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.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Bruin Recruiting: Prep News Roundup (10/13)

By Bruin Basketball Report

Prep News Roundup is published every Monday.


Jrue Holiday (UCLA) – Another one of the top freshman in the country, Holiday joins a loaded UCLA backcourt in the hopes of leading them to a fourth consecutive Final Four. Where Derozan’s heart has come into question, Holiday’s is one of his greatest strengths. He’s got a great work ethic and attitude to go along with his talent and versatility. He’s athletic (though not on Derozan’s level) and exhibits good fundamentals on the court. His jump shot is solid out to the college line, he’s got a mid-range game, and he can get to the basket and finish well. A combo guard, Holiday can also run a team and make the players around him better. The combo guard label had been a negative thing in the past, but with the success of players like Dwyane Wade, Monta Ellis, Louis Williams, and Rodney Stuckey, guys who can play at both backcourt positions have become valuable commodities. While Holiday needs to continue to hone his point guard skills, he’s the best combo the college ranks has to offer. A one-and-done possibility if he has a great year at UCLA, Holiday is more likely a top five pick in 2010. NBA 10/11

"I'd say we got off to a late start, based on how recruiting's going now. Everybody's talking to sophomores," Montgomery said. "We were maybe in a lot of people's minds, but they were (asking) 'Where have you guys been?' "
Certainly that was a factor with Brendan Lane, a 6-foot-9 forward from Rocklin High, who is considered to have skills similar to former Cal star Ryan Anderson. "Cal was definitely in the picture, and so was Stanford," Rocklin coach Steve Taylor said. "When both of those coaching positions changed, it created some uncertainty." Taylor said there was about a month when Lane did not hear from either Cal or Stanford. In the meantime, UCLA coach Ben Howland called. Montgomery visited Lane in Rocklin, but Taylor said Howland, whose Bruins have been to three straight Final Fours, was able to make a more tangible case. "There wasn't anything for Brendan to base it on," Taylor said of Cal's pitch. "What kind of program was it going to be? What kind of players were they going to recruit? Coach Montgomery did a nice job, but the timing was not good. You know what you're getting if you go to UCLA." Inside Bay Area 10/12


Five-star shooting guard Lance Stephenson of Brooklyn, N.Y., will be in Lawrence for “Late Night in the Phog” on Oct. 17, according to Stephenson, considered a can’t-miss NBA prospect by many, will officially visit KU along with fellow five-star shooting guards Xavier Henry (Oklahoma City, Okla.), Michael Snaer (Moreno Valley, Calif.) and Dominic Cheek (Jersey City, N.J.) and four-star point guard Elijah Johnson (Las Vegas). Kansas City Star 10/6

Lance Stephenson, a 6-5 guard from Lincoln High in Brooklyn, N.Y., who will wait until the spring to sign, will visit KU for the Oct. 17 Late Night in the Phog. reports that Stephenson also hopes to visit Memphis, Southern California and UCLA. He already has visited St. John’s. Lawrence Journal World 10/6

When Matt Vogrich narrowed his list of schools at which to play college basketball, he had three criteria: a coach who knows guards, a strong business school and proximity to his Lake Forest, Ill., home. That led the 6-foot-4 senior guard to verbally commit to Michigan during the weekend. Detroit Free Press 10/6

As focus on the Class of 2010 heats up, there’s been plenty of attention being paid recently toward shooting guard Harrison Barnes, a long-range bomber from Ames High School in Iowa. Barnes, ranked No. 4 nationally in his class according to, has seen his stock skyrocket since the spring. He has dazzled big-time college coaches and recruiting experts alike with his shooting stroke and overall athleticism. And with his junior season soon to begin, the regular status checks on his whereabouts promise to intensify. With a list of pursuers too long to list in its entirety — Duke, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisville, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, UCLA and USC are among the headliners — Barnes has plenty of options. Fayetteville Observer 10/7

Deniz Kilicli, who recently came to the U.S from Turkey to further his basketball prospects, is playing this year alongside Cottrill at Mountain State Academy. He is more physical than the average European big man, and plays with strength in the lane and around the rim. He also has a solid midrange game, and will quickly rise up the 2009 rankings once talent evaluators get a look at him in action. Blue Gold News 10/9

Elijah Johnson, 6-2 senior from Cheyenne High in Las Vegas, has narrowed his list to KU, Texas and Oklahoma, according to Johnson will visit KU for Late Night. Lawrence Journal World 10/9

Jordan Hamilton has been courted by seemingly every powerhouse college basketball program in the nation for quite sometime now, and it appears as if Texas might have ended up as the winner in the sweepstakes for the talented 6-foot-7 senior from Compton Dominguez. On Thursday evening, Hamilton announced on ESPNU that he orally committed to the Longhorns despite having scholarship offers from numerous other schools, including Connecticut, Kansas and USC. LA Times 10/10

San Diego High's 6-foot-11 basketball standout Jeremy Tyler has given the University of Louisville an oral commitment. Tyler, a junior, averaged 18 points, 14 rebounds and 9 blocked shots a game for the Cavers, who captured the section Division I title while compiling a 23-5 record. San Diego High coach Kenny Roy said the mobile post player decided on Louisville after narrowing his choices to the Cardinals, Texas, USC, UCLA and San Diego State. Union Tribune 10/12

Daniel Orton will be calling Lexington home next Fall. The nation's third rated center for the Class of 2009 decided not to go back to Oklahoma City until letting the Solid Blue faithful know he'll be wearing blue and white. The media got about an hour's notice Orton would hold a news conference to announce his decision and within that hour a crowd of more than 100 Solid Blue fans filled the Hyatt Regency lobby in Downtown Lexington to hear what they wanted to hear. Orton says it came down to two schools, Kansas and Kentucky. Kansas told him it no longer had a scholarship available. Orton says that made his decision easier but he never considered Kentucky a back-up plan. Orton says the fact he was greeted at Big Blue Madness with chants of his name friday night helped too. WTVQ 10/12

(photo credit: SacBee)