Wednesday, October 15, 2008

UCLA Basketball Team Kick-off the New Season

By Bruin Basketball Report</strong

Media Day Photo Gallery

Head Coach Ben Howland and the UCLA basketball team held its annual media day on Wednesday afternoon amidst excitement and the typical high expectations one finds in Westwood this time of year.

The 2008-09 Bruins took their team and individual photographs and were introduced to the media in attendance.

Despite losing three starters from last season's Final Four team to the NBA this summer, Coach Ben Howland clearly understands what is expected from his squad this year.

"Because of the success of the last three years, there will be high expectations - there always has been and will always be high expectations for UCLA basketball," Howland said.

"We lost a lot - a ton including Lorenzo Mata-Real. We lost our top four rebounders from last year's team," Howland said. "There are now a lot of opportunities for the younger players and the returning players."

Last season UCLA began the season with no seniors in the starting line-up, however, this year the team will sport three with Darren Collison, Josh Shipp, and Alfred Aboya.

Darren Collison put on significant weight over the summer, working hard long hours in the weight room and now weighs 175 pounds.

After spending the offseason the past two years rehabilitating from injuries, red-shirt senior Josh Shipp spent this summer working hard on his conditioning and weight. He has lost almost 15 pounds and is down to 210. Howland feels Shipp is in the best shape of his basketball career at UCLA and expects him to be one of the team's main offensive weapons this year.

"Josh looks good. He's running well and he's cut," Howland said. "This offseason he made a concerted effort in games to get to the basket more. Josh went to the foul line less than 3 times a game last season. I'd like to see him get to the free throw line more often perhaps 5 -6 times a game this season.

As for the third senior starter on the team, Alfred Aboya will need to find a way to stay on the court by curtailing his fouls. Howland said that in practice whenever Aboya makes a bad foul he punishes the entire team by making them run laps.

"We need Alfred to play at least 25 minutes a game," Howland said. "He does so many things well, he's a big key to this team. His presence on defense, his blocking out. He'll also make the freshmen big men better since they'll have to go up against Alfred every day in practice.

Overall depth is a concern for the team this season. UCLA will start the season with just 11 players on scholarship, and this includes Mustafa Abdul-Hamid, a walk-on last year, who was given a scholarship for the upcoming season.

"How well we do this season depends on two things," Howland said, "if we can stay healthy and how much our freshman develop over the course of the season - especially our big guys inside. I dont think we can sustain a lot of injuries this year and be successful."

Despite an elite incoming frosh backcourt, Howland expects the team to do a lot of the same things that has helped this team advance to the last three Final Fours.

"We're still going to emphasize defense, take good shots on offense, and take good care of the basketball," Howland said. "A lot of our success will also depend on how well we rebound the ball."

On the freshman class, Howland is excited about the incoming players but he also knows they all have much to learn and will make many mistakes at the start. He feels that the two big men, Drew Gordon and J'mison Morgan, will need to play significant minutes this season. Gordon will likely back-up at the four spot while Morgan will back-up at center.

At this point, Howland expects the seniors Aboya, Shipp, and Collison to start as well as one of the freshmen guards, most likely Jrue Holiday. At power forward, Howland said junior James Keefe will get the nod.

Coach Howland gave an update on the Bruin injury front.

Freshman guard Jerime Anderson has suffered from a nagging groin injury the past few months. As a result he was barely able to play much basketball this summer. When he did try to play, he would re-aggravate the injury. He practiced yesterday with the team and complained of soreness afterwards.

Howland said fellow frosh guard Jrue Holiday's knee was about 90%. Holiday had surgery on his knee last April. Howland felt Holiday made a good decision to rehabilitate his knee over the summer rather than go and compete at the Olympic training camp.

Junior Nikola Dragovic has been hampered by his foot injury and continues to rehabilitate while missing the first couple of practices this year. Coach Howland is expecting Dragovic to play significant minutes this season, and with the backload of talent at the wing, he feels Dragovic will play primarily at the four spot backing up James Keefe. Dragovic has lost almost ten pounds since last season in hopes it will improve his quickness on the defensive end.

Red-shirt junior Michael Roll has been practicing and is expected to play a major role this year as well. Although he still suffers from foot pain, he's resigned to the fact that he'll just have to play through the discomfort this season.


At Oct 16, 2008, 12:00:00 AM, Anonymous Don said...

Can't wait to get it going BBR.
Nice rundown

At Oct 16, 2008, 5:40:00 AM, Anonymous dee said...

wouldn't Abdul Hamid make it 12
frosh fab 5
DC, Aboya, Keefe, Shipp, Drago, Mike Roll

At Oct 16, 2008, 10:14:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why was Abdul-Hamid given a scholarship?

At Oct 16, 2008, 10:19:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Aboya starting? Oh boy, we might be in trouble.
Last year I was at the first exhibition game and was surprised to see Westbrook starting as well. Hopefully I will be pleasently surprised 2 years in a row.
Also, I thought Aboya was told to go in the games and rough up the other team. I never knew he wasn't supposed to be picking up fouls (mainly becuase he never changed and kept picking up sensless fouls).

At Oct 16, 2008, 11:33:00 AM, Anonymous Bare Gunner said...

Gettin' excited here! Nice info BBR! My guess is Aboya will start because of the experience/maturity factor but you will see more minutes go to Morgan, and Keefe will probably even shift over to the 5 at times. Because of the aggressive way Aboya plays, don't expect less fouling unless there is a complete change in character.
I feel pretty confident in our guards and their rotation, but these first 2 or 3 games will show us the mindset of Morgan and Gordon and how much weight we can put on their shoulders. If either Freshman can play with just an ounce of KLove's saavy, I'll be ecstatic!

At Oct 16, 2008, 11:48:00 AM, Anonymous george said...

"Aboya starting. Oh boy we might be in trouble. . ."
Give me a break!!!! How short memories are!
Do you guys remember what BH did with a rough unfinished senior named Ryan Hollins a few years ago? Do you remember what he did with a "bull in a china shop" play your guts out go for every ball center named Lo Mata two years ago? We had a dominant back court for ONE YEAR - last year - and now all the "Wo is us, we don't have KLove" chicken littles rant and rave like the world is ending!
The team will be fine and I, for one, am grateful that the future President of Cameroon decided to come back!!

At Oct 16, 2008, 12:16:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

George: I agree with your take on Aboya. He's a HUGE asset in an area where we aren't strong and we aren't experienced. Aboya knows the system and can school Morgan. This is the type of transition one needs to keep a program rolling. Those that are ga ga over the freshman will be wondering why they make such strange decisions when we play our first game against a real contender.

At Oct 16, 2008, 2:34:00 PM, Anonymous Brad said...

it takes more time to develope a post player than a guard. I'm not sure I want Aboya teaching post play to the freshmen.

At Oct 16, 2008, 2:37:00 PM, Anonymous Brad said...

Abdul Hamid deserved a scholarship.

At Oct 16, 2008, 4:02:00 PM, Anonymous dee said...

for sure he does for skipping harvard to come to LA...
Aboya is a fine player, more in the mold of Mata but not like Hollins, Hollins has more upside because of his length and atheletism, Aboya on the end is straight up hussle, lacks a soft hand, passes to him seems to just jump off his hands like throwing a ball to a rock...
i would like to see him start early in the season and then slowly have the frshies ease into his spot as the season goes...
i wonder why are there so many nay-sayers about Keefe, he seems like a fine ball player to me, who just never got enough touches and shots, i think with him starting, just watch him close to average a double double

At Oct 16, 2008, 5:47:00 PM, Anonymous george said...

"I'm not sure I want Aboya teaching post play to the freshmen"
- Yeah . . .Send the froshies over to Rick and let the offensive line teahc them.
". . .passes to him seems (sic) to just jump off his hands like throwing a ball to a rock. . ."
- No, you are thinking of passes to his FACE.
Come on Braddee - don't be a dink. I mean dinks.

At Oct 16, 2008, 10:21:00 PM, Anonymous Brad said...

looks like Collison really took the criticism to heart. Glad to see he spent some quality time in the weightroom.

At Oct 16, 2008, 11:40:00 PM, Anonymous The Baron said...

Imagine: what if we didn't have Aboya? Then the big concern around here would be depth at the 5. Thank God for AA.

At Oct 17, 2008, 4:04:00 AM, Anonymous BruinFan said...

Bruin Nation....
Why isn't there a season ticket holder party????
Perturbed and flustered lol,
Bruin Fan
BBR, can we throw one at Westwood Brew Co????? I'll organize it.....(PLEASE)

At Oct 17, 2008, 7:29:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

BruinFan must own the Westwood Brew Co.

At Oct 17, 2008, 7:31:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would happily take Mata or Hollins over AA any day.
He isn't on the same level as either of those two. No comparison

At Oct 17, 2008, 8:35:00 AM, Anonymous DB said...

Gimme a break folks. Just because AA isnt offensively there, it does not mean he wont contribute. Does it really matter who is starting anyways? I mean its all about the amount of playing time each person gets.
Sure AA might not be quite there offensively, he has at least been here 3 years already and knows Ben's system. He works hard, plays hard thats all you can ask from a player.
Not everybody on a team needs to be an offensive or huge defensive stopper you know. You do need someone with energy, guts, and willing to stick up for his teammates and leadership. This is where AA will fill in nicely. He will be a nice intimidator inside early on while Morgan and Gooden learn the system more.
Big men are tougher to teach than smaller players. It is why they are always in higher demand as there arent so many of them.
AA fills in as a good garbage player meaning he just does the little things and dirty work. Clean up the board as best he can and so forth. You always need someone like that.

At Oct 17, 2008, 10:14:00 AM, Anonymous BruinFan said...

few pts from Keefe
I rest my point. We will be fine as long as we are healthy. I am a fan of Aboya...I took him aside this summer and told him it is not tackle football...
Have faith in Coach BH, Bruin Nation!!!
"3 for 3" 4 for 4??, that would be something...wouldn't it??? My crystal ball says we already have the Pac 10 locked 2 or 3 games...
sleep well tonight...

At Oct 17, 2008, 10:59:00 AM, Anonymous BruinFan said...

6pm...Just saw Josh Shipp driving a huge white escalade 1.5 miles North of Sunset on Bundy Drive. There was an older white guy in the passenger.
Does Shipp have an agent? If so, who is it? I know where the guy lives. They pulled into one of 3 gated communities on Bundy, North of Sunset..
I'm giving tours, but it will cost ya $$$ - only kidding....put that agents address on star maps lol
Cheers, BruinFan

At Oct 17, 2008, 4:26:00 PM, Anonymous george said...

"I would happily take Hollins over AA anyday."??!??
Now, don't misinterpret me here - I am absolutely NOT getting down on Ryan Hollins who was one of the major keys to jump starting this program again three years ago. But tell me o' wise anonymous guru - exactly what did you see in Hollins prior to that remarkable March run? AA has been at the core of three final four teams. Let me repeat that, AA has been at the core of three final four teams. How many did Hollins play for? As I recall, prior to the March run, you fairweather fans (and yes, anonymous, I am talking to you) were singing the "Wo is us we don't have a center" song. BH fine tuned Hollins' game so much so that he went from ho hum to a legitimate NBA prospect.
So, play the "I'll take Hollins and Mata over AA" game. Frankly, I'll take them all. And, by the way, who you and I "take" is meaningless. If Coach wants AA to start at center, hell that is good enough for me.

At Oct 18, 2008, 11:45:00 AM, Anonymous alan said...

best news in the update is that DC gained 15 and Shipp lost 10
good news...i think the starting line-up of DC, Shipp, AA, Keefe, and Holiday is going to really surprise people (3 seniors, a junior, and a phenom freshman, you can't ask for better)

At Oct 18, 2008, 4:49:00 PM, Anonymous jojoenglish said...

BREAKING NEWS >>> According to, Elijah Johnson, one of the best shooting guards in 2009 just committed to Kansas after the “Late Night in the Phog” on 10/17. If that is the case, does it imply Michael Snaer will pass on Kansas, and commits to UCLA. I believe we will soon find out in a few days. The commitment from Michael Snaer will be great to UCLA 2009 class.

At Oct 19, 2008, 11:27:00 AM, Anonymous Beijing Bruin said...

someone get Coach a real acupuncturist and TCM doc for these lingering injuries: feet, groin, etc.

At Oct 20, 2008, 7:23:00 AM, Anonymous george said...

To all you AA2 naysayers out there, this quote from Coach Ben,
"We need Alfred Aboya to play 25 minutes a game, on average, this year. Minimum. He does so many things well. I mean, Alfred is really going to be key to this team this year, and how far we go. His presence, his defense, his blocking out.
"He does all the right things. It'll be a real learning experience for the two freshmen because they have to go against him every day."
I will take BH's analysis over yours anyday.

At Oct 20, 2008, 11:47:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I knew that Hollins was a great basketballer and that Fey was a waste of time during both of their tenure at UCLA. I evaluated them both and couldn't figure out why Hollins wasn't gettin the bulk of the time down low. Then his senior year he realized (and Howland utilized) that he had major skills. I don't see the same for AA. He will be great on the defensive side if he can stay on the court and cut down on the senseless hacks. He doesn't have the offensive skills to be of any threat to the opposing team. That is the way I see it. Sorry if it hurts your feelings. I am not sure why it does but, sorry noneless.

At Oct 20, 2008, 12:25:00 PM, Anonymous Brew In said...

I'm doing my Xmas dreaming a little early this year and would love to see these presents arrive this Holiday Season in addition to what we already think we know about the Bruins:
*Roll and Drago start hitting the three consistently
*Shipp actually listens to Howland and begins slashing to the basket instead of settling for 35 ft. three's
*Aboya doesn't take anybody's head off and successfully regulates his aggression
*Morgan does his best Kevin Love imitation and becomes a freshman force inside (our second in two years)
*Keefe's play from last year's tournament spills over into this year
*Lee pushes his game to try to stay at the same competitive level of Holidays
*Anderson looks like the second coming of DC
*Gordon looks like the second coming of Aboya...WITHOUT the fouls
*Dragovic's interpetor correctly translates Howland's defensive philosophy to him
*Abdul-Hamid plays tons of garbage minutes and takes control of games because we blow out each team by the middle of the second half
Oh I would dig that... along with a couple of blue and gold gift-wrapped kegs under my tree!

At Oct 20, 2008, 4:51:00 PM, Anonymous DorianGraysBlues said...,0,3327524.story
this might answer some of the good questions that you guys have.

At Oct 21, 2008, 6:12:00 AM, Anonymous Bare Gunner said...

Hey Brew In I hear you. How about also adding:
Howland gives in to his own stubbornness and actually has his team play zone for those times when it is really necessary (like when Memphis' guards blew past ours like they weren't even there)!
Alan, I agree w/you, that starting line-up sounds pretty darn good to me too!

At Oct 22, 2008, 4:03:00 PM, Anonymous dee said...

seriously ditto to baregunner on the last comment.... being undersized this year, we must play some zones against teams that can't shoot but can bust it out down low... if only howland played a little bit of zone, we could've won a couple championships out of those 3 tries...

At Oct 25, 2008, 10:05:00 AM, Anonymous Brett said...

You guys are my UCLA basketball link. Don't be strangers!


Post a Comment

<< Back To Bruin Basketball Report Home