Sunday, May 29, 2011

Super-sized Bruins

Strength and size of Bruins’ frontcourt give coach Ben Howland many choices for next season

The Daily Bruin
Published May 27, 2011, 2:02 am in Men's Basketball Sports

It’s a Wednesday morning in late May, but don’t tell the UCLA basketball team that.

The Bruins are going full speed during the last week of their offseason workouts. As they prepare for next season’s schedule, the competition among them is ramping up.

With Joshua Smith, Anthony Stover, Travis and David Wear, Reeves Nelson, and Brendan Lane, coach Ben Howland might have too many options in the frontcourt.

He doesn’t seem worried.

Junior forward Reeves Nelson (6-8, 235)

Junior forward Brendan Lane (6-9, 223)

“We’ll end up playing with Dave Wear at the three (small forward) some,” Howland said. “And then you look at the other bigs that you’re playing with, and Brendan gives us some depth at the big position. We’re really deep up front.”

Howland will have to depart from his team over the summer. He’s not allowed to contact them until school is back in session, an NCAA rule that he’s made clear he’s not too fond of.

When you consider that the Bruins are also changing their offensive philosophy, Howland has only a limited amount of time. That prized depth at the four and five positions allows him to do something new with his offense.

“With the post presence that we have, we’re going to be able to run motion,” said Howland, who is about to enter his ninth season at the helm of UCLA’s program. “We’re going to run set plays, but we’re going to run more motion than we ever have since I’ve been here.”

A lot of screening and two-man work is getting done down low as the NCAA also mandates that only four players can work out at the same time. As such, Howland and his assistants hold four 30-minute practice sessions to facilitate the entire 12-man roster.

A glance at assistant coach Scott Garson’s pile of tools might suggest he’s getting ready to take to Spaulding Field and hit with the football team. He wields a blocking pad in one arm to keep his big men out of the paint and a padded broomstick in the other that he uses as a makeshift shot blocker.

Brothers Wear (Travis wears 43 [6-10, 220], David wears 34 [6-10, 225]).

Of particular note, the morning session consists only of the rising redshirt sophomore twins, Travis and David Wear. The natives of Huntington Beach and graduates of Mater Dei High School haven’t seen NCAA game action in more than a year after transferring from North Carolina and being forced to sit out last season per NCAA rules.

The pair averaged about 10 minutes per game during their freshman season as Tar Heels and didn’t contribute much in the scoring column, both of them averaging fewer than five points per game. Tar Heel fans would hardly recognize them now.

“I trimmed my body down,” Travis Wear said of his hiatus from the game. “I got a lot more lean and a lot more cut. I’ve been doing a lot of lifting, and I think I’m a lot more athletic. I think I’ve improved a lot since my freshman season.”

The twins go one-on-one at times, two-on-broom dummy at others, working on their post footwork as well as their outside shooting, something David Wear thinks can help next year’s team.

“What helps with me and my brother and Reeves is that we all can step out and shoot, so we’re all going to be able to play on the court at the same time,” he said.

Howland, for one, is excited to see them finally able to compete.

“The Wears have been terrific in terms of how they eat, how they take care of themselves, how they lift,” he said. “They’re doing yoga three days a week. Their commitment is really impressive. That’s what it takes to be great.”

Super soph center Joshua Smith (6-10, 305)

The session adds centers in rising sophomore Joshua Smith and rising redshirt sophomore Anthony Stover to the mix. Smith was key to UCLA’s run to the second round of the NCAA Tournament last season and is showcasing that familiar dexterity with the ball through a number of challenging drills.

But his endurance is another issue. Conditioning and foul trouble were two of Smith’s limiting factors as a freshman, and Howland hasn’t seen much progress there.

“It needs to get better,” Howland said of Smith’s conditioning. “He knows that, and we all talk about that. He’s put on some weight since the season ended. That’s Josh’s whole hurdle. When Josh Smith gets his body fat to 12 percent or 13 percent, he’ll be the best big guy in the country. But when he does that is everything for him and for our team.”

Soph center Anthony Stover (6-10, 235)

With an overabundance of size and a question mark at the two-guard spot, a lot of questions remain as to who will play where.

Howland looks on, sipping on a water bottle as his last group of players finishes a workout.

“Bottom line is, right now, we’ve got 12 guys on scholarship and one of them is a redshirt, so we’re 11 guys deep and strong as we go into the season,” he said with a smile.

No new assistant yet

Howland has yet to hire a third assistant coach to fill the void left by Scott Duncan, who departed to Wyoming last month.

He said he expects to reach a decision sometime in the first two weeks of June.

“I’ve been in no hurry to do that,” Howland said. “We’ve just been focusing on what we’re doing here. I’ve got one or two more interviews to complete, and then we’ll make the decision.”


Travis and David Wear ready to contribute

The Daily Bruin
Published May 18, 2011 in Sports: Bruin Sights
Updated: May 20, 2011, 12:39 AM

It’s been more than a year since UCLA forwards Travis and David Wear have played in an NCAA game.

The rising redshirt sophomore twins have been going at their teammates and each other in practice over the course of that year after transferring from North Carolina at the conclusion of their freshman season. Now, they have just one offseason left before they take the floor for the Bruins in the fall.

“I trimmed my body down. I got a lot more lean and a lot more cut,” Travis said. “I’ve been doing a lot of lifting and yoga, and I think I’m a lot more athletic.”

The Daily Bruin got a chance to see the pair compete at a team workout Wednesday morning in a number of drills that included a look at their outside shooting game.

“I think we both shoot the ball equally well,” Travis said. “He might shoot it more often because he’s playing the three more but I would say that both of our jump shots are equal and both of our inside games are equal.”

For those having trouble distinguishing between the twins, David is in a white top and makes the first jumper in the video. Travis is wearing a grey top and makes the second fallaway jumper.

DailyBruinSports on You Tube for the vid

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