Saturday, December 16, 2006

UCLA Overcomes Slow Start, Win by 21

By Bruin Basketball Report

Box Score

The UCLA defense held down the fort until the offense arrived as the Bruins overcame a slow start to defeat the Oakland Golden Grizzlies, 74-53.

Perhaps it was the gruel of completing finals or rustiness from the lack of practice this week, but many in the Pauley Pavilion crowd of 8,612 were stunned to find the Bruins ahead by just the score of 21-19 with four minutes remaining in the first-half.

But UCLA went on a 12-0 run culminated by a Darren Collison three-point shot to go into intermission with a 33-19 lead, and then the Bruins blew the game wide-open with a 8-0 run to begin the second-half.

Although the UCLA offense was stagnant for most of the first-half, the defense was solid as usual.  The Bruins held the Grizzlies to only 28.6% field goal shooting in the half.

Much of the Bruins' troubles offensively could be attributed to a sluggish start, but the Oakland game plan of slowing the tempo also affected the UCLA offense. Similar to the UC Riverside contest two weeks ago, the Grizzlies walked the ball up court and held the ball for a good part of the shot clock to slow the Bruin running game down. 

The slow-down strategy utilized by opponents this season has allowed them to dictate the tempo against the Bruins for at least a single-half in games, or until the Bruin defense wears them down in the second-half. 

Interestingly, UCLA Coach Ben Howland does not insert a counter to force a more up-tempo game such as picking up full-court and pressing.  The most UCLA will do is pick up the opponent's point-guard earlier in the backcourt as Collison and Westbrook did in this game.  The Bruins will see similar teams in the Pac-10 such as Washington St. and Arizona St. who play a similar slow-down style but have better personnel to execute it.

Collison scored a game-high 15 points.  He struggled in the first-half offensively, along with his teammates, a number of times by over penetrating and getting himself into trouble in traffic. But Collison settled down and scored ten of his points in the second-half.  The sophomore point-guard was solid defensively holding Oakland's Johnathan Jones to 1of 10 shooting.

Arron Afflalo had 14 points and Josh Shipp chipped in 13 and grabbed 6 rebounds as the top-ranked Bruins improved their undefeated record to 9-0.

Sophomore phenom Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, showing no effects of a groin injury suffered last week, had a solid game scoring 8 points and grabbing a game-high 12 rebounds in 28 minutes.

Aside from Mbah a Moute and Shipp, the rest of the team was MIA on the boards.  For the second game in a row the Bruins were out-rebounded by their opponents, in this game by a 38 to 33 margin.  Center Lorenzo Mata recorded only a single rebound. 

"They (Oakland) must have a heck of a weight program," Howland said. "We've been out-boarded two weeks in a row now. If we continue to get beat on the boards, we are going to lose."   

The Bruins' troubles from the free-throw line continued as they shot only 10 of 18 from the stripe.  Shipp, normally reliable from the line, was only 3 of 7.

With conference play starting in less than two weeks, if UCLA does not improve their rebounding and free-throw shooting soon, they will lose more than their share of games against tough Pac-10 teams who currently sport four teams in the top 25, and a fifth (Washington St.) who may join the elite group soon.

For those who have questioned Coach Howland's strategy of often doubling down in the low-post just needed to witness the Bruin low-post defense this evening.  Oakland's 300-lb plus center Shawn Hopes center gave the Bruins trouble inside scoring a game-high 17 points primarily against single-coverage.   As good a shot-blocker Lorenzo Mata may be this year, he needs to improve his ability in denying opponents low-post position.  Hopes scored three straight baskets in the second-half getting excellent position underneath and scoring easily over Mata.

Michael Roll had a solid game coming off the bench.  He scored 8 points all on mid-range jumpers, a facet of his game he's been working on since the summer.

The Bruins finished the game shooting 50.9 from the field including 40% (6-15) from three-point distance while the defense held Oakland to a paltry 32.1%.

UCLA faces Sam Houston (6-4) on Tuesday at Pauley Pavilion, and then on Saturday the Michigan Wolverines (11-1) come to town.

(photo credit: AP)


Media: Kevin Love at Pauley Pavilion

By Bruin Basketball Report

UCLA-bound Kevin Love had 25 pts, 13 rebounds, and 9 blocks including 14 of 15 from the free throw line to lead Lake Oswego to a 58-37 victory over Compton Centennial before 1,500 at the Verbum Dei Paul Pierce Real Run Winter Classic.

Love will return to Southern California on February 2 when Lake Oswego plays Santa Ana Mater Dei as part of the Nike Extravaganza at Mater Dei.

Photos courtesy of Jack Rosenfeld


Friday, December 15, 2006

Fill the Stands at Pauley Pavilion for Every Game

From the UCLA Athletics Department:

Thank you for your support of our program. We are off to an 8-0 start, but there is a great deal of work ahead and many challenges to be met.

Pauley Pavilion is nearly SOLD OUT on a game-by-game basis with advance sellout crowds already announced for the upcoming Michigan and Arizona games. We have averaged 12,500 tickets sold through the first four regular season games. But, our in-game attendance has averaged 8,500. That means nearly one in three tickets purchased has gone unused.

We would like the seats filled with Bruin fans for every game. This team deserves a home court advantage that you can provide. If you have additional corporate tickets, or you find that you are going to be out of town and can't make it to Pauley for a game, you can still support the team.

We debuted a new online ticket system this year that provides you maximum flexibility, greater value and easy-to-use features. If you can't use your tickets for a specific game, you have three options

Forward Your Tickets- Send your tickets to anyone up to two hours prior to tip-off via ticket forwarding. You can email your tickets to friends, family or co-workers. It's free. Avoid the hassles of overnight or in-person delivery. Simply log in to your personal account, select the tickets you wish to send and follow the online instructions.

To forward your tickets and help give the #1 team in the nation a great home court advantage (select UCLA Athletics "Season Ticket Holder Log in")…click here.

Post Your Tickets For Sale- Sell individual game tickets anonymously to other fans. There is no fee for posting or selling. Simply log in to your personal account, highlight games you wish to sell, choose your price and expiration date. Email updates are sent to you regarding the status of your posted ticket.

To post your tickets for sale and help give the #1 team in the nation a great home court advantage (select UCLA Athletics "Season Ticket Holder Log in")…click here.

Donate Your Tickets to UCLA- Forward your tickets back to UCLA so that fans or youth groups who would not otherwise attend, now have the ability to see us in action! You will receive a letter confirming your ticket donation that may possibly be used for a tax deduction (check with your tax advisor). If you choose to donate tickets, we would like them a minimum of three days before gameday.

You can utilize our “Forward Your Tickets” feature above and donate your tickets to:

Or mail to:
UCLA Athletics Marketing
PO Box 24044
Los Angeles, CA  90024-0044

For additional information regarding your account, contact the UCLA Central Ticket Office at (310) UCLA-WIN (M-F, 10:00am – 4:00pm).

Go Bruins!


BBR Note:  Bruin Basketball Report (BBR) maintains a link to the UCLA Athletics Ticket Exchange program located on the left side menu under "UCLA Ticket Central".  Here you will also find other Buy/Sell ticket options to other advertised supported vendors. Let's fill the stands at Pauley Pavilion!


Thursday, December 14, 2006

UCLA vs. Oakland - Game Preview

By Bruin Basketball Report

After a very busy week of taking finals the Bruins return to action against the Oakland Golden Grizzlies of Michigan at Pauley Pavilion on Saturday.

UCLA hasn't played since their victory over highly-ranked Texas A&M at the Wooden Classic. In addition, as a result of finals week, the team did not have a regular practice until Thursday.

Oakland (6-6) is coming off two big losses to Miami (OH), 72-46, last Sunday and to Arkansas on Thursday, 91-57. 

As they have done for the past few years, the Grizzlies play one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the nation.  In addition to playing UCLA on Saturday, the Grizzlies have played Pittsburgh and Cincinnati earlier in the season and will travel next week to play No.22 Marquette before opening conference play.

Last season, the Golden Grizzlies under Head Coach Greg Kampe suffered one of the school's worst seasons finishing 11-18 overall and 6-10 in conference play.

The Grizzlies return three seniors to the starting line-up and they will be looked upon to provide leadership and a bulk of the offense.  Unfortunately for Oakland, they lost their best offensive player, guard Calvin Wooten, to academic ineligibility before the season.  Without Wooten the Grizzlies have been hard pressed to find enough offense.

As a result of their lack of fire power, Coach Kampe put a lot of emphasis during the preseason to play more solid team defense, and especially to improve their three-point defense - and its paid off in games.  While last season opponents averaged 77.3 points a game and shot over 45% from beyond the arc, this season the Grizzlies are limiting teams to just 60.9 points and 31% from three-point distance and 42% FG% overall.

The Grizzlies have depth on the roster and usually play nine to ten players each game.

Oakland's leading scorer is Vova Severovas (Sr, 6'6,, 225).  The forward from Lithuania transfered to the program from Wright St. last season.  He is averaging 13.3 points and 4.9 rebounds while shooting an efficient 51% from the field.  He is a slashing type player with a solid mid-range game.  He tends to be too unselfish at times and the coaches are urging him to take more charge on the offensive end and to shoot more.

Severovas will be matched up against UCLA's Luc Richard Mbah a Moute.  Mbah a Moute has been suffering from a groin pull injury and his status is unknown at this time; however, its highly doubtful he will log 35 minutes against Oakland as he did on Saturday against Texas A&M.

At the other front court spot for Oakland is big Shawn Hopes.  The senior is listed at 6'7 275 but carries more weight at this point.  Last season Hopes fought a difficult weight problem playing most of the season at 340 lbs.  Coach Kampe wanted him to get below 300 before the start of this season.  Hopes is averaging 11.7 points and 4.5 rebounds in 24.3 minutes a contest.

More was expected offensively from senior guard Rick Billings (6'4, 220) but he is struggling from the field shooting only 33%.  He is averaging 6.0 points and 4.0 rebounds a game. 

Sophomore Eric Kangas (6'3, 195) has been a pleasant surprise for the Grizzlies.  Not expected to log many minutes before the season, Kangas is playing 27.6 minutes a game and is the team's third-leading scorer at 10.3 points a game.  He is also the team's best three-point shooter averaging an astounding 49.2% from beyond the arc.  Although, its doubtful Kangas will be shooting anywhere near that level against the Bruins especially with UCLA's Arron Afflalo hounding him.

At point-guard for Oakland is Johnathan Jones (Fr, 6'0, 160).  Jones was a McDonald's All-American nominee last year.  He is averaging 9.2 points but just 2.3 assists a game. He hasn't been taking care of the ball averaging almost four turnovers a game including six against Arkansas.

Off the bench the Grizzlies can bring size along the front line and players who can play both guard positions. 

Derrick Nelson (So, 6'5, 215) is the first player off the bench and is averaging 7.0 points and 5.5 rebounds a game.  Against Arkansas he scored 16 points and grabbed 8 rebounds.

Forwards Patrick McCloskey (Jr, 6'8, 225) and F/C Shane Lawal (So, 6'10, 205) , guard Brandon Cassise (Jr, 6'3, 195) will also see significant minutes on Saturday.

This game should provide UCLA Head Coach Ben Howland the opportunity to give more minutes to players on the bench, especially James Keefe, Russell Westbrook, and Ryan Wright.  With Pac-10 conference play starting in less than two weeks, the experience for the younger players on the team would be invaluable.

(photo credit: Oakland (MI) Athletics)


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Love To Give L.A. A Preview

By Bruin Basketball Report

Bruin fans have a chance to get a preview of UCLA-bound Kevin Love when he leads his Lake Oswego high school team into the Verbum Dei Real Run Winter Classic at Pauley Pavilion on Friday.

It marks the first time Kevin Love has ever played at Pauley Pavilion.

Lake Oswego will play Arron Afflalo's old high school Compton Centennial in the second game of a double-header.  The first game will match Verbum Dei and Daniel Murphy HS.

Love, a skilled and powerful 6'9 center, is ranked No.1 in the 2007 recruiting class and is having a standout senior season.  He is averaging an astonishing 34 points and 23 rebounds in leading his Lakers team to a 3-0 record.

When asked if he planned to watch his prized-recruit on Friday night, UCLA Head Coach Beb Howland said, "Absolutely, I plan to watch him play."

Love and his father, Stan Love a former star at nearby Inglewood Morningside, plan to take in the UCLA game against Oakland at Pauley Pavilion on Saturday.

Tickets to watch Kevin Love at the Verbum Dei Real Run Winter Classic are still available through Ticketmaster.  The game is scheduled to start at approximately 8:30 PM or 30 minutes after the first game.

(photo credit: SI)


Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Finals Put a Crimp Into Bruin Practices

By Bruin Basketball Report

After battling for a hard-fought victory against Texas A&M on Saturday at the Wooden Classic, Bruin players got set for their next battle.  No, not another basketball game - but Finals Week at UCLA.

"Finals impacts players, it impacted the game on Saturday," UCLA Head Coach Ben Howland said.  "Its equally tough the week before going into finals than during it.  Its always been hard for student athletes to deal with them and still focus on training and the competition."

With his players in the midst of finals Howland hasn't been able to spend much time with his team this week.

“We haven’t practiced since Saturday's game," Howland said. “We’re going to practice for an hour in a half tonight and again tomorrow then we’ll have normal practices starting on Thursday."

Howland hasn't had the opportunity to talk to Luc Richard Mbah a Moute since Saturday about the condition of his groin pull injury which limited him to just four points and two rebounds against Texas A&M, although Howland doesn't appear overly concerned with his forward's injury.

"I thought Luc played a great game on Saturday. I don't judge a player by just his stat sheet - he played strong defense," Howland said.  "He didn't shoot the ball particularly well but it was mostly because he was out of rhythm from not practicing much during the week."

After averaging only 2.5 turnovers a game to start the season, UCLA point-guard Darren Collison has turned it over 11 times in his last two games, but Howland is sympathetic.

“Darren's got a lot on his shoulders since everything runs through him." Howland said. "He handles the ball a lot and I'm very pleased with his play.  The good thing is even though his turnovers have gone up, the team's totals are still way down."

One thing Howland would like Collison to continue to work on is his dribble which tends to be too high at times.

"That's been the thing we've worked on and talked about," Howland said. "Until he gets his dribble down lower he'll have more turnovers than you'd like him to have."

BBR Notes: Alfred Aboya went to the emergency room shortly after Saturday's game to have his eye examined and no damage was found.  Aboya was scratched in the eye by Texas A&M's Acie Law in the first half but was able to return to action in the second half. 


Monday, December 11, 2006

Bruins in the NBA Report

By Bruin Basketball Report

With the NBA already reaching the first quarter mark of the season, BBR updates the progress of UCLA alumni in the big leagues.

Jordan Farmar, Los Angeles Lakers, Guard: We thought it would take Farmar at least until the all-star break to earn serious minutes under Lakers coach Phil Jackson, but the former Bruin has not only earned the respect of Jackson and his teammates - he's earned serious consideration to be the Lakers starting point-guard this season.

Farmar, already a Staples arena favorite, has quickly picked up the nuances of the triangle and in many instances has outplayed his veteran counterparts Smush Parker and Sasha Vujacic.

The former Taft HS star is playing an integral part in the Lakers return to atop the Pacific Division this season.  Farmar is averaging 6.4 points and 2.5 assists in 18 minutes of action per game while shooting 48.4% from the field and 35% from beyond the arc. 

Farmar has played adequately on defense, staying in front of his speedy opponents in most instances, fighting over the top of hard screens, and applying what he learned while at UCLA under Coach Ben Howland.

"The (Lakers) defense is a little different from the philosophy Coach (Ben Howland) had at UCLA," Farmar said. "There, you did the same things every game, regardless of the personnel or the situation. Here, we're changing things up every game, and there's a lot of games. But I was exposed to a lot of help-defense at UCLA, and that's paying off here."

Baron Davis, Golden State Warriors, Guard: Notice to the NBA:  Baron is back! Davis successfully shed 15 pounds before the start of the season in hopes of regaining his all-star form - and he is doing just that.

Davis is averaging 20.1 points and 8.2 assists per game, but more importantly he is shooting 44% from the field after averaging less than 40% the past few seasons.  Although he still takes some questionable shots, his shot-selection has improved under new Coach Don Nelson. 

Nelson had tried to free up Davis from some point-guard duties by giving former-Duke player Mike Dunleavy the point-forward role, but Dunleavy has been a disappointment and is currently in Nelson's doghouse and thus Davis is back to his full-time duties at the point.

Matt Barnes, Golden State Warriors, Forward: The emerging play of Matt Barnes for the Warriors has been a great story this season.  Barnes entered the Warriors camp as a free-agent invitee and made the team on the final day of training camp.

No longer the guy at the end of the roster, Barnes has been a key contributor off the bench for Golden State.  He is averaging 7.3 points and 3.0 rebounds in almost 18 minutes per game while shooting 52% from the field and an incredible 46.2% from three-point distance.  Barnes recently scored 20 points against Seattle hitting 4 three-point shots in a season-high 37 minutes of action. 

Earl Watson, Seattle Sonics, Guard: After playing the good solider at the start of training camp and not complaining about the point-guard controversy on the team, Watson's attitude changed when the Sonics announced they were giving the starting job to Luke Ridnour without giving Watson a chance to earn it.

As a result trade rumors have been circulating with one indicating he might be headed back to Memphis. But Watson is still with the Sonics and has actually picked up his play after a rough start to the season.

Watson is averaging 6.9 points and 4.1 assists in 21.5 minutes but was mired in a 33% field goal shooting slump, however over his last three games he is averaging over 16 points a game on 45% shooting.  He may still be traded before the trading deadline but it will likely depend on whether the Sonics are still contending.

Trevor Ariza, Orlando Magic, Forward:  After missing all of training camp and the first five games of the season due to a sore right foot, Ariza has been a key player off the bench for the division-leading Magic.

Ariza is averaging 5.9 points and 3.5 points in 18.1 minutes per game.  The coaches have been impressed with his solid defense and he has been a spark off the bench 

Darrick Martin, Toronto Raptors, Guard: Martin has spent most of the season on the Raptor's inactive list.  Although he has played in only two games, Martin's expected role this season was to serve as a mentor to young T.J. Ford.

Jason Kapono, Miami Heat, Forward: Over his last four games, Jason Kapono has been averaging 11.5 points a game on 50% shooting and 44% shooting from beyond the arc in 22 minutes of play. In his last game against the Denver Nuggets, Kapono went off for 19 points on 6 of 11 shooting.

Dan Gadzuric, Milwaukee Bucks, Center: Gadzuric is having another solid season serving as back-up center for the Bucks.  He is averaging 4.6 points and 3.8 rebounds in over 14 minutes a game. His name has been mentioned in a number of trade rumors this season but his large contract has been a hindrance for Milwaukee management to move.

Cedric Bozeman, Atlanta Hawks, Guard-Forward: After early injuries to Marvin Williams and Speedy Claxton, Bozeman started the first month of the season in the Hawks regular rotation.

With Hawks star Joe Johnson playing practically the entire game and with Williams and Claxton returning to action, Bozeman's minutes have dwindled and he is now averaging under 5 minutes of action per game. 

Although he is averaging just under 1.0 points a game, it is Bozeman's solid defense and his ability to guard three positions which will earn him more minutes in the future with the Hawks.

Waiting in the Wings of the NBDL

Ryan Hollins, Charlotte Bobcats/Fort Worth Flyers, Center: Hollins was sent down to the Fort Worth Flyers of the NBDL at the start of the season.  He is averaging a double-double, 12.2 points and 10.4 rebounds a game.  Hollins is also averaging 2.0 blocks a game.  He has impressed coaches with his aggressiveness and shot-blocking.  It wouldn't be surprising to see Hollins up with the Bobcats before the end of the season.

Dijon Thompson, Albuquerque Thunderbirds, Guard-Forward: Thompson was cut from the Warriors team during the first weeks of training camp and joined the Albuquerque Thunderbirds a few weeks ago.  He is third in the league in scoring average at 20.8 points per game. Last season, Thompson played with the Thunderbirds before being called up by the Phoenix Suns.

TJ Cummings, Albuquerque Thunderbirds, Forward:  The 6'9 Cummings is a veteran of the NBDL and is once again playing alongside Dijon Thompson on the Thunderbirds.  He is averaging 13.9 points per game on 53% field goal shooting.

(photo credit: AP and Orlando Sentinel)


Pac-10 Rises, UCLA Remains No.1

By Bruin Basketball Report

Last season when UCLA Head Coach Ben Howland suggested the Pac-10 conference should regularly have five teams represented in the NCAA tournament every year, some people scoffed at the idea. 

But in a season in which the Pac-10 is ranked second in overall RPI, Howland is beginning to look like a pretty good prognosticator.

Four Pac-10 teams show up in both the AP and ESPN/USA Today polls this week while a fifth Pac-10 team, the surprising Washington St. Cougars (9-1), received votes in both polls.

With victories over CS Fullerton and No.6 Texas A&M last week, UCLA (8-0) remain atop at No.1 in each poll and are joined by three other Pac-10 teams - Arizona, Washington, and Oregon.

In the AP and ESPN/USA Today polls respectively, Arizona (7-1) moved up to No. 10/No.11 with victories over Louisville and San Diego St.; Washington (7-1) was knocked out of the top 10 with a loss to Gonzaga and are at No.17/14; and Oregon (7-0) makes its first 2006 appearance in the top 25 at No.22/24 after defeating Nebraska last week.

Its still early but the Pac-10 conference has been nothing short of impressive in non-conference play.  Pac-10 teams carry a combined 66-16 (.804) record against non-conference competition to this point.

With a tough game against highly ranked Texas A&M on Saturday, UCLA moved up to No.2 in RPI ranking and have played the No.14 toughest schedule in the NCAA this season.

Following UCLA in the top 5 of both polls are Pittsburgh, North Carolina, Ohio St., and Florida.


Sunday, December 10, 2006

Bruin Recruiting: Prep News Roundup (12/11)

By Bruin Basketball Report

Prep News Roundup is published every Monday.


But here's what happens when you're already kind-of famous at 18 -- an idiot thinks it would be funny to impersonate you on the Internet. "Somebody faked that," Kevin Love said. "I don't have time for MySpace. I'm in school, working out, doing my homework or taking care of my little sister. I don't use derogatory words. All it takes is a minute with me, and you'll (say), 'Wow, that kid is actually a real humble kid.' I'll change your mind, I swear." Seattle Post-Intelligencer 12/7

According to the hardwood hype, Lake Oswego's Kevin Love is the most dominant big man in high-school basketball today, with an NBA-ready 6-foot-10, 255-pound body and an outlet pass that rivals anybody's in the country, professional or otherwise. Seattle Times 12/8

Kevin Love, the 6-foot-10 phenomenon from Lake Oswego, Ore., gave the Lancers all they could handle and more Friday night in the Lakers' 71-43 victory at Kennedy High School. Aside from those present for Love's one-man show of 28 points, 18 rebounds, five assists and three blocks, a legion of college basketball fans has its eyes fixed on the UCLA-bound senior. He's considered the nation's top big man, but the soft-spoken kid from the Northwest said he doesn't feel much pressure. Seattle Post-Intelligencer 12/9

Jerime Anderson, Anaheim Canyon: Junior guard scored a game-high 31 points for the Comanches (6-0), ranked No. 15 by The Times, in a 59-50 nonleague victory over St. John Bosco. Los Angeles Times 12/10

Kevin Love showcased why he's perhaps the best prospect in high-school basketball. He had enough speed to outrace Franklin's defense down the court for a breakaway dunk, and enough vision to whip a backdoor bounce pass from near the half-court line. And at 255 pounds, he had enough power and coordination to own the highlight of the night, grabbing a lob pass from teammate Ernie Spada and throwing down a reverse alley-oop dunk that capped a personal 9-0 scoring run and put Lake Oswego up 45-29 in the third quarter. Seattle Times 12/10

The much-ballyhooed arrival of UCLA all-everything recruit Kevin Love will finally occur this week. For one night, at least.  Love, the nation's No. 1 recruit who committed to the Bruins this past July, will bring his high school team to compete in the Verbum Dei Real Run Winter Classic held this Friday at Pauley Pavilion. Daily Bruin 12/11


Drew Gordon, Mitty: The 6-9 Gordon, ranked No. 15 in the nation for the class of 2008, has a greater understanding of the game as well as improved skills, particularly with his outside shot. ``He's learning to make basketball plays rather than merely highlight plays,'' Eagleson said Mercury News 12/5

Drew Gordon (Mitty, 6-9 F): One of the top junior prospects in the country, Gordon will make an unofficial visit to North Carolina later this month. He has the body, agility and aggressiveness to play in the NBA. Last season, he averaged 15.5 points, 11.5 rebounds and 4.5 blocks and earned state Sophomore Player of the Year honors.  San Francisco Chronicle 12/6

There were a lot of empty seats at Pauley Pavilion - again. Two, however, were occupied by Mater Dei High sophomores David and Travis Wear, among the top pros- pects in the Class of 2009. OC Register 12/6

"Luke Babbitt plays better every day," Mauer said. "The AAU ball takes a lot out of him. His ball-handling is better. If it wasn't for the free throws, he has an outstanding game. Defensively he played Olek well in the first half. (Czyz finished with four points). "Luke has all the pressure on him. It's like he feels he has to win the game for us. But he has four other players to help him. I think good chemistry is better than All-Stars (players). Now we have to make him believe that." Nevada Appeal 12/6

Larry Drew Jr., son of an ex-NBA player, has shown skills since childhood: It's a typical Wednesday morning at Taft High of Woodland Hills, and Larry Drew Jr. is walking around campus just like any other student. L.A. Daily News 12/7

Jrue Holiday May Not Be 'Big,' But He Is Still A Special PlayerHe paused to consider the question, glanced down at the worn, maple-lacquered bench in the corner of the gym, then shook his head like he was still trying to wrap his thoughts around something. "No," he said earnestly. "I'm not big like O.J. (Mayo). L.A. Daily News 12/7

According to, Westchester and Fairfax of Los Angeles are Division I favorites, and Artesia of Lakewood is the SoCal front-runner in Division III. Artesia features state Junior Player of the Year James Harden (signed with Arizona State) and 6-10 Renardo Sidney, who moved from Mississippi to Southern California and might be the best sophomore prospect in the nation. Sacramento Bee 12/8

Luke Babbitt scored 27 points against Westchester and 25 against Dominguez. Among those at the tournament to watch Babbitt were UCLA coach Ben Howland. UCLA is one of the final five schools on Babbitt's list. "Luke's been phenomenal," Mauer said. "He's been a great team leader." Nevada Appeal 12/9

The Galena High boys basketball managed to come out of the high-powered Westchester Tournament in Los Angeles with a win, beating Southern California's View Park 77-73 on Saturday....Galena was also able to get Tristan Hill and Brice Crook involved as Hill scored 10 points and Crook added 14. Luke Babbitt scored 25. Nevada Appeal 12/10

(photo credit: Seattle Times)