Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Welsh and Holiday back for more

from UCLA Athletics on Twitter
may 23, 2017 | BEN BOLCH | THE L.A. TIMES | ARTICLE LINK
UCLA received a double dose of welcome news Tuesday regarding the NBA draft: Thomas Welsh and Aaron Holiday are withdrawing their names from consideration.

Welsh announced on Twitter that he would return for his senior season and Holiday’s mother, Toya, said in a text message to The Times that her son would come back for his junior season.
Welsh’s return means that the Bruins will not have to replace their entire starting lineup after freshmen Lonzo Ball and TJ Leaf declared for the draft and seniors Bryce Alford and Isaac Hamilton exhausted their eligibility.
“I’m extremely grateful for everyone who helped me through this process,” Welsh wrote on Twitter, “and I can’t wait to get to work for this upcoming season.”
Welsh and Holiday will give UCLA a much-needed veteran presence to complement a six-man freshman class that has been ranked No. 2 in the country. The Bruins also remain in the running for guard M.J. Walker, a McDonald’s All-American who is expected to announce his college decision Wednesday.
The 7-foot Welsh started 32 games at center last season, averaging 10.8 points per game while leading the Bruins with averages of 8.7 rebounds and 1.3 blocked shots per game. His return will also help offset the loss of freshman center Ike Anigbogu, who declared for the draft after averaging 4.7 points and 4.0 rebounds per game last season.
“Thomas has worked hard all spring,” UCLA coach Steve Alford said in a statement released by the school. “We supported him testing the NBA waters and are excited to have him returning for his senior year. He simply continues to develop each and every season. Thomas will be one of the top centers in college basketball next year and, undoubtedly, has a great chance to be a first-round pick in next season’s draft.”
Holiday averaged 12.3 points, 4.4 assists and 2.9 rebounds as Ball’s backup at point guard and one of the nation’s top sixth men. Holiday will presumably have to battle freshman point guard Jaylen Hands, a McDonald’s All-American, for the starting job next season.

“It goes without saying that we’re thrilled to have Aaron back for his junior season,” Alford said. “He played a major role in our success last season, and we’re going to rely on him in a big way as we move forward. He’s a team-first guy and a high-character individual. Aaron’s prepared to make even greater strides as a junior, and we can’t wait to see him to continue to develop.”
Welsh and Holiday were not listed on most mock draft boards. Two NBA scouts, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not publicly authorized to discuss college players, recently told The Times that they thought Welsh and Holiday would be smart to return to UCLA next season to boost their draft stock.
Holiday’s decision was intriguing based on the paths of brothers Jrue and Justin, both NBA players. Jrue declared for the draft after one season at UCLA and was a first-round pick of the Philadelphia 76ers before becoming an All-Star. Justin spent four seasons at Washington and went undrafted but eventually landed in the NBA and became a rotation player last season with the New York Knicks, appearing in all 82 games.
Times staff writer Eric Sondheimer contributed to this report.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Ball Bros on night of NBA Draft Lottery

from EA Espina on You Tube. Thanks to Azn_balla for sharing this on BZ. Respect.
Published on May 16, 2017
Video description: The Ball Brothers playing pick-up basketball at the 24 Hour Fitness in Chino Hills on the night of the NBA Draft Lottery.

Friday, May 19, 2017

UCLA's youth should pay off eventually

may 17, 2017 | john gasaway | espn.com | post LINK
Steve Alford's four-year tenure at UCLA has been nothing if not eventful. The head coach took the Bruins to the Sweet 16 in his first two seasons, only to preside over a difficult and disappointing 15-17 campaign in 2015-16.
That sub-.500 third season had some UCLA fans calling for the coach to be let go, but that was before 2016-17. With one-and-done freshman Lonzo Ball playing point guard, the Bruins beat Kentucky at Rupp Arena in December, posted a sterling 15-3 record in Pac-12 play, and spent the balance of the season ranked No. 1 or close to it nationally in terms of offensive efficiency.
Yes, John Calipari's Wildcats avenged their early season loss and defeated the Bruins 86-75 in the Sweet 16. Still, a 31-5 season led by Ball, a consensus first-team All-American, certainly qualifies as a success.
Which brings us to 2017-18. Ball is gone, of course, and so are TJ Leaf and Ike Anigbogu. All three freshmen decided to take a shot at the professional ranks. Meanwhile, Bryce Alford (the coach's son) and Isaac Hamilton have both finished their college careers.
As a result, the question marks for UCLA heading into next season are now down to Aaron Holiday and Thomas Welsh. Both players have declared for the draft but neither has signed with an agent, thus leaving open the possibility of a return to school.
Holiday is a career 41 percent 3-point shooter who would be the Bruins' leading returning scorer if he chose to come back for his junior year. Welsh is a reliable scorer on the interior whose offensive rebounding gave the already excellent UCLA offense an added boost last season.
Steve Alford would of course prefer that both his veterans return, but the roster scenarios in play for next season are hardly "experienced" versus "young." More like "young" versus "very young."
True, regardless of what Holiday and Welsh decide, Gyorgy Goloman will return, and Prince Ali and Alex Olesinski are both expected to come back after redshirting in 2016-17. Still, there's no question that this team will have a lot riding on its freshmen next season.
Alford is bringing in an outstanding recruiting class with four ESPN 100 top-50 prospects. The new arrivals will be led by Jaylen Hands, a 6-foot-3 point guard from San Diego. He'll be joined by Kris WilkesCody Riley and Jalen Hill.
Venture a little ways outside the top 100 in UCLA's class, and you'll find Chris Smith and another familiar name: LiAngelo Ball, brother of Lonzo and son of the loquacious LaVar, was the first player to commit to UCLA in the recruiting class of 2017.
There are two notable characteristics about this incoming freshman class, and you can make a case that both facets are encouraging signs for the UCLA program. First, four of next season's freshmen -- Hands, Riley, Hill and Ball -- are from California. When Alford was hired, there was some question as to whether he could recruit effectively in his new program's backyard. With this latest class (not to mention in-state products last year such as Lonzo Ball, Leaf and Anigbogu), the answer to that question would seem to be yes.
Second, none of these top-50 players are ranked in the top 15 nationally. Maybe that's a good thing, at least in the long term. Obviously, Alford wouldn't turn down a player who was ranked higher -- as the oldest Ball brother was last year -- but the past four teams that have played in the national championship game (North Carolina the last two seasons, plus Villanova and Gonzaga) have been led by veterans. Players ranked outside the top 15 nationally have a better shot at becoming college veterans than do higher-rated prospects.
It's conceivable, if unlikely, that every member of this UCLA recruiting class could return to Westwood for 2018-19. More important, it's likely that most of the class will do so, giving Alford an experienced base of players to work from as he chases the next class of elite freshmen.
As for 2017-18, whether it's Holiday, Welsh, Hands or someone else who's leading the way, the Bruins' offense is virtually certain to take a step back. You don't score 1.20 points per trip season after season in major conference play, the way UCLA did against the Pac-12 last season.
There might be a fair amount of coverage of Hands, who will try to follow in Lonzo Ball's footsteps, but that's likely to be an apples-and-oranges comparison that does the newcomer no favors. Ball was blessed with highly accurate teammates such as Bryce Alford and Leaf (not to mention a fast pace) to help boost his per-game assist totals. Hands will live up to expectations as long as he takes care of the ball, plays good defense, and shows some judiciousness in terms of distribution and shot selection.
Speaking of D, UCLA can minimize what's likely to be a year-to-year drop-off in performance through the simple expedient of forcing an occasional turnover. The Bruins ranked No. 11 in Pac-12 play in that category last season, and a normal number of takeaways would help Alford's guys navigate a strange new world where, potentially, they're not the most accurate shooting team in the nation.
Alford has made three Sweet 16s in four seasons at UCLA, and while going 4-for-5 appears to be a stretch if Holiday and Welsh don't return, the Bruins' program looks to be in far better shape than just about anyone could have imagined in March 2016. The freshman class arriving this fall might not make a huge Kentucky- or Duke-level splash right away, but the newcomers could hang around long enough to become tomorrow's veterans. If that happens, and if Alford continues to recruit the West Coast as effectively as he's been doing, look out. 
Thanks to wesclinbruin for posting this article on BZ!

Toby Bailey, UCLA Athletics Hall of Fame inductee for 2017

may 17, 2017 | UCLa MEN'S BASKETBALL PAGE | POST LINK


UCLA Athletics announces 2017 Hall of Fame Class
New Hall of Fame class includes seven Bruins who have totaled 17 national championships between them. 

Story Links

Nine new members will join the UCLA Athletics Hall of Fame in 2017 during an induction ceremony on Oct. 20. The group will be honored at halftime of the UCLA-Oregon football game on Oct. 21.

The members of the Class of 2017 are: Toby Bailey (men's basketball), Robin Beauregard (women's water polo), Monique Henderson (track & field), Maurice Jones-Drew (football), Bob Larsen (track & field/cross country coach), Kristen Maloney (gymnastics), Brandon Taliaferro (men's volleyball),and Gina Vecchione (softball). Additionally, Bobby Field will be inducted for his extraordinary service to the athletic department.

The Hall of Fame class includes seven Bruins who have totaled 17 national championships between them as either a player or coach (Bailey, Beauregard, Henderson, Larsen, Maloney, Taliaferro and Vecchione); three Olympians who combined for five medals (Beauregard, Henderson, Maloney); and a three-time Pro-Bowler (Jones-Drew).
Following are biographies on the 2017 UCLA Athletics Hall of Fame inductees:

Toby Bailey (Men's Basketball, 1995-98)
As a freshman in 1995, Toby Bailey led UCLA to its 11th NCAA Men's Basketball Championship with a 26-point, nine-rebound performance in the title game. A four-year letterman, he finished his career as the No. 5 all-time scorer at UCLA with 1,846 points, averaging 14.3 points, 5.2 rebounds and 3.6 assists in 129 career games. He ranks ninth at UCLA with 458 career assists and eighth with 171 three-point field goals made. Bailey earned first-team All-Pac-10 honors from 1996-98 and was UCLA's Co-MVP in 1996 and 1998. He was a second-round draft pick by the Los Angeles Lakers and played for two seasons with the Phoenix Suns before completing his career in Europe.

Robin Beauregard (Women's Water Polo, 1998-03)
Robin Beauregard won three national championships as a Bruin, in 1998 as a true freshman, in 2001 after redshirting two seasons to train for the Olympics, and again as a senior in 2003. A four-time All-American, Beauregard was a two-time nominee for the Peter J. Cutino Award, honoring the top collegiate player, and in 2003, she was named the Most Outstanding Player at the 2003 NCAA Championship. She competed for Team USA at the 2000 and 2004 Olympic Games, winning silver in 2000 and bronze in 2004, and she also captured gold at the 2003 World Championships. Beauregard was inducted into the USA Water Polo Hall of Fame in 2011.

Monique Henderson (Women's Track & Field, 2002-05)
Monique Henderson had a storied career at UCLA, winning three NCAA titles (2004 outdoor team and 400m, 2002 indoor DMR), seven Pac-12 titles and 10 All-America awards, not to mention an Olympic gold medal in the 4x400m relay following her junior season. Henderson went on to capture Olympic gold again in 2008. In 2004, she scored 11.25 of UCLA's 69 points to help the Bruins capture the NCAA Outdoor Championship. Still UCLA's record-holder in five events (400m outdoor, 4x400m relay indoor and outdoor, 200m indoor, DMR), Henderson is also the Pac-12 record-holder in the 400m, clocking in a time of 49.96 in 2005. She was the Pac-12 Track Athlete of the Year in 2005 and the Newcomer of the Year in 2002 and was recently named to the Pac-12 All-Century Team.

Maurice Jones-Drew (Football, 2003-05)
Running back Maurice Jones-Drew electrified Bruin fans with record-breaking performances on the gridiron. By the end of his playing career at UCLA, he had set school records in career and single-season all-purpose yards, touchdowns in a game, single-game rushing yards, and single-season punt returns for touchdowns. He also set a NCAA record that still stands with a punt return average of 28.5 yards in 2005 and went on to earn first-team All-America honors as an all-purpose back/kick returner. Jones-Drew was selected in the second round of the 2006 NFL Draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars and was a three-time Pro Bowler and three-time 1,000-yard rusher (2009-11), leading the league in rushing in 2011 with 1,606 yards. After retiring from the NFL in 2015, he became an analyst with the NFL Network and is currently on the radio broadcast team for the L.A. Rams.

Bob Larsen (Men's Track & Field Coach, 1985-99/Men's and Women's Cross Country Coach, 1980-99)
Distance guru Bob Larsen led the UCLA men's track and field teams to two NCAA Championships, nine Pac-12 titles and four national dual meet titles during his nearly 20 years as head coach. He had an incredible dual meet record of 118-3-1 that included an unbeaten 15-year dual mark versus rival USC. In cross country, he led UCLA to two conference crowns and six NCAA appearances. The four-time NCAA Coach of the Year guided 13 athletes to a total of 25 national championships. Larsen was inducted into the National Track & Field Hall of Fame in 2013, and in 2014, he coached his star runner Meb Keflezighi, also a UCLA Athletics Hall of Famer, to the Boston Marathon Championship.

Kristen Maloney, Women's Gymnastics (2001-05)
Kristen Maloney's legacy with UCLA Gymnastics can be summed up in the team award that was named after her – the Kristen Maloney Heart of a Champion Award. The 2000 Olympic bronze medalist fought through multiple surgeries and a nearly career-ending bone infection to become a five-time NCAA champion and nine-time All-American. Maloney helped lead UCLA to the 2001 NCAA title as a freshman but was forced to sit out both the 2002 and 2003 seasons due to complications from the surgeries. She returned in 2004 to help the Bruins win another NCAA team title in record-breaking fashion, and in 2005 she was the Honda Award winner, as well as the National, West Region and Pac-12 Gymnast of the Year. She won three events and the all-around at the 2005 Pac-12 Championships and finished her career by winning the vault and beam titles at the NCAA Championships.

Brandon Taliaferro, Men's Volleyball (1997-2000)
One of the best setters in collegiate volleyball history, Brandon Taliaferro led UCLA to NCAA Championships in 1998 and 2000 and finished his career as the Bruins' all-time leader in set assists with 6,840. Taliaferro also owns school records for single-season (1,848 in 1998) and single-match (110 in 1998) set assists and ranks No. 3 in career aces (176), No. 3 in career digs (831) and No. 10 in total blocks (396). He began his Bruin career by winning MPSF Freshman of the Year honors in 1997 and finished it as a three-time first-team All-American and All-MPSF honoree and the 2000 NCAA Championship Most Outstanding Player. Taliaferro went on to play for the U.S. National Team from 2000-03 and 2006-08 and was recently named to the Pac-12 Men's Volleyball All-Century Team.

Gina Vecchione, Softball (1980-82)
A member of UCLA's first NCAA Softball Championship team, Gina Vecchione excelled at UCLA as a player and assistant coach. During her playing career, she earned All-Pacific Region honors three times and was a second-team All-American in 1982, as well as a member of the 1982 All-Women's College World Series team. Vecchione, who had her #2 jersey retired in 2007, led UCLA in doubles and tied for the team lead in triples and RBI in 1981. She was later named to the Pac-12 All-Century Team. Vecchione went on to play 12 years professionally with the Raybestos Brakettes, winning eight ASA titles and three World titles. She was a seven-time ASA All-American and became the first UCLA player ever to be inducted into the ASA Hall of Fame in 1997. Vecchione coached at UCLA from 2000-12, helping guide the Bruins to three additional NCAA titles (2003, 2004, 2010). She is currently an associate head coach at Cal Poly.

Bobby Field, Extraordinary Service (Football Coach, 1978-79, 1981-2000; Administrator, 2001-13)
Bobby Field spent 35 years impacting UCLA student-athlete lives as either a coach or administrator. He coached football for 22 years from 1978-79 and 1981-2000, serving as defensive coordinator for 16 years and assistant head coach for five years. He helped coach UCLA to seven conference championships (the most all-time for a UCLA coach) and five Rose Bowl appearances. He was also part of an NCAA-record eight consecutive bowl wins, which included three Rose Bowls, a Fiesta Bowl and a Cotton Bowl. During his tenure, UCLA played in 15 bowl games and posted a winning record against every conference opponent, including a 12-9-1 mark against USC. He moved into an administrative role in 2001 and served as the sport supervisor for football, rowing, track and field and golf, in addition to overseeing housing, parking, training table and video services for all sports. In 2001, he instituted the UCLA Coaches Development program, which continues to provide professional growth opportunities for UCLA coaches. He also oversaw the transition of women's rowing from a club sport to a varsity sport, giving a large number of women the opportunity for athletics scholarship and to compete in a NCAA sport at the highest level. Field and his wife Valorie Kondos Field (2010 inductee) become the first-ever married couple to be inducted into UCLA's Athletics Hall of Fame.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

3 Bruins to Participate in NBA Draft Combine

May-08-2017 | UCLA MEN'S BASKETBALL PAGE | POST LINK

Anigbogu, Leaf and Welsh set for the upcoming NBA Draft Combine in Chicago.

CHICAGO – Three UCLA men's basketball players – freshmen Ike Anigbogu and TJ Leaf and junior Thomas Welsh – are scheduled to participate in the annual NBA Draft Combine in Chicago this week. All three players were on the official 67-man attendee list released by the NBA last Friday.
 
UCLA is one of seven collegiate programs to have at least three players scheduled to participate in the upcoming combine. The six other colleges on that list include Kentucky (4), North Carolina (4), Oregon (4), Arizona (3), Duke (3) and Michigan (3).
 
Freshman guard Lonzo Ball was invited to the NBA Draft Combine but has opted not to participate.
 
The NBA Draft Combine is scheduled to take place from May 9-14 at the Quest Center in Chicago. ESPN2 will televise portions of this year's NBA Draft Combine on May 11-12, from 12 to 4 p.m. (PT).
 
The annual combine, a multi-day showcase, is the first step in the NBA Draft process for athletes aspiring to advance to the NBA. The invitation-only event features five-on-five games in addition to strength and agility drills in front of NBA personnel. Two years ago, UCLA's Kevon Looney and Norman Powell were invited to participate in the NBA Draft Combine.
 
Two of the three Bruins expected to participate in the upcoming NBA Draft Combine – Anigbogu and Leaf – have signed with an agent, forgoing their remaining collegiate eligibility.
 
NCAA rules allow underclassmen to "test the waters" by declaring for the NBA Draft, taking part in the combine and working out for individual teams. Players have until 10 days after the combine concludes to retain their collegiate eligibility, provided the individual does not hire an agent. Both Welsh and sophomore Aaron Holiday have declared for the NBA Draft but have not signed with an agent.
 
One of 10 players to secure All-Pac-12 first-team honors, Leaf averaged 16.3 points per game during his freshman season, ranking seventh in the league in scoring. Leaf, a 6-foot-10 forward from El Cajon, Calif., registered 8.2 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.1 blocks per game. He captured first-team USBWA All-District IX honors, was one of five freshmen on the Pac-12 All-Freshman Team and was one of five players, nationally, to be named a finalist for the Karl Malone Power Forward of the Year Award.
 
Anigbogu, a 6-foot-10 forward/center from Corona, Calif., averaged 4.7 points and 4.0 rebounds in 13.0 minutes per game during his freshman campaign. Anigbogu played in 29 of UCLA's 36 games and ranked second on the team in blocks per game (1.2 bpg, 35 blocks). He was fourth on the team in rebounds per game (4.0) and shot 56.4 percent from the field.
 
Welsh, a 7-foot center from Redondo Beach, Calif., averaged 10.8 points and a team-leading 8.7 rebounds per game in 2016-17. He also led the Bruins in blocks per game (1.3 bpg), totaling a team-best 43 blocks in 32 contests. Welsh ranked seventh in the Pac-12 in rebounding (8.7) and fifth in field goal percentage (58.5). He captured second-team Pac-12 All-Academic honors for the second consecutive year.
 
The NBA Draft will take place Thursday, June 22 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
 
Since Steve Alford joined the Bruins' program as head coach prior to the 2013-14 season, UCLA has sent seven players to the NBA – five NBA Draft selections, including four first-rounders, and two non-drafted free agents. All four UCLA players in the Alford era who have chosen to declare for the NBA Draft as freshmen or sophomores have been selected in the first round.
 

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Recruiting 2017: Chris Smith signs NLI

Video highlights (Thanks to the corresponding You Tube posters)


UCLA Basketball signs Chris Smith to NLI

APR 12, 2017 | UCLA MEN'S BASKETBALL PAGE | POST LINK

Chris Smith, a 6-foot-8 forward, will enroll at UCLA as a freshman this summer.

LOS ANGELES – The UCLA men's basketball program has received a signed National Letter of Intent from Chris Smith, a 6-foot-8 forward who starred last season at Huntington Prep in Huntington, W. Va., it was announced today by head coach Steve Alford.

Smith, who hails from Fort Worth, Texas, will enroll at UCLA this summer and begin his freshman season in Westwood this fall.

"We're really excited to welcome Chris to our program," UCLA head coach Steve Alford said. "He's a versatile player with great length who can play on the wing and excel as a power forward. He has shown that he can handle, pass and shoot the ball, which fits perfectly to our style. Chris has an opportunity to make an impact from the start, and we're looking forward to having him here this summer."

The Bruins have added Smith to an incoming class that has already been rated No. 2, nationally, by ESPN.com, Rivals.com and Scout.com. Smith has been ranked as a four-star and top-100 recruit in his class by Rivals.com.

Smith has become the sixth high school player in this class to sign with the Bruins, set to enroll at UCLA for the 2017-18 school year. He joins Kris Wilkes, from Indianapolis, Ind., and a group of four players from southern California in the Bruins' incoming class – Li'Angelo Ball, Jaylen Hands, Jalen Hill and Cody Riley.


More on Chris Smith:

2017 Recruiting: Chris Smith (6-8, 190 Forward, Huntington, WV) commits to UCLA




Sunday, April 23, 2017

Pros & Cons Of Playing Overseas – Q&A With Ryan Hollins

apr 21, 2017 | bj-and-bucher podcast | post LINK

Last time we checked in with Ryan Hollins, who is playing overseas after 10 seasons in the NBA, he had just undergone a tumultuous turn of life events. Within 24 hours he’d dealt with the death of a dear uncle and surrogate father as well as the birth of a daughter, Eve. Shortly thereafter, his contract was terminated by Spain’s Gran Canaria team and he signed with Italy’s Auxilium Torino in the Serie A league. Here he explains how life and work have changed.

NBA Center
What was the first thing that struck you as different about your team in Italy vs. your team in Spain?
Fresh into the locker room I was struck that not only did we have five other Americans but they were guys I knew: DJ White, a six-year pro; Virginia Tech’s Deron Washington, who was easily the most exciting college player of my era; Georgetown star Chris Wright; Jamil Wilson of Marquette; and Tyler Harvey, a fellow LA product. The guys were laughing and joking playing Uno in the locker room when I showed up. English was the primary language spoken, even by my Italian teammates. In Spain, I actually didn’t mind everyone speaking Spanish because I took it as a challenge to learn the language, but in Italy even our coach, Francesco “Frank” Vitucci, speaks to us in English. My first few days he was very apologetic that his English wasn’t up to par but he had no idea — it was music to my ears. 
How does your role with Auxilium Torino compare to the one with Gran Canaria?
In Spain, the players pick up full court and essentially split all minutes to manage fatigue. In Italy, the top players dominate the minutes. My first game in Italy I played about 30 minutes; in Spain, I may have had a season high of 12 in one game. I’m blessed to be an intricate part of Torino. I’m also glad that I kept up my conditioning and work ethic for moments like these. 
Pictured: Ryan and Auxilium teammates
How does the level of play compare? What is the style of play?
The game is very technical in Spain; it’s a game of chess between the coaches. From the full court press, to a specific trap to unorthodox rotations — you could see just about anything. In Italy, due to the heavy minutes, the players have more freedom to decide the game. I don’t know if I can say this is the most physical basketball I’ve seen, but the referees allow the game to turn into street ball here, where anything goes. In three games I’ve seen elbows, pushes, grabs and opportunistic traveling.
Compare your European coaches to the ones you’ve had in the NBA.
Even if I wanted to compare the coaches that I have now to those I had in the NBA, there’s not a chance I could from a strategic standpoint. What I can do is give you a glimpse into their personalities. Luis Casimiro, Gran Canaria’s coach, is full of passion and doesn’t cut corners, even in practice. Yet off the court he’s a compassionate friend. I’ll never forget the time he gave me a ride home. It was a conversation for the ages between Luis’s limited English and my limited Spanish, but I throughly enjoyed every moment of it.
Pictured: Ryan Hollins with Auxilium Torino fans
Victor Garcia, one of Casimiro’s assistant coaches, is my guy. He’s always cool, but in the heat of the game he wouldn’t mind jumping on the floor to celebrate a huge play from the team. Gran Canaria’s other assistant coach, Israel Gonzalez, is also one of my favorites. I thought of him as the “Game Master.” Israel has the intelligence to be a doctor or a lawyer but chose to follow his passion on the court. He doesn’t have the greatest English, but he knows enough to hit you with a frequent hilarious/sarcastic punchline (when least expected).
Coach Frank of Turino is cool, calm and collected; you can’t find wrong in Frank. A family man who has treated me with nothing but respect since I walked through the door. Now, funny story, Frank has been around for a while. I remember Chris Jent, who was one of my NBA assistant coaches with two different teams (CLE, SAC) and is now at Ohio State, telling me how he loved his Italian experience years ago. Come to find out Frank was CJ’s coach! He members his two-year old son at the time, who I knew to be a teenager, and in real time is a grown man. Somehow I felt really young and really old at the same moment. 
What former NBA players have you run across or competed with/against?
Italy is full of former NBA players. In my first game, I played against both my college rival and Pistons’ draft pick, Alex Aker, and my former teammate, Juwaun Johnson. In our last game I went up against another former teammate from Memphis, Yakhouba Diawara, and Linton Johnson, who I played with in Charlotte. 
What is it like playing in Italy with your family — and new-born daughter — still living in the Canary Islands?
Knowing that my family isn’t here (and that I’m missing moments with Eve that I’ll never get back) absolutely makes me sick. Not being with my family will never settle right with me, and is one of those things where I have to just continue to focus on the greater good. Thank goodness for Face Time and these fancy iPhone cameras. My wife has become a professional photographer and editor in her spare time, lol. 
Pictured: Ryan and Eve
You’ve joined NBA teams in mid-season. How did that experience prepare you for doing it overseas?
Joining the team mid-season is just part of professional sports (if you stay around long enough, it’s going to happen, either by trade or free-agent signing). For me the focus is being the best me that I can be. One huge perk of coming in late means that you’re needed (and there isn’t anyone who has your unique skill set). Being able to pick up plays is a must, and for those kids who have all the game in the world but can’t remember a play…. there’s a rude awakening ahead. My thought process is to gain immediate trust from my coach in opening up his playbook.
Culturally, what has been the best part of living and playing in Italy? What has been the worst?
Culturally: I immediately noticed the acceptance of English. Turin feels a lot like America to me. One of our sponsors is Fiat, and as an American you hear Fiat and immediately wonder how a 7 footer is going to fit in one comfortably. To my surprise, Fiat not only has a sizable car, my little Fiat has some kick to it, lol. I love the streets, you have two huge lanes through the whole city one to park on, and another for through traffic. Nice enough to make me wonder if this could cure the traffic in LA (then I remembered that the 405 and 101 is just one huge intersection) and that we just have too many cars.
Pictured: The goodness on Ryan’s plate
I can find good food anywhere, and I mean anywhere!!! For lunch and dinner I’ve been playing Russian roulette with Trip Advisor. For a guy who loves Italian food, I’m in heaven right now. I might eat pasta, pizza, and a tiramisu twice a day. When I say pizza I’m not talking greasy takeout but the kind you eat with a knife and fork. And even at the nicest restaurants you walk to the front to pay your tab; I learned this the hard way, by sitting for about 30 extra minutes after a meal. Italy also has to be one of the most dog-friendly places in the world. Not only have I seen dogs exotic enough to make you take a second glance but they are welcomed everywhere. I see dogs on the streets, dogs in the malls, even dogs in the restaurants. Pretty cool. One setback to the big city is not having a parking spot or wifi in my apt. So far I’ve been bingeing “Prison Break” on a 2g signal. Hunting for a parking spot takes around 10 minutes when I get home. This is also my first time living without a dryer, so imagine the mess I’m making. True confession: I haven’t done laundry since college, lol.