Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Pac-12 Insider: UCLA plans to feed the big man

Thanks to ipsedixit for posting on Bruin Zone.

Doug Haller on ASU & Pac-12 basketball
Tuesday, June 7, 2011 at 04:05 PM

Pac-12 Insider: UCLA plans to feed the big man

Early departures might have hit UCLA as hard as any team in the country. With All-Pac-10 selections Tyler Honeycutt and Malcolm Lee, the Bruins might have started next season as a top five team. Without them, UCLA is reduced to simple Pac-12 title contender.

Impressive, just not as sexy.

Still, Ben Howland is excited. Coming off two subpar seasons (by UCLA's standards), the eighth-year coach told UCLA Radio last week he thinks the Bruins will be strong next season. And much of his optimism focuses on the big man inside, 6-foot-10, 300-pound sophomore Joshua Smith.

"Josh, 1-on-1 in the low post, is unstoppable by another college player," Howland told UCLA Radio.

"He's just too big, too strong. You don't have guys like that often. The only other guy we've had like him was Kevin (Love.) Kevin was unstoppable 1-on-1 in the low post and Josh is the same deal. So it's really going to be nice for the perimeter players, because if (opponents) don't double on him, if they don't help on him, then it's over. He's going to score."

Howland said the Bruins will run more four-man motion next season, with four perimeter players surrounding Smith. Despite the losses of Honeycutt and Lee -- UCLA's top 3-point threats last season (in terms of 3-pointers made) -- he thinks the Bruins can be effective from the perimeter. He said Travis and David Wear, forwards who sat out last season after transferring from North Carolina, both have decent range and Reeves Nelson showed off an improved touch in the spring.

Howland plans to play David Wear at small forward, placing him in a group of perimeter players that includes Lazeric Jones, Jerime Anderson, Tyler Lamb, freshman Norman Powell and junior college transfer De'End Parker. In the frontcourt: Smith will team up with Nelson, Travis Wear, Brendan Lane and Anthony Stover.

As a freshman last season, Smith averaged 10.9 points and 6.3 rebounds in just 21.7 minutes per game. According to, he was the nation's second-best offensive rebounder with a 19.5 offensive rebounding percentage. He had flaws (out of shape, foul prone, subpar defensive rebounder for his size), but Howland thought Smith improved as the season progressed, a stretch that began with a dunk in traffic during UCLA's win over Arizona State on Jan. 29.

That momentum continued through spring workouts.

"He's really improved his skill level with his post moves inside,'' Howland said. "He's really got a nice jump hook going now. His face-up jump shot is better. He's just got a bunch of different moves he can go to now."

That could be bad news for the rest of the Pac-12.

Other Howland tidbits from the radio show:

*On the upcoming Pac-12 race: "I think Arizona will be very good again. I think Cal will be outstanding; they return everybody. Washington will be good again. Stanford's youngsters are getting better and better, so there's going to be a lot of good teams in our conference. Oregon is improved. Oregon State I think will be a very good team this year. They return just about everybody but two players. Our goal is to always win the Pac-10 and if you do that, you're going to get a high seed in the NCAA Tournament. I think we're going to be good. We're going to Maui to play in the best field in the history of the Maui Classic. UCLA, Duke, Kansas, Michigan, Georgetown, Memphis, Tennessee. It's the best it's ever been. We're playing Texas, who will be very good again. We're playing St. John's on the road (televised) nationally on CBS in February. I'm really looking forward to it."

*On freshman guard Norman Powell: "Norman's a two-guard, 6-3, 205 pounds. Really athletic, very explosive. He might be the best athlete on the team next year, that's how athletic he is."

*On junior-college transfer De'End Parker: "(He's) a small forward but he has really good guard skills. He can guard a one, two or a three for us, and it's going to be competitive because we're going to play Dave Wear at the three as well."

*On sophomore forward Anthony Stover: "Anthony really came on for us the last half of the season. I inserted him in the starting lineup and he blocked a lot of shots. He's a very good defender. It's great that we redshirted him his first year because he's the same class as Josh. He's up to 250 pounds now, he came in at 218. He's going to be a good player for us. He's long, he's athletic and he has a great motor."

*On transfer Larry Drew, Jr., who's not eligible until the 2012-13 season: "He's the quickest player (we've had) since Darren Collison, and that's saying something. I'm telling you right now, he is cat quick."

*On the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena, where UCLA will play most of its games while Pauley Pavilion is renovated (Rival USC used to play in the Sports Arena:) "Trust me when I tell you this: The USC people are very upset they're painting the inside of the Sports Arena blue for our year over there."

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