Coach Howland speaks of the upcoming season..."the team will be growing througout the season"...expects sophies Drew Gordon and Jerime Anderson to be big contributors...praises freshmanReeves Nelson "he has the body to contribute right away"...Malcolm Lee, a budding star "he will be an NBA player. It is not a question of 'if', but a question of 'when'". When Coach Howland talks, we listen.
Harrison Barnes is scheduled to visit Westwood tomorrow, October 30. The Ames, Iowa native was the 2009 Gatorade Player of the Year in Iowa. He averaged 19.7 points and 8.8 rebounds as a junior. He has a monstrous 84.5" wingspan.
Barnes has had official visits to UNC, Oklahoma, Kansas and Duke. Has two more visits to go, UCLA and Iowa State, afterwhich, he will make his decision. Be a Bruin, Harrison!
Harrison Barnes Hometown Ames, IA High School Ames High School Ranked #1 High School Player Class of 2010 Position rank Small Forward # 1 Height 6'8" Weight 209 lbs.
AP Photo/Steve Pope
Dick Vitale posted the following story on ESPN.com earlier in the month.
We all know that Duke and North Carolina (booooo!!!!) have a phenomenal rivalry...I think it is the best in college sports! I know, fans in Columbus and Ann Arbor, or at Auburn and Alabama may disagree.
The Duke-North Carolina rivalry won't be contested on the hardwood for several months. Right now, they are going head-to-head, battling big time. This showdown is at a neutral site, not in Chapel Hill or Durham.
Come on, are you wondering what I am talking about?
This battle is taking place in Ames, Iowa, home of Iowa State. It is also the home of the top recruit in the minds of many, 6-8 Harrison Barnes. He is very athletic, and he has tantalized many.
Barnes has narrowed down his choice between a number of powerful programs: North Carolina, Duke, UCLA (yehey!) and Kansas. He also has the local school, the Cyclones of Iowa State, in contention too.
Recently, there was a battle of home visits. Imagine your family walking into a room and within a span of hours, two Hall of Famers are there. That's right, Duke's Mike Krzyzewski and North Carolina's Roy Williams are in the living room! Wow!
They made their presentations on the same day. I would have loved to be a fly on the wall to listen to those conversations, baby!
Two Hall of Famers selling their respective programs, talking about those positives. I'm talking about champions at the big dance, two of the marquee programs in America.
Don't forget about the tradition of the Bruins and Jayhawks. Perhaps Barnes will want to stay close to home and help the Cyclones advance further.
Word is, Barnes is going to make his decision prior to basketball practice beginning in mid-November. This is the time of year colleges win a lot of games by securing the crème de la crème.
Let the battle rage on. We will find out the winner of the Barnes sweepstakes. I was fortunate enough to meet Barnes a few years ago.
I spoke to both of them (what the hell are you talking about, Vitale?!?! There are two Harrison Barnes?) and I can tell you, this is a first class youngster who has his head on right.
One school will be very lucky. Not only will they get a skilled athlete, but also a classy human being. His family has done a great job with him.
Now the big question is, which college jersey will he wear as he starts an illustrious career. Stay tuned!
For more info on Harrison Barnes, check out an earlier post.
A run of injuries in early practices now includes senior guard Michael Roll, who sprained his right ankle and is scheduled to see a doctor today.
Sophomore center J'mison Morgan (left knee), sophomore guard Jerime Anderson (left groin), sophomore guard Malcolm Lee (concussion) and freshman forward Brendan Lane (left ankle) will also be evaluated today after missing practice last week.
Senior forward James Keefe (left shoulder) and freshman forward Mike Moser (lower back) were able to return to action in recent days. Keefe is expected to be cleared for full-contact work tomorrow.
If UCLA fans have cause for concern about their young team, just four practices into the new season, they need look no further than the point guard position.
Sophomore Jerime Anderson is expected to miss at least five more practices with a groin injury, a condition that hampered him in high school and during his freshman year.
It's troubling news given the Bruins' lack of depth in the back court.
"Everybody should be worried," Coach Ben Howland said. "I am, most of all."
When practices resume Wednesday -- the team is spending today in individual player meetings -- shooting guard Malcolm Lee and seldom-used junior Mustafa Abdul-Hamid will handle the point responsibilities. Howland said he will not rush Anderson back into action.
"We cannot afford for this to be a chronic thing," the coach said. "Which means he's going to get off to a slower start."
As for the other Bruins who have suffered injuries over the last week, the team is waiting for updated reports on freshmen Mike Moser (lower back) and Brendan Lane (ankle) later today. Lee, who suffered a potential concussion, will also see a doctor this afternoon but is expected to return Wednesday.
The good news is that forward James Keefe, who reinjured his shoulder and was expected to miss four to six weeks, has been cleared for moderate contact in practice.
"He's way ahead of schedule," Howland said.
Speaking of schedules, with so many freshmen and sophomores on the roster, the Bruins' early practices have focused on fundamentals. As with any Howland team, that means defense and rebounding, setting screens and the infamous jump stop.
"I would say we're going slower," Howland said. "It's more basic. I'm not going to assume that they know any particular thing."
So far, several players have stood out.
Sophomore Drew Gordon and freshman Reeves Nelson have looked good around the boards, with Nelson shooting 17 of 22. Sophomore J'mison Morgan has moved well after a summer of physical conditioning.
Howland also praised freshman Tyler Honeycutt, who spent much of the summer recovering from a spinal stress fracture.
"He's done a nice job in his first four practices," Howland said. "He needs to rebound better, but you can see his future at the offensive end of the floor."
The quintessential UCLA hoops hater, Seth Davis, speaks his mind after witnessing the team practice for, what, 30 min? 1 hour? and he already has a complete prognosis for the team?! Whatever. Anyway, if you missed it, here it is.
Seth Davis HOOP THOUGHTS SI.com Posted: Monday October 19, 2009 12:37PM; Updated: Monday October 19, 2009 1:14PM
- Coach Ben Howland knows that at UCLA there's no such thing as a down year - UCLA has lost seven underclassmen to the NBA draft in the last six years - A senior trio of Nikola Dragovic, James Keefe and Michael Roll will have to step up
LOS ANGELES -- Ben Howland has all the financial security he needs, and he is beginning his seventh year of his dream job. As the UCLA coach sat and enjoyed a quiet lunch at Sandbag's restaurant last Friday on a spectacular sunny day in Westwood Village, he looked like a man who didn't have a care in the world.
Howland's pleasant demeanor, however, belied the seriousness with which he approaches every season. That was apparent when I suggested that it must be refreshing for him to enter a season with such low expectations. "If you're at UCLA, there's always expectations. To think for a minute there's not would be very naive," Howland said. Then he pointed a finger at his chest, right above the Bruins logo on his shirt. "We have 'em. That's the main thing. I have them. We expect to be good every year."
Fair enough. But after watching Howland conduct UCLA's first practice later that evening, I have a message for Bruin Nation: Expect very little from this team. That way, if it does have a great year, you'll be pleasantly surprised.
It would foolish to expect a lot of a team that lost four starters from a unit that fell in the second round of the NCAA tournament. Losing players before their eligibility expires is a fact of life for the top programs, but few schools have had to deal with as many unexpected defections as the Bruins. Jrue Holiday averaged just 8.5 points as a freshman last season, yet he still turned pro and was selected 17th in the NBA draft. Russell Westbrook played nine minutes a game as a freshman, but by the end of his sophomore year was the fourth pick in the draft. Even a guy like Luc Richard Mbah a Moute was not thought of as a great pro prospect, yet he left school following his junior season and is now a possible starter with the Milwaukee Bucks.
In all, Howland has lost seven underclassmen to the NBA in the last six years, including five in the last three. "It's a Catch-22," he said. "Every kid wants to be a pro. That's understandable. The fact is, when you get the best players, often times you lose them."
The only way to survive is through recruiting. From what I saw during practice, Howland's current five-man freshman class has a lot of potential, but nobody in the quintet is ready to have a major impact this season. The most physically ready is Reeves Nelson, a 6-foot-8, 225-pound forward from Modesto, Calif. During one 5-on-5 sequence last Friday, Nelson chased down an offensive rebound in the lane, spun around and dunked over two defenders. It was a big-time play, but even he will play a reserve role at best.
The freshman with the biggest upside is 6-9 swingman Tyler Honeycutt, but he was inactive all summer as he recovered from a fractured vertebrae. Honeycutt, who reminds me a little of Tayshaun Prince, shot the ball very well for the first 30 minutes of practice. As the session wore on, however, he got tired and missed more often. About halfway through the practice, he left the court for the training room. He returned wearing flip flops, with ice bags strapped to his back and both knees and walked like an old man.
The core of sophomores who will form the team's nucleus -- guards Jerime Anderson and Malcolm Lee, and 6-8 forward Drew Gordon -- averaged 30.2 minutes combined last season. Until the underclassmen get up to speed, UCLA will need its senior trio of Nikola Dragovic, James Keefe and Michael Roll to hold down the fort -- and Keefe is out another three weeks because of a dislocated shoulder. When Howland asked me after practice what I thought of his team, I told him, "Your problem is that your most talented players are not your best players."
The good news for UCLA is that Howland is one of the foremost teachers in America. This could be an enjoyable year for him, because his players will really need coaching. Not surprisingly, the bulk of the first practice was devoted to defensive fundamentals, with Howland focusing on small details. During a drill on perimeter pressure, he told freshman center Anthony Stover, "Don't extend your arm. When we extend our arm, what happens? We lose balance! Keep your arm bent." A little later: "You guys are gonna hear a thousand times this year: Don't jump in the air to pass!"
"Tomorrow, we're gonna introduce hedging to the rookies," Howland told his guys towards the end of practice. "We'll do a lot of learning tomorrow." That will be the constant refrain for a team with so much to learn. "We're going to teach and re-teach," Howland told me after practice. "We're going to go real slow and I'm going to have to be very patient. We want to learn how to do things right."
After watching this young team complete its first day of class, I herewith offer my breakdown of the 2009-10 UCLA Bruins:
Heart and soul: Lee. The 6-5 sophomore is one of the hardest-working guys Howland has ever coached, and he knows full well this is his team. Lee spent much of the summer running the huge, steep Santa Monica Stairs. He put himself through twice-daily shooting workouts beginning at 7 a.m. and again at 11 p.m. "I don't like working out in the middle of the day. It's too convenient," Lee said. Lee worked so hard on his game that he developed tendinitis in his knees, and he actually tried to defy Howland's order to quit working out. When he went home for a few days, Howland called Lee's father to tell him to make sure Malcolm didn't play ball while he was at home.
Lee got off to a good start as a freshman, but he turned his ankle and missed two weeks in late December, and he never regained his form. Now he has changed his jersey number (back to his high school number 3), and he decided to lose his headband and undershirt to give himself a fresh start. He is a dynamic scorer but he also takes great pride in his defense. The only question is how Lee will fare as a backup point guard to Anderson, but presented with the opportunity to play major minutes, Lee seems poised to have a breakout season. Of course, if that happens, then chances are he will be the next early defection to the NBA.
Most improved: Mike Moser. I will take Howland's word on this choice, because I never saw Moser, a 6-8 small forward from Portland, play in high school. Moser is beginning the season 14 pounds heavier than he was as a high school senior. He is also the player who most frequently accompanied Lee on his early-morning and late-night workouts.
X-factor: Gordon. Gordon's talent has never been in question. He's not a freak athlete, but he has a solid build, good quickness, and his jump shot extends beyond the three-point line. The major thing that held Gordon back last season was a lack of mental toughness. He is an emotional player who too easily gets frustrated if something doesn't go his way. Maybe that was just typical freshman immaturity, but the Bruins need Gordon to grow up fast, play 30 minutes a game and be their leading rebounder. If can do that, it will make a huge difference.
Glue Guy: Dragovic. UCLA's offense was anemic at the start of last season, but it picked up dramatically when Howland inserted Dragovic into the starting lineup in mid-December. At 6-9, 215 pounds, Dragovic is one of the biggest and strongest players on the team, but he also stretches defenses with his Euro-style versatility. Most of all, he's the best of the three seniors. This team will need his experience and leadership.
Lost in the shuffle: J'mison Morgan. Based on what I saw during last Friday's workout, I have a hard time envisioning Morgan being a high-level Pac 10 player. He arrived last season in poor condition, and though he has done well to drop his body fat under 10 percent, Morgan does not move with the natural grace you like to see in a player his size. If Gordon improves as much as I expect, and if Nelson emerges as a dependable reserve, then Morgan may have a hard time finding quality minutes late in the year.
Bottom line: This is a good year to be rebuilding in the Pac-10, so even in this down cycle I don't expect UCLA to finish lower than third or fourth. That means getting back to the NCAA tournament but not making it to the second weekend. If Howland is able to keep this group together, and if a couple of recruiting breaks go his way, then the Bruins will be right back on top of the league next season. The folks in Westwood don't like to hear "wait til next year," but at the moment they have no choice.
GETTING INSIDE Darren Collison was 86-18 as a starting point guard during his UCLA career.
Alfred Aboya and Josh Shipp combined with Collison to play in 424 games for the Bruins.
Even Jrue Holiday, after just one season in Westwood, is gone ... to the NBA.
The Bruins aren't exactly starting over in Coach Ben Howland's seventh season, but they are turning to a new chapter. Those three straight Final Four appearances from 2006 to 2008 are in the rear-view mirror. So are the 123 victories (and just 26 defeats) from the past four seasons.
The Bruins are rebuilding with an assortment of former high school All-Americans, but they are rebuilding. Nine freshmen and sophomores are among the scholarship players, and not one player who averaged double-figure scoring returns from a year ago.
UCLA has depth and options, and a potential star-in-waiting in sophomore guard Malcolm Lee, from whom much is expected. An upper-division finish in the Pac-10 seems likely.
Much will depend on the ability of the young players to embrace what Howland demands on the defensive end.
Sophomore Jerime Anderson will try to step into Collison's considerable shoes at the point, and sophomore Drew Gordon, at just 6-8, may have to play center, provided he stays healthy and out of foul trouble.
This team figures to be at its best late in the season, when it matters most.
--Sophomore F Drew Gordon suffered an injury to the patellar tendon of his right knee at the USA Under-19 team trials last spring, but is healthy and ready to go. Gordon is likely to begin the season as the starting center because the Bruins have no else ready to handle that job.
--Senior F James Keefe, who averaged 3.0 points and 3.4 rebounds last season, was expected to miss 4-to-6 weeks, sidelining him until perhaps mid-November, after injuring his left shoulder. The injury is not as serious as the torn labrum he suffered to the same shoulder two years ago that forced him to miss the first 12 games of the season.
--UCLA's 123 victories the past four seasons exceeds by six wins the best four-year stretch of legendary Bruins coach John Wooden, who celebrated his 99th birthday on Oct. 14. Of course, Wooden's teams never played more than 31 games in any season.
LAST YEAR: 26-9 overall, 13-5 in Pac-10; lost in second round of the NCAA Tournament.
HEAD COACH: Ben Howland (career 320-153); seventh year at UCLA (152-54).
QUOTE TO NOTE: "You have to be really detailed and be very patient in terms of trying to teach the very basics. These freshmen have no idea. They really don't." -- UCLA coach Ben Howland on the state of his young squad.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
SCOUTING THE NEWCOMERS: Coach Ben Howland brought in a five-man recruiting class rated as the nation's ninth-best by Scout.com. Figure three or four of them will contribute almost from the start. Tyler Honeycutt, a wiry 6-9 forward, is given a good shot at finding a place in the starting lineup after being medically cleared following a spinal stress fracture he sustained last April in an all-star game. PF Reeves Nelson should earn playing time simply because he is an excellent rebounder and the Bruins need that skill. Meanwhile, 6-8 Mike Moser hopes to create opportunity at one of the two forward spots. PF Brendan Lane, at 6-9, 205, and C Anthony Stover, a 6-10, 225-pounder, may contribute somewhat less at the start.
KEY EARLY-SEASON GAMES: The Bruins are part of a strong eight-team field in the 76 Classic at Anaheim, where they better not sleep on a Nov. 26 opener vs. much-improved Portland. A second-round matchup (Nov. 27) looms with Butler or Minnesota, and the other side of the bracket features West Virginia and Clemson. But the two headliners on UCLA's non-conference slate are a Dec. 6 home matchup with likely No. 1 Kansas, then a Dec. 19 visit to Notre Dame with All-America senior Luke Harangody. A fairly challenging schedule for a young Bruins squad.
PROGRAM DIRECTION: This is a matter of perspective, because coach Ben Howland has created such high expectations at Westwood. The Bruins aren't likely to make their fourth trip to the Final Four in five seasons and are regarded as no better than a third-place team in the Pac-10 this season. Given their recent history, that's a comedown. But this is generally a young team, and if the freshmen and sophomores deliver, as expected, UCLA should be an NCAA Tournament team with the promise of bigger things in the immediate future.
PROBABLE STARTING LINEUP: PG Jerime Anderson, SG Malcolm Lee, SF Michael Roll, SF Nikola Dragovic, C Drew Gordon.
--Sophomore G Malcolm Lee, expected to blossom into a productive scorer, averaged just 3.2 points a year ago. He scored 27 points in 14 regular-season Pac-10 games.
--Senior F Michael Roll led the Pac-10 in 3-point accuracy last season at 51.5 percent.
--Senior F Nikola Dragovic is the team's top returning scorer (9.4 ppg) and rebounder (4.3 rpg) and he also led the Bruins with 60 3-point baskets.
--UCLA's only commitment to its 2010 recruit class, as of mid-October, was Tyler Lamb, a four-star shooting guard from Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, Calif.
"On it's pay site forum, Aaron Beach at Dawgman.com said he heard Kentwood star Josh Smith may announce he's chosen UCLA over Washington on Saturday. Beach said he's skeptical, but claims he has quality contacts."
But like one comment points out, "Beach said he's skeptical, but claims he has quality contacts" means either way (UCLA or Washington), Beach is right?
I guess we'll just have to wait until Saturday to find out if Josh is announcing or not.
As the UCLA basketball team gathered at Pauley Pavilion for a recent workout, Malcolm Lee looked from player to player, trying to single out a preordained leader.
"Could be anybody," the sophomore guard said. "We're basically starting from the ground up."
Well, it might seem like that for the Bruins, but as official practice for the 2009-10 college basketball season begins Friday, USC is the team in town that is really starting over.
UCLA lost four of five starters from last season, with seniors Alfred Aboya, Josh Shipp and Darren Collison moving on and freshman Jrue Holiday jumping early to the NBA. But USC also has only one starter back, its three best players having left school early. Plus, the Trojans have a new coach, Kevin O'Neill, and an almost entirely new recruiting class after several top prospects left in the wake of former coach Tim Floyd's resignation. Early projections have the Bruins near the bottom of the national top 25 at best, chasing California and Washington for the Pacific 10 Conference title. USC is expected to chase just about everyone.
A look at each team's five most pressing issues as they begin practice:
Who's the boss?
After three seasons with Collison in the starting lineup, the door swings open for Jerime Anderson at point guard.
Anderson expected to be a factor last season but got boxed out by Collison's decision to remain in school one more year. As a result, he played only 8.6 minutes a game.
The sophomore is eager to make up for lost time. "I definitely know how to run a team," he said. "This year, I'm going to be allowed to do that."
Players often show their most dramatic improvement in the summer after their freshman season. That seems to be the case with Lee, who could be a breakout star this winter.
Expected to start at shooting guard and back up Anderson at the point, he has impressed coaches and teammates the last few months.
At least one online publication projects him as an all-conference first-teamer.
"He's our best defensive player," Howland said. "He's really worked hard to get stronger and he's improved his shooting." (Continue reading at The Los Angeles Times)
LOS ANGELES — UCLA fans will need to check their programs this season. With four starters gone from last season's team that finished 26-9, the Bruins have plenty of new faces.
Freshman forward Tyler Honeycutt has been cleared to participate when the team holds its first official practice on Friday night. He was diagnosed with a lower back stress fracture in July. After eight weeks of rest, he spent the rest of the summer rehabbing.
"Tyler being healthy and able to play is important because we're counting on him," coach Ben Howland said Wednesday at the team's media day.
The six-foot-nine Honeycutt is part of the Bruins' heralded freshman class that features five players 6-8 or taller.
Howland said senior forward James Keefe has progressed rapidly since injuring his left shoulder last week. Keefe's MRI was negative, but he was initially expected to be restricted from full contact for four to six weeks.
"Yesterday we were doing one-on-one shooting and he was able to go through it, follow missed shots, dunk it," Howland said. "I think he's a lot better off than maybe was first feared."
With so many new players, it was a slimmed down one who garnered the most attention.
Sophomore centre J'mison Morgan shed about 25 pounds and re-sculpted his body during the off-season.
"Nobody had to tell me, I could definitely feel that I needed to work on my body to play college basketball," said Morgan, who averaged 2.3 points and 1.0 rebounds last season. "Not only was I out of shape, I wasn't as strong as I needed to be."
Howland estimates that Morgan, who is listed at 6-10, 248 pounds, had about 17 per cent body fat last season and quipped that he was jealous Morgan is now down to seven per cent. (Continue reading at The Canadian Press)
What happened to that familiar feeling around Westwood?
That inevitable sense of impending success, borne out of three straight Final Fours and countless NCAA Tournament appearances, seems to have dissipated.
Left in its wake, only a young team, stripped to its bare bones, a UCLA men's basketball squad that doesn't have the weight of the basketball world on its shoulders.
Now the Bruins enter a season with diminished expectations after a 26-9 season, their worst since 2004-05.
Only here's the catch.
They kinda like being under the radar for the first time in years.
"This is good for us, it kind of knocks us down a little bit," sophomore forward Drew Gordon said at the team's media day Wednesday at Pauley Pavilion. "I guess they were trying to put us on that pedestal after back-to-back-to-back Final Fours. When you get knocked down, the target kind of gets lifted off our backs. It's not us any more. It's good, because we're a sleeper team - we're a lot better than people give us credit for.
"Just because we're young doesn't mean we're not dangerous."
He has one thing right: The Bruins certainly are young.
UCLA enters the season with just one returning starter, senior forward Nikola Dragovic. Dragovic averaged 9.4 points and 4.3 rebounds for the Bruins last season and will be expected to carry a large share of the scoring burden.
With Darren Collison, Josh Shipp and Jrue Holliday departed, where the rest comes from is anyone's guess.
That's just how sophomore center J'mison Morgan wants it.
"It makes it a lot easier - we don't have to just look for 'that' guy," Morgan said, after the team serenaded legendary coach John Wooden on video, celebrating his 99th birthday. "Last year it was, 'We're in trouble, we need to go to Darren, we need to go to Jrue, we need to go to Josh.' Now I feel like we can go to anybody on the team and they can take care of business."
UCLA basketball reloads Smith column: The Bruins open basketball practice with a lot to replace. Marcia C. Smith Columnist The Orange County Register firstname.lastname@example.org Wed Oct 14 2009
LOS ANGELES - UCLA guard Jrue Holiday sends his regards … from Philadelphia, where the former Pac-10 All Freshman Team guard is now working his way into the Sixers rotation.
“UCLA has got some players coming back -- well, not a lot of starters, but a lot of talent,” said Holiday, a one-and-done starter who left Westwood to be the Sixers’ first-round selection (17th overall) and took with him one bag and his freshman contributions 8.5 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game.
“Coach (Ben Howland) will make sure they’re ready.”
From the other side of the country, you could expect UCLA’s season outlook to appear blurry in the distance. But even up close, as in Pauley Pavilion, where the Bruins held Media Day on Wednesday, the forecast for the 2009-10 season seems too cloudy to call.
The Bruins have lost four of five starters and four of their five leading scorers who were on the court for a combined average of 28.8 minutes a game. The departed starters – senior point guard Darren Collison, freshman wing guard Holiday, senior forward Josh Shipp and senior center Alfred Aboya -- accounted for 62 percent of the scoring, 47 percent of the rebounding, 68 percent of the assists and 65 percent of the steals.
Success this season will be determined by how well the very young and slightly experienced Bruins make up for the veteran players who guided them to a 26-9 record (13-5 Pac-10, second), a trip into the second round of the NCAA tournament and a No. 18 final ranking in the Associated Press poll.
“We’re out to prove the world wrong,” said sophomore and projected starting guard Malcolm Lee. “People think that we’re not going to do much this season because so many players left. We still have a lot of good players here.”
There’s no doubt the Bruins will be competitive. Barring significant injuries, they will have a winning record, likely finish in the upper half of the Pac-10 and potentially contend for an at-large NCAA tournament berth.
But at first blush, the Bruins, who begin practice Thursday, barely resemble the teams that before last season had made three consecutive Final Four appearances. Howland works with a roster of seven sophomores and five incoming scholarship freshmen.
“We’ve got a lot of new players and young players who will compete for minutes,” said Howland. “We came back from losing this much before 08-09 and did well but I haven’t had this young a team since I was at Northern Arizona.”
Howland does, however, return three seniors in guard/forward Michael Roll and forward Nikola Dragovic and center/forward James Keefe. All three logged more than 14 minutes a game last season, and are projected to start.
Speedy and skilled Lee and point guard Jerime Anderson averaged 10.7 and 8.6 minutes per game, respectively, and will round out the starting five.
But there’s good news and bad news with almost every place on the Bruin floor. (Continue reading at OCregister.com)
On June 28th J’Mison Morgan received the news he had been waiting for. After missing six weeks of the off-season due to arthroscopic surgery to remove torn cartilage from his right knee, the rising sophomore was cleared by doctors to begin running again. Having arrived on campus the previous summer as a consensus top five center in his class, but quickly deemed out of shape, the clean bill of health was music to Morgan’s ears.
Waiting for him on the court upon his return were fellow sophomores Drew Gordon, Jerime Anderson and Malcolm Lee - all elite recruits in 2008 and all quickly forgotten like Morgan.
It’s amazing sometimes how prevalent short term memory loss is amongst sports fans. In this day and age of the “What Have You Done For Me Lately?” mentality, is it any wonder that UCLA would be expected to drop from their perch atop the Pac-10 after graduating Darren Collison, Alfred Aboya and Josh Shipp and watching Jrue Holiday depart for the NBA after one season?
Is it surprising that the other four members of last year’s number one recruiting class would be overlooked after biding their time on the bench at Pauley Pavilion behind a battle tested lineup of veterans?
With a roster that will feature five freshman, four sophomores and just three seniors, can you find fault with experts for projecting Washington or Cal to finish ahead of a team that has gone to three Final Fours in the last four years? Maybe not - but don’t tell the Bruins that.
“It’s tough to agree with it, it’s tough to disagree with it,” says sophomore power forward Drew Gordon of the early predictions. “We don’t have the set program that we as freshmen walked into. We had a lot of upperclassmen last year and they told us what to do. They had been through the program, knew how Coach Howland worked and we were able to adapt very quickly because we had those individuals telling us what was right and wrong. This year we’re still going to be getting a feel for Coach, we’re going to be learning as the freshmen are learning too.”
“At the same time, we have a good team, we have good chemistry, and we all know each other, so we’re going to mesh together. It all depends how you want to look at it, glass half full or glass half empty.”
With a roster that features only two players who averaged more than 15 minutes per game last season, most are thinking glass half empty. Given Ben Howland’s track record of success since joining the program though, that might not be the wisest approach.(Keep reading at SLAM online).