Friday, October 26, 2007

Howland Updates On Team's Progress After Friday Practice

(courtesy of UCLA Athletics)

Transcript from Coach Ben Howland's teleconference with media after Friday's practice.

on probable starters with the depletion of the front line with injuries

“I don’t have any yet. I can tell you that Darren Collison will start (chuckles). I think Luc [Richard Mbah a Moute] will start and I think there is a pretty solid chance that Josh Shipp will start. Lorenzo [Mata-Real] didn’t practice again today and we are going to practice tomorrow and then take two days off and try to get healed up a little bit and start up again on Tuesday (Oct. 30).”

on balancing the physical nature of practice

“We spent 50 minutes today out of the two hours going five on zero. It was probably a little more. Half our practice today was noncontact, so, it’s just unfortunate that this happened. It is just a physical game. You see it all around the country. I was speaking with Jamie Dixon (head coach at Pittsburgh) today and they are down to 10 scholarship players being able to practice today and they have 13 and we only have 11.”

on Love’s injury today

“I tell you what, anytime one of these guys go down my heart always ends up in my throat because you just never know. I’m pretty confident that he should be fine. He walked on his own and walked up the stairs to go to the training room so I think he’ll be fine.”

on how the other guard position is shaping up opposite Darren Collison

“We are going to have the ability to play a lot of different ways because I’m going to play Luc [Richard Mbah a Moute] some at the three this year. Whether or not he starts there, or we start Lorenzo [Mata-Real] or we start Alfred [Aboya] or we start Luc at the four and start [Michael] Roll or Russell [Westbrook], those are all options. I’ve got to figure it out. I’ve got two weeks. But it doesn’t mean that it won’t change during the year. Right now, it is pretty clear that I have to figure out what team blends together and what team is going to get us out to a good start. There is one team that might be the best team offensively and there is one team that might be the best defensively. Bottom line is, anyway you look at it, our returning starters, [Darren] Collison, [Josh] Shipp, Luc and Lorenzo along with Roll, Russell, Alfred and Kevin [Love], those guys are all going to get a lot of minutes.”

on the ESPN poll coming out today ranking UCLA No. 2

“It is great and we are excited to be ranked so high, but we are just trying to focus on getting better. I was commenting to one of my coaches today that we used to not be able to play games until the Friday after Thanksgiving. That was always your first game 12-15 years ago. Then the Preseason NIT games started playing earlier. Now, we are going to be playing our sixth game the Friday after Thanksgiving. There is just so much to do in just a short amount of time.”

on which poll he puts more stock in (ESPN or AP)

“Well of course the writers. Aren’t you all a bunch of writers. I mean, there’s no question it’s the writers (chuckles). You know what though, they both really matter because it helps shape people’s thoughts and opinions to a certain degree. But you still have to go out and prove it and you still have to go out and do it. I was at one time an ESPN/USA Today voter back when I was at Northern Arizona and I really took pride trying to do a good job and study it and stay on top of it because you have to get your vote in every week on time.”

on UCLA vs. North Carolina

“I think there is probably 10 or 12 teams right now that all are going to have a legitimate chance to win the national championship. Two years ago when we lost in the finals to Florida, they were unranked at the start of the season. So, the rankings are nice and I think they are important. The great thing about college basketball and why the NCAA Tournament is the greatest sporting event in this country is because there is so much parity. You can have a George Mason get all the way to the Final Four and I think you are going to see more of that in the future. There are so many great teams and great players. The margin of difference between the No. 1 team and the No. 20 team in the country is not that big. Anybody can beat anybody on any given night.”

on the atmosphere in Pauley Pavilion with the sellout crowds

“I’m really excited! I think it is great that there is a real buzz about our team this year. With all the experience coming back and then adding Kevin [Love] to the mix. I think it is exciting and I know that all of our students and people on campus are excited about it because I hear about it all the time and I think it is great. ”

on what he needs to get done before the first exhibition game

“There are a lot of things. We’ve got to continue to grow in terms of putting in sets and we’ve got a lot of things to learn. We still have to get back to our basics and how we play defense. We have a lot to do in terms of press offense. There are a lot of little things that we need to spend some time on. Today was our 13th practice and we don’t have an out-of-bounds play in yet. We don’t have a zone play in yet. So we have a lot of things to do between now and our first game.”

on the improved front court with the addition of Kevin Love

“I think Lorenzo [Mata-Real] has improved his game is this area, too. All our guys have gotten better and obviously Kevin [Love] is very good down there. I don’t think it will be too different. A lot of teams will defend us straight up and play real hard. We are going to be a good team against the zone because of our passers in the paint. Today, Luc [Richard Mbah a Moute] and Kevin were playing together at the 4 and 5 positions and it was a lot of fun to watch because they are both very good passers. We are going to be a good and unselfish passing team that will lead us to have good balance in scoring. I am hoping that we can have as many as five guys averaging double figures.”


Love Injures Left Shin In Practice

By KS Wong
Bruin Basketball Report

10/27 Update: X-rays were negative and he should return to practice today.

UCLA freshman Kevin Love suffered a serious bruise to his left shin after being kicked during practice on Friday.

Head Coach Ben Howland said Love had precautionary X-rays done but the results won't be known until later this evening. However, the examining physician did not believe the injury was serious, and Howland stated Love walked up the stairs and out of Pauley Pavilion under his own power.

Love has already suffered a number nicks and bruises since the team began practices two weeks ago. Last Monday Love left practice with long scratch marks on his back and multiple contusions to his left calf.

The Bruins can not afford any more injuries along the front line.

Center Lorenzo Mata-Real sprained his right foot in Wednesday's practice, although he may return to practice tomorrow or Tuesday. He is currently wearing a walking boot as a precaution.

Sophomore James Keefe is out until mid-December while recuperating from offseason shoulder surgery.

(photo: Bruin Basketball Report)


UCLA No.2 In ESPN/USA Today Preseason Ranking

By Bruin Basketball Report

EPSN/USA Today Coaches preseason poll released today has the UCLA Bruins ranked at No.2.

Despite receiving two less first-place votes than UCLA, the North Carolina Tar Heels appeared atop the poll edging the Bruins 739 to 734 points.

Memphis, Kansas, and Georgetown rounded out the top five spots.

The Pac-10, expected to be one of the toughest conferences this year, had a total of six teams in the top 25 ranking. In addition to UCLA, the other five Pac-10 teams were Washington St. at No.10, Oregon at No.13, Arizona at No.17, USC at No.18, and Stanford at No.21.

Neither Florida nor Ohio State, the teams that played for the national championship, made the Top 25.

The ESPN/USA Today poll is voted on by a panel of 31 Division I head coaches. UCLA head coach Ben Howland does not vote on the poll.


Thursday, October 25, 2007

Mbah a Moute Happy With Progress, Keefe Updates Condition

(courtesy of UCLA Athletics)

Luc Richard Mbah a Moute

on being on the Naismith Trophy Preseason Watch List

"It's an honor and living proof of your hard work and how good your team is. All those honors are based on how good your team is. It doesn't matter right now. All that matters is our team and what we do and I think if we do the right things, then all the awards will come for not only me, but everybody else on the team."

on his health

"My health is good and my knees are fine. Everything is good for the most part."

on his knees bothering him more than he realized last year

"They might have bothered me more a little bit, but I wouldn't say that. A lot of people would say so. All I know is that they now feel good and don't hurt as much. I'll be able to tell you more half way through the season when I have all those games on my legs and I'll see how they feel."

on if he feels the arrival of Kevin Love will change the tempo the Bruins will play

"Definitely. We want to use our athleticism and our quickness and having a guy like him [Kevin Love] here that can run and play up-tempo will definitely help us. We definitely want to get out and run, but all of that is created by our defense. We want to establish our defense first and create turnovers so we will be able to run."

on changing his shot

"It definitely feels good. It feels a lot better. Shooting is a season-long activity and you have to work on it all the time. There are people that have long careers and are still working on their shot and continuing to get better. That's what I am doing. I'm trying to get better all the time and I'm trying to be the best shooter I can possibly be. I've put a lot of work into it. I did over the summer and I'm continuing to do it so I can stay consistent throughout the season."

on the team's progress so far

"Everybody is doing well. We always go hard at practice and it makes the games easy when you go hard at practice."

on Coach Howland's comment that he could guard any position

"I played point guard in high school so I could definitely guard a point guard. The thing I'm most proud of is my defense. I continue to work on it and continue to get quicker. If I continue to do that, it will help my team a lot because I can switch when we need to and we'll have no problems doing that."

on his love for defense

"I just think winning is all about defense. All of my coaches have stressed defense. When you play good defense, it creates your offense. It makes us want to play better on offense. We want to go out and make stops, get rebounds and then get our chance to score against them. I just like doing that."

on his soccer playing days

"I started as a goalie and then moved to midfield and ended up playing striker. I pretty much played all the positions."

on the physical practices the team has been having

"There was no knock over today. I didn't get knocked out today. It was a good day, I guess."

James Keefe

on what he is doing during practice

"Right now in practice I go through warm-ups and before practice I meet with the strength and conditioning coach and he'll put me through a workout that includes running and sliding and some jump training. During practice I work on my rehabilitation and the strengthening of my shoulder. I can shoot some and I do some shooting drills after practice."

on his range of motion

"For the most part, I have full range of motion. Right now, it is about strengthening. I still haven't turned on some of the muscles and I'm using other muscles to counteract it. So I just need to get the right muscles moving and build those up. I can't lift much upper body yet."

on if he is where he should be in the recovery process

"I spoke with the doctor and she says that I am on course. Now that I have my full range [of motion], it's just all about getting the strength back in the shoulder."

on getting back to practices

"I can't wait to get back to practice. Everyone is practicing hard and competing for playing time. I have to sit back and watch and hope I can be in there. It's hard, but I know when I come back I'll be fine. I'm just trying to take it one day at a time."

on what will be the hardest part when he comes back

"My shot is fine right now, but obviously I'm not going at full-speed and there is no defense, but I've been able to get my form back. I should be fine in the conditioning department. Getting my strength back will be the hardest part because I still can't lift weight with the upper body. It will take some time to rebuild my upper-body strength. Once that happens, I'll be fine."

BBR Notes: Lorenzo Mata-Real did not practice today. He sprained his right foot in Wednesday's practice after stepping on Alfred Aboya's foot. Mata-Real's X-rays were negative and he will miss tomorrow's practice and will more than likely return to practice on Oct. 27th or Oct. 29th. The injury is not related to his earlier foot injury. His right foot was in a precautionary boot today.

(photos: Bruin Basketball Report)


Three Bruins Listed As Naismith Trophy Preseason Candidates

By KS Wong
Bruin Basketball Report

Bruin lettermen, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Darren Collison, and Josh Shipp were named on the preseason candidate watch list for the 2007-08 Naismith Trophy. The prestigious national award is presented annually to college basketball's players of the year.

UCLA's Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) was the inaugural winner in 1969. Other Bruin winners include: Bill Walton, who won the award three consecutive years from 1972 to 1974, and Marques Johnson in 1977.

Pac-10 schools had the most representatives on the list with twelve players from seven programs. The ACC had the second most candidates with seven players.

The watch list is compiled by the Atlanta Tipoff Club's Board of Selectors, which bases its criteria on player performances from last season and expectations for the 2007-08 season. The list does not include incoming freshmen, although those players will be considered in the first vote in January.

"The talent level is vast and far-reaching which indicates competition continues to grow at a high rate," said Gary Stokan, Atlanta Tipoff Club president. "The winner of the Naismith Trophy can come from any conference and any class rank, as we witnessed last year with our first ever freshman winner, Kevin Durant of Texas."

In January, the Naismith Trophy voting academy, comprised of leading basketball journalists, coaches and administrators from around the country, will narrow its preseason list to the Top 30 players in the nation. Those players, and others who distinguish themselves throughout the season, will be eligible for the final ballot in March. In April, the Naismith Trophy winner will be recognized at the NCAA Men's Final Four in San Antonio.


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Collison and Shipp Named Wooden Award Preseason Candidates

By KS Wong
Bruin Basketball Report

Complete top 50 candidate list (pdf)

UCLA's Darren Collison and Josh Shipp were among players named as top 50 preseason candidates for the Men’s 2007-08 John R. Wooden Award, announced today by The Los Angeles Athletic Club’s Wooden Award Committee.

Collison and Shipp are returning players on a Bruin team picked by many to be the preseason No.1 team in the nation this year.

Last season Collison averaged 12.7 points, 5.7 assists, and 2.2 steals a game, while fellow junior Shipp is the team's top returning scorer having averaged 13.3 points in the Bruins' run to the Final Flour.

“The committee had a tough time deciding on just 50 candidates, with so many returning talented players across the country,” said Duke Llewellyn, Wooden Award chairman. “Some teams even had several worthy candidates.”

Five schools had two players on the list: UCLA (Collison, Josh Shipp), North Carolina (Tyler Hansbrough, Ty Lawson), Kansas (Mario Chalmers, Brandon Rush), Washington State (Derrick Low, Kyle Weaver), Georgetown (Roy Hibbert, Johnathan Wallace). More than 100 players received at least one vote.

Two returning Wooden All-Americans made the list, center Tyler Hansbrough of North Carolina and Kansas guard Brandon Rush.

The top 50 candidates are comprised of returning players. Transfers, freshmen, and medical redshirts were not eligible for the preseason list, but will be evaluated and considered for both the Midseason Top 30 list and the National Ballot. Last year, Kevin Durant of the University of Texas was the first freshman to win the Wooden Award.

A total of 16 NCAA conferences are represented. The Pac-10 leads the way with 10 Wooden Award All American team candidates. Other conferences include the Big East (eight players), the ACC (seven players), the Big 12 (six players), the SEC (five players).

In January, the Wooden Award committee will release the Midseason Top 30 list, followed by the distribution of the National Ballot to more than 1,000 voters in early March. The 10-player Wooden Award All-American Team will be announced the Tuesday after the “Elite Eight” round of the NCAA Tournament is completed.

The 2008 Award ceremony will be held at The Los Angeles Athletic Club the weekend of April 11-13, 2008.

Two UCLA players have won the Wooden award in past years: Marques Johnson (1977) and Ed O'Bannon (1995).


Sunday, October 21, 2007

Bruin Recruiting: Prep News Roundup (10/22)

By Bruin Basketball Report

Prep News Roundup is published every Monday.


But despite Collison having one more year of eligibility after this season, Howland received non-binding oral commitments from three guards, all of whom can play the point. Canyon High of Anaheim point guard Jerime Anderson is a natural point guard, and Campbell Hall of North Hollywood guard Jrue Holiday and North High of Riverside guard Malcolm Lee are combo guards, both of whom are capable of playing point guard. LA Daily News 10/17

The Hoyas and UCLA are in a tight race for the top overall spot in the class of 2008 team recruiting rankings, Meyer said. "They really are neck and neck," he said. "The question is how much weight you want to put into the No. 1 player as part of your class." UCLA has a commitment from five-star guard Jrue Holiday, the No. 3 ranked player in the nation, and three four-star players in Jerime Anderson, Drew Gordon and Malcolm Lee. USA Today 10/18

The four recruits who have given oral commitments to UCLA for next season -- guards Jrue Holiday of North Hollywood Campbell Hall High, Jerime Anderson of Anaheim Canyon High and Malcolm Lee of Riverside North High and post player Drew Gordon of San Jose Archbishop Mitty High -- are on campus for the weekend. While Howland can't comment specifically on the players until they officially sign letters of intent, he did lay out their itinerary: Friday the group went to classes, toured campus and ate in the dorms. "Our dorm food is really good," Howland said. The UCLA team and the recruits were to have dinner at Howland's home Friday night. There is a Saturday morning practice from 10 until 11:45, and then a trip to the Rose Bowl to watch the UCLA-California football game. LA Times 10/20


The 6-9 center sat near the court with his father and a host of other recruits. After the public event, he talked with the IU coaches and spent the night in Bloomington....Stephan Van Treese is heading to North Carolina later this week for unofficial visits to UNC and Wake Forest. He already has visited Purdue, Notre Dame, Florida, Louisville and Ohio State. He also is considering Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan State, UCLA and Wisconsin. Indianapolis Star 10/16

The Morris twins, who visited for Late Night, are scheduled to visit Villanova this week, but Wildeboor said there was a good chance they would commit to Kansas. Willie Warren and J’Mison Morgan, who are both ranked in Rivals’ Top 25, are also strongly considering the Jayhawks. “Knowing the guys they were recruiting, it was going to take a while for them to go through the process,” Telep said. “They’re right there with Morgan and the twins. 10/16

Los Osos also is a destination for NCAA Division I head basketball coaches, thanks to a pair of underclassmen who have bright futures. Sophomore Kendall Williams and junior Cierra Warren are being pressed by various schools to sign early, as if that means anything. Early signees still are bombarded with calls, although not nearly as many as when they are deciding. Williams, a 6-foot-2 point guard, has attracted the attention of national champion Florida, Arizona and UCLA, just to name a few. Warren, a 6-4 post player, has LSU and Baylor, among others, on her list of suitors.San Bernardino Sun 10/16

Verdigris guard Rotnei Clarke and Pawnee guard Keiton Page (already committed to OSU) is among prospects expected to visit campus during a homecoming bash weekend. Others are 6-foot-9 center Daniel Orton of Bishop McGuinness. Tulsa World 10/18

J’Mison “Bobo” Morgan, who at 6-foot-10, 275-pounds is one of the biggest and best true centers in the Recruiting Class of 2008, continues his college tour this weekend.
Morgan,’s No. 23-rated player out of Dallas South Oak Cliff High, is making a campus visit to the University of Cincinnati. He already has visited LSU, Kansas University, UCLA and Alabama, meaning Cincy marks his fifth and final stop. Lawrence Journal World 10/20

Indianapolis Lawrence North junior forward Stephan Van Treese is one of the top 50 players in his class. Van Treese is getting a lot of attention and recently visited Indiana and Louisville. "I'm just taking my time," Van Treese said. The 6-foot-9 Van Treese said Indiana, Louisville, Ohio State, Kentucky, Notre Dame, Purdue and UCLA have offered him a scholarship, and Florida, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Kansas, Wake Forest and Michigan State have also shown interest. Courier-Journal 10/21

(photo credit: USA Basketball)