Thursday, November 02, 2006

Bruins Gain Easy Exhibition Victory

By Bruin Basketball Report

Box Score

The UCLA Bruins opened the exhibition season with a 73-43 victory over the Broncos of Cal Poly Pomona.

After racing out to a 16-4 lead the Bruins never looked back.  Arron Afflalo led all scorers with 17 points.

Even though the Broncos lost by 30 points, Cal Poly Pomona provided the Bruins with a good challenge. They are a very well coached and gutty team.  It is not surprising the Broncos have won two regional Division II championships over the past four years.

The Bruins unveiled a more up-tempo fast-break offense to some mixed results last night.

UCLA pushed the ball up the court quickly after every Broncos possession which led to some easy baskets.  On the other hand, there was some poor recognition and bad decision-making on the Bruin's part which led to some careless turnovers - UCLA committed 24 turnovers in the game.

On one play in the second half, Darren Collison found Michael Roll, a lone Bruin, streaking down the court and hit him with a long pass, but Roll happened to be flanked by two Broncos' defenders at the time.  Although Roll was able to beat the defenders to the ball and make the basket, one could sense Coach Ben Howland was not pleased with the decision-making on the play.

In the half-court sets, the Bruins started the game executing their offense extremely well but as the game progressed, and as some of the younger players were substituted into the game, the ball movement slowed and the Bruins became tentative.  The Broncos took advantage of some of this indecision by immediately trapping the Bruins in the half-court which led to some turnovers.

Sophomore Josh Shipp showed Bruins fans what they missed last year. Shipp hit an array of acrobatic shots inside including a tomahawk dunk off the break which got fans standing - including former Bruin Jordan Farmar who attended the game.  Shipp finished the night with 16 points.

Guard Michael Roll had a strong game defensively and showed that his offseason weight training has paid off; however, he struggled with his shooting and took a number of shots out of the flow of the offense. With the Bruins counting on Roll for more scoring this season, he will need to improve on his shot selection.

Freshman Russell Westbrook is the real deal.  On offense he ran the break efficiently, although a couple times he penetrated too deeply resulting in forced bad shots - a detail the coaching staff will no doubt discuss with him.  However, Westbrook excelled defensively.  He is athletic, quick, and very physical - it is not surprising he has become a favorite of Coach Howland.

Defensively, the Bruins pressured the Broncos well on the perimeter using their superior athleticism and quickness.  They also showed  some half-court traps, something Coach Howland has mentioned the team will do more of this season. 

The Bruins did struggle defending the paint last night.  Both Alfred Aboya and Ryan Wright had three fouls by halftime mainly due to bad defensive positioning and late rotations in the interior.  This is probably the area of biggest concern for the Bruins, and may be for the rest of the season due to personnel on the team.  It highlights the importance of having a healthy Lorenzo Mata back this season who is the Bruin's best defensive center.

UCLA faces Humboldt State next Thursday at Pauley Pavilion in the next and last exhibition game of the season.

(photo credit: Jack Rosenfeld)


UCLA Opens Exhibition Play Tonight

By Bruin Basketball Report

The UCLA Bruins kick off their two-game exhibition season tonight at Pauley Pavilion with a game versus Division II opponent, the Cal Poly Pomona Broncos.

Division I schools now regularly schedule Division II opponents for their exhibition games due to NCAA rule change prior to last season that prohibits teams from playing exhibitions against teams made up of former college players.

After playing Cal Poly Pomona tonight the Bruins will face Humboldt State next Thursday in Westwood.

“We could have played two scrimmages instead of the exhibition games but decided it would be better to play under the lights and in front of a crowd.” UCLA Head Coach Ben Howland said.

For those who have witnessed UCLA practices, scrimmage games under Ben Howland are just as competitive, and action as rough, as any regular season game.

Cal Poly Pomona has captured two NCAA Division II West Region championships in the past four years. The team returns three starters and nine players overall from a team that went 17-10 last season and finished third in the California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA).

The Broncos are led by first-team All-CCAA guard Dion Cook (Sr, 6’4, 205) who averaged 15.1 points, 4.1 rebounds last season and 2006 CCAA Freshman of the Year, Larry Gordon (So, 6’5, 200) who averaged 6.7 points and 5.7 rebounds.

The team also return five other players who started at least eight games last season. Billy Hofman (6’1, 170) and Melvyn Nicholson (6’7, 200)are two other seniors. The Broncos also return junior center Kaelen Daniels (6'6, 260) who played at Artesia High School, he averaged 7.5 points and 4.0 rebounds last season.

The Broncos will play two other exhibition games against NCAA Division I competition including Loyola Marymount on Nov. 6 and at USC on Nov. 11 at the Galen Center.


Tuesday, October 31, 2006

BBR: UCLA Bruins 2006-07 Basketball Preview

By Bruin Basketball Report

For most college basketball programs, reaching the championship game of the NCAA finals would be considered a banner year. However in Westwood, a team doesn't have a banner year, it only hangs them alongside the other eleven already at Pauley Pavilion.

And so goes the lofty expectations of UCLA Bruin basketball fans.

However, for those with more realistic expectations (i.e. fans who still aren't wearing Angels Flight bell-bottoms and silk shirts from the 70s), the 2006-07 UCLA Bruins are favorites to win their second consecutive Pac-10 conference championship and earn a ticket to the NCAA tournament, where as we learned last season - anything can happen.

The Coach

In three short seasons, UCLA Head Coach Ben Howland has returned the program to its rightful place among the elite of college basketball.

After recording 11-17 and 18-11 seasons in his first two at UCLA, Howland led the Bruins to an astounding 32-7 campaign in 2006 and a trip to the Final Four, heights even Howland had never reached as a player or coach.

One of many things Howland does well as a coach is he matches a team's style of play with its personnel.  Last season with Jordan Farmar at the point and a strong defensive team, the Bruins played more of a half-court game and grinded out victory after victory.

This season with ultra-speedy Darren Collison at the point and Arron Afflalo and Josh Shipp on the wings, the Bruins are expected to run more frequently. 

How much more?  Both coach and players are saying they definitely plan to run more, but they also sing the chorus that defense wins championships.

While college basketball experts point out that NCAA champions typically score over 70 points a game - the Bruins averaged 67.7 points last season, Howland is quick to counter that NCAA champions usually hold opponents to below 40% shooting.

Taking this into account, the Bruins will run more this season, perhaps not as much as a Duke team but somewhere in between. It took Howland three seasons to instill a sense of toughness and defensive intensity into his Bruin teams - its highly unlikely he will ever move far away from this base. 

Overcoming the Loss of 3 NBA Players

To put simply, the Bruin's success last season was a result of a highly talented roster.  Even legendary Coach Wooden has always maintained his success was based upon first and foremost having talented players.

Of course, Coach Howland and his elite staff had much to do with the team's success, but it always appeared, despite a number of injuries to key players, the Bruins always seemed to have someone ready to step in to do the job.

Lose Josh Shipp your third leading scorer?  Insert fifth-year senior Cedric Bozeman.  Lorenzo Mata breaks a leg? A light bulb appears above Ryan Hollins head and he becomes MVP of the Oakland Regional.

One look at NBA opening night rosters finds Jordan Farmar, Cedric Bozeman, and Ryan Hollins all on NBA rosters - a testament to the level of talent on the Bruins last season and the fine job Coach Ben Howland and his assistants did in developing the players.

Despite the loss of key players, the 2006-07 Bruin team has reloaded with holdover stars who have improved their game over the summer and freshmen who should contribute this season.

The Freshmen

Three scholarship players, James Keefe (Santa Marguerita), Russell Westbrook (Leuzinger), Nikola Dragovic (Serbia-Montenegro), and a walk-on Mustafa Abdul-Hamid join the Bruins as freshmen this season.

James Keefe, a McDonald's All-American, is a solid, fundamentally sound player who should see plenty of minutes this season at the four spot.  Keefe is the type of player who finds as much joy in setting a solid pick or hauling down a rebound as he does in shooting the ball. 

During summer league play, while his teammates were shooting as soon as they touched the ball, it was Keefe doing the yeoman's work to open up those offensive opportunities.

At this point of his development, Keefe is more effective facing the basket and will give bigger opponents problems guarding him away from the basket due to his better than average ballhandling skills. 

At 6'8 220lb, Keefe should be able to handle most power forwards defensively on the block, but may have problems with the Jon Brockmans at this level.  Although not an outstanding shot-blocker, he plays excellent position defense and alters shots with his length and extension.

Keefe may be able to play center at UCLA some point in the future but he will need to add bulk to his frame and improve his offensive game in the post.

Russell Westbrook has played well during preseason practices and has impressed Coach Howland with his defense and his vocal presence on the floor.

"Russell does a better job calling out instructions on the floor especially on defense than his teammates ," Howland said, " and he's only a freshman."

Westbrooks defensive abilities and ballhandling skills at the point has given Howland the confidence to anoint him the primary back-up point-guard to start the season.

A 6'3 190lb guard, Westbrook shoots well from beyond the three-point arc, and also knows how to split the seams to finish at the basket.  During summer league, Westbrook showed an impressive ability to hang in the air and double-pump over bigger players at the rim.

It would not be a surprise to find both Collison and Westbrook in the backcourt together to give the Bruins a change of pace on offense, similar to what the they did last year with Collison and Farmar.

Although as good as Westbrook may be offensively, ultimately, it will be his attention and effort on defense that will earn him minutes with Coach Howland.

Nikola Dragovic, a 6'8 forward, comes to Westwood with extensive international experience.  He is an outstanding outside shooter, and although not quick, he has the savvy and size to get off most of his shots over most players from the perimeter.

The biggest limitation for Dragovic this season will be his defense. Can he defend?  In certain match-up situations against smaller teams, he may guard the opponent's power forward but in most cases he will be asked to guard a smaller and quicker wing player.

"Nikola is one of the most erect standing players I've ever coached," Howland said. "We've been working with him to get lower on both offense and defense to make him quicker."

If Dragovic can improve his defense this season he may be a big factor for the team.  If he doesn't, he may have difficulty finding minutes on the floor - especially with Shipp, Afflalo, and Roll able to fill minutes at the wing. 

Walk-on point-guard Mustafa Abdul-Hamid is a solid player who can step in to give quality minutes if either Collison or Westbrook are injured.  Abdul-Hamid is a good insurance policy to have considering the concerns over depth at the point during the summer.

Returning Players

Arron Afflalo returns for his third campaign at UCLA and the Bruins are happy to have him back.  Afflalo was the team's leading scorer (15.8) shooting 46% from the field last season.

He is the heart and soul and emotional leader on the team.  He starts the year as a second-team preseason All-American and Wooden Award candidate. 

His reputation as a defensive stopper is nationally known, and as Coach Howland's first UCLA recruit, Afflalo's intense effort on defense sets the perfect tone for the team. 

Without Cedric Bozeman this year to help guard the opponent's top offensive option, Afflalo will be tasked even more this year on defense.  But for those who have watched this young man for the last three years, he is up for any challenge.      

Josh Shipp returns to the team as a sophomore after receiving a medical red-shirt for a hip injury which caused him to miss all but four games last season.

After playing himself into shape during the summer, Shipp returns to the team in solid form and with an improved shot.  Howland has been pleased with the way Shipp has shot from the perimeter, and more importantly likes the fact Shipp has improved his ability of attacking the basket from the wing.

Despite standing 6'5, he is hands down the Bruin's best finisher around the basket.  He knows how to use his body in heavy traffic to create his shots.

Many of the younger UCLA players look up to Shipp as a leader, and he can help fill that role on a team which is void of any seniors this season.

Howland is a percentage coach.  He knows the statistics from each game and practice.  Not surprisingly when asked where he thought the offense would come from this season, he answered, " I expect Arron Afflalo, Josh Shipp, and Michael Roll to take most of the team's shots this season."

Most would agree about Afflalo and Shipp but certainly some might be surprised by Howland's mention of Michael Roll as the third main scoring option. 

However, Roll slimmed down and worked his body over the summer and has impressed Howland with his confidence and accuracy of his outside shooting.  With team managers meticulously keeping stats during practice, Roll is shooting over 60% on three-pointers in team scrimmages.

Although Roll still has difficulty creating his own shot off the dribble, his pin-point shooting will open up the inside and break zones, in addition, he is one of the better Bruins in feeding big men in the post.

Roll did an adequate job on defense last season, and with his slimmed body and added quickness, his defense should be improved. 

Sophomore Darren Collison inherits the starting point-guard spot.  Last season, his presence in the backcourt provided the Bruin offense with a change of pace with the team running more.  .

During the preseason, Howland has been urging Collison to push the ball up the court after each possession, including after made baskets.  However at some practices, Collison has been found walking the ball up the court to Howland's dismay.   

Collison's effectiveness on the team last season was due to the quickness he brought to the floor.  In order for the Bruins to excel this year, the team will need maximum intensity from Collison on both offensive and defensive end.  Howland considers Collison to be one of the best on ball defenders he has ever coached

Although he is only one piece to the team's puzzle, as Collison goes this season so will the Bruin's fortunes.

Luc Richard Mbah a Moute is no longer a secret.  After a sterling freshman campaign and NCAA tournament, Mbah a Moute was named a third-team preseason All-American.

Over the summer, Mbah a Moute worked on his ballhandling and shooting skills to enhance his game. However, Coach Howland has noted that the team needs more of what Mbah a Moute provided last year - All-American hustle and rebounding effort.

Howland feels Mbah a Moute is one of the team's best low post defenders.  With few big men on the team, Mbah a Moute's defense and rebounding at the four spot will be a key to the team's success.

Junior Lorenzo Mata may return from his knee injury sometime after the BYU regular season opener and possibly by the Maui Tournament.  Mata is the Bruins best shot-blocker and a good defensive rebounder. 

With Ryan Hollins lost to graduation, Mata is the Bruin's biggest player at 6'9 and will need to be a strong defensive presence in the post.  The Bruins need Mata to stay healthy if they expect to make a deep run into the tournament.

Alfred Aboya has been very active in preseason practices.  After being limited last season by a knee injury, Aboya is once again healthy and ready to wreck havoc in the paint and on the glass.

Aboya's biggest assets are his toughness, athleticism and non-stop activity on the floor, although it can lead to foul trouble, as it did at times last season, his presence on the court is invaluable.

He is not a strong low post scorer but will get his fair share off offensive rebounds and hustle points. With Mata hurt to start the season, Aboya will likely get the call to fill most of the minutes in the middle.

Ryan Wright has the chance for a break-out this season.  If he can learn to stay within the flow of the offense, play solid defense, and rebound, he should earn himself much playing time.

Despite playing limited minutes last season, Wright demonstrated he may very well be the best low post scorer on the team.  At this point, the Bruins lack a reliable low post scoring option, if Wright can assimilate himself on the floor better, he may play a big role on the team this season.

With the departure of Farmar, Hollins, and Bozeman, the 2006-07 UCLA team is a much different team.  They are quicker yet smaller team this year.  A better outside shooting team yet not as solid defensively. 

How it will turn out after the ball is rolled onto the court, we will find out soon.  The Bruins play their first exhibition game this Thursday against Cal Poly Pomona. 

Finally, it's time for UCLA Bruins basketball! 

Read BBR Preview from the 2005-06 season

(photo credit: AP)


Seasons Change, And Howland Eases Pain

By Bill Dwyre
Los Angeles Times

Good news for UCLA fans: It's almost basketball season.

Even better news: Ben Howland is still around.

If you are Bruins Athletic Director Dan Guerrero and are being lambasted about your football program, being run by your hire, you can smile, knowing that, were you allowed to answer the critics, you could point out that, in the school's two big sports, you have batted .600.

Sure, Karl Dorrell still has a chance to turn things around in football, although the odds seem better that his UCLA legacy will, one day, be found by Googling the phrase, "Luck of the Irish." Poor Karl. When he lost one for the Gipper the way he did, followed by Saturday's collective no-show against Washington State, his future appeared to be golden doomed.

Guerrero knows, as do most Bruins fans, that basketball is what counts in Westwood, say to a 60-40 ratio. That's why the athletic director can survive dark days in Pasadena, as long as he gets bright nights in Pauley. The Terry Donahue years, the early Bob Toledo years, were frosting on the Bruins' sports cake. Fun stuff. Run off long winning streaks against hated USC — in football!

But now, Uncle Pete Carroll has arrived at that school over on Figueroa, the L.A. sports planets are back in alignment and it's time to follow the bouncing basketball, as blessed Bruins fans were able to do last season all the way to the NCAA final.

That's why Guerrero might consider burning a candle next to Howland's picture these days.

Howland is not an ordinary basketball coach. Well, actually, he is. He just gets it better than many of his peers and is more solid in his approach.

In many ways, he's tough to write about. He is not flashy. There are none of the wow moments that play so well on "SportsCenter." He is in Hollywood, but he's not Hollywood.

He spent 13 years as an assistant coach before he even got a sniff at the big-time, if you can call Northern Arizona the big time. Then he got to Pittsburgh, quickly made the Panthers one of the best college basketball programs in the country, and left it all, including a cupboard so full that Pittsburgh has continued as a powerhouse, to coach at UCLA, where it took him all of three seasons to get to the NCAA title game.

It was amusing during his first season here to hear local fans call talk-radio shows with the insight that the Bruins finally had the sense to hire a hard-nosed guy from the East who could teach "soft" UCLA players how to play defense.

"You need a guy who has been around the coal mines, who knows what it's like to have it tough," one nitwit with too much time on his hands theorized to Doug and Joe one day.

Howland is from Santa Barbara. But the guy was right about one thing. There were days when Howland did have it tough, when it was foggy at the beach and the temperature slipped into the 60s.

Howland was a great high school player who got to college at Weber State and became like so many other great high school players — ordinary. So he made his mark by playing tough defense, for which he won several honors.

Playing defense demands a strong work ethic. There have been Michael Jordan and Jerry West and Bill Russell and 56,000 other defensive standouts who had none of the athletic skills of the three aforementioned, but the same work habits.

If you want a defining moment in Howland's UCLA tenure, it would be last spring's Gonzaga game in the tournament. It would have been nearly impossible to make up the deficit the Bruins did — Gonzaga led by 17 at one point — had they not chased All-American Adam Morrison all night with the kind of defensive pressure, most of it by Cedric Bozeman, that is a nightmare for a shooter.

At a key moment, when Morrison should not have shot but was so frustrated that when he glimpsed daylight he couldn't resist, he let fly and missed. It got the Bruins one more key possession. It was classic Ben Howland basketball.

Donny Daniels, Howland's top assistant, who left a head-coaching job at Fullerton to join Howland at UCLA, says the most impressive thing about his boss is that "he has a plan, and he definitely sticks with it." To do that, Daniels adds, you have to have "integrity, passion and a work ethic."

Howland has also quickly seen the big picture, and embraced it. Its symbol is there at most home games, sitting a few rows up in the bleachers just to the right of the Bruin bench: John Wooden, 96, the heart, soul and legacy of Bruins basketball.

"I've never once looked down there and felt anything but 100% support," Howland says.

Howland also says that he and Wooden talk more about life than basketball, although he is proud of one basketball moment with Wooden.

"Last year, when we beat Cal," he says, "I called him and he said he had watched. Somewhere in the conversation, he said he liked the way we moved the ball. Wow! You know how that feels, to have John Wooden say something like that to you?"

Howland has begun a tradition he hopes to continue, an annual get-together at his house. This year, it was the Saturday of the Notre Dame football game. The invitees were, and will continue to be, the past and present of Bruins basketball and sports lore. The theory is that Bill Walton sits with Arron Afflalo., Mike Warren with Darren Collison, etc. There are the old-timers, Eddie Sheldrake and Jerry Norman, even Rafer Johnson. And there is the recent past, Mitchell Butler and Tracy Murray. Wooden missed this year but says he will attend as often as he can.

"They need to know where their past is, what the legacy is," Howland says. "Think how it affects an Arron Afflalo to sit and talk with Keith Erickson. I can walk by and point out he is talking to somebody who played 12 years in the NBA. That gets their attention."

The Bruins open with Brigham Young on Nov. 15. Howland says BYU is good, that several lead-in games to the Pacific 10 Conference season will be tough.

"They always come in pumped to play us," Howland says. "Pumped, I like. But pumped and good … that's tougher."

Not to worry. It's almost basketball season in Westwood. Time for Dan Guerrero to smile again.

(reprinted with permission)


Monday, October 30, 2006

Ten Former Bruins in NBA

By Bruin Basketball Report

Ten former UCLA basketball players will open the regular season Tuesday on rosters of NBA teams.

Bruins in the NBA are: Earl Watson, Seattle; Darrick Martin, Toronto; Jason Kapono, Miami; Ryan Hollins, Charlotte; Dan Gadzuric, Milwaukee; Jordan Farmar, L.A. Lakers; Baron Davis, Golden St.; Cedric Bozeman, Atlanta; Matt Barnes, Golden St.; Trevor Ariza, Orlando.

While most former Bruins already had secure spots on an NBA roster, two players, Cedric Bozeman and Matt Barnes, had to wait until almost the final cut-off date for opening day rosters.

It appeared early in training camp the Hawks were planning to keep 7'1 Andreas Glyniadakis thereby leaving Bozeman to outplay a guard or small forward.  But the Hawk coaches were so enamored by Bozeman's ballhandling skills and his ability to guard three positions, they decided to keep Bozeman due to his versatility.

With teammate Marvin Williams injured, Bozeman will start the season on the Hawks' active roster list.

Similarly in Oakland, Matt Barnes had been battling Anthony Roberson for a final roster spot.  But both players impressed Coach Don Nelson and instead the Warriors kept both players and cut former Pittsburgh star forward Chris Taft.  Taft was coming back from major back surgery and did not play in the preseason.

"They both (Barnes and Roberson) earned it," Nelson said. "Nothing was given to those guys, and they made us re-think what we had intended to do."

Bozeman's Bruin teammates from last season, Ryan Hollins and Jordan Farmar, both had successful preseasons with their respective teams. 

Hollins' spot was secured when the Bobcats cut guard Kevin Burleson to trim the final roster to 15.  The 7'0 center will start the season on the inactive list and will likely play in the NBDL.

Farmar signed a first-round draft guaranteed contract with the Lakers earlier in the summer.  With injuries to Chris Mihm, Kwame Brown, and Aaron McKie, Farmar will start the season on the active roster and may see minutes early in the season.

Last season, the Bruins had eight former players in the NBA.  Dijon Thompson played for the Phoenix Suns last season but was cut by the Warriors a few weeks ago at the start of training camp.

With ten former players on teams, UCLA ranks among elite colleges with alumni on NBA rosters. 

The only other colleges with ten or more former players on NBA rosters this season are: UCONN (14), Duke (13), North Carolina (12), and Arizona (10).  Michigan St. (9) Kentucky, (9), and Kansas (8) follow the pack.

(photo credit: AP)


Sunday, October 29, 2006

Bruin Recruiting: Prep News Roundup (10/30)

By Bruin Basketball Report

Prep News Roundup is published every Monday.


The No. 1 high school basketball player in the West, if not the nation, 6-10 center Kevin Love from Lake Oswego, Ore., is going to make two appearances in Southern California, which is great news for UCLA fans because he is scheduled to sign a letter of intent with the Bruins on Nov. 8. Love will play at Pauley Pavilion on Dec. 15 against Compton Centennial as part of the Los Angeles Verbum Dei Real Run Winter Classic. Then, on Feb. 3, he'll face Santa Ana Mater Dei at the Monarchs' new gymnasium as part of the Nike Extravaganza. L.A. Times 10/25

Kevin Love will have an immediate impact. He can cause problems for a defense with his shooting, his physical play underneath and his passing. It is possible that Love could have a Tyler Hansbrough-type freshman year, but he won't necessarily be the go-to guy for the Bruins like Hansbrough was for the Tar Heels. Whereas Hansbrough was always out in front of the play - beating his man down the court for early positioning - I expect Love to spend more time trailing the play. With Love being such a highly skilled passer, I see him inbounding the ball after makes and then filling the high post as the trailer. There, he is a threat to shoot the ball and also feed the post.  Love is skilled enough to run the offense through in the high post. Expect him to be involved in a lot of pick-and-roll/pop and two-man game from that position as well.  He might not put up the points that Hansbrough put up as a freshman, but Love will certainly have a lot more assists. Rivals 10/26


The Bay Ball Classic will be back for another year, tournament organizations announced Tuesday. The second annual high school boys basketball tournament will be played Dec. 27-30 at Cape Henlopen High in Lewes...In addition to Jones, at least four other players committed to NCAA Division I schools are scheduled to attend, as well as some of the nation's best underclassmen. Jrue Holiday, a 6-3 guard at Campbell Hall (Calif.), is rated by as the No. 2 junior prospect in the nation. Deleware News Journal 10/25

Need a sign that Archbishop Mitty's stature has risen to epic proportions? Consider that the Monarchs have accepted an invitation to an event that aspires to bring the best boys basketball teams in the country under one roof. Mitty will play in the four-day Basketball Hall of Fame High School Invitational in Springfield, Mass., on Jan. 21, 2008.... Mitty will probably be paired with Helen Cox, Procino said, which would create a match-up between Helen Cox's 6-foot-10 Greg Monroe, the No. 1 prospect in the country for the class of 2008, and 6-8 Drew Gordon, ranked No. 10 in that class by Mercury News 10/26

If the Tornadoes somehow run the table (or, for that matter, come close), few can dispute their status as one of Mississippi's best teams - regardless of their ineligibility for the Big House or the C-L rankings due to last spring's much-debated ruling that banned the program from the postseason for a second straight year. The MHSAA sanctions stem from accusations of illegal recruiting practices by Brent, brought on by the enrollment of Renardo Sidney, a 6-foot-9 forward from Jackson regarded as the nation's best freshman. Sidney, who was declared ineligible to play for the Tornadoes last season, now attends Lakewood (Calif.) Artesia. The Clarion Ledger 10/27

Kyle Singler, a 6-foot-8 forward who's one of the most talented and versatile seniors in the nation, announced Friday he has committed to play basketball at Duke. Singler made the announcement at South Medford (Ore.) High, where he averaged 20.5 points and 5.4 rebounds as a junior last season. He comes from an athletic family; his father, Ed, was a football player at Oregon State, where Kyle's mother, Kris, played basketball. All-Star Sports recruiting analyst Bob Gibbons ranks Singler No. 4 overall in his class behind center Kevin Love of Lake Oswego, Ore.; guard Eric Gordon of Indianapolis; and guard O.J. Mayo of Huntington, W.Va. "He's probably the best all-around player outside of Kevin Love," Gibbons said. Charlotte Observer 10/28

(photo credit: Fox Sports)