Saturday, October 15, 2011

UCLA men’s basketball season tips off

UCLA men’s basketball season tips off

The Daily Bruin
Published October 13, 2011, 1:34 am in Men's Basketball, Sports

Members of the press had to saunter just a few paces down Bruin Walk to catch the UCLA men’s basketball team’s annual media day in its new location.

Fans who want to see the Bruins in action this season will have a much longer detour than that. Adjust routes accordingly.

Wednesday’s session marked the opening of the men’s basketball season. The location changed from the now-gutted Pauley Pavilion to the basketball courts on the top floor of the Student Activities Center, where the team will now practice.

John Wooden was the last UCLA coach who regularly held practice in the Student Activities Center, formerly known as the Men’s Gym, before Pauley opened in 1965.

Current coach Ben Howland had a glimmer in his eye and a faint grin on his face as he remembered the legendary coach – just two days before what would have been his 101st birthday – even pointing out a chalkboard in the gym that Wooden used to diagram plays.

While Pauley gets its facelift, UCLA is using three different homes-away-from-home for the games: the Los Angeles Sports Arena (14 games), Anaheim’s Honda Center (four) and Ontario’s Citizens Business Bank Arena (one exhibition contest).

Howland said that the logistics of a full season away from campus will be difficult to handle, but he had no qualms about changing the practice and game venues.

“For what awaits us at the end of the rainbow, which is essentially a brand-new Pauley, it is totally worth it,” Howland said. “All the heartache from not having Pauley will be made up for tenfold when we get back in there.”

The season is being billed by the athletic department as the “Bruin Road Show.” Howland added that he would “make a concerted effort to reach out to the students” and sell the idea of traveling to a home game. His players are behind him.

“Any time I can help I want to be able to go out and tell people that we need you guys to support us, need you to get on Rooter Buses and need you to get out so we still have home-court advantage at home games,” redshirt sophomore center Anthony Stover said.

It’s uncharted waters for a team to lack an on-campus stadium but unlike the UCLA football team – with home games always more than 25 miles away – the men’s basketball team is doing this on a temporary basis, with Pauley scheduled to be ready by next basketball season.

Said junior forward Reeves Nelson, “No offense, but it’s not like we had sold-out arenas every game in Pauley anyway. As long as there are some fans there we’ll be fine.”

But with the NBA lockout dragging on and the lack of the usual professional basketball presence in L.A., a UCLA team surrounded by optimism could fill that void for hoops fans.

“It’s fun for us,” Stover said. “We should take all the Laker gear down and put up UCLA gear. I don’t think anyone wants to see ’SC play so we definitely have (the spotlight of) L.A. basketball.”

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