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 www.blueribbonyearbook.com 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 Insider.com.

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 -- Scout.com ranked him the nation's No. 1 shooting guard while Rivals.com listed him as the No. 1 point guard. If nothing else, both recruiting services rated Holiday as one of the top four incoming freshmen, Rivals.com 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.

Rivals.com rated Morgan the No. 4 center in the nation, while Scout.com 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.

Rivals.com 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 Rivals.com, 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.

Scout.com 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 www.blueribbonyearbook.com or call 1-866-805-BALL (2255).


NBA.com Widgets for former UCLA Bruins now in the Big Leagues!

Arron Afflalo (Detroit Pistons)

Baron Davis (Los Angeles Clippers)

Jordan Farmar (Los Angeles Lakers)

Dan Gadzuric (Milwaukee Bucks)

Ryan Hollins (Charlotte Bobcats)

Jason Kapono (Toronto Raptors)

Kevin Love (Minnesota Timberwolves)
NBA.com Widget unavailable

Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (Milwaukee Bucks)
NBA.com Widget unavailable

Earl Watson (Oklahoma City Thunder)
NBA.com Widget unavailable

Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City Thunder)
NBA.com Widget unavailable

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Stover agrees to join UCLA men's basketball squad
By Brian Dohn, Staff Writer
Article Last Updated: 10/03/2008 12:00:58 PM PDT
Photo courtesy of Scout.com

Center Anthony Stover, UCLA's top remaining big man target, gave UCLA men's basketball coach Ben Howland a non-binding oral commitment this morning, according to his father, Craig.

The 6-foot-10, 205-pound Stover, who recently transferred from Renaissance Academy of La Canada, will have a press conference Monday at Windward High of Los Angeles.

"It was a family decision,''Craig Stover said. "We talked about it last night as a family and came to a decision, and called coach Howland this morning to let him know.''

Stover had more than a dozen scholarship offers, including from Connecticut, Washington and USC, and chose the Bruins over finalists Arizona and Creighton.

Stover joins power forwards Reeves Nelson of Modesto Christian and Branden Lane of Rocklin, as well as wing Tyler Honeycutt of Sylmar in the 2009 class. The players cannot sign binding national letters of intent until November.

Also, the Bruins are trying to add a guard to the class, and are hosting guard Michael Snaer of Rancho Verde of Moreno Valley on an official visit this weekend.

Original post Los Angeles Daily News on Stover oral commit

Some juicy Brian Dohn tidbits from his weekly Q & A's that preceded the Stover commit on how the class of 2009-2010 was shaping up...

Q: How bummed is Howland about losing Gaddy? Did he really think he would get him?
A: I don't know because Howland cannot talk about recruits. However, from what I understand, UCLA wasn't stunned Gaddy re-committed to Arizona, so being "bummed'' about not getting him is minimized.

Q: With Honeycutt committed and Gaddy now off the board, who is Howland's top remaining target for this class?
A: There are few, but I believe, when looking at it realistically, center Anthony Stover from Windward High of Los Angeles and guard Durand Scott from Rice High in New York.

Q: Who would you rather have on your team Tyler Honeycutt or Abdul Gaddy?
A: Gaddy. He has the ball in his hands much more.

Q: While none of our recruits are highly rated like Holiday was, do you consider
this class a good or a great class considering the coaches and the style of ball they play?
A: I think it is a strong class, but the need for a center and guard are still pressing issues. If UCLA can finish off the class with those players, I think it will be a tremendous class filled with Howland-type (tough) players.

Q: We're hearing that Renaldo Sydney may be following Brandon Jenning's footsteps by going to Europe. Is this one of many reasons that we're shunning away from him?
A: No. Let's just say Sydney may not have the opportunity to play in college. Understand?

Q: What's the latest on our recruitment of Snear, Noel Johnson, and the rest of the SG's in the 09 class? Do you think we will get one?
A: They'll get one, and I may have a new name or two in the next few days. I do not like UCLA's chances with Snaer, and am unsure about Johnson.

Q: What does the basketball scholarship situation look like for next year (09-10)? I know UCLA has 3 commitments (ATB: "That would be Brendan Lane [6-9/200/pf], Reeves Nelson [6-7/215/pf] and Tyler Honeycutt [6-7/190/sf]"), how many more are they trying to add?
A: It is my understanding coach Ben Howland wants to add to more players, a center (ATB:"That would now be Anthony Glover [6-10/210/c]")and a guard (ATB:"Snaer [6-4/170/sg]? Dohn mentioned Durand Scott [6-5/sg] out of New York").

Q: I know that you wrote about Honeycutt in other articles but can you elaborate why Honeycutt was regarded so highly? What kind of skills do he have and how do you expect him to perform at UCLA?
A: I thought it was pretty clear-cut from the stories. He can shoot the three, he can pass, he can defend on the perimeter and he block shots. He also has a good feel for the game. And he better bring all those skills to UCLA, because that is why he was recruited.

Q: Can you also shed similar light to Nelson and Lane as well?
A: Reeves Nelson is a big, banging body with skill around the basket. Lane is a rebounder who can shoot the mid-range jumper and can defend and rebound.

To sum,
2009-2010 UCLA class

Non-Binding Oral commits

Anthony Glover [6-10/210/c]
Tyler Honeycutt [6-7/190/sf]
Brendan Lane [6-9/200/pf]
Reeves Nelson [6-7/215/pf]

Dohn says UCLA is targeting a guard for this class:

Main target: Michael Snaer [6-4/170/sg]

Other names are...
Dohn mentioned Durand Scott [6-5/sg] out of New York
...a poster to Dohn's Q & A mentioned Noel Johnson [6-6, sg] out of Fayetteville, GA
...Xavier Henry sg/sf 6-6/210 out of Putnam City, Oklahoma City, OK who has Kansas, Memphis, UNC, Ohio State, Texas and UCLA on his list.