Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Hoop Dreams-UCLA's Fab Five 2008-09

From left to right, the highly touted freshmen: Malcolm Lee, J'mison "Bobo" Morgan, Jerime Anderson, Drew Gordon and Jrue Holiday.

By Wendy Soderburg , Potraits by Patrik Giardino
UCLA Magazine
Jan 2009

Men's Basketball Head Coach Ben Howland has done it again. His 2008 crop of freshman players — named the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation by both and — includes elite guards, an explosive power forward and a standout center. The good times figure to keep on rolling with these freshman phenoms, who bring personality to spare, along with talent, to Westwood (Keep reading "Hoop Dreams" at

Tuesday, December 30, 2008


"2008 Sprite Slam Dunk Champion Dwight Howard is back to defend his crown, and if being up against Rudy Gay and Nate Robinson wasn't tough enough for him, now YOU will pick his final challenger. For the first time ever YOU get to decide who will advance to compete as the 4th dunker in the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest at NBA All-Star 2009 in Phoenix!"

MUH says:
"Forget the white guy, forget the Spanish guy, and vote for OUR guy, RUSSELL WESTBROOK! "Bringing value to the number 0""

Vote here.



from the The Los Angeles Lakers Official website
December 24, 2008

Lakers guard Jordan Farmar underwent successful surgery today to repair a torn lateral meniscus in his left knee, it was announced by the team.

The surgery, which took approximately 30 minutes, was performed by Dr. Clarence Shields of the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Group. Farmar is expected to be out approximately eight weeks.

Farmar suffered the injury in the fourth quarter of the Lakers game at Miami on Friday night. He is averaging 7.9 points and 2.4 assists in 19.6 minutes this season.

Get well soon, Jordan.

(MUH gives props to the Los Angeles Lakers Official website for the news and 040685ma for the youtube video)

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Next Big Thing: Renardo Sidney

I thought I'd post a great piece that Tommy Craggs wrote for the New York Times back in November on high-school hoops phenom Renardo Sidney (6-10/270 pf/c), and Sidney's meanderings through high school hoops, AAU tournaments and college hoops recruiting. This is an extremely well-written, well-researched and compelling article, and well worth the minutes to read. You'll find the original NY Times article here, along with some pictures. Enjoy.

The Next Big Thing
New York Times
November 2, 2008

The lightning arrives in great, thwapping bursts, and the night sky over New York City is a series of bright fissures. The world outside Renardo Sidney’s hotel looks gorgeously broken. Inside, Sidney is sitting in a gloomy nook, tapping distractedly on his Sidekick. He is one of the best young basketball players in the land, an 18-year-old with a molten game whose career, though he is not yet out of high school, has already become a morality play about the state of contemporary basketball. He is 6-foot-10 and about 270 pounds. In two years, maybe less, he will be a well-paid professional basketball player, and perhaps at that time, too, he will shrug his massive shoulders when he is asked why he still sucks his thumb.

“I’ve been sucking my thumb since I was a kid,” he says. “Sometimes, I do it just to do it. Like, when I’m mad.” He also travels with a lucky blanket. His father — Renardo the elder — is seated across the table. He chuckles. “It’s a sheet,” he clarifies.

Renardo Jr. is large in ways you don’t often see in people his age, less like a heavyset teenager rounding slowly into shape than a longtime athlete who has spent his off-season at the buffet. He has always been big, though, starting at birth. As his father recalls, even the doctor said damn. By middle school, he stood 6 feet 5 inches tall, but he had yet to outgrow his old compulsions. One of his coaches, Trent Hysten, used to kid him: “You look just like a big baby. Get your thumb outta your mouth.”

Sidney is frequently called a man-child, but maybe the most precocious thing about him is the already long arc of his career. Next spring, he will finish his senior year having attended three high schools in two states and having played for three summer travel teams since 2005. A nationally known quantity since before his eighth-grade year in Jackson, Miss., where his middle school charged $3 admission to his games, Sidney was considered the best player in America in his class by the time he reached high school. Some had penciled him in as the top pick in the 2010 N.B.A. draft. “They were talking about him being the next Magic Johnson,” says Tom Konchalski, an influential talent scout.

From the beginning, however, Sidney represented a different sort of high school star, in part because, strictly speaking, he wasn’t a high-school star. He didn’t even join a high-school team until his sophomore year, and caused a minor stir when he told The Washington Post that high-school ball is “not that important.” Of course, for Sidney, it wasn’t, but that’s not something a young player is supposed to say out loud.

Instead, to the dismay of many scowling traditionalists, Sidney was almost wholly a product of the summer. He made his name in the demimonde of summer basketball: what the sneakers companies call grass-roots basketball and what most everyone else calls, in slightly misleading shorthand, A.A.U. basketball. (Many, but not all, of the events fall under the purview of the Amateur Athletic Union, a nonprofit that promotes and oversees amateur sports.) What they’re talking about is the ecosystem of shoe-company-sponsored summer traveling teams, shoe-company-sponsored summer tournaments and shoe-company-sponsored summer camps.

It is a vast, roiling Dodge City of the hoops landscape, lying as it does outside the reach of high-school coaches and the regulatory arm of the N.C.A.A. — an unsavory world, in the popular imagination, of street agents and shoe boxes full of cash and chest-thumping 16-year-olds with Adidas stripes branded like bar codes on their foreheads. And largely for that reason, summer ball has become a catch-all symbol of basketball indulgence, blamed for everything from the death of the bounce pass to the corruption of America’s youth to the occasional failures of the grown men who represent USA Basketball on the international stage. It is something like basketball’s bad conscience.

And it was in this system that Sidney thrived. “He blew up in A.A.U. basketball,” says Renardo Sr., who, until his contract expired recently, earned about $20,000 a year as a Reebok “consultant,” a job that mostly entailed shepherding his son to Reebok-sponsored events. In 2007, Renardo Sr. started his own grass-roots outfit, the L.A. Dream Team, sponsored by Reebok and coached by Renardo Sr. himself. (He also mentors kids and works as a sort of personal trainer for other aspiring basketball players.)

By August, however, the start of Sidney’s senior year, things had gone awry. Having relocated to Los Angeles in 2006, he was now attracting interest from a variety of college teams — among them Memphis, U.C.L.A., Texas and Arizona State, according to recruiting scuttlebutt — and perhaps even entertaining the notion, as some loose gossip had it, of playing in Europe next year. But he had put on weight. He talked wistfully about going fishing and “getting away from basketball,” which made him sound more like a 38-year-old power forward on a second tour with the Clippers. Sidney fell in everyone’s esteem., a prominent recruiting site that offers a national ranking of prospects, nearly bounced him out of its top 10. A handful of scouts even figured him for a bust.

He is a “prima donna and has one of the worst attitudes that we’ve ever seen,” wrote Clark Francis, the editor of Hoop Scoop Online and a bigfoot on the recruiting scene, in a scathing evaluation of Sidney. By Francis’s lights, the kid with the thumb in his mouth had become the bogeyman of modern basketball. “As a matter of fact,” he wrote, “Sidney could be the poster boy for many of [the] things that are wrong with grass-roots basketball and is the perfect example of just how bad the sense of entitlement among many of the top players has become.”

He seemed to be saying, remarkably, that an 18-year-old’s basketball career had gone irretrievably to pot.

Some time ago, a series appeared in a newsletter under the title “Is Basket-Ball a Danger?” In it, several correspondents wrung their hands over the game’s miasmic influence on children, the unruly behavior it seemed to inspire. This is no doubt a familiar litany, especially to those who remember the moral panic that ensued in 2004 after Ron Artest and the Indiana Pacers decided to punch their way out of the Palace of Auburn Hills. The only surprise is the year the series ran: 1894.

It has been Renardo Sidney’s misfortune, more than a century later, to find himself cast as the villain in the oldest story in basketball.

The Sidneys are in New York City on this June weekend for a Nike-sponsored tournament called the Rumble in the Bronx, and the day has gone miserably for the L.A. Dream Team. The equipment manager apparently left the uniforms in Los Angeles, forcing the players to borrow jerseys from their New York rivals, the Juice All-Stars. Then the team van got lost, and the Dream Team arrived late to its second game of the day, against the New York Panthers. Renardo Sr. was further horrified to learn the game was being held in what he would later call “the dungeon,” a humid, windowless gym that effectively simulates what basketball might feel like if it were played in a blast shelter.

The Rumble in the Bronx is a relatively minor event in the summer hoops multiverse. There are a handful of college coaches milling about, mostly local. Where other summer events have the air of an industry convention, with backslapping reunions and furtive side-room deal-making, this one, at least off the court, feels meandering and almost casual; it is early June, the preamble to A.A.U. ball’s long summer.

The N.C.A.A. has worked assiduously to curb the influence of these tournaments. For years, this meant primarily a flurry of rules and recommendations, many designed to limit contact between college and summer coaches and to return the locus of the recruitment process to the high schools, where establishment coaches with better credentials could act as the key brokers between college and player. This spring, however, the N.C.A.A. and the N.B.A., with token participation from the A.A.U. and the shoe companies, upped the ante, announcing a five-year, $50 million effort to reform what the N.C.A.A.’s president, Myles Brand, called the “dysfunctional” world of youth basketball.

Fundamentally, the idea is to seize control of the mechanism by which players like Renardo Sidney launch their careers. What reform actually entails is unclear, but the deal calls for the N.B.A. and the N.C.A.A. to each chip in $15 million, with another $20 million coming through joint-marketing ventures. The contributions will fund an as-yet-unnamed program that will offer an alternative structure for youth basketball. The N.C.A.A. News wrote, “The new structure is designed to negate the effects of third-party influences currently working the youth basketball environment,” by which it meant “people who may not have the player’s best interests at heart.”

That this comes from the same groups that in 2005 cheered the adoption of the N.B.A.’s minimum-age rule, effectively forcing high-school stars to spend one year playing college basketball pro bono rather than leap directly to the N.B.A., is more than a little rich. The partnership was announced at the Final Four this year, and it was noted in passing that both Brand and the N.B.A.’s commissioner, David Stern, would prefer that the age rule be raised from 19 to 20, meaning most players would have to remain in college for two years. Colleges benefit tremendously from keeping the best players in apprenticeship for two years; the N.B.A., in turn, gets marketable commodities who’ve spent more time in the college star-making machinery, as well as proven players who aren’t being drafted purely on their potential.

The traditional justification is that colleges produce better, more well-rounded citizens, though in fact one study has suggested that the opposite may be true. In 2005, Michael McCann, then an assistant professor at Mississippi College School of Law, looked at 84 recent N.B.A. player arrests. He found that 57 percent of the players arrested spent four years in college; only 4.8 percent had never gone to college, significantly less than the league-wide share of prep-to-pro players (8.3 percent). In fact, one might infer from the study that the less time a player spent in college, the less likely he was to get arrested.

“The N.B.A. and the N.C.A.A. are entertainment vehicles. One pays you, one doesn’t,” says John (Sonny) Vaccaro, the 69-year-old godfather of summer basketball and the man who, in the employ of first Nike, then Adidas, then Reebok, rained shoe money on the basketball world and in so doing acquired so much clout that he is set to be portrayed by James Gandolfini — the guy who played Tony Soprano — in an HBO movie. Vaccaro walked away from Reebok in 2007 with two years left on his contract and now wanders the country as basketball’s angry prophet, barnstorming noisily against the N.C.A.A.’s tax-exempt status and the N.B.A.’s age rule. “One thing is constant,” he says. “One thing. The performers. The players. Without the players, neither of these entities can be multibillion-dollar businesses.”

Greg Shaheen, the N.C.A.A. senior vice president who oversees Division I basketball, says that “95 percent of our revenue stream goes to educating young people. I’d be curious to know if those criticizing us put 95 percent of their money toward the education of young people.”

The attacks on summer basketball typically also come wrapped in a lot of moralizing about the style of play. In particular, the reformers have made a fetish of “the fundamentals” — the stuff that, to hear them talk, apparently went out of fashion around the time Whitey Skoog left the N.B.A. and that now lies dead by the hand of Sonny Vaccaro and the summer game. It’s for lack of fundamentals that the Americans can barely keep up with those “team-first, back-to-basics foreigners,” as USA Today put it, and after the 2004 Olympics, the critics hung Team USA’s bronze medal around the summer game’s neck like a millstone. This is a preposterous argument to make now, during the ascendancy of LeBron James and the coronation of Kevin Garnett, both of whom cut their teeth in summer basketball and bypassed college ball entirely and both of whom are as fundamentally sound as anyone who passed through John Wooden’s bounce-pass academy at U.C.L.A.

Nevertheless, this is maybe the most persistent charge lodged against grass-roots ball, and because the summer game is mostly coached by blacks and played almost entirely by black kids in a black idiom, it comes freighted with all sorts of odious insinuations. In 2006, George Raveling, the former coach at the University of Southern California, fired an oblique shot at summer basketball when he told USA Today, “N.B.A. teams are realizing it’s less risky to draft internationals because they’re more coachable, more socialized, have no posses and have not been Americanized.” The racial tinge of his comment was staggering, made all the more remarkable by the fact that Raveling was not only Nike’s grass-roots director but a black man, to whom Martin Luther King gave his original typewritten notes for his “I Have a Dream” speech.

I ask Vaccaro about the attacks on the style of summer play. “Are you crazy?” Vaccaro says. “The style of play? What was the style of play in U.S.A.-Spain [the 2008 Olympic gold-medal game]? Tell me, where was the defense in United States-Spain?

“I’m tired of that. I’m tired of the vilification of these kids,” he goes on. “It’s sinful. It’s ethnic cleansing. Street basketball to them has a connotation — they think street basketball is black. Well, they better hope it’s black, because the majority of players playing the game has been black since they allowed blacks to play.”

Brian McCormick, a coach and trainer who self-published a book on youth-player development, suggests the real problem with summer ball is that it “creates a system of overtraining,” with players bouncing from the high-school season to the summer season and back again with little break. Sidney estimates he plays close to 100 games a year. “Players are going, going, going,” McCormick says.

In many ways, Renardo Sidney’s game was built for grass-roots ball, which, because of its fast tempo and showcase nature, tends to reward versatility. Last year, The New York Times called him “the epitome of camp evolution.” But Sidney does not suffer from a lack of fundamentals. He has a clean flick-knife of a jumper, smooth from anywhere on the court. He has the ballhandling ability of someone a foot shorter and five years older, and there are a lot of tiny felicities to his play: touch passes and no-looks and footwork out of an Arthur Murray studio. His is a veteran’s game. In fact, it’s possible he appears too fundamentally sound, that he relies too much on the sort of deftness that won’t sustain him in college and the pros. At his size, at this level, elegance can look more like nonchalance.

At the New York tournament, Sidney is arguably the best prospect in the gym, and there are plenty of glimpses of the player he has been celebrated for being, not to mention the player he might become. But he also has a maddening tendency to drift, and in a game against the Panthers, he hardly leaves a mark. Triple-teamed on offense and mostly inert and grabby on defense, he manages only a handful of points before fouling out with several minutes remaining. The rest of the team looks equally skittish and tentative, and L.A. loses by a dozen, dropping the squad to the Rumble’s second-tier silver bracket. Renardo Sr. leaves the court hurling insults over his shoulders at a ref: “You can’t foul out the No. 1 player in the country with 10 minutes left!”

By the time I see the Sidneys back at their hotel later that evening, neither is in much of a mood to chat. Renardo Jr. rubs his knee warily and hovers over his phone, barely lifting his head to answer questions. Renardo Sr. is hoarse, still exercised over the tournament, the conditions, the cost. And then, of course, there are the refs. “You can’t just get these guys off the street or at a liquor store,” he says.

Renardo Sr. is in his pajamas, and his eyes look a little rheumy. He is not a big man, or at least he doesn’t look it, sitting here next to his son, but he certainly has an outsize presence. He favors shades indoors and enormous, billowing T-shirts that have tigers on the front and hang down to his knees, making him look short-armed and skinny-legged; on each hand he wears a fat, gleaming bowling ball of a ring, spoils of a 2007 California Division III state championship won by Renardo and Renardo’s older brother Tacus while at Artesia High School in Los Angeles.

In talking about his younger son’s career, Renardo Sr. occasionally slips into the first-person plural, in the way that agents often do. For instance, when talking about whether the family’s history with Reebok — the deal expired this summer — will influence his son’s shoe preference in the pros, he says: “We’re gonna be with anybody that got the most money. So if you see us with Ponys on” — Pony being a minor player in the shoe game — “you know Pony came over.” Later, when he mentions Renardo Jr.’s nickname, the Difference — a nickname no one else seems to use, by the way — you can almost see the shoe commercial dancing in his eyes.

There are, by my count, 182 Reebok logos inside the gym on the small campus of Philadelphia University, the site of July’s Reebok All-American Camp, where Sidney makes an appearance. They are everywhere: on backboards, scorer’s tables, doors, wall pads, folding chairs. They’re affixed to the railing on the track high above the floor, nearly 100 of them encircling the gym. I don’t even bother counting the Reebok shoes and the Reebok uniforms and the Reebok pencils and the Reebok lanyards and the Reebok signs that some poor soul had to hang on lampposts all around campus. Reebok-Reebok-Reebok-Reebok-Reebok. With every repetition, the word seems stranger to the eye, and it occurs to me later that I have no idea what it means. As it happens, “reebok” is the Afrikaans rendering of “rhebok,” an antelope that reminded European settlers of a type of deer called the roebuck, a word that many years later could be found adjoined to the word “Sears.” These are heady connotations: imperialism and commerce. One hell of a give-and-go.

I mention the logos to Christopher Rivers, Vaccaro’s successor as Reebok’s director of basketball. He seems flattered. “I’m gonna have someone else count ’em,” he says, adding that the placement is anything but haphazard. “Everything is done strategically,” he says. “There isn’t a place you can shoot a picture without getting a logo.”

The origins of the camp go back to 1984, when, under Vaccaro’s midwifery, the ABCD Camp was born. It stood for Academic Betterment and Career Development, though no one ever used the full name, and depending on its creator’s allegiance, ABCD has been a Nike camp, a Converse camp, an Adidas camp and a Reebok camp, though it was always, above all, a Sonny Vaccaro camp. It was Vaccaro, a promoter of high-school all-star games, who first paid college coaches to outfit their teams in Nikes, Vaccaro who signed Michael Jordan to his first shoe deal, Vaccaro who hugged Kobe Bryant just moments after he was drafted. And as he moved from company to company, taking his camp with him, a new event would sprout up in ABCD’s place, the various camps and tournaments running concurrently. The basic aim never changed, however: to give scores of the nation’s best high-school players exposure in front of the finest college coaches in the country (and vice versa), and to bury those kids in a hail of shoe logos.

“There’s never been anything in the history of amateur basketball as successful as the ABCD Camp,” Vaccaro says of his creation. “And for this [the players] are vilified. Summer basketball and summer camps, starting with the Nike camp, the ABCD Camp, have been the epitome of what basketball is.”

Vaccaro is the first person to cop to the venality of the summer circuit. “It’s a cesspool, and we start the process,” he told the authors of “Raw Recruits,” a 1991 exposé of college-hoops recruiting. A few years later, he told The New York Times’s Robert Lipsyte that “what I’m doing is morally wrong. But it’s not in my power to stop it.” In the bizarre moral universe of basketball, summer basketball has the virtue of being honest, at least on occasion, about its wickedness. When I asked one A.A.U. coach, Damian Johnson, how one best goes about building a program, he talked nakedly of putting together “the best team money can buy.” (At the high end, a team, often set up as a charity, might get $100,000 from a sneaker company, tax-deductible, in addition to donations from a variety of benefactors who may or may not include college boosters and agents. That covers the costs of shipping a team around the country, as well as remuneration for the coach.)

Every sport exploits its prodigies, but none seems to cause the vast and unceasing tut-tutting that summer basketball does. Two years ago, O. J. Mayo, the nation’s most coveted high-school player and maybe the purest product of the summer system to date, picked up the phone and called U.S.C.’s head coach, Tim Floyd, to whom he had never spoken and who thought so little of his chances to sign the superstar recruit that he hadn’t even sent Mayo a brochure. “Coach,” he said, according to one account, “this is O. J. Mayo. I’d like to come to your school.” When Floyd asked for Mayo’s phone number, he answered, “No. I’ll call you.” As Rodney Guillory, an associate of Mayo’s, had explained to Floyd, Mayo wanted to market himself for a year before the draft and decided Los Angeles was the best place to launch his brand. Mayo, in effect, was recruiting Floyd. When an ESPN investigation later alleged that Mayo had received cash and gifts from a “runner” for an N.B.A. agent, his saga became a handy symbol of the ultimate corruption of basketball. But what, in the end, was harmed besides some outdated notion of amateurism? Certainly not Mayo. He played a single season at U.S.C. and then, in June, was taken third in the N.B.A. draft.

This summer, Vaccaro was instrumental in the decision by the prized point-guard recruit Brandon Jennings to spurn Arizona — he had not yet qualified academically — and instead play professionally overseas, sidestepping the N.B.A. entirely and making Jennings a wealthy man. (He was reportedly inspired after he and his mother heard Vaccaro on the radio discussing Europe as a viable option for newly minted high-school grads.) Playing in Italy for Lottomatica Virtus Roma, Jennings will earn $1.2 million this season in salary and endorsements. If all goes well, he will be a top-10 pick in next year’s N.B.A. draft.

To see Mayo work the phones, or Jennings draw a paycheck in euros at an age when he’d normally be running suicides for Lute Olson, is to see the players gaining the leverage that probably should have been theirs in the first place. For Mayo and Jennings, the supposedly dysfunctional summer game was in fact perfectly functional.

The Philadelphia camp is a disorienting affair. It’s not immediately clear who the intended audience is. There are only a handful of fans and a smattering of talent-scout gurus, plus of course the coaches. The coaches are there to recruit, certainly, but because of rules that bar contact with the players — the coaches can’t even use the same bathroom — it seems more accurate to say the coaches are there to be seen recruiting. They are marketing themselves and their schools just as surely as Reebok is hawking sneakers. The players, for their part, seem to try very hard to pretend they’re not being watched, though you catch them feigning a limp now and then after a blown layup. They’ll also glance toward the stands from time to time, up to where Mike Krzyzewski and Rick Pitino and Billy Donovan and other Division I coaches are sitting.

On the floor, some of the players look drum-tight, as you might expect — but not Sidney, who is the only one mugging in his camp photograph. He has a mixed week. Midway through, he submits to the indignity of a press conference devoted almost entirely to his weight. In games, he turns himself into the camp’s tallest guard, firing away from the perimeter though he is easily the biggest guy in the gym. He also finds himself fencing with the refs again. In one game, he picks up three fouls in a minute, and from where Renardo Sr. is sitting, there comes a hoarse, concussive sound. “Boooo!” And then another: “Booo!”

“He’s gonna be up there as one of the all-time players [who make you] just shake your head and wish he’d wake up and figure it out,” Hoop Scoop’s Clark Francis says later. “Four years ago he could play any position, do things on the perimeter. He wasn’t heavy. And now he’s basically an underachiever. It’s a tragedy.” (Francis, it should be noted, thinks Shaquille O’Neal is an underachiever.)

If his performance is indeed a disappointment, perhaps it’s only because Sidney is being measured against the absurdly high standard he set for himself. “He’s the victim of the cancer of early success,” says Tom Konchalski, the talent scout. “They may have adult ability, but they’re kids. It’s unrealistic to expect a maturity level you find in an adult.” The Sidneys themselves are sanguine about Renardo’s prospects. As of September, Francis had dropped Sidney to 39th in his rankings (he had once held the top spot) and had named him the biggest disappointment for the second summer in a row, but as both father and son are fond of saying, “the only ranking we care about is David Stern’s.”

During one game in Philly, I find myself sitting behind Rick Pitino. I mention the common criticism of Sidney, that he can often look like he’s saving himself. Pitino snorts: “Saving himself for the Lakers.”

The story goes that when his son was a seventh-grader in Jackson, Miss., Renardo Sr., then a security guard, approached a local A.A.U. coach named James Wright. “He saw me and said, ‘Coach, I got a son in the seventh grade, about 6-foot-5.’ Oh, really? Sure,” recalls Wright, now an assistant coach at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. “He said, ‘Coach, he wants to play on your team.’ I said just bring him by. He brought him by; I worked him out. . . . This guy’s a pro. It took me five minutes. I told his dad, ‘You sure you want me to coach him?’ And his dad was just shocked. He didn’t think he was that good. It was ridiculous. . . . He had no clue what that kid was.

“He was so versatile,” Wright continues. “A freak of nature with length, ballhandling skills, and the kid’s 6-foot-5 at 12 years old? That’s a pro.”

Soon enough, Wright was calling Christopher Rivers at Reebok and then Vaccaro himself, suggesting they invite the boy to Reebok’s Camp Next. About watching him for the first time, Vaccaro says, “A blind man could see. There was no question he was gonna be a great player. From that minute on, the family and I started a rapport.” Sidney debuted at ABCD the summer before ninth grade and was named co-M.V.P. of the underclassmen’s all-star game, and from there his stardom was assured.

And that’s when high-school basketball got in his way. In his freshman year, Sidney hoped to play for a former University of Mississippi assistant, Wayne Brent, at the private Piney Woods School. The Mississippi High School Activities Association, however, ruled him ineligible. In Mississippi, private schools can only draw in-state students from within a 20-mile radius of the school, according to the association’s executive director, Ennis Proctor; the Sidneys lived 28.6 miles from Piney Woods, according to Brent. Had Sidney attended a public school, he would have gone to Forest Hill High School, where, some local observers pointed out, Proctor had once served as principal. Sidney practiced with Piney Woods and watched from the bench during games, and that summer seemed to indicate he might skip high-school basketball entirely, which raised eyebrows among the message-board set.

“My thing is, what makes high-school basketball the alpha and omega?” says Reebok’s Christopher Rivers, who is black. “White people, traditionally. Indiana. Playing for your school’s great, but he’s not playing as a hobby, so he can go out on a Friday night, score 17 points and go to the pizza parlor. He’s playing because it’s his career.”

So the Sidneys, including Renardo Jr.’s mother, Patricia, and two of his three siblings (Tacus and a sister, Tiarra), decamped for California. “To be honest,” Renardo Sr. says, “L.A. was the last resort. It was between Atlanta, Texas and L.A., and it took us a little bit of time to make that decision. We went to L.A. a couple times. We’re good friends with Master P,” the rapper, who also runs an A.A.U. team out of L.A. “You have to do what’s best for your family.”

It was a good fit. Sidney’s new school, Artesia High, ran a highlight video at the team banquet at the end of the season, with a U.C.L.A. assistant coach in attendance. “I was watching his mouth drop,” says Loren Grover, Artesia’s then head coach. That year, there were plenty of highlights to choose from. “There was one fast break in a playoff game against Simi Valley. The point guard, Lorenzo McCloud, just threw it to the rim. It was, like, ‘What are you doing?’ And Renardo comes out of nowhere, catches it in midair, throws it down right behind him and dunked it. He never even saw the rim. Just . . . wow.”

Is basketball a danger? Is Renardo Sidney a danger?

We’re sitting in a Thai restaurant in Los Angeles, not far from Fairfax High School, where Sidney has just started his senior year and where his team will likely once again contend for the city and maybe the state title. This morning he was run ragged in the school’s gym, under the whistle of John Williams, a freelance trainer and former N.B.A. big man whom everyone called “Hot Plate” to distinguish him from the lankier John (Hot Rod) Williams, the springy former N.B.A big man.

Sidney transferred to Fairfax for his junior year, just months after winning a state championship at Artesia. There were a number of factors, according to his father, including Patricia’s new job in the Hollywood area. And though he doesn’t mention it, the fact that Coach Grover had left Artesia for Pomona’s Diamond Ranch High School — for reasons Grover won’t discuss, other than to say he had been placed in “a difficult situation” — no doubt figured in the decision as well.

At the moment, however, Sidney and I are chewing over the matter of the mohawk, a hair style that Sidney wore, briefly and regrettably, earlier this year. He thinks it had a good deal to do with his problems at a tournament in Arizona in May, when he recalls earning at least one technical foul every game and getting tossed twice. “The mohawk made me kinda crazy,” Sidney is saying.

Basketball makes its own monsters. They are the outward manifestations of the game’s bipolarity — its abiding pathology, the one true fundamental, going all the way back to James Naismith and his famously unruly Y.M.C.A. charges. Naismith saw the game as a pedagogical pursuit, something to occupy the men during the cold winters in Springfield, Mass., and not incidentally to spread the robust gospel of muscular Christianity. But at the same time, he designed the game expressly in the hope that the masses could learn it on their own, no coach necessary, taking the sermon out of the preacher’s hands.

“Is Basket-Ball a Danger?,” the Y.M.C.A. newsletter asked in 1894. “The gymnasium is not a playhouse,” a director for the organization wrote, sounding many of the same notes the N.B.A. would hit a century later in demonizing its own employees as overpaid greedheads during labor strife, “and when a man gets to be a basketball fiend it is very hard to do anything with him.”

And here is Renardo Sidney, the sum of basketball’s newest fears.

“Renardo Sidney,” Reebok’s Christopher Rivers says. “Fantastic basketball player. Good kid, never been arrested, not on drugs, never kicked out of school, not failing classes. He’s a normal kid. Probably comes home late and spends too much time on his computer. But because he’s 6-foot-10 and he’s special and has the ability to make a lot of money if he continues his craft, and he’s treated like there’s something wrong with him? What’s wrong with him?”

Sidney claims that he doesn’t read his notices, and that he only hears what people are saying about him through his parents. “Ain’t nothing on the Internet but negative stuff,” he says. Still, he seems fully apprised of the charges leveled against him and his father. “That he can’t control me,” he says. “That they see where I get my attitude from. I don’t like that.” He is keenly aware that people now call him fat. “It’s true,” he says. “I was fat. I put that in my brain when I get on the floor. All I can think of, he’s fat, he’s slow, he’s lazy. So I just work harder, you know?”

He’s at 270 pounds now, down from nearly 300 and still dropping, the fruits of a steady month of workouts, sometimes two a day. He starts plyometrics training in a few days, and his father hopes to hire a personal chef soon, someone who will keep the fridge stocked with three healthy precooked meals a day. “More have been slain by supper than the sword,” as the talent scout Tom Konchalski notes. Sidney is one of the best youth athletes in the land, and now this is what basketball has become: an 18-year-old responding to fat jokes.

Which is why, when the waiter materializes, there is a particularly fraught moment as Sidney deliberates over the menu. “Do you all have that brown rice?” Sidney asks. (He eats here frequently.)

The waiter nods.

“Does it taste just like the fried rice I’ve been eating?”

The waiter seems doubtful. “If you use brown rice, it’ll be soggy.”

“But I’m saying, will it taste like what we’ve been eating?”

Sidney turns to ask his dad something, then whips back around and starts tapping his menu on the table thoughtfully.

The waiter’s pen is poised.

“Just give me the brown rice, like how you make the other rice. It has that little sweet taste to it?”

“Everything’s the same,” the waiter says. “It’s just the texture.”

“It’s fine, it’s fine,” Sidney says at last. A pause. “But no vegetables.”

The waiter scurries off, and Sidney alights once again on the subject of his mohawk. It was nothing dramatic, nothing like you might have found on Mr. T. Still, in Arizona, he found himself mouthing off constantly, especially to the refs. What would he say? “You suck,” he says. “But it’d be, like, with cuss words.” He’d cuss at his dad, he says. “I’d cuss out anybody. It [the mohawk] just made me go crazy.” People noticed, too. The University of Arizona student paper described him as “not the character Arizona wants.” So Sidney shaved the thing off and swore never to have one again. “And when I cut the mohawk off,” he says, “I was just a normal person.”

Tommy Craggs is a regular contributor to Play. He lives in New York.

MUH update: As of Dec 30, 2008, Renardo Sidney (pf/6-10/260/Fairfax HS, LA, CA) has not committed to any college. He recently visited Virginia but, most probably, he is leaning towards USC or Europe.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

UCLA RECRUITING 2009 and beyond

How 2009-10 team is shaping up...

2009-10 UCLA incoming class ... Currently ranked #9 class in the nation by ESPN

Anthony Stover (c/6-10/210/La Canada, CA)
Tyler Honeycutt (sf/6-7/190/Sylmar CA)
Brendan Lane (pf/6-9/200/Rocklin CA)
Mike Moser (sg/6-7/185/Portland, OR)
Reeves Nelson (pf/6-7/215/Modesto CA)

Upperclassmen in 2009-10 (assuming everyone returns)
Jerime Anderson 6-3/165 pg Anaheim CA So
Drew Gordon 6-9/235 pf San Jose CA So
Jrue Holiday 6-4/180 sg No Hollywood CA So
Malcolm Lee 6-5/170 Riverside CA So
J'Mison Morgan 6-10/265 c Dallas TX So
Nikola Dragovic 6-8/215 f Belgrade Serbia Jr
Mustafa Abdul-Hamid 6-2/195 St Louis MO g Sr
James Keefe 6-8/231 Rancho Sta Margarita CA Sr
Michael Roll 6-5/200 sg Aliso Viejo CA Sr

UCLA still in the hunt ???
Renardo Sidney (pf/6-10/260/LA, CA) … visited Virginia but probably leaning towards USC or Europe

Lance Stephenson (sf/6-5/202/Brooklyn, NY) … leaning towards St. John’s or Europe

Dashonte Riley (c/6-10/?/Detroit, MI)… de-committed to Georgetown, on his list: Ohio State, Xavier, Michigan, Michigan State, Florida, Minnesota, UCLA and USC.

DeAndre Kane (sg/6-3/170/Pittsburgh, PA) … de-committed to Duquesne, on his list: Pitt, UConn, UCLA, West Virginia

Players “pursued/linked to UCLA one way or another” but lost
Avery Bradley (sg/6-2/165/ Tacoma, WA) … to Texas
Abdul Gaddy (pg/6-3/170/Tacoma, WA) … to Arizona, then Washington
Xavier Henry (sg-sf/6-6/210/Oklahoma City, OK) … to Memphis
Elijah Johnson (pg/6-2/?/Las Vegas, NV)… to Kansas
Noel Johnson (sg/6-6/?/Fayetteville, GA) … to USC
Durand Scott (sg/6-5/?/New York, NY) … Miami
Michael Snaer (sg/6-4/170/Moreno Valley CA)… to Florida State
Stephan Van Treese (pf/6-8/220/Indianapolis, IN) … to Louisville

Thanks to BBR and ESPN College Basketball Recruiting for a lot of this info.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Bruins have a void to fill down low

Bruins have a void to fill down low
Andy Katz Blog, ESPN
Friday, December 5, 2008

AUSTIN, Texas -- UCLA was down three, with less than a minute left in the game Thursday, and Texas extended its defense out on the Bruins' perimeter.

UCLA tried multiple times to get into the lane, to create a shot attempt, to create space, to create something to either convert a 3-pointer or get to the basket for a bucket and a foul.

What the Bruins couldn't do was throw the ball inside to create offensive balance. They were, at this point in the game, predictable.

Alfred Aboya will be asked to shoulder much of the responsibility down low for UCLA this season.
That might not change too much this season.

"It's definitely a concern of ours," UCLA senior wing Josh Shipp said. "It's no secret that we're guard-oriented. We try to establish a post presence early in the game to set up for the guards, and if we do that, it will make it a lot easier."

The good news for the Bruins is they went down by 10 on the road to the Longhorns and managed to claw back and take the lead with a 12-0 run. They were right there on the final possession to tie the game and send it into overtime. They just couldn't convert, and Texas won 68-64.

But the larger issue for the Bruins is: How do they fix the offense? The defense was solid enough to win the game.

Darren Collison scored 22 points, and there were plenty of possessions on which he answered a Texas offensive spurt. Shipp had his moments, too, scoring 15. But heralded freshman guard Jrue Holiday exerted so much energy trying to guard A.J. Abrams that his offense suffered. Holiday finished with three points on 1-for-6 shooting, including 0-for-3 on 3s.

"Darren is doing the best he can, and Josh did the same, but they need me to step up," Holiday said. "[Thursday] I didn't. I'm still learning, and we're a young team."

Collison said he's not worried about the squad. He's convinced the younger players like Holiday will get on the same page and ensure that the Bruins are an elite team throughout the season. But coach Ben Howland isn't giving the other freshmen (Drew Gordon, Malcolm Lee and Jerime Anderson) double-digit minutes consistently.

"We'll be where we want to be in March," Collison said. "We just have to be more patient, look inside. We don't want to be too predictable."

Kevin Love and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute's departures to the NBA left a void down low for the Bruins that would be a tall task for any team to fill. Big men James Keefe and Nikola Dragovic would prefer to pop 3-pointers, so that means senior Alfred Aboya has the responsibility of anchoring the post until Gordon or J'Mison Morgan is ready to contribute more often. That might not happen this season. So the onus will be on the guards to create more offense for each other.

"We're just as good as the other teams, but the difference is we have a lot of new guys," Collison said. "We have a lot of talent, we just have to get it all on the same page."

The problem for the Bruins is they have only one more high-profile nonconference game against a likely NCAA team, Notre Dame on Feb. 7 at Pauley Pavilion. They missed out on a chance to play Duke in New York in the finals of the 2K Sports Classic benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer. Instead, they lost to Michigan and beat Southern Illinois, a team that might not make it to March's main event. The Pac-10 is rebuilding and might not have more than one other top-25 team outside of the Bruins. That team might just be Arizona State.

What does this mean? That the Bruins, even if they win the Pac-10, could find themselves a lower seed than they have been in the past and without the normal advantages of being the top team in the West. If Gonzaga continues to roll after beating Tennessee in the Old Spice Classic in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., last weekend, the Zags could be the top-seeded team in the West, with the advantage come March. Gonzaga still has games at Tennessee, against Connecticut in Seattle and against Memphis at home.

"March is a long way from now, and we've still got the Pac-10 play and this team isn't where it needs to be," Collison said. "The good thing is that we fought back in a hostile environment. We can build on that positive and leave the negatives behind."

Friday, December 5, 2008

Bruins can't stop A.J. Abrams in road loss NO. 8 TEXAS 68, NO. 12 UCLA 64

UCLA point guard Darren Collison passes after drawing a double team from Justin Mason, left, and Gary Johnson of Texas during the first half Thursday night.
Longhorns guard scores 31 points to lead the way as UCLA shows glimpses of what it might become but can't close the deal. Darren Collison leads the Bruins with 22 points. Photo credit, Harry Cabluck, Associated Press

Bruins can't stop A.J. Abrams in road loss NO. 8 TEXAS 68, NO. 12 UCLA 64
By David Wharton, The LA Times
December 5, 2008

Reporting from Austin, Texas -- A few more points. Two or three fewer breakdowns on defense.

UCLA almost pulled off a big win Thursday night, going into a hostile arena and taking eighth-ranked Texas down to the wire.

But when the Bruins' players talked about coming so close, they weren't talking about a few critical possessions or even the final score in a 68-64 loss at the Frank Erwin Center.

They were describing a team that is still searching for its identity, trying to blend veterans with a handful of talented freshmen.

"We know we have a tough team, a good team," forward Josh Shipp said. "If we can learn from this loss, it will help us later on."

In the simplest terms, Texas won this game in the last three minutes with the score tied at 62-62. The Longhorns won because senior guard A.J. Abrams, who led all scorers with 31 points, took control.

First, he made a three-point basket. Then he drove the lane and was fouled, making both shots to give his team a 67-64 lead.

That put the No. 12 Bruins, inconsistent on offense and playing in the din of a raucous crowd of 16,755, under too much pressure. They reverted to a familiar scenario, dribbling the ball on the perimeter, unable to create a good shot.

When these teams met at Pauley Pavilion last season, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute missed the front end of a one-and-one, giving Texas a chance to prevail in the last seconds.

This time it was Shipp who came up short from the foul line. His first shot bounced off the rim and Abrams ended up with the ball. Fouled immediately, he made one of his free throws to put the game out of reach.

"That's a very tough loss," UCLA Coach Ben Howland said.

Howland wasn't happy with the fact that his team had let the Longhorns shoot almost 44% from the field. Nor did he like the defensive miscues that had left Texas players open for key baskets throughout the game.

"We made a lot of mistakes tonight," he said. "A lot of things we'll go back and watch on film."

He also said his team should have played differently against Abrams, trying to deny him the ball. Darren Collison mused: "You give him a little space and he's going to make the shot."

But it wasn't only Texas' offense -- forward Damion James had 13 points -- that hurt the Bruins.

All week long, they had talked about how much the Longhorns had changed from last season. Deep and quick, with more experience, they had shifted to a pressure, man-to-man defense that sometimes extended beyond half-court.

"It has made them tough to score on because they're so athletic," Howland said.

Late in the first half, with the score close, their aggressiveness took its toll.

The Texas defense hounded UCLA's freshman center J'mison Morgan into taking a desperate shot. Nikola Dragovic traveled, then missed from three-point range.

That quickly, the Longhorns jumped to a nine-point lead that they carried into halftime. But that's where the Bruins showed a glimpse of what they might become.

In the early minutes of the second half, they turned up some defensive heat of their own as Shipp made a pair of dunks and center Alfred Aboya came alive inside.

When Collison, who led the team with 22 points, made a jump shot with 12:58 left, UCLA had a 47-46 lead.

The game turned into a back-and-forth affair for the next 10 minutes or so. Shipp ended up with 15 points. Aboya had 11 rebounds.

"For a young team, being on the road, they've got some guys who can play," Texas Coach Rick Barnes said. "They showed a lot of character."

Even Howland was able to take some solace in the way his team performed in the second half, saying: "To be able to come into a tough place like this and have a chance to win with three minutes to go is a good sign."

But those final minutes showed that the Bruins still have a ways to go.

A few UCLA players talked about needing another scorer. And more of an inside presence.

They talked about the freshmen gaining experience. Guard Jrue Holiday, in particular, shot one-for-six in large part because he spent all night chasing Abrams on defense and dealing with his first noisy college crowd.

Shipp figured that he and his teammates might start winning games like this when they stop making defensive errors.

Asked what it will take to make this team better, Collison offered a hopeful answer.

"A couple more weeks," he said.

Wharton is a Times staff writer.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

# 9/12 UCLA at # 8 Texas Tonight

A few choiced Bruin Basketball morsels to whet the appetite for tonight's tussle with No. 8 Texas at their corral.

This one is from the official UCLA Men's Basketball site

DATE: Thursday, Dec. 4, 2008
SITE: Frank Erwin Center (16,755)
TIP-OFF: 6:05 p.m. PT
TALENT: Dave O'Brien (play-by-play) and Jay Bilas (analyst)
TALENT: Chris Roberts (play-by-play) and Tracy Murray (analyst)
SERIES: UCLA leads the series 2-1

This is just the fourth meeting between UCLA and Texas with the Bruins leading the series 2-1. All three prior meetings have been in Pauley Pavilion with the Bruins losing last year's meeting 63-61 in the Pac-10/Big 12 Hardwood Series on Dec. 2, 2007. D.J. Augustin threw up a prayer from the baseline with seven seconds left and the score tied at 61. His prayer was answered by Damion James, who grabbed the airball and slammed it home for the win, ending his night with a double-double of 19 points and 10 rebounds. Augustin, who also finished with 19 points and added four assists, was the only other Longhorn to reach double figures in scoring. The Bruins had four players reach double-digits in scoring, led by Luc Richard Mbah a Moute's 14 points. Darren Collison chipped in 12 points while Kevin Love and Josh Shipp each added 11 points. UCLA trailed 37-25 at halftime and by as many as 16 points in the first half (30-14 at 4:58).

UCLA sports a national ranking of No. 9 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll and No. 12 in the Associated Press poll, released on Dec. 1, 2008. UCLA has been ranked in the top 25 in the Associated Press poll for 60 straight weeks (since the 2005-06 preseason rankings). Texas is ranked No. 8 in both polls.

Freshman guard Malcolm Lee sprained his right ankle (grade one) while junior forward Nikola Dragoviæ suffered a left knee contusion in practice on Nov. 24. Senior center Alfred Aboya sprained his left wrist in the Michigan game (Nov. 20) and later aggravated the injury against Southern Illinois (Nov. 21). All three played in the Bruins' last game, a 89-54 win over FIU (Nov. 29).


This one puts it in perspective of possible repurcusions in March as well as the warning to stay off of chicken nuggets & curly fries...

UCLA-Texas matchup could pay off in March
By Brian Dohn, Staff Writer
LA Daily News
Updated: 12/02/2008 10:38:51 PM PST

It seems like eons until the NCAA men's basketball selection committee locks itself in a conference room in Indianapolis and begins formulating the bracket for March Madness.

Yet, if the Pacific-10 and Big 12 conferences hold to form, that committee could look at Thursday, when No. 12 UCLA plays at No. 8 Texas, to determine the seeds for two of the nation's top teams.

"I think when it's all said and done, they're going to look at this game because Texas is going to be one of the top teams that is going to have a chance to have a good season, and so are we," UCLA senior point guard Darren Collison said. "If we do what we're supposed to do, then they're going to end up looking at this game as one of the biggest matchups."

It could have added importance because UCLA (4-1) is picked to win what is expected to be a weak Pac-10. UCLA, which lost to unranked Michigan, and No. 19 Arizona State, which lost to Baylor, are the only conference teams ranked.

A quality non-conference road victory would help the Bruins immensely.

"They're a team that would not surprise me at all if they were playing in Detroit (in the Final Four) in April," Bruins coach Ben Howland said. "They'll win the Big 12, in my opinion."

Texas (5-1) has an experienced starting lineup with three juniors, led by 6-foot-7 wing Damion James (14.5ppg, 8 rpg), and two seniors, including 5-11 guard A.J. Abrams (15.8 ppg). The Longhorns also do not have a freshman playing a significant role, while UCLA has five freshmen in its rotation.

"This would be a big win for us," Bruins wing Josh Shipp said. "They're a top 10 team. They're highly touted. If we can win this game, it's going to do something for us."

Different look

When the Longhorns beat UCLA 63-61 last year at Pauley Pavilion, Howland said Texas played plenty of zone defense. In scouting Texas this season, Howland said they have not played zone.

"They're a much more defensive team in terms of getting pressure (on the ball), switching everything, doubling ball screens, doubling the post," Howland said. "Their defense is way different than it has been in the past. I think it's made them really difficult to try and score on because they're so athletic, so long."

Texas' opponents are shooting 34 percent from the field and averaging 55.5 points per game.

Fashion statement
Shipp was wearing a neoprene sleeve on his shooting elbow, but he continually deflected any questions as to what was ailing him, or if it was affecting his shooting.

"Style points," he said when asked why he was wearing the sleeve.

Also ...

Howland said backup freshman guard Jerime Anderson missed Monday's practice because of illness after eating chicken nuggets and curly fries. UCLA's freshmen have not been available to the media during the usual Tuesday press meetings. A UCLA official said it is because they are all in classes during the fall quarter.


And finally, Coach B wants to talk to you (yes, you) about Texas in HD video...c/o the LA Times blog for Dec 3 2008.

Coach Ben speaketh

OK, I guess enough of the yakkin. On to the business at hand. Good luck in Austin, Mighty Bruins!

24/7 All-Defense Coach BH designates Josh Shipp DDS (Designated Defensive Stopper)

Just so you know...

Josh Shipp is UCLA's new designated defender

By David Wharton
December 3, 2008

Coach Ben Howland is giving Bruins' senior swingman the assignment of guarding the opponent's top offensive threat, at least for now.

The last few seasons, UCLA assigned the likes of Russell Westbrook, Arron Afflalo and Cedric Bozeman to guard the other team's top scorer.

On Thursday night, when the No. 12 Bruins face No. 8 Texas in Austin, the task will go to senior swingman Josh Shipp.

Coach Ben Howland said his team would begin the game at Frank Erwin Center with Shipp guarding Damion James, a 6-foot-7, 222-pound junior who is averaging 14.5 points and eight rebounds.

"We can't simulate Damion" in practice, Howland said. "This guy's like a pogo stick. He stops and goes up on a dime."

Shipp, who is 6-5, 220 pounds, did not seem overly concerned, saying that it's all about sticking to principles. Not like compassion and honesty. The basketball kind.

"Stay in front of your man," he said. "Box out. Contest shots."

James isn't the Longhorns' only scorer. Speedy guard A.J. Abrams is averaging 15.8 points and guard Justin Mason adds almost 10.

"It's going to be a real matchup for our defense," forward James Keefe said. "It'll show how well we can come out and play against a ranked team."

Healthy concern

Shipp wore a neoprene sleeve on his right elbow Tuesday but said he was healthy. . . . Reserve guard Mustafa Abdul-Hamid was scheduled to have an MRI exam on a wrist injury that has been bothering him for some time. . . .

Freshman guard Jerime Anderson missed practice earlier this week because of food poisoning, mentioning "something about some chicken nuggets and some curly fries," Howland said. "I said, 'Yeah, maybe that could make you sick.' "

Wharton is a Times staff writer.

Friday, November 28, 2008

A NEW M. O.?

As in Motion Offense. Brian Dohn broke the news on Nov 25. Bruin players were talking about how they are starting to incorporate the MO into their practices (See Dohn's blogpost below).

The MO is suppose to help if you have a weak inside presence, which I guess, currently we do. But I don't know 3 things:

1. What to feel about Coach B, who has never used the MO before, as far as I know, all of sudden thinking about it;

2. What to feel/think about players 'spilling the beans' about systems before the coach does; and

2. What happened to the whole notion of recruiting players that fit your system? Does this mean that Coach B did not recruit properly? Or the early departures throwing a wrench into Coach B's recruiting system? I DON'T KNOW!!!
Of course, the most recent permutation of the MO is the dribble drive motion at Memphis c/o Vance Walberg. Basically, a Bob Knight motion but w/o the screens. For a little history reading on the permutations of the MO, check out Gary Wahl's SI article "Fast & Furious".

It's exciting ball but you really need good & diversified players at all positions to make it work.

Following are articles from the usual suspects on this new page in Bruin basketball.

More hoops(check out original post for some followup discussion on this story)
By Brian Dohn, Staff Writer, Inside UCLA blog, LA Daily News
2:55 PM Nov 25, 2008

"I'll have more on this later, but a theme from the players during today's media session was UCLA may be better off running motion offense rather than called plays.
Several of them -- Alfred Aboya, James Keefe and Darren Collison -- said the Bruins worked on it almost exclusively in Monday's practice, and they could be more effective in it than running traditional, called plays from the sideline."

So UCLA Is Going to Motion
Posted by: Dan Weber, Press Enterprise
1:21 PM Nov 26, 2008

Sounds like a good adjustment for UCLA after the basketball Bruins' halfcourt offense was exposed a bit by Michigan last week in New York.

The Bruins are working on their halfcourt motion stuff almost exclusively and will run the free-flowing pass, cut and screen sets instead of separate plays that should take advantage of their perimeter ballhandling, shooting and quickness without the bulk and strength of recent seasons.

Bruins basketball will be a team in motion
By Brian Dohn, Staff Writer, LA Daily News
10:42:31 PM Nov 25, 2008

A point guard dribbling near midcourt while the shot clock winds down has been a staple of UCLA's offense, but that could be changing if the Bruins move from a play-calling offense to a motion offense, as players suggested was happening.

Usually, Bruins coach Ben Howland calls the plays from the bench in halfcourt sets, but several players said Tuesday they believed the unscripted motion offense - in which passes, screens and quick cuts to the basket are the focal point and dribbling is minimized - will be used markedly more than in the past.

"We've been working on motion every day in practice," UCLA senior wing Josh Shipp said. "A lot of teams know what we're going to run. They're going to take away our first and second options, so after that, all we have is our motion."

UCLA senior center Alfred Aboya said the players believe utilizing a motion offense, which the Bruins have done periodically in the past, will produce better results than running set plays.

"I think coach feels this team will be a better team running motion offense instead of running all the time," Aboya said. "By running motion, it doesn't mean only one guy has to have the ball and others set screens. It means everybody's got to be able to pass, cut and (do) all the little stuff.

"First, we have to master the motion offense, and so far we're not close to that. Hopefully, by conference (play), I think we'll be ready."

More shots needed: Bruins point guard Darren Collison, who made 52.5 percent of his 3-point attempts last season, is 6 of 9 (66.7 percent) this season. However, he has the fifth-most 3-point attempts on the team, and his 36 total shots rank second.
"It would be good for our team to understand that the more shots that Darren gets, the better it is for our team," Howland said. "We have to do a better job of getting him more shots. Darren Collison should take the most shots on the team. He's our best shooter."

Collison, who averages a team-high 16 points per game, said he needs to alter his offensive game.

"I'm going to do a lot more attacking," Collison said. "Kevin (Love), Arron (Afflalo), all those guys aren't here, so I've got to do way more attacking. It's not just taking shots. It's being aggressive, getting to the paint every single time, regardless of what the situation is, to get guys more shots. It's not just on me getting more shots."

Two big concerns: Howland said his two biggest concerns four games into the season are the number of turnovers and opponents' shooting percentage. UCLA is turning the ball over 14.8times per game, and opponents are shooting 45percent from the field.

"Every time we had a turnover (in Monday's practice), the team that turned it over had to run," Howland said. "There's got to be accountability. Every time you make a mistake, there's got to be consequences, because that's how it is in the game."

Indomitable Lion Alfred Aboya overpowers the Salukis

Aboya Leads No. 4 Bruins Past Southern Illinois

Video courtesy of Erkki Corpuz via The Bruin Basketball Report. (MUH: Toto "Africa." No, I totally got it the first time I saw the video.)

Official UCLA Basketball Game Recap

Alfred Aboya had 22 points and eight rebounds in the 77-60 win over the Salukis.

Nov. 21, 2008

NEW YORK (AP) -Alfred Aboya had his best game for UCLA, and may have paid dearly for it.

The Bruins' senior forward had 22 points and eight rebounds, helping fourth-ranked UCLA rebound from a disheartening loss to beat Southern Illinois 77-60 on Friday night in the consolation game of the 2K Sports Classic.

Aboya helped lead a 20-2 run in the second half that put the game out of reach, but landed hard taking a charge in the closing minutes. Coach Ben Howland said Aboya may have broken his left hand and was headed to the hospital for X-rays.

"He played terrific tonight," Howland said, adding he hoped to know how long Aboya could be out before leaving for the West Coast. "I'm pushing to find out."

Darren Collison added 17 points and Josh Shipp 11 for the Bruins (3-1), who struggled in a semifinal loss to Michigan, turning the ball over 17 times and showing very little patience against the Wolverines' zone defense.

The Bruins had their own problems with Southern Illinois, a team known for its gritty defense, before their big run late in the game.

"I thought Southern Illinois was going to be a very good team, and they are a very good team," Howland said. "They're very much like us, very young with a blend of older guys."

Freshman guard Kevin Dillard scored 14 points and Tony Boyle had 10 for the Salukis, who tested No. 10 Duke in an 83-58 loss in the semifinals of the tournament benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer.

Southern Illinois (2-2) managed to tie this one at 48 with about 10 minutes left before wilting in the closing minutes for the second straight night.

"I don't know what it is," coach Chris Lowery said. "We melted down from there. We missed assignments defensively. We have to continue to play the young guys and get better. We can't let this dictate our season."

Nikola Dragovic started the Bruins' decisive run with a 3-pointer from the wing, and Collison hit two more in quick succession, the second time turning around after the wide-open shot from the corner and sticking his tongue out in a half smile to a small but loyal crowd of UCLA faithful.

Aboya converted a three-point play after a basket at the other end, Shipp hit a 3-pointer and Aboya made a pair of free throws to push the lead to 64-50 with 6:31 left.

Then all three of the Bruins' seniors got into the act on one dazzling play.

After forcing a turnover, Shipp swung a behind-the-back pass to Collison starting the break. The go-to guard then spun and delivered another behind-the-back pass to Aboya, whose slam made it 66-50 and put the game out of reach.

"I thought we were a little more patient in the second half," Collison said. "The two biggest things were our intensity and the fact that we were patient in the second half."

Shipp, who flirted with the NBA draft after last season, still struggled to get into a flow on the offensive end. After scoring five points on 2-of-9 shooting in that 55-52 loss to Michigan, Shipp was 1-for-4 from the field in the first half and scored most of his points when the outcome was decided.

The Bruins got off to a quick start, smoothly running their offense for the first time since arriving in New York and building a 24-13 lead midway through the first half.

Things seemed to be well in hand when Carlton Fay, the Salukis' leading scorer, went to the bench with a pair of fouls with 5 1/2 minutes left and UCLA ahead 31-23. But Wesley Clemmons hit an open 3 from the wing and Boyle followed with an inside bucket to draw Southern Illinois close.

Dillard's 3-pointer with a little over a minute left cut the lead to 35-33 at the break.

But the Bruins were simply too much in the second half, forcing 13 turnovers over the final 20 minutes and shooting 48 percent from the field for the game - and finally resembling those UCLA teams that have camped out the past few years in the Final Four.

"This team is talented enough to get there," Collison said. "It's going to take a learning process to get there."

ALFRED ABOYA UPDATE - A second x-ray on Alfred Aboya's left wrist was negative and a CT scan on the wrist was also negative. The scans and x-rays were performed at the NYU Hospital for Joint Diseases. UCLA will do a precautionary MRI after the team's return to Los Angeles.

ALFRED ABOYA UPDATE 2 - November 25 2008 from the Press-Enterpise

Lee Makes UCLA's Injury Report
8:19 AM Tue, Nov 25, 2008
Posted by: Dan Weber
Just another day on the practice floor for UCLA's Bruins Monday.

"Here's the report from basketball SID Ryan Finney:

"There were a couple of minor injuries today at practice. Freshman guard Malcolm Lee (Riverside North) has a sprained right ankle (grade one) while junior forward Nikola Dragovic has a left knee contusion (missed 3/4 of today's practice). Both are listed as day-to-day and should return to practice in a day or two and be available when the Bruins host Florida International Saturday at 4:30 p.m.''

And now for the good news:

"Senior center Alfred Aboya completed 100 percent of today's practice with full contact.''

That left wrist injury suffered Friday in New York against Southern Illinois apparently wasn't all that serious."

MUH: Whew! Great News on AA2! Get well soon, Malcolm & Drag. Bring on Florida International!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Mike Moser joins UCLA's strong 2009 Recruiting Class

Grant's Mike Moser picks UCLA

UCLA's already rock-solid recruiting class just got a little better.

Mike Moser, a 6-foot-7 forward from Grant High School in Portland, Ore., switched his commitment from Arizona and signed a letter of intent with UCLA. You can see the announcement in the video above. Moser is considered the 11th-best small forward in the 2009 class, according to

The Oregon native joins a group already ranked eighth in the nation by Scout and 14th by His addition could catapult the Bruins deep into the top 10 with both services. This year's class is a big one, physically, featuring recruits who all play forward or center.

—Adam Rose

Mostly UCLA Hoops: Mike Moser (sg/6-7/185) joins Brendan Lane (pf/6-9/200/Rocklin, CA), Reeves Nelson (pf/6-7/215/Modesto, CA), Tyler Honeycutt (sf/6-7/190/Sylmar, CA) and Anthony Stover (c/6-10/210/La Canada, CA) to make up a solid incoming class for 2009. But is Coach B done with this class?

Thanks to Tim Brown at Oregon Live for the Mike Moser "That's my Mom" video.
original post at "What's Bruin" by Adam Rose, Los Angeles Times, Nov 20 2008

For more info on incoming/potential incoming UCLA hoopsters, check out The Bruin Basketball Report

Then for 24/7 UCLA HOOPS talk, go to

Why mess with the rest? Just go with the best! Visit BBR, BRUINVILLE.COM and BZ BASKETBALL RIGHT NOW!!!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008



Editor's Note: ESPN Insider has teamed with Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook to provide a comprehensive look at all 330 Division I teams. To order the complete 2008-09 edition of Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook, visit or call 1-866-805-BALL (2255).
(Information in this team report is as of September 29)

For the original post as well as similar analysis for all teams in D1 Basketball, go to ESPN

More times than not, when Ben Howland's name is mentioned in national circles, the word defense closely follows. That's even true in the coaching fraternity; several of Howland's peers in thePpac-10 have mentioned how he changed the way teams play defense in the league.

And while the majority of coaches preach defense, for Howland, it's more of an obsession. His defensive philosophy has anchored major reclamation projects at each of three head-coaching stops, Northern Arizona, Pittsburgh and UCLA.

UCLA Bruins
Last Season 35-4 (.897)
Conference Record 16-2 (1st)
Starters Lost/Returning 3/2
Coach Ben Howland (Weber State '79)
Record At School 126-45 (5 years)
Career Record 294-144 (14 years)
RPI Last 5 years 128-38-10-3-4

UCLA allowed just 59.0 points per game in 2007-08, including just 78 combined points in the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament. That marked the fewest points allowed in the first two games of the Big Dance since Oklahoma State in 1949.

So what's the secret? Well, first off, buried on the bottom of his coaching bio, it's noted that in leading Weber State to back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances that Howland was chosen the team's defensive MVP in both 1978-79 and 1979-80.

"The coach felt bad for me," Howland said.

Seriously, has defense always been a passion for Howland?

"No, I was actually a good shooter and could pass a bit, I was just a half-step slow," he said.

As for his defensive philosophy, it's more simplistic than one might imagine. "Competitive players love to play defense and that's the kind of player we try and recruit," Howland said. "Look at the great players -- Kobe, Jordan -- they're two of the best defensive players to ever play the game.

"We try to pressure the basketball No. 1, and we try and recruit athletes who can play that style. We like to half-court trap, double the ball in the post. It's a little tough with say the Lopez twins at Stanford the last two years, but still, that's an important element. We also tell our defenders to stay in front of the ball."

Last season, Howland became the third coach in NCAA history to have won at least 30 games in three consecutive seasons, along with Adolph Rupp and John Calipari, who also joined the exclusive club on the strength of his NCAA runner-up team. Yes, John Wooden never did so.

As for life at UCLA, in what has become an annual summer occurrence, Howland signed another contract extension. This one guarantees him $1.97 million this season, not including incentives. And Howland makes no bones about this being his dream job; it would surprise few if he retired here, although many coaches have that urge at some point to test the NBA waters.

The program couldn't be in better shape, that despite the host of early departures the last three seasons. UCLA continues to draw the nation's top recruits -- this season's class ranked by the majority as the country's best.

"It's hard to plan ahead with recruiting classes; I never thought a few of the guys who have left early the last three years would've left the summer before when we were recruiting," Howland said. "But it's a good problem to have. I'm pretty sure no one is feeling sorry for us."

While Howland is proud of the three straight Final Four runs and the three straight Pac-10 titles, only one kind of banner is ever raised to the rafters at Pauley Pavilion, and those are the ones that read "National Champions."

"It's great what we've accomplished; that's very difficult in this day and age with so many great teams out there, and we've lost players early in each of the last three years, so that made it more difficult," Howland said. "Still, though, at the same time, it's been disappointing losing in the Final Four. Our ultimate goal is winning a national title. I thought last year was our best chance so far. It was very frustrating."


# 2-PG-DARREN COLLISON (6-0, 175 lbs., SR, #2, 14.5 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 3.8 apg, 34.7 mpg, 1.9 spg, .481 FG, .525 3PT, .872 FT, Etiwanda HS/Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.). As talented as the incoming freshmen class is, UCLA would have been nearly a carbon copy of Kansas if not for Collison's return. His presence vaults the Bruins from loaded with unproven talent with a sprinkle of veteran presence -- much like Kansas -- to legitimate Final Four contender and Pac-10 favorite.

There wasn't a mock draft on the planet that didn't have Collison -- a preseason Blue Ribbon All-America -- as a first-round pick. Still, he decided to return for his senior campaign.

"It's my chance to do something special," he said. "I'm in a good financial situation thanks to my parents. It helped make my decision easier. I want to improve my medium-range jump shot and fill all the holes in my game."

After missing the season's first six games with a sprained MCL, Collison started 32-of-33 games and logged nearly 35 minutes per contest. He finished among the conference leaders in points, assists and steals while leading the Pac-10 with a school-record .525 three-point percentage and .872 free-throw percentage. He drained 52 treys overall while making 117 trips to the free-throw line.

"I have no doubt, no one does, that Darren would've been a first-round pick in the NBA draft," Howland said. "He gives us an All-American at the point. To me, he's the best point guard in the country.

"He's a next-level player coming back for another season. The leadership and veteran presence he brings is hard to explain. And he's stronger than ever; he's been lifting since the season ended, he might be 175 pounds for the opener.

"Darren's going to have the ball in his hands a lot, and he's always been our defensive point guard. This is a kid that could lead the conference in three-point and free-throw percent-age, assists and steals."

Offensively, Collison really doesn't have a weakness, outside of arguably a 15-footer from the elbow extension, and that's more nitpicking than anything. Look for him to increase his scoring this season, not quite to the level of the 33 points he dropped on Oregon State last season, more in the 16-18 range.

Said one Pac-10 coach, "I love Tyler Hansbrough, and with the media attention it's going to be hard beating him out for player of the year, but if I could have one player in the country this season, it'd be Collison. And it'd take me about a second to make that decision, too. I bet most coaches would say the same thing, too."

Arguably the quickest player in the country, Collison has been clocked running the 40-yard dash in 4.28 seconds, which is Deion Sanders-like. His parents were world-class sprinters, his mother, June Griffith-Collison, having competed in the Olympics.

Other than his speed, what makes Collison special is the fact that not only can he penetrate the lane, if a defender drops off even an inch, he has drained nearly half his three-point attempts the last two seasons. Voted the most outstanding player of the 2008 Pac-10 Tournament, he's also the top defensive point guard in the conference.

And in the clutch, Collison is the guy, as he drained 41-of-46 free throws in the final four minutes of games while also making each of his six field-goal attempts as the shot-clock buzzer sounded.

Collison should be a top-10 pick in what is considered a somewhat weak 2009 NBA draft.

# 21-SG-JRUE HOLIDAY(6-3, 190 lbs., FR, #21, 25.9 ppg, 11.2 rpg, 6.9 apg, 4.8 spg, Campbell Hall HS/North Hollywood, Calif.). For the official purpose of this preview, we'll be listing Holiday as a two, but he's more of a hybrid guard, capable of running the point or roaming the perimeter off the ball. Actually, no one seems quite sure what he is -- ranked him the nation's No. 1 shooting guard while listed him as the No. 1 point guard. If nothing else, both recruiting services rated Holiday as one of the top four incoming freshmen, placing him No. 2 overall.

And in the McDonald's All-American game, if Holiday wasn't the best player on the court, he was certainly on the short list with 14 points, five rebounds, five steals and three assists.

"First of all, with Jrue, he has a good body, he's going to be around 200 pounds this season and he's very athletic," Howland said. "And he has the potential to be outstanding defen-sively once he learns the schemes. For a high school kid, he's solid defensively; he doesn't gamble.

"He has a great left hand, not only dribbling wise but he can shoot with it, and not just layups, either, he can shoot from 8-10 feet with his left. For a right-handed player, he has as good of a left hand as I've ever seen at this level."

The 2008 Gatorade Player of the Year, Holiday would have played the point if Collison had departed for the NBA, but as it is, he'll probably see limited minutes at the one, which is no problem; he's a natural scorer but more than willing to pass when penetrating the lane.

And he's a winner, too, having won three state titles in high school. As for his immediate goals this season, he wants to follow Westbrook as the Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year.

# 3-SF-JOSH SHIPP (6-5, 220 lbs., SR, #3, 12.2 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 2.1 apg, 1.3 spg, 32.5 mpg, .434 FG, .324 3PT, .770 FT, Fairfax HS/Los Angeles). Ask 100 college basketball coaches and 99 will say that the majority of players see their greatest degree of improvement between their freshman and sophomore seasons. Of course, there are going to be exceptions to that rule, and Shipp appears to be one of those cases.

Howland expected him to lead the team in scoring in 2005-06, but instead he was limited to four games after hip surgery and took a medical red-shirt. As a sophomore, he was solid, averaging 13.3 points with 92 assists and 42 three-pointers. However, he spent the summer and fall recovering from surgery on his other hip. Still, he averaged 32.5 minutes last season, and while his field-goal percentage was down, Shipp still showed his explosiveness with 19 dunks and an array of nifty cuts to the basket.

Shipp was 100 percent healthy this spring and summer.

"This is the first summer Josh was able to work out and play basketball in three years; he could actually focus on his game rather than recovering from surgery," Howland said. "I'm counting on a big year from Josh, we haven't seen his best basketball."

That's not to say Howland was by any means disappointed in Shipp's play last season, especially as he rounded into shape around Pac-10 time. He scored 21 points three times in conference play and drained an improbable baseline floater that gave UCLA an 81-80 victory over Cal on March 8.

Shipp -- the lone Bruin to start all 39 games -- scored in double-digits 25 times and led the team with 70 three-pointers. A solid defender, Shipp also finished with 52 steals and 16 blocked shots.

If he remains healthy, look for Shipp to take an increased load offensively, especially early as he lifts some of the pressure from the five freshmen. An NBA prospect, he can play both the two and three, although based on personnel, look for the majority of his defensive match-ups to come at the latter.

# 12-PF-ALFRED ABOYA (6-9, 245 lbs., SR, #12, 2.9 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 15.2 mpg, .505 FG, .528 FT, Tilton School/Yaounde, Cameroon). There were rumors circling this summer that Aboya would be leaving UCLA to play professionally overseas, but he was enrolled in classes in late August.

Aboya started 17 games last season and was among four UCLA players to take the court in each of its 39 games. He's not much for offense, although he converts the majority of put backs and finish opportunities, including 12 dunks. But he's without question an asset on defense with 20 steals and six blocked shots last season.

"He's our leading candidate to start at center, I think he's going to have a great year," Howland said.

The reason we have Aboya listed at the four rather than the five is simply a hunch, not that it really matters in UCLA's offense. Defensively, it'll depend on match-ups whether Aboya guards the opposition's four or five -- he's strong enough for either.

A second-team Pac-10 All-Academic pick in 2008, Aboya -- who has talked about law school after graduating -- does all those little things coaches rave about. For example, he took a team-high 11 charges last season while also diving for nine loose balls. He took a team-high 23 charges as a sophomore in 2006-07.

The team's most physical player, he tallied 90 personal fouls and four disqualifications, and trust us, it's not like the officials are giving him an unfair shake.

"He's been so key for us the last three years and he works so hard," Howland said.

# 22-C-J'MISON MORGAN (6-10, 248 lbs., FR, #22, 13.5 ppg, 11.0 rpg, 4.0 bpg, South Oak Cliff HS/Dallas, Texas). Defensively, Morgan should be ready to compete in the Pac-10. He's a strong 250 pounds and can alter shots with anyone. In the Texas 4A state title game, against Beaumont Ozen, he registered six blocked shots.

"Morgan's going to be key for us -- without him, we're not going to have much post play," Howland said. "He's obviously going to have every opportunity to step in and contribute."

Foul trouble could be an issue, as it is with most freshmen post players, but even as a starter, Morgan won't be asked to play more than 25 minutes a game. He won't be a focal point offensively; the majority of his points in high school came on offensive put backs and in transition.

In a roundabout way, Howland can thank his old adversary at Stanford, Trent Johnson, for helping him land Morgan. Morgan originally signed with LSU, but when the school fired coach John Brady, Morgan wasn't so sure he wanted to play in Baton Rouge. Johnson was hired to replace Bradey, and though Morgan was undecided for a while, giving Tiger fans hope he'd hang around, he ultimately ask out of his scholarship.

Howland was only too happy to give him a scholarship.

Morgan helped South Oak Cliff win four consecutive state titles, so he's certainly used to a winning culture. That's the same program that produced 2008 first-round NBA pick Darrell Arthur. rated Morgan the No. 4 center in the nation, while ranked him No. 3. Both rated him a top-25 player overall.

"He is a true center with excellent hands and outstanding overall skills," Howland said. "He is a fine passer, shot blocker and rebounder."

# 13-F-JAMES KEEFE (6-8, 237 lbs., JR, #13, 2.8 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 0.6 bpg, 11.7 mpg, .491 FG, .267 3PT, .565 FT, Santa Margarita Catholic HS/Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif.). Many ex-pected Keefe would take a medical red-shirt last season after undergoing shoulder surgery in mid-August, but after missing the first 12 games of the season, he returned because the team was in desperate need of depth.

After a slow start, Keefe really came on in the latter stages, highlighted by his 18-point, 12-rebound performance against Western Kentucky in the Sweet 16. He was also crucial in the Pac-10 title game win over Stanford with eight points and three boards.

Howland is looking forward to a stellar junior campaign from Keefe. "We need him to play strong this season," Howland said. "He showed what he's capable of late in the year, and now we just need that play to come on a consistent basis."

Howland expects Keefe to lead the Bruins in rebounding this season, so it wouldn't be surprising to see him crack the starting five. He was up to 237 pounds as of Labor Day and could crack 240 by the season-opener.

# 0-F-DREW GORDON (6-8, 235 lbs., FR, #0, 17.5 ppg, 10.5 rpg, Archbishop Mitty HS/San Jose, Calif.). It wouldn't be shocking to see Gordon join the starting lineup at some point, and perhaps more importantly, don't be surprised to see him logging crucial late-game minutes during non-conference play. The talent is there; it's just a matter of if he's ready physically. And all indications this summer were that he was more than holding his own in pick-up games.

There are really no limitations to what he can do on the court, from knocking down a three to a solid drop-set in the post. He can pass, and can he ever block shots, with a career-high 11 three times last season. rated him as the No. 42 overall prospect and the No. 15 power forward nationally.

"Drew is going to be key for us from the start; we'll need him to match up defensively with opposing centers and help out on the boards," Howland said. "There won't be a huge learn-ing curve. We have 18 practices before our first game, that's all we have for these freshmen."

# 1-G-MALCOLM LEE (6-5, 180 lbs., FR, #1, 23.6 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 3.4 apg, 2.6 spg, John W. North HS/Riverside, Calif.). Rated the No. 5 shooting guard and No. 48 prospect in the nation by, Lee should make an immediate impact this year for the Bruins. He's by no means the most highly touted recruit in UCLA's version of the Fab Five, but he could have signed with a lot of major conference teams and started from the first practice. Still, he signed with the Bruins, where his role as a freshman is expected to come off the bench at 12-15 minutes per game, depending on junior Michael Roll's health.

"Lee is a good guard, we're excited about him coming in, he's one of those guys we signed that loves to compete and loves to play defense," Howland said.

A McDonald's All-American last winter, Lee was chosen to the U18 U.S. National Team this summer. And while he has quickness off the dribble, Lee can also knock down a three-pointer.

# 5-G-JERIME ANDERSON (6-1, 165 lbs., FR, #5, 22.7 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 6.0 apg, 5.0 spg, Canton HS/Anaheim, Calif.). There aren't a ton of minutes at the point, but Howland has no issue with playing three guards even if Shipp moves to the four defensively. And Anderson, like the other four incoming freshmen, didn't come to Westwood to ride the pine. rated him the nation's No. 3 point guard and the No. 31 overall prospect, and with good reason. Anderson has quick hands and the ability to drive through the lane. And while he was a score-first, pass-second point at the high school level, Anderson was more of a pure point when playing on the USA Basketball Men's Youth Development Festival team in 2007, averaging 12 points and seven assists.


Collison, Holiday and Shipp could well make up the best perimeter group in the country. Is the frontcourt a question mark? Absolutely, but the Pac-10 has become a smaller confer-ence the last few years in terms of teams successfully playing three and in the case of Arizona State last season, four perimeter players simultaneously.

We say UCLA wins at least 30 games for a fourth year running. We also say the Bruins win a fourth straight Pac-10 title. As for a fourth straight Final Four, that'll be a little tougher, but we're not going to be the ones to say Howland and the Bruins can't do it.


For the most comprehensive previews available on all 330 Division I teams, order the "Bible"of college basketball, the 2008-09 Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook, at or call 1-866-805-BALL (2255).