program and is one of the best schools in the U.S. I also love Los Angeles."

Over the summer, Dragovic played on the Serbia-Montenengro under-20 team which won the gold medal in the European championships. But Dragovic understands he now needs to adjust to the U.S. game.

"I notice there are some difference in the rules and that the play is faster here, Dragovic said, but I will work very hard and adjust to the game."

UCLA Head Coach Ben Howland already knows Dragovic is talented offensively but is undetermined about his overall game at this point.

"He is definitely a good shooter and has a good feeling for the game but he needs to become more focused on the defensive end." Howland said. "Once full practices start we'll learn more about his ability to defend the three and rebound."

Nikola, welcome to Ben Howland's official UCLA Basketball camp.


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Mata To Have Arthroscopic Knee Surgery Tomorrow

By Bruin Basketball Report

UCLA Head Coach Ben Howland announced today junior center Lorenzo Mata will have arthroscopic knee surgery tomorrow due to swelling in the joint. MRI tests had been inconclusive.

"We're starting this season the way we ended last season." Howland said.

"Lorenzo will be going to the hospital to have his right knee scoped tomorrow." Howland said. "The swelling started about a week ago and it just hasn't improved."

Shortly after school session ended last June, Mata underwent surgery on the same right knee to repair a meniscus tear, however it's uncertain at this point if the current knee injury is related.

"He had been fine playing in the Men's Gym this summer and participated in some summer league games in August without any problems," Howland explained, "but when he started pushing it harder during our 40 minute work-outs that's when the swelling flared up."

With the graduation of senior center Ryan Hollins last season, the Bruins were expecting big contributions from Mata this year. He played in only 21 out of 39 games last season due to a variety of injuries including a broken nose, concussion, and knee injury.

"It's a huge concern." Howland said. "We're hoping Lorenzo won't be out for very long but we'll have a much better idea after tomorrow."

If Mata is indeed out for a prolonged period then an already small Bruin frontline gets even smaller. Aside from Mata, UCLA only has Alfred Aboya (6'7), Ryan Wright (6'8), and incoming freshman James Keefe (6'8) at the position.

Frustrated last year by the score of injuries he endured, Mata was excited by the start of UCLA team practices this upcoming Friday, and he is already anxious to return.

"It's important I get back as soon as possible so that we can practice together and start the season as a team." Mata said.


Monday, October 09, 2006

Bruin Recruiting: Prep News Roundup (10/9)

By Bruin Basketball Report

Prep News Roundup is published every Monday.


As Kevin Love of Lake Oswego and Kyle Singler of South Medford have climbed the ladder of amateur basketball and developed into two of the nation's best college prospects, shoe companies haven't simply tagged along for the ride, they've inserted themselves as an integral part of the journey. Since junior high school, Love and Singler have competed on Amateur Athletic Union teams and at national tournaments and skill camps, many organized and funded by shoe companies... But this system, which many say has deeply rooted problems, is in the midst of change. Oregonian 10/9


Mountain View High 7-footer Scott Thompson said Wednesday he has verbally committed to play basketball at Santa Clara in 2007.The senior took an official visit to Santa Clara last weekend and gave coach Dick Davey and his staff a verbal commitment on Monday. Idaho Statesman 10/5

Drew Gordon, who nearly made the U.S. junior national team last summer despite being the youngest player invited to camp, is regarded as a five-star prospect by every recruiting service. "He has quite a few offers in hand,'' Mitty Coach Brian Eagleson said. "I don't want to say how many he's had, but it's been considerable.'' As for Gordon, who is rated as the No. 10 prospect in the class of 2008 by and No. 15 by, Eagleson said, ``At this point, he's mostly still wide open. We've had discussions, but he needs to see the campus before he could even commit to a school.'' Mercury News 10/5

Drew Gordon and Mitty begins practice Oct. 20 and opens its season at home against Galena of Reno, featuring major-college prospect Luke Babbitt, a 6-7 junior forward, on Dec. 1. Eagleson said he expects at least 45 college recruiters to attend. Mercury News 10/5

San Diego High's Jamelle Horne is ranked 16th on Rise magazine's Top 100 list of boys high school basketball players from the Class of 2007, the publication announced this week. Horizon's Jeff Withey, a 7-foot center, was No. 36 on the magazine's Fab 50 list of juniors. Union Tribune 10/5

Kamyron Brown, starting point guard for Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, Calif., has orally committed to Oregon. Brown, a 6-foot-2 senior, averaged 10 points and eight assists and is rated by as the No. 18 high school point guard in the nation. Mater Dei coach Gary McKnight called Brown a colorful player and excellent man-to-man defender. Oregonian 10/6

Basketball star Kyle Singler is not playing football this season, but his family still helps fill the roster. Bill Singler, Kyle's uncle, is the head coach who has guided South Medford to the playoffs in five of the past six seasons. His son, Mitch, leads the team with 11 catches for 258 yards and four touchdowns. E.J. Singler, a 6-foot-5 sophomore who is Kyle's brother, also has 11 catches for 187 yards and two touchdowns. Register-Guard 10/6

One college assistant who watched SF Kyle Singler of Medford, Ore., play recently was impressed by the improvement in his ball skills. And the coach insists Singler has grown to 6-9, which will make him unusually tall for his position at the college level. Rated No. 4 in the 2007 class by's Dave Telep, Singler recently visited Duke and Arizona and is scheduled to be at Kansas for its Late Night opening to practice. Sporting News 10/8


(photo credit: The Chronicle)