Saturday, October 28, 2006

Injuries Continue To Bother Bruins

By Bruin Basketball Report

As the Bruins continue their preparations at practices for the upcoming season inside Pauley Pavilion, similar to last season - injuries are beginning to take their toll on the team.

Center Ryan Wright recently sprained his ankle and is in a walking boot.  His prognosis at this time is unknown. 

After a difficult time at the start of preseason practices, Wright has impressed Howland with his rebounding and strong effort on the court.

After receiving rave reviews on his play from UCLA Head Coach Ben Howland, freshman Russell Westbrook suffered a concussion at practice yesterday and will be unable to practice for the next three days due to precautionary measures. 

Howland has been extremely satisfied with Westbrook's play at the point and especially likes his ability to defend at the position.  He foresees Westbrook as the primary backup point-guard this season.

Junior Lorenzo Mata is still hobbling after undergoing knee surgery two weeks ago.  He is not expected back until after the BYU game.

With injuries to Wright, Westbrook, and Mata, Howland is down to just nine scholarship players at practices which is making it difficult for him to implement all the sets and plays he had planned for during the preseason.

Some good news on the injury front.  Both freshman Nikola Dragovic and junior Arron Afflalo have returned from minor leg injuries and are practicing at 100%.

(photo credit: AP)


Friday, October 27, 2006

UCLA No.5 in Preseason Coaches Poll

By Bruin Basketball Report

The 2006-07 preseason USA Today/ESPN Coaches poll released today rank the UCLA Bruins at No.5 in the nation. 

National champions Florida Gators start the season at No.1 and deservedly earned all the first-place votes.  The Gators return veteran starters Joakim Noah, Corey Brewer, and Al Horford to the team.

Rounding out the top five.  North Carolina and Kansas return outstanding freshman classes and are ranked No.2 and No.3 respectively. 

Ohio State is ranked No.4.  They bring back a strong nucleus and have added high school phenom 7'0 Greg Oden.  Oden tore a ligament in his right wrist and underwent sugery over the summer and has not yet practiced with the team.

Pittsburgh is ranked at No.5 along with UCLA.  The Panthers are aided this year by the return of Aaron Gray who decided to forego the NBA draft and return to Pittsburgh.

The Pac-10 has three teams in the top 25.  Aside from UCLA, the Arizona Wildcats are ranked No.10 and the Washington Huskies are at No.16.  No other Pac-10 team received votes in the poll.

This season the Wildcats return starters Mustafa Shakur, Marcus Williams, Ivan Radenovic, and Kirk Walters.  They also added high-flying forward Chase Budinger from Encinitas to the sqaud.

With the loss of Brandon Roy to graduation last season, its a bit surprising to find the Huskies this high in the ranking; however, they return big Jon Brockman and point-guard Justin Dentmon.  Freshman 6'11 center Spencer Hawes joins the Huskies but may not see action until late November as he heals from arthroscopic knee surgery.

The quality of UCLA's non-conference oppoents are key to their RPI rankings at the end of the season.  Memphis and Kentucky, two likely Bruin opponents at the Maui Invitational, are ranked No.14 and No.22 respectively.  Texas A&M, which will face UCLA in the Wooden Classic, is the Bruin's hightest ranked opponent at No. 13.


Thursday, October 26, 2006

Bruins In The NBA Report

By Bruin Basketball Report

As training camps approach their final week, NBA teams are finalizing their rotations and rosters for opening day.  The NBA season begins on October 31.

Many former Bruins will play key roles on their respective teams while a few continue to battle for spots on a roster. The deadline for NBA opening day rosters is October 30 at 6:00PM ET. 

BBR updates the progress of all former Bruins players in NBA training camps this year. (also read report from 10/3)

Jordan Farmar, Los Angeles Lakers, Guard: Farmar has been the best Lakers point-guard on the floor the entire preseason.  His ability to pick-up the triangle offense in such a short period and his high basketball IQ has won him admiration and respect from teammates and coaching staff.  Forward Lamar Odom refers to Farmar as "Pro-Ready" coming in from the college ranks.

Although Farmar  still needs to improve his outside shooting, his decision-making and leadership on the floor should earn him an active roster spot when the season opens.  Much of it will depend on other guaranteed contract players still on the roster, namely Aaron McKie who may start off the season on the DL.

In addition, Lakers' coach Phil Jackson does not typically play rookies, although Jackson has been impressed with Farmar as well.  Farmar has "given the team some inspiration when he's come in," Jackson said

Although Farmar supporters should temper their enthusiasm. Kobe Bryant, who has been out the entire preseason, will command most of the attention on offense when he returns.  One still senses Farmar will earn regular minutes in the rotation by midseason.

Dan Gadzuric, Milwaukee Bucks, Center: With Andrew Bogut missing the first month of the season after tearing a ligament in his left leg, Gadzuric is battling Brian Skinner for the starting center position.  Although both are expected to play plenty of minutes at center until Bogut returns. 

Baron Davis, Golden State Warriors, Guard: New Warriors Head Coach Don Nelson has completely revamped the team and has built the offense around Baron Davis - and the former Bruin point-guard has thrived in it during preseason. 

Last season, Davis put up a fair share of three-point attempts because he found the middle clogged and was simply trying to do too much on offense.  However, Nelson wants Davis to attack the paint and create more for the team. 

To accommodate Davis' new role, Nelson has appointed Mike Dunleavy Jr as a point-forward to alleviate Davis' ballhanding responsibilities and has moved Troy Murphy, a perimeter shooting big man, to center to open up the lane. 

Davis recently said about former coach Mike Montgomery versus Nelson, "You know, somebody that you respect and that's going to challenge you, and at the same time you can just go out there and be a player and be coached."

Nelson thinks Davis will return to elite point-guard status this season

Earl Watson, Seattle Sonics, Guard: The starting point-guard controversy in Seattle ended almost as soon as camp opened up; however, the Sonic crisis is not over yet.

Coach Bob Hill announced Earl Watson would start off the bench and back-up Luke Ridnour at point-guard to begin the season, however, Ridnour is still unhappy because he has not been assured by the coach that he'd be playing at the end of games in the 4th  quarter.  Last season, even though Ridnour started, Hill played Watson instead during crunch time. 

What ever happened to a player listening to the coach and doing what's best for the team? Stay tuned to the soap opera in Seattle.

Trevor Ariza, Orlando Magic, Forward:  The Magic coaching staff were high on Ariza coming into training camp.  Unfortunately, the forward has been unable to play in a single preseason game since it started on October 10th. Ariza has a sore right foot from a bone bruise which has not improved with treatment.  He is scheduled to undergo another MRI this week.

Darrick Martin, Toronto Raptors, Guard: With T.J. Ford suffering from back pains and hamstring problems, Martin has played significant minutes during the preseason.  Ford's durability and inexperience are the main reasons why Martin will be starting his 12th season in the NBA.

Jason Kapono, Miami Heat, Forward: Kapono's outside shooting has drawn praise from coaching staff but his limitations on defense may make him possible trade bait.  The Heats' starting point-guard Jason Williams is currently out for the first month of  season and the team may be in need of a backup point-guard.

"I can make shots, and I know the offensive sets, the spacing, screens and cuts," Kapono said. "To earn playing time, I have to improve my defense. I understand how defense is a priority with Coach Riley."

Ryan Hollins, Charlotte Bobcats, Center: Hollins has not only impressed Bobcat coaches with his athleticism and hops but also his willingness to learn.  However, unless the Bobcats lose a frontcourt player to a trade or an injury, it appears Hollins may start the season in the NBDL.

Matt Barnes, Golden State Warriors, Forward: Barnes is battling for his life in Golden State.  Warriors GM Chris Mullins will make a decision soon to either keep Barnes or Anthony Roberson.  The Warriors like Barnes' athleticism and his ability to defend at two positions. 

There is a good chance Barnes will get the nod due to the team's need for a back-up small forward for Mikael Pietrus and Barnes' pro experience.

Dijon Thompson, Golden State Warriors, Guard-Forward: Thompson was cut from the Warriors team during the first weeks of training camp.  No news on whether he will play in the NBDL or pursue opportunities overseas.

Cedric Bozeman, Atlanta Hawks, Guard-Forward: Bozeman has an excellent chance of catching on with the Atlanta Hawks this season. His ability to guard three positions and handle the ball are the main reasons.

He is currently competing for a final roster spot with Royal Ivey, a player with a guaranteed contract, but the contract is only for the league minimum $744.000.

In addition, the Hawks are undersized at the point-guard position with barely six-footers, Speedy Claxton, Tyron Lue, and Salim Stoudamire.  Bozeman's size as a back-up point guard is certainly a positive.

Marvin Williams' recent hand injury may create a need to have another frontcourt player on the roster.  With Josh Smith likely moving up to power forward and Childress going from the bench to starter at small forward, the unfortunate injury to Wiliams may create a spot for Bozeman.

(photo credit: AP and


Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Afflalo and Mbah a Moute Wooden Award Candidates

By Bruin Basketball Report

UCLA's junior guard Arron Afflalo and sophomore forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute are among 50 preseason candidates for the 2006-07 Wooden Award All-American Men's Team.

Afflalo averaged 15.8 points and 4.2 rebounds for the Bruins last season, while Mbah a Moute averaged 9.1 points and 8.2 rebounds a game in his freshman season.

Last year, Jordan Farmar was the only Bruin player named to the Wooden preseason list.

Duke's J.J. Redick received the 2005-06 John R. Wooden Trophy for most outstanding player.

"With so many talented players across the country the committee had a tough time deciding on 50 candidates," said Duke Llewellyn, Wooden Award chairman. "15 conferences are represented this year, which shows the parity in college basketball today. These preseason selections represent the elite and our team at the Wooden Award is excited to see the best players in the nation prove their case as college basketball's player of the year."

LSU's star forward, Glen Davis, is the only preseason candidate who was honored last year as a member of the 2006 Wooden Award All-American Team.

Candidates have been selected from 15 NCAA conferences, up from 11 last year. Conferences include the ACC (eight players), the Big 12 (eight players), the Pac-10 (seven players), the Big East (seven players), the SEC (six players), the Big 10 (four players), the Mountain West (two players), the Atlantic 10 (one player), the Conf. USA (one player), the Western Athletic (one player), the Mid Continent (one player), the Sun Belt (one player), the Horizon League (one player), the Colonial Athletic Association (one player), and the Big Sky (one player).

Smaller conferences saw their star players and teams represented by the Wooden Award's preseason selection; a testament to the increased talent level across the country. However, the college basketball juggernauts have made their presence felt as well with several big name schools having multiple players nominated. The returning 2006 National Champions, Florida, is represented by Corey Brewer, Al Horford, and Joakim Noah from last year's starting five. Among those teams that have two players represented are, UCLA, Alabama, Georgetown, North Carolina, Texas A&M, Kansas, Wisconsin, and Arizona. The national spotlight will not only be on these players but on these teams as they enter the 2006-07season.

In January, the Wooden Award committee will release the midseason top 30 followed by the national ballot in early March. On Tuesday, March 27, the 10-player Wooden Award All-American Team will be announced. The 2007 Award ceremony will be held at The Los Angeles Athletic Club on April 7, 2007. The top five male and female finalists will be invited to Los Angeles for the awards ceremony and will receive a contribution from The Los Angeles Athletic Club for their university's general scholarship fund.

List of 50 preseason candidates


Monday, October 23, 2006

Healthy Shipp Key To Bruins Success

By Bruin Basketball Report

After watching his team win the Pac-10 title and advance to the NCAA Finals from the bench dressed in civilian clothes last season, Josh Shipp says he is completely healed and going full speed at team practices.

“I feel better now than I did last year before the injury." Shipp said. “Before I never worked on my stretching or conditioning, but the injury forced me to work on those things and I'm in better shape for it.”

Before the start of last season, Shipp injured himself in a summer league game and had arthroscopic surgery on his right hip to repair a torn labrum (cartilage) and remove a bone spur.   Prior to the injury, many observers had considered Shipp to be the best Bruin player on the court during the summer.

Shipp returned to the Bruin lineup last December scoring 11 points in the team's Pac-10 opener victory against Stanford at Pauley Pavilion.

However after averaging 11.3 points and 4.8 rebounds in four games, Shipp informed UCLA Head Coach Ben Howland that it was too painful to play on his surgically repaired hip and he would red-shirt the season.

With the departure of key players from last season’s NCAA Finals team, the Bruins will look for Shipp to contribute right away.

UCLA is expected to play a more up-tempo game this season to take advantage of the team’s talent, strength, and depth.

"Coach Howland told us we were going to be a more up-tempo team this season.” Shipp said. “We’ve been spending more time on our conditioning than ever before in preparation to run more this season.”

Sophomore point-guard Darren Collison is excited about having Shipp on the wing during fast breaks this season. “It's great to have Josh back.  He is a great player and knows how to get out on transition - and knows how to finish.”

With the early departure of floor leader Jordan Farmar and graduation of four seniors, the Bruins field one of the youngest rosters in the Pac-10 this season.

It will be important for Shipp to step forward along with preseason All-American teammate Arron Afflalo to be the team leaders.

"Josh was with us at every game emotionally last season." Afflalo said. “He knows he should be a junior this season and needs to be one of the leaders on the team. The young guys really look up to him.”


Sunday, October 22, 2006

Bruin Recruiting: Prep News Roundup (10/23)

By Bruin Basketball Report

Prep News Roundup is published every Monday.


Lake Oswego High basketball star Kevin Love was quoted in an Oct. 6 article in the Chronicle of Higher Education about college recruiters and coaches who use text messaging to keep in touch with prospects, thus getting around NCAA restrictions on telephone calls. "The (recruiting) school wants to show you their presence and the love that they have for you," Love told the Chronicle. "But some coaches, and I won't say who, just don't know when to stop." According to the Chronicle, during the recruiting process Love changed his cell phone number and gave the new one to only a few coaches. The Oregonian 10/19

Rivals Elite First Team: Kevin Love 6-9, 240, Lake Oswego, Ore.; With a hard edged competitive spirit and fundamentally solid game, Love is a bruiser around the basket. He has advanced footwork and can finish with either hand. He is a strong position rebounder, and his outlet passing is off the charts. With a pure shooting stroke, Love also possesses three-point shooting range. His footspeed on defense, however, is limited as well as his overall athleticism. 10/20


Jeff Withey, one of the biggest and best high school basketball prospects in the Class of 2008, has committed to the University of Louisville. The 7-foot, 220-pound Withey, a junior at Horizons High School in San Diego, said he called U of L coach Rick Pitino early Wednesday morning to inform him of the decision.  “He said it was a very happy start to the day for him,” Withey said. “It was not hard for me to wait. I made a visit there and just knew I wanted to go to Louisville. I had that feeling where you just know.” Courier Journal 10/18

Dwayne Polee Jr., a 14-year-old freshman at Westchester High, has verbally committed to the USC men's basketball team. Polee Jr., who has not yet played a game for the Comets, is the 6-foot-5 son of former NBA draft pick Dwayne Polee Sr. Although Polee Jr.'s early commitment is rare, it is not entirely unprecedented. In 2003, Taylor King made a verbal commitment to UCLA before he enrolled as a freshman at Mater Dei High of Santa Ana. King later rescinded his commitment, and verbally committed to Duke earlier this year.  L.A. Daily News 10/18

Sources indicate Simeon All-Stater Derrick Rose, the top-rated point guard in the nation, is leaning toward Indiana over Memphis as his final choice. He could wind up joining Indianapolis North Central's Eric Gordon as a Hoosier. Gordon, rated among the top three players in the nation, took back an oral commitment to Illinois last week and is headed to Indiana. Chicago Tribune 10/19

Although Renardo Sidney is the top-rated sophomore in the nation by some recruiting services, he actually didn't suit up as a freshman at Piney Woods School in Mississippi. Instead, he's built up his national reputation by starring on the AAU circuit with Pat Barrett's Southern California All-Stars, the nation's most impressive AAU team this past summer. Renardo Sidney Sr. told us at the ABCD Camp in New Jersey he was tired of the seemingly racist politics of the Mississippi High School Activities Association that kept Sidney from playing his freshman season at Piney Woods School. He also claimed that the Tornadoes were not going to be allowed to play in the post-season this year and told the Washington Post that basically he feels his son has outgrown the state of Mississippi. CalHiSports 10/21

A Medford sports writer who has monitored Singler’s recruitment closely wrote, “The feeling from here is that Kyle Singler will pick Duke. (Mike) Krzyzewski, considered by many to be the nation’s top college coach, has already formed a close relationship with Singler and has told him he has the potential to become an All-American.” Lawrence Journal-World 10/22

(photo credit: Courier Journal)