Thursday, December 31, 2009

PAC-10 opener: UCLA vs Arizona State 1:30 PM Pacific

A common foe between UCLA and Arizona State this young season is Delaware State. UCLA beat Delaware State 66-49 (by 17) while ASU beat Delaware State 76-34 (by 42).

Josh Shipp's younger brother, Jerren, plays for ASU. So far this season, Jerren is playing backup minutes and is averaging 4 points and 1.8 rebounds per game.

Up next for UCLA: Thursday vs. Arizona State

Tipoff of Pacific 10 Conference opener is set for 1:30 p.m.

By David Wharton
The Los Angeles Times
December 31, 2009


When: 1:30 p.m.

Where: Pauley Pavilion.

On the air: TV: Prime Ticket. Radio: 570.

Records: UCLA 5-7, Arizona State 10-3.

Record vs. opponent: 56-16.

Update: The Bruins are hoping forward James Keefe is sufficiently recovered from a dislocated left shoulder to provide at least a few minutes along a thin front line. The Sun Devils can look to senior guard Derek Glasser, who is averaging 19.7 points in three road games. One more statistic: Over the last three seasons, Arizona State is 10-1 when it has at least five days to prepare.

Bruins look at Pac-10 opener as fresh start

Team is told by Coach Ben Howland to forget preseason struggles.

By David Wharton
The Los Angeles Times
December 31, 2009

The start of the Pacific 10 Conference season means one thing to a UCLA basketball team that has struggled through its first dozen games.


Forgetting about the missed shots and defensive breakdowns. Forgetting about seven losses against only five wins.

"Coach told us we've got to start 0-0 right now," forward Nikola Dragovic said. "We have a chance to just start from the beginning. Start a whole new season."

The Pac-10 opener comes against Arizona State at Pauley Pavilion this afternoon.

The Sun Devils no longer have James Harden or Jeff Pendergraph -- both are in the NBA -- but UCLA Coach Ben Howland still sees a strong resemblance to the conference rival that swept his Bruins last season.

Start with senior Derek Glasser, averaging 11.8 points and 5.7 assists.

"He's a difficult matchup because he's so smart," Howland said. "He makes very good decisions as a point guard and really reads defenses well."

Arizona State likes to set screens for Glasser, then roll or slip the screen for a quick pass. Glasser has responded with 74 assists against 27 turnovers.

When he does make the pass, he can look to scorers in swingman Rihards Kuksiks and center Eric Boateng, averaging 11.8 and 8.3 points, respectively.

"They really shoot the ball well from all perimeter positions," Howland said. "That makes it difficult to defend them because they really stretch you out."

Hoping for a repeat

While Dragovic continues to struggle offensively, making only 31% of his shots, Howland cites history as an argument for sticking with the senior.

Last season, Dragovic had a similar cold stretch during the nonconference schedule, then heated up when Pac-10 games came around.

After playing only 13 minutes in the 2008-09 opener at Oregon State, he scored in double figures in four of the next five games.

Dragovic is ready for a similar revival this winter, saying, "I'm feeling really good."

Honeycutt coming on

Another player who may be rounding into shape is freshman Tyler Honeycutt, sidelined the entire summer and half of the games this season because of injuries to his back and right leg.

"I missed four months, five months of shots," he said. "And just having the ball in my hands."

The 6-foot-7 forward still cannot lift weights, which may limit his explosiveness off the wing, but he has done plenty of endurance work and is feeling stronger.

Against Delaware State this week, he had 11 points and four rebounds in 27 minutes.

The turning point may have come when the Bruins reconvened after a short holiday to practice on Christmas night.

"That was the best I've felt since I've been here," he said. "Everybody was kind of dragging about practicing on Christmas, but I was excited."

ASU to tip-off Pac-10 slate at UCLA

By Alex Espinoza
Posted Dec. 30 2009

After a brief holiday hiatus, the Arizona State men's basketball team returned to an empty campus this week to prep for the start of Pac-10 play.

The Sun Devils wrapped up their non-conference schedule with a 61-52 win over South Carolina Upstate on Dec. 23, moving their record to 10-3 on the year.

"I'm sure most of (the players) were extremely happy to see me again after the difficult few days away," said ASU coach Herb Sendek, tounge-in-cheek.

Though his players took some time off to be with their families, it appears Sendek kept himself busy over the break.

"(Sendek) is a 20-hour-a-day guy, it seems like," ASU junior guard Jamelle McMillan said. "Looks like he didn't get any sleep last night."

Presumably, Sendek has been spending his days in the film room breaking down UCLA, who the Sun Devils will face Thursday at Pauley Pavilion at 2:30 p.m. The game will be televised by FOX Sports Arizona.

UCLA (5-7) is off to its slowest start since coach Ben Howland took over in 2003 and has become a poster child for the Pac-10's perceived drop off this year.

The Bruins feature some familiar faces (i.e. Nikola Dragovic, Michael Roll and James Keefe) from years past, but make no mistake, Howland's rotation is laden with underclassmen.

Keefe, a senior forward, has been out since Dec. 15 after dislocating his left shoulder and is questionable for Thursday. His absence, however, has allowed for the emergence of 6-foot-8-inch freshman Reeves Nelson. In his three starts since Keefe has been sidelined, Nelson has averaged 15.7 points and 5.7 rebounds per game while shooting 75 percent from the field.

According to ASU senior guard Derek Glasser, it will be paramount for the Sun Devils to win the rebounding battle, something ASU has stuggled with all year. Currently, ASU ranks dead last in the conference in rebonds per game (31.3).

Glasser also said it will be key to slow down Roll and sophomore guard Malcolm Lee, UCLA's leading scorers so far this season.

"Malcolm - who I think they're looking for to be their guy - is really starting to come into his own now," Glasser said. "And Michael Roll is one of the best shooters - not only in the conference - but in the country."

Sans James Harden and Jeff Pendergraph, this year's ASU team has forged a defensive-minded identity. The Sun Devils boast the conference's best scoring defense (54.5 points allowed per game) and the league's best average scoring margin (plus 15.8).

While Sendek's praise for his defense was predictably lukewarm, McMillan offered a bold assessment of the team.

"We have the personnel in order to be an elite defensive team," McMillan said. "Defense is what's going to win us games."

For more on the Bruin-Sun Devil matchup, see previous post by clicking here.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Arizona State Sun Devils preview

A common foe between UCLA and Arizona State this young season is Delaware State. UCLA beat Delaware State 66-49 (by 17) while ASU beat Delaware State 76-34 (by 42).

Josh Shipp's younger brother, Jerren, plays for ASU. So far this season, Jerren is playing backup minutes and is averaging 4 points and 1.8 rebounds per game.

Arizona State - Team Notes
USA Today
Posted 12/18/2009 1:15 AM

Derek Glasser liked what he saw.

Now he's hoping for more from freshman forward Victor Rudd.

Rudd, who had scored just seven points all season, racked up a career-high 15 in Arizona State's 76-34 rout of Delaware State, showing some of the potential that made him a coveted recruit out of Findlay Prep in Nevada, the prep school national champion.

Maybe it was just an isolated outburst in a game that featured plenty of garbage time.

But Glasser, the Sun Devils' senior floor leader, believes there is more where that came from.

"For him to start getting it going now is good timing with conference (play) coming up," Glasser said. "I hope this is the first big game of many for him this season."

Rudd played just 26 minutes in his four previous appearances, shooting 1-for-7 and totaling seven points. He was 6-for-7 from the field against Delaware State.

"I think my first couple games I was just trying to get a shot off, because that's what I'm used to," Rudd said. "But I talked to Coach (Herb) Sendek; he said just calm down and let it come to you. And that's what I did today."

Glasser said the difference was clear.

"His shooting struggled early, only because he really didn't take good shots," Glasser said. "But tonight he was taking open shots. Guys found him and he knocked them down. If he can get open looks and just play within himself, and not try and force things, he'll get a lot more minutes."

"I know my role," Rudd said. "Conditioning-wise, I'm getting better every day. I think I'll be ready for the Pac-10. The Pac-10 is tough. No matter what anybody says, the Pac-10 is tough. I'll be ready for that."


--Arizona State was leading the Pac-10 in field-goal accuracy (.509) and field-goal defense (.378) through its first 10 games.

--Without Jeff Pendergraph and James Harden this season, the Sun Devils are still relying on the 3-point shot. Through their first 10 games, they were converting 8.0 per game, tops in the Pac-10. A year ago, ASU led the conference in 3-pointers made per game at 8.23.

--The Sun Devils managed just two offensive rebounds during their 81-68 loss to BYU, and one of them came off a missed free throw.

JANUARY AT A GLANCE: The Sun Devils venture to Los Angeles to open the Pac-10 schedule. Typically, that's one of the league's most treacherous road trips. This year, it might be a great opportunity to catch UCLA and USC before they have pulled their game together. ASU has five Pac-10 home games in January, with visits by the Washington schools, Arizona, Cal and Stanford.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We're still trying to identify what's a good shot and what isn't at times. We've had some good shooting games at times. But at this early point in the season, it's probably premature to read too much into statistics." -- Coach Herb Sendek, dismissing the Sun Devils' early-season shooting success.


SEASON RECAP: The Sun Devils have played pretty well -- 7-3 through 10 games -- with respectable losses to Duke, Baylor and BYU. The problem is, like most of the rest of the Pac-10, they haven't beaten anyone particularly good, There is much still to learn about this young team, but ASU has gotten off to a very solid start.

PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters -- PG Derek Glasser, G Ty Abbott, G Jamelle McMillan, F Rihards Kuksiks, C Eric Boateng. Key Subs -- G Trent Lockett, G Demetrius Walker, F Victor Rudd, C Ruslan Pateev.


Baylor 64, Arizona State 61

BYU 81, Arizona State 68

Arizona State 76, Delaware State 34


vs. San Diego State, Saturday, Dec. 19 (ASU wins,55-52)

vs. UC Santa Barbara, Monday, Dec. 21 (ASU wins, 69-42)

vs. USC Upstate, Wednesday, Dec. 23 (ASU wins, 61-52)

at UCLA, Thursday, Dec. 31

at USC, Saturday, Jan. 2

IN FOCUS: The Sun Devils face a San Diego State team that will carry an 8-2 record and five-game win streak into Tempe. The Aztecs are coming off a dominating 63-46 home win over Arizona and feature a balanced attack with five players averaging 9.9 points or more.


--Senior PG Derek Glasser has been terrific. Through 10 games, he was averaging 12.8 points and 5.8 assists, had a 3.1-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio and was shooting 48.4 percent from 3-point range. Glasser had three games of 20 points or more and seven games with two or fewer turnovers.

--F Rihards Kuksiks was shooting .447 (17-for-38) from 3-point distance in ASU's seven wins, just .333 (9-for-27) in the club's three defeats.

--Freshman G Trent Lockett has contributed four double-digit scoring games and is shooting 57.9 percent from the field.

Some choiced chunks from ASU press release leading to game at UCLA

Men's Hoops Opens Pac-10 Play At Pauley Pavilion On NY Eve At 1:30 p.m. PT On FOX Sports Net
The Official Arizona State Sun Devils website
December 28, 2009

The Arizona State's men's hoops team, in its fourth season under 318-game winner Herb Sendek and coming off back-to-back 20-win seasons for the first time since 1980-81, opens Pac-10 play in Los Angeles on New Year's Eve when it takes on UCLA in a Thursday matinee at 1:30 p.m. PT/2:30 p.m MT on FOX Sports Net and KTAR 620 AM. ASU then takes on the hot USC Trojans at 7:30 p.m. PT/8:30 p.m. MT on Saturday, Jan. 2 (FOX Sports Arizona and KMVP 860 AM), as the Trojans have won six straight, the best mark of anyone entering Pac-10 play. ASU is 10-3, as after going 8-22 (.267) in Coach Sendek's first year (2006-2007), the Sun Devils are 56-26 (.683) since and giving up just 60.5 points per game in his 112 games. ASU has had to replace two NBA draft picks from last year in first-team consensus All-American James Harden and first-team All-Pac-10 forward Jeff Pendergraph, but returns three starters from last year's team in senior point guard Derek Glasser (2009 Pac-10 All-Tournament Team), junior Rihards Kuksiks (third-best returning three-point shooter in the nation according to NCAA minimums) and junior Ty Abbott (121 career threes and 65 starts entering this year). ASU has had eight players lead or share the team lead in scoring in its 13 games and has five players on its roster who have had a 20-point game in their career. The Sun Devils have held nine of their first 13 opponents to under 40 percent field goal shooting, as 26 of its past 48 opponents have shot under 40 percent. ASU is 2-1 in Pac-10 openers under Herb Sendek, including last year's 90-60 win at Stanford, after going 3-15 in the previous 18 seasons. ASU will hope to continue strong shooting against UCLA, as it shot 52.9 percent from the field (46-of-87) in its two wins last year.

The Sun Devils lead the Pac-10 in scoring defense (54.5 points per game), scoring margin (+15.8 points per game), assist-to-turnover ratio (1.3) and three-pointers made per game (8.6 with 112 made in 13 games). They rank second in the loop in field goal percentage defense (.380), field goal percentage (.484), three-point shooting (.400) and turnover margin (+3.5)

ASU returns to Southern California this year after having solid success there last year, as it was 6-3 in SoCal in 2008-09 including a Mountain West Conference road win (at San Diego State on Nov. 18), a Pac-10 road win (at UCLA on Jan. 17) and two Pac-10 Tournament wins in Staples Center (over Arizona on March 12 and vs. #13 Washington on March 13). It also went 2-1 (wins vs. Charlotte and UTEP and loss to Baylor) in the 76 Classic in Anaheim Nov. 27-30.

Just how good has the Sun Devil defense been since Herb Sendek took over? ASU has given up less than 62 points per game in each of the past three seasons , the best three-season span since the middle of the past century. In the 18 Pac-10 games last year, no team defended shooters better than ASU, as it led the league in field goal percentage defense (.421) and three-point defense (.310). Those that followed Coach Sendek's career at NC State won't find it a big shocker. In his 10 seasons in Raleigh, NC State led the ACC in scoring defense four times and held opponents to just 54.7 points per game in 1996-97, an ACC record. Last year's 60.5 points per game allowed was the lowest by a Sun Devil team since the 1949-50 team gave up 59.8. ASU is currently giving up 54.5 points per contest.

ASU swept the series last year with UCLA with a 74-67 win over the No. 11 Bruins on Feb. 12 in an ESPN contest. It marked ASU's third sweep of the Bruins in its 31-year Pac-10 history, as ASU also swept UCLA in 1979-80 and 2002-03. ASU ended one of the most impressive streaks in Pac-10 history as UCLA had won 32 straight front-end games of Pac-10 weekends (in other words, the Thursday game), a streak dating to a Jan. 20, 2005 home loss to Stanford. ASU shot 60 percent (24-of-40) from the floor, 11-of-18 (.611) from the three-point stripe and 15-of-18 (.833) in the win...ASU's win at No. 9 UCLA on Jan. 17, 2009, was its first top-10 road win since it beat fourth-ranked Stanford on Jan. 31, 1998, and just the second in the past 24 seasons. ASU won at Pauley Pavilion for just the sixth time in 32 times, and just the third time in the past 22...ASU had eight turnovers in the overtime win at UCLA on Jan. 17, the fewest turnovers on the road since Feb. 12, 2005, when it also had eight at USC. Derek Glasser had zero turnovers in 42 minutes against the team that was leading the Pac-10 in turnovers forced at 16.4 per game).

ASU was down 54-43 with just over eight minutes to go but did not allow a UCLA field goal in regulation the rest of the way and topped the Bruins 61-58 in overtime at Pauley on Jan. 17. ASU shot 52.4 percent in the first half (11-of-21) and led 27-25 at the break. ASU held the Bruins to just 7-of-25 (.280) from the three-point stripe and had just eight turnovers, fewest on the road since Feb. 12, 2005.

ASU is 14-3 in Fox Sports Net national games in the past three years, including 9-0 in 2008-2009. It lost its first appearance this year vs. Baylor 64-61 on Dec. 3..ASU was 3-2 in CBS games last year with wins over UCLA, Cal and Temple. In the previous 11 years, ASU was 1-4 in CBS games...ASU is 27-9 in national or network regional games (games on FSN, CBS or any of the ESPN networks), and 6-2 in past eight against ranked teams in TV games.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

UCLA starts thinking about ASU's zone defense; Keefe might play

Bruins zone in on matchup

Arizona State figures to present UCLA with a challenging zone defense.

By David Wharton
The Los Angeles Times
December 30, 2009

Zone defense has not been a favorite subject around UCLA in recent years.

The Bruins hardly ever play the zone. Don't particularly like to play against it.

Which makes their Pacific 10 Conference opener against Arizona State on Thursday all the more worrisome -- the Sun Devils feature a tough matchup zone.

"They do a good job of creating mini-havoc out there," UCLA guard Michael Roll said. "They're all over the place."

As forward Nikola Dragovic put it: "Like they have seven players on the court."

The defense in question uses principles of man-to-man within a zone framework. It is a big reason Arizona State swept the Bruins last season.

UCLA Coach Ben Howland wants to put a stop to that trend.

"We've got to do a good job of being patient and waiting for it to come to us," Howland said.

UCLA has practiced finding ways to get the ball inside with passes and dribble penetration. From there, the Bruins can score or kick the ball back out to open shooters.

Howland's biggest fear is that his team will settle for quick perimeter shots.

"That's what their zone does," he said of Arizona State. "That zone is effective in that it tries to get you to take mostly outside shots."

Encouraging prognosis

UCLA is hoping forward James Keefe can return from a dislocated shoulder to play even a few minutes Thursday.

Keefe was scheduled for increasing full-contact practices through today.

"I'm feeling very confident," he said.

Howland did not make any predictions about the senior's return, preferring to wait for another examination by doctors. His thin frontcourt could use another body, even in a limited role.

"If James can play, that would help us in terms of getting a little more rest for our guys inside," he said.

Young guns

A few upperclassmen have been talking to freshmen teammates about turning up the intensity for conference play.

"They just said it's going to be more of a personal thing because it's your league," freshman center Reeves Nelson said. "They want me to be mentally prepared for that."

Nelson and classmate Tyler Honeycutt figure to play significant minutes Thursday. Brendan Lane might also see a lot of minutes.

Keefe suspects they will have to learn on the job.

"They don't know," he said. "I mean, you don't know until you really experience it."

UCLA hoops going through rough chapter in storied history

UCLA hoops going through rough chapter in storied history

By David Leon Moore, USA TODAY
December 29, 2009

LOS ANGELES — New Orleans Saints fans once put paper bags on their heads and called their team the "Ain'ts."

This season, you would never guess which team's fans have adorned the headgear of futility.

Well, one fan did, anyway, wearing both a UCLA basketball jersey and a paper bag over his head a month ago when the Bruins, college basketball royalty, winners of 11 NCAA titles and participants in three of the last four Final Fours, were pounded by the University of Portland 74-47 in the 76 Classic at the Anaheim Convention Center.

The low point still was to come.

A little more than two weeks later, back in Anaheim in the Wooden Classic at the Honda Center, the Bruins were in ruins again, this time being drubbed by Mississippi State 72-54 and getting booed off the court. The debacle was witnessed by John Wooden himself, 99, who had made a rare public appearance to support the program he lifted to legendary status.

Ask coach Ben Howland, a shocking 5-7 heading into Pacific-10 conference play Thursday against Arizona State, how bad he felt watching his team perform so poorly in front of the beloved Wooden, and he's at a loss for words.

His pained expression speaks volumes, though.

"Very disappointing," he finally says.

Howland, 52, always has embraced the Wooden tradition at UCLA and loves talking to the Wizard of Westwood. But when his team stumbled through a five-game losing streak, he didn't look for advice from the man who won 10 national championships from 1964 to 1975.

"I don't think he has much experience going through what I'm going through," Howland says, managing a slight grin.

Wooden's worst season was 14-12 in 1959-60.

Howland hasn't had much experience with this lately, either. He's a program-builder, having turned things around at Northern Arizona, Pittsburgh and UCLA.

He arrived in Westwood in 2003, inheriting a team that had gone 10-19 in Steve Lavin's last season as coach. He was 11-17 in his first season, 18-11 in his second and then took three consecutive teams to the Final Four in 2006, '07 and '08.

It looked as if the building was over and another Bruins dynasty was in full swing.

Look again.

Final Four faces gone

Everybody knew the Pac-10 was down coming into this season, and everybody knew the Bruins would be relying on their highly recruited youngsters after losing so many players to the NBA the last two seasons. They were picked to finish third in the league, behind California and Washington.

But losses to Cal State-Fullerton and Long Beach State? A 27-point loss to Portland? A five-game losing streak?

"It makes you feel terrible," guard Michael Roll says. "Wearing those four letters across your chest is a pride thing."

Roll, a career role player, has been thrust into a leadership position on and off the court. Basically a spot-up jump shooter, Roll is second in minutes played (33.9 a game) and scoring (13.2 points a game). Sophomore guard Malcolm Lee leads in both (34.1 minutes, 14.5 points).

Roll, a fifth-year senior whose career scoring average was 4.9 coming into this season, was once surrounded by players such as Jordan Farmar, Arron Afflalo, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Darren Collison, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love and Jrue Holiday.

If those names sound familiar, it's because all of them except Holiday played in the Final Four and they're all in the NBA now.

All of them except Collison left for pro ball before using all of their college eligibility, and Love and Holiday left after one season.

Love's one-and-done career was no surprise. But Holiday's departure after a so-so freshman year last season caught Howland and staff by surprise.

His presence would make a big difference on a team that is short on athleticism.

"I thought we'd have Holiday for two years," Howland says. "But that's the deal. Guys go early. It's hard."

Not that anyone has too much sympathy for the Bruins. They have had highly rated recruiting classes the last two years.

"It's not an excuse," Howland says. "We've lost a lot of guys, but still, we should be doing better."

The incoming class last season was ranked No. 1 by most recruiting services. But arguably the two most impressive talents of that group are gone. Holiday now plays for the Philadelphia 76ers, and Drew Gordon, a 6-8 forward who was a starter and averaged 11.2 points, decided in early December to leave the team and seek a transfer.

"It was better for both parties for him to move on," Howland says tersely.

Another starter, senior forward Nikola Dragovic, was suspended and later reinstated after being arrested and charged with felony assault stemming from an altercation at a concert. He pleaded not guilty last week and faces a Feb. 1 court hearing. Dragovic also was arrested last season — for suspicion of misdemeanor battery — after a dispute with his former girlfriend. He was suspended for a game but not charged.

Even without those distractions, there was plenty to worry about because of a rash of preseason injuries that left the Bruins struggling merely to complete a drill, much less stage a full scrimmage.

Some of the players, including promising freshman wing Tyler Honeycutt, who had a stress fracture in his back, weren't ready to go when the season started. Sophomore point guard Jerime Anderson, of whom much is expected but who is averaging 6.2 points and 4.3 assists, had attended five practices with a strained groin before the opening loss at home to Cal State-Fullerton. Senior forward James Keefe, a Final Four veteran, continues to deal with a shoulder injury.

"Guys were in and out of the lineup so much," Anderson says. "We just haven't been able to put things together."

As the losses mounted, confidence plummeted and minds wandered.

"It's been real hard," says Honeycutt, who has provided a lift (6.0 points, 5.2 rebounds a game) off the bench since joining the rotation six games ago. "I didn't expect this. This has kind of set us in our place. It's let us know that we're not all that. We have a lot of things to improve."

'You have to be patient'

Whether the current players can improve enough to turn the season around is open to debate. Maybe it will take another recruiting class or two to put the Bruins back on top. Coming in next year will be one of the best prep centers in the country, 6-9 Josh Smith, along with 6-4 guard Tyler Lamb.

"They'll help us right away," Howland says. Not that he's giving up on 2010.

"Everybody acts like we're writing things off here, but it's very early," he says. "You have to be patient. The freshmen are getting thrown to the fire, but they're getting better."

Howland thinks the Bruins are getting better every day and will be competitive in the Pac-10. He sees Lee maturing into a consistent scorer. He sees Honeycutt hitting the offensive boards. He sees Anderson gaining confidence. He sees Keefe getting back on the court and beefing up the front line.

And, like everyone else, he sees freshman forward Reeves Nelson (10.1 points, 5.8 rebounds a game) showing his teammates how to fight back.

Nelson is a bruiser, a 6-8, 230-pounder who still is sporting a black eye from a serious poke in the eye in the loss to Kansas three weeks ago. Fans have taken to calling him Rocky.

"If I could be as tough as Rocky, that would be fine with me," he says. Well, is he?

"I'd like to think so," he says.

He looked like it at Pauley Pavilion on Sunday, when he led the Bruins to a 66-49 victory against Delaware State, scoring a season-high 21 points.

It was just Delaware State, which has lost five in a row, but this is a different kind of season in Westwood, and a win is a win.

And no one wore a paper bag.



'03-04/11-17/7-11/Lost last six in a row

'04-05/18-11/11-7/Lost in NCAA first round

'05-06/32-7/14-4/Lost in national final

'06-07/30-6/15-3/Lost in national semifinal

'07-08/35-4/16-2/Lost in national semifinal

'08-09/26-9/13-5/Lost in NCAA second round

'09-10/5-7/0-0/Worst start since 2002

Centennial's Burton is netting a lot of interest


Centennial's Burton is netting a lot of interest
The Los Angeles Times
December 28, 2009

The 6-foot-2 senior guard didn't play last season after transferring from Long Beach Cabrillo. This year, his shooting skills have college coaches following him from tournament to tournament.

It's not every season buzz builds so quickly about an unsigned senior basketball player that college coaches start to make special trips to see him play in the opening weeks of the season.

That's what has happened with Deonte Burton, a 6-foot-2 guard from Compton Centennial. He didn't play last season after transferring from Long Beach Cabrillo, but he is making up for lost time, showing off shooting skills (40 and 38 points in the Westchester tournament) that motivated coaches from UCLA, USC and other schools to start following him from tournament to tournament.

"It's a thrill to be out there and see all the coaches watching me," Burton said. "I'm going to be patient and see what comes."

It's not as if Burton was an unknown quantity. He averaged 23.5 points a game as a sophomore at Cabrillo. But he transferred to Centennial the summer before his junior year, and then the Southern Section declared him ineligible after he played in one game because of residency issues.

"When they decided I wasn't going to be eligible, I was hurt, I was heartbroken," Burton said. "But I had to be mentally tough. I focused more on my grades."

He also practiced hard and helped his teammates prepare for games.

"I was focused on getting other guys better," he said. "If I knew I was going hard with my teammates, I knew they were going to go hard on their opponents."

Finally given the chance to play, Burton made quite an impression during the opening week of the Westchester tournament, culminating in a 40-point performance against the top-ranked Comets.

"I felt I had to make a statement," he said. "I just got shots within the offense. When the shot clock was down, I tried to create for my teammates and myself."

Coach Vadim Malikin, who also coached Burton at Cabrillo, said, "He's impossible to guard at the high school level one-on-one."

Burton has an explosive first step, is accurate from three-point range and is a terrific free-throw shooter, allowing him to pick up easy points when fouled.

The big question is whether he's tall enough and handles the ball well enough to be a shooting guard at the highest level in college. That's why the college recruiters are going to his games, making evaluations and trying to envision him at the next level.

What's clear is that Burton didn't need any presents on Christmas Day to feel happy. The chance to play again and show what he can do is the best present for 2009 and beyond.

Games to watch

If you're a basketball fan, there are two great options to see a series of terrific tournament games today.

At Westlake Village Oaks Christian, the four quarterfinal matchups couldn't be better. They start at 4 o'clock with Sacramento, led by junior point guard Josiah Turner, who's being recruited by UCLA and Kansas, taking on Pasadena. Oaks Christian faces unbeaten Los Angeles Loyola at 5:30 p.m., Santa Monica takes on Etiwanda at 7 p.m. and Thousand Oaks meets defending state Division IV champion Richmond Salesian at 8:30 p.m.

At San Diego Torrey Pines in the MaxPreps Holiday Classic, Los Angeles Price faces Newark Memorial at 5:20 p.m., followed by Woodland Hills Taft-Oakland Bishop O'Dowd at 7 p.m. and Rialto Eisenhower-Corona Centennial at 8:30 p.m.

And, if you're looking for something to do on Saturday, there's a one-day tournament at Cerritos College. The California Classic runs from 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. and features Lawndale Leuzinger, Orange Lutheran, Cerritos Gahr, Gardena Serra, Price, North Hollywood Campbell Hall and San Diego Hoover.

2011 UCLA PG target: Josiah Turner (Sacramento, CA)

video credit: yayarea's finest on youtube

photo courtesy of The Sacramento Bee

Josiah Turner | PG

Hometown Sacramento, CA
Class Junior
High School Sacramento High School Dragons
Height 6'3"
Weight 185 lbs.

Josiah Turner is taking a liking to Los Angeles

After attending UCLA's game against Delaware State, the junior guard who is being recruited by the Bruins scores a career-high 48 points and hits a game-winning shot against Pasadena.

By Eric Sondheimer
The Los Angeles Times
December 29, 2009

Josiah Turner, a junior guard from Sacramento, is starting to like Los Angeles. He attended UCLA's game at Pauley Pavilion on Sunday, and he experienced exhilaration on Monday with a career-high 48-point performance in the Oaks Christian tournament that culminated with a game-winning three-pointer from the top of the key at the buzzer to beat Pasadena, 71-70.

"It was fun," Turner said.

UCLA Coach Ben Howland was sitting at the top of the bleachers watching Turner's show. He's recruiting the 6-foot-3 Turner, who has the athleticism and firepower to play at the collegiate level.

The dramatic ending in a quarterfinal game was helped by a strange timeout from Pasadena (6-4). The Bulldogs scored the go-ahead basket on a layup by Tyler Barber with six seconds left to lead, 70-68. Sacramento had no timeouts left, but the Bulldogs called timeout with 3.6 seconds left.

That enabled the Dragons to set up a final play. They in-bounded the ball in the backcourt, got the ball to Turner, who pulled up for the game-winning shot.

"I was surprised," he said of the timeout. "That helped us win the game."

Turner, who came in averaging 28 points, originally committed to Arizona State but has since opened up his recruiting. He said UCLA is near the top of his list.

"I liked the way they got up and down," he said of Sunday's UCLA-Delaware State game.

It was a tough loss for Pasadena because the Bulldogs overcame a double-digit deficit and had five players reach double figures in scoring, led by Barber and Chris Bridges with 15 points each.

Sacramento will play Los Angeles Loyola in a semifinal game Tuesday at 8:30 p.m.

For the rest of this article, click here.

Thanks to puffdaddy for posting the story on the Bruin Zone basketball board.

Reeves Nelson Named UCLA/Muscle Milk Student-Athlete of the Week

Freshman forward/center averaged 18 points in pair of wins.

from the The Official UCLA Men's Basketball website
Dec. 28, 2009

Freshman forward/center Reeves Nelson (Modesto, CA/Modesto Christian HS) of the UCLA men's basketball team was selected as the UCLA/Muscle Milk Student-Athlete of the Week for Dec. 21-27.

Nelson led UCLA to a pair of lop-sided victories last week, extending his double-figure scoring streak to four games. He scored a career-high 21 points (7-for-8 from the field) in the 66-49 win at home over Delaware State (Dec. 27). He added three rebounds and a steal against the Hornets while sinking 7-of-10 from the free-throw line. In the 75-63 home win over Colorado State (Dec. 22), Nelson scored 15 points and added six rebounds, a steal and an assist against the Rams. He was 6-for-8 from the field against CSU. Nelson averaged 18.0 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.0 steals per game for the week while shooting 81.3 percent (13-for-16) from the field and 62.5 percent from the free-throw line (10-for-16).

This is Nelson's first UCLA/Muscle Milk Student-Athlete of the Week honor of the season and of his career.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Baron "BDiddy" Davis still has it, staples Celtics' coffin with tough jumper with 1 sec left (and a foul)

video credit:

BDiddy scores 24 points and dishes 13 assists to lead the Clippers over the visiting Celtics, 92-90. Celtics' pg Rajon Rondo chokes in major fashion as he misses a pair of FTs close to end of game to set up Baron's clutch shot.

Davis' winner gives Clips another Staples win over Celtics

By Dan Arritt, for
Posted Monday December 28, 2009 1:37AM

LOS ANGELES ( exclusive) -- Baron Davis sent another shockwave through Staples Center on Sunday night.

Davis swished a 22-foot fallaway jumper at the end of regulation, lifting the L.A. Clippers to a surprising 92-90 victory over the Boston Celtics, the top team in the Eastern Conference.

"You have to prepare your mind when you're about to take that shot," Davis said. "I was confident."

The game played out eerily similar to another buzzer-beater inside Staples Center earlier this month, when Kobe Bryant gave the Lakers an improbable one-point victory against the Miami Heat when he banked in a off-balance last-second 3-pointer.

And like Miami, the Celtics will look back on several missed opportunities to close out the game.

The Celtics (23-6) had a chance to add to their three-point lead in the final minute, but Ray Allen missed a 21-footer with 25 seconds remaining. Chris Kaman corralled the rebound and fed it to Davis, who dribbled into the key for what looked like an uncontested layup.

Allen was guarding Rasual Butler on the wing, but collapsed on Davis, leaving Butler wide open beyond the 3-point stripe. Davis kicked the ball to Butler on the baseline and he sank the tying 3-pointer with eight seconds remaining.

Davis then fouled Celtics guard Rajon Rondo as he drove to the basket. The officials reviewed the play and determined the foul occurred with 1.5 seconds remaining. Rondo, who came into the game shooting 62.5 percent from the free-throw line for his career and just 53.6 percent this season, missed both attempts.

"I felt confident shooting my free throws and my follow through was great," Rondo said. "I did my routine and took my time, they were just long."

After grabbing the rebound and calling timeout, the Clippers (13-17) were left with one second on the clock. That's when Davis decided it was his turn to shine.

"Baron said, 'Coach, draw it up and I will make this shot,' " said Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy.

Butler inbounded the ball on the Celtics end of the floor, finding Davis near the top of the key. Davis caught the pass with his back to the basket, spun and let the shot go just as the game clock expired.

"We had [Davis] set a pick on a big, move to the top where [Rasual] made the pass and Baron put it away," Dunleavy said.

After the shot fell through, Davis was mobbed by his teammates. The officials again reviewed the shot and determined Davis had released the shot in time.

"He uses his physicality and he made a big shot for them in the end," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers.

Kaman finished with 27 points and 12 rebounds, just two points off the career high he set last week at Houston. Davis had 24 points and 13 assists.

The victory was the Clippers' second straight against the Celtics at Staples Center. They defeated Boston 93-91 on Feb. 25.

Boston was playing without leading scorer and Los Angeles native Paul Pierce, who has an infected knee and did not accompany the team on its current six-game road trip that began with a victory in Orlando on Christmas.

The Clippers were also shorthanded. Marcus Camby, the team's leading rebounder, did not play due to a knee injury, and rookie forward Blake Griffin, the No. 1 overall draft pick last June, is still a couple weeks from making his season debut after suffering a stress fracture in his kneecap during the preseason.

DeAndre Jordan made his first career start in place of Camby and finished with six points, eight rebounds and three blocks.

The Clippers had trouble guarding Rondo early. He scored 10 of his team-high 20 points in the opening quarter, when the Celtics took a one-point lead. Allen was the team's second-highest scorer with 13 points.

Rasheed Wallace had the hot hand in the second quarter for Boston, scoring six points, but he went scoreless in the second half and finished with eight. Kevin Garnett didn't convert his first field-goal attempt until the closing minutes of the first half and he finished with 12 points. Tony Allen and Eddie House contributed 10 points each for the Celtics.

"For a veteran team, we played with zero composure," Rivers said.

"I was disappointed with our mentality, composure, execution and focus. Tonight, we beat ourselves."

UCLA gears up for PAC-10 play

Bruins take momentum into Pac-10 competition

MEN'S BASKETBALL: Nelson has career-high 21 points as UCLA wraps up nonconference play.

By Frank Burlison Staff Writer
The Long Beach Press-Telegram
Posted: 12/27/2009 10:19:38 PM PST

It's indicative of the way November and December have gone for UCLA's basketball team that consecutive victories make up the Bruins' longest winning streak.

Here's the beauty of the move from nonconference to Pacific-10 play: the tabulating of wins and losses starts fresh.

"We're going to forget about those 12 games and start 0-0," senior Michael Roll said Sunday about his team's 5-7 record and the foray into conference play that begins in Pauley Pavilion on Thursday after the Bruins ho-hummed their way past visiting Delaware State, 66-49, in front of a Pauley gathering of 7,244.

The victory, coupled with the 75-63 decision over Colorado State on Tuesday, gave (Coach) Ben Howland's team back-to-back wins for only the second time this season.

UCLA's Reeves Nelson was too assertive, too strong and too quick for the opposing post players Sunday while hitting seven of eight shots from the field and seven of 10 from the free-throw line for a career-high 21 points.

It was the kind of performance that keeps him firmly on the short list of leading candidates for Pac-10 Freshman of the Year.

But, naturally, the going will get a lot tougher - down low and everywhere else - within conference action.

The Bruins don't have long to wait for that confirmation. They're due back in Pauley Pavilion at noon today to begin preparing for the Arizona State Sun Devils, who will bring 10-3 record into the building for Thursday's 1:30 conference opener.

"A whole new season begins Thursday afternoon," Howland said after his team extended a 19-point advantage at intermission to 29, at 51-22, with 12+ minutes remaining before letting things get a tad sloppy down the stretch.

"We've won two in a row and it's nice any time you can take a winning streak into conference. For the first 15 minutes today, I thought we played very good defense. They were very patient on offense but we didn't break down or do any gambling."

The 4-6 Hornets - who were swatted, 76-34, by the Sun Devils in Tempe on Dec.12 - were outscored, 14-0, over a seven-minute stretch of a first half in which they hit just seven of 23 shots from the field.

The Bruins were a model of offensive efficiency in the first 20 minutes, hitting 14 of 26 shots from the field and eight of 11 from the free-throw line to go with nine assists and only three turnovers.

Sophomore point guard Jerime Anderson, who had seven assists and five turnovers Tuesday, had five assists and didn't turn the ball over in the first half Sunday.

He had six turnovers after intermission but Howland was willing to cut him some slack.

"Maybe he got a little complacent," Howland said. "But he did have six steals and six assists.

"If he had limited the turnovers, it would have been a great game (for Anderson)."

On an afternoon when Roll, who took a 14.2 scoring average and .476 shooting percentage into the game, was a frigid 1-for-7 from the field and sophomore Malcolm Lee (15.2 and .443) scored only seven points and was 3-for-7 from the field, Nelson and fellow freshman Tyler Honeycutt combined for nearly half the team's scoring.

Nelson got 12 of his points during the 13 minutes he played in the second half while Honeycutt got seven of his 11 points off the bench before intermission.

The 6-foot-8 Honeycutt, who missed the first six games while recovering from a sore shin, was 5-for-7 from the field after hitting just eight of 29 before Sunday.

He also knocked in his first 3-pointer as a Bruin four seconds before intermission.

"I had plenty of time, probably five seconds by myself," Honeycutt said. "That was a good way to end the half."

Of course, it all begins anew in a few days.

"You have to bring it every night," Roll said. "But I'm confident we will do well. The chemistry is a lot better; we're having more fun and the morale is a lot better. I'm excited."

Up next

Arizona State (10-3) at UCLA (5-7), Thursday, 1:30p.m., Prime, 570AM

Sunday, December 27, 2009

UCLA beats Delaware State 66-49

Freshman forward Reeves Nelson hits 7 of 8 shots from the field and makes 7 of 10 free throws to total 21 points against Delaware State. AP Photo/Danny Moloshok

UCLA finds the fun in 66-49 win over Delaware State

The Bruins win their second in a row in their last game before Pac-10 play starts, finding some chemistry as they deal with the Hornets' slow, deliberate offense.

By David Wharton
The Los Angeles Times
December 28, 2009

One week. Two games.

As winning streaks go, UCLA's current run isn't exactly historic.

But for a team badly in need of confidence, a 66-49 victory over Delaware State on Sunday -- the Bruins' second in a row -- will have to suffice.

"Our chemistry is a lot better," guard Michael Roll said. "We're having fun out there on the floor."

And they are getting a boost before the Pacific 10 Conference schedule opens against Arizona State on Thursday.

It helps that freshmen Reeves Nelson and Tyler Honeycutt played especially well, leading the team with 21 and 11 points, respectively.

"They're still going to make freshman mistakes, they're still learning things defensively for the first time," Coach Ben Howland said. "But they're going to get a lot of experience here in their first Pac-10 season and I think they'll both play well."

Sunday's final tuneup before conference play figured to be methodical -- or downright sleepy -- with Delaware State moving at a deliberate pace.

Any time the Hornets (4-6) took a shot in the first 10 or 15 seconds of a possession, it was considered a fastbreak.

More often, they preferred to move the ball around the perimeter until the shot clock ticked down at least halfway, then look for a shot. Making only 36% of their attempts, it was often a bad shot.

UCLA improved to 5-7 by remaining patient on defense and running an efficient offense. Only some unexpected scoring from Delaware State's Terron Stowe -- at 6-2, 260 pounds, he looked more like a nose tackle -- kept the game from becoming a total blowout by halftime.

As it was, UCLA held a 38-19 lead.

"We started off well, but when we went to the bench, we weren't able to keep it going," Delaware State Coach Greg Jackson said. "We had some bad shot selection and some quick shots that didn't help us."

Given the uphill battle the Bruins face this season, it was difficult to pinpoint one or two things they wanted to improve upon in this game.

Asked beforehand whether he had any specific goals in mind, Howland responded with the word "everything." The continuing maturation of the freshmen had to be high on the list.

Honeycutt is making up for lost time, missing all summer because of an injury. Nelson is slightly ahead and spotted an opportunity to score inside against Delaware State.

"They weren't very . . . " he said, pausing. "They were small in stature."

The Hornets also were finishing up a treacherous stretch, facing Arkansas, Arizona State and Ohio State before arriving in Westwood, losing all of those games by wide margins. But, with their style of play, they had held the score down, making it rough on their opponents.

"It's not really about the game being less fun," Ohio State guard David Lighty said last week. "You've got to make it fun and get the win."

On Sunday, UCLA accomplished both goals.

Delaware State threw a variety of defenses at the Bruins, zoning and trapping, occasionally pressuring the length of the court. None of it proved effective.

And though the Hornets got some offense from Marcus Neal and Frisco Sandidge, who combined for 27 points, they could not compete on the boards.

Nelson started his scoring streak late in the first half, then picked up soon after halftime. Honeycutt amassed his points with a three-pointer here and a fastbreak dunk there.

"Knowing the plays and running the plays," he said. "I'm looking more to score, definitely."

The game eventually turned sloppy for UCLA with too many turnovers, garbage time beginning with about 10 minutes remaining.

But a win is a win and now comes what Howland called "a whole new season," starting with an Arizona State team that figures to play a troublesome zone for 40 minutes.

"Night in and night out, it's going to be a dogfight," guard Malcolm Lee said, looking toward the conference schedule. "It's important that we won a couple of games."

Nelson's career-best 21 points helps UCLA to 3rd win in last 4 games
Associated Press
December 27, 2009

LOS ANGELES, -- Reeves Nelson scored a career-high 21 points and UCLA defeated Delaware State 66-49 Sunday.

The Bruins have won three of their last four games, but their 5-7 record leaves them last in the Pac-10 in nonconference play. UCLA opens its Pac-10 schedule against Arizona State on Thursday at home.

Marcus Neal led the Hornets (4-6) with 15 points.

In what started out as a battle of jump-shooters, the Bruins took over midway through the first half when they started taking the ball inside to Nelson, a 6-foot-8 freshman center.

Lazeric Jones is a UCLA Bruin!!!

photo credit:

UCLA basketball: Bruins land recruit Lazeric Jones
By David Wharton
The Los Angeles Times
December 27, 2009 | 1:24 pm

Lazeric Jones, a junior-college point guard out of Illinois, has committed to UCLA.

Jones is regarded as one of the best juco players at his position in the nation and also has been pursued by Wisconsin. He will help bolster a thin backcourt for the Bruins next season.

On a recent visit to Westwood, Jones appeared enthusiastic about committing but said he wanted to go home and discuss his decision with family before making it official.

UCLA to add JC point guard
By Diamond Leung
December, 27, 2009 6:31PM

Little has gone right for UCLA this season, but the Bruins found out the night after Christmas that more help could be on the way for next year.

Lazeric Jones, a 6-foot-2 sophomore point guard from John A. Logan College in Illinois, said Sunday he has agreed to accept a scholarship offer from Bruins coach Ben Howland and transfer to UCLA.

UCLA already signed high-level recruits in guard Tyler Lamb from Santa Ana, Calif. and center Josh Smith from Kent, Wash.

Considering the Bruins have struggled mightily to replace Darren Collison at point guard, Jones could contribute immediately in 2010.

"They have told me that I will have the opportunity to come in and play a lot and start as long as I come in and work hard," Jones told

"I believe in the next two years the team will become really good. The younger players on the team are very talented and hard-working, so as they mature, they will be very good.

"Next year, I will try to bring hard work and my toughness on both ends of the court."

That's music to Howland's ears.


More on Lazeric Jones, see earlier MUH posts by clicking here.

Game Time! UCLA vs Delaware State today at 1 pm Pacific

UCLA Hosts Delaware State on Dec. 27

The Bruins are 2-0 all-time against the Delaware State Hornets.

The Official UCLA Men's Basketball website
Dec. 26, 2009


DATE: Sunday, Dec. 27, 2009
SITE: Pauley Pavilion (12,819)
TIP-OFF: 1:00 p.m.
TELEVISION: Online only (UCLA All-Access)
TALENT: Chris Roberts (play-by-play) and Don MacLean (analyst)

UCLA senior forward James Keefe suffered a dislocated left shoulder midway through the first half of the Bruins' 100-68 home win over New Mexico State on Dec. 15. His X-rays were negative, but he is slated to be out one more week for strengthening and rehabilitation. It is the same shoulder that Keefe had surgery on in August of 2007 to repair a torn labrum that cost him to miss the first 12 games of the 2007-08 season. He will definitely miss the Delaware State contest on Dec. 27.

This is just the 3rd meeting between the Delaware State Hornets and UCLA with the Bruins leading the series 2-0 with both games being contested in Pauley Pavilion. UCLA posted a 56-37 victory in the last meeting on Nov. 19, 2005. The Bruins defeated the Hornets 109-67 in the first meeting on Dec. 2, 1998. UCLA Head Coach Ben Howland is 1-0 all-time against Delaware State.

UCLA All-Access, UCLA Athletics' online multimedia platform, will carry exclusive online video broadcasts of the UCLA men's basketball game vs. Delaware State. There is no telecast for this contest.

The game against Delaware State this Sunday, December 27 at 1:00 p.m. will be available exclusively on UCLA All-Access. Sunday's game will be part of the subscription package ($9.95 per month).

UCLA All-Access also has live audio coverage all UCLA men's basketball games, along with video from head coach Ben Howland's press conferences.

Click on UCLA All-Access on the front of and then click on "Live Events."

Ryan Hollins: NBA dunk of the night (Dec 26)

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Life as a Bruin for former Rocklin HS basketball star Brendan Lane

Former Rocklin High star Brendan Lane (21) now attacks the basket for the UCLA Bruins. Photo courtesy of Scott Chandler

Life with the Bruins

Lane and UCLA will visit Cal and Stanford in early January

By Russ Edmondson, The Placer Herald
December 24, 2009

Former Rocklin High basketball star Brendan Lane will be coming back to Northern California soon as the UCLA Bruins are set to visit Cal and Stanford.

UCLA will play at the Bears on Jan. 7 (7:30 p.m.) and the Cardinal on Jan. 9 (3 p.m.).

“I’m definitely (looking forward to) coming up north and hopefully a lot friends can come,” said Lane, who also starred in water polo and track and field at Rocklin.

Entering the weekend the 6-foot-9, 205-pound freshman forward had played in eight of the first nine games for the Bruins (3-6).

Lane is averaging 9.1 minutes, 2.4 points and 1.3 rebounds while collecting two blocks and shooting 8-of-15 (.533) from the floor. His minutes started to increase last week because of a shoulder injury to UCLA senior forward James Keefe.

Lane averaged 22.1 points, 12.1 rebounds and 4.8 blocks for the Thunder during his senior season in 2008-09. He played four varsity seasons for Rocklin and the Thunder went 113-16 during that time and advanced deep into the playoffs each year. He was named the MVP of the Sierra Foothill League after his junior and senior seasons.

Lane suffered a high ankle sprain at UCLA, which kept him from practicing in November.

“It set me back a while and for a few weeks I was completely off it,” said Lane, who says he is healthy now. “And getting back in shape was difficult and now I tape it up and wear braces.”

His former basketball coach, Rocklin High varsity coach Steve Taylor, thinks Lane would be playing more now if not for that injury. Taylor stays in contact with Lane on a weekly basis.

“I think him getting injured in the fourth practice, being out two-to-three weeks, was a tough break for him,” Taylor said. “It put him behind as they were getting started and I think he is now feeling better and it’s puzzling to me how he isn’t able to get more playing time on that team with the skills he has and also with his work ethic. He’s being patient.”

“Brendan is such an even keel kid – he says all the right things and I think he probably means him. He’s a little disappointed that he is not playing more but he’s a great kid and a team guy and he’s disappointed that they are losing.”

Lane says he is getting better and he thinks the team can improve.

“We’re bummed (about the record) but we just have to work harder and focus everyday in practice,” said Lane, who turned 19 in November. “Everyday in practice is making me tougher and stronger . . . and I feel like I know the offense really well and the movements

and the whole concepts.”

Thanks to puffdaddy for pointing this story out on the Bruin Zone Basketball message board.

Friday, December 25, 2009

2011 UCLA SF target: Branden Dawson (Gary, IN)

Branden Dawson | SF

Hometown Gary, IN
High School Lew Wallace High School
Height 6'5"
Weight 190 lbs.

Earlier in the year, UCLA offered Dawson a scholarship for 2011. Other schools that had already offered scholies are Georgetown, Indiana, Minnesota and Purdue.

A couple more videos:
One from ESPN Recruiting, click here.
Another from, click here.

UCLA moves early in the year:

UCLA joins the mix for Dawson

* Lew Wallace standout also has offers from IU, Purdue and Arizona.

By David Robb
Post-Tribune staff writer
July 21, 2009

The scholarship Indiana coach Tom Crean offered Branden Dawson earlier this year came packaged with lofty praise.

"He called me a Dwyane Wade look-alike," Dawson said.

The effusive compliments -- and scholarship offers -- just keep pouring in for Lew Wallace's 6-foot-6 junior, whose recruiting stock has soared this summer on the national AAU circuit. Following an AAU tournament in Milwaukee on July 12, Dawson said he received offers from UCLA and Arizona.

"This summer's been great," said Dawson, who also participated in the LeBron James Skills Academy earlier this month. "I got my name out there."

Dawson is fast becoming one of the most coveted juniors in the country. now ranks him the 26th-best prospect in the nation in the Class of 2011.

"He's on fire," said Renaldo Thomas, Dawson's coach last year at Lew Wallace. "He's just having an outstanding summer."

Dawson will weigh his most recent offers with those he has already received from IU, Purdue, Georgetown and Minnesota.

A handful of other high-major schools have also expressed serious interest, including Illinois and Ohio State. Dawson said Buckeyes coach Thad Matta has been trying to get him and his mom to visit campus.

"He's given me a couple calls," Dawson said.

High majors in pursuit of Branden Dawson
by Alex Bozich in Recruiting
May 18th, 2009

Despite reports that he is Purdue’s to lose, Gary Lew Wallace rising junior Branden Dawson isn’t counting out the basketball program in Bloomington.

After a breakout sophomore season in which he averaged 16.7 points, 15.5 rebounds and four assists, the 6-6 Dawson is quickly gaining the attention of several high major programs, including Indiana.

“Indiana has offered,” Dawson said in Assembly Hall at the adidas May Classic. “I love Indiana. I came down here and visited once and I just love the atmosphere. They hustle, they play hard, they never give up. They just keep playing hard.”

Besides IU and Purdue, Dawson holds offers from UCLA, Georgetown and Minnesota. He’s also hearing from Butler, Iowa State, Xavier, Cincinnati and IUPUI.

Dawson hopes to see Bloomington again this summer and it might be in the company of his Lew Wallace teammates.

“My high school coach is trying to come down here for a team camp,” Dawson said. “I want to come, so I hope we make it and come down here and have fun.”

Scouting report: Dawson is long and extremely athletic which makes him a perfect candidate to be an impact player on the wing. He didn’t shoot much from the outside at the adidas May Classic, but he looked good in transition and also hit the boards hard. He’s already a very good prospect and with some work on his defense and ball handling, could become great.

Dawson shows off complete game

by Brian Snow
Dec 23 2009

There are few players in the 2011 class nationally with the versatility of Branden Dawson. The wing player from Gary, Indiana has always been a force on the boards and attacking the rim, but now he is beginning to show off a perimeter game, and that is not a good thing ...

short but sweet. If you want to read more and have money to pay for subscription, click here.

Branden Dawson had a good showing at the recent five-game Michael Clarke Duncan "You Can Do Anything" IPSAC/Midwest Basketball Challenge in Howe, IN over the Christmas eve week. He also made INDYSTAR.COM's 'unofficial' All-Star Second Team for the tournament.

IPSAC/Midwest Basketball Challenge
City teams swept away

By Kyle Neddenriep
Posted: December 23, 2009

Gary Wallace 88, Tech 63 - LaTroy Taylor scored 20 of his game-high 27 points in the second half as Class 3A No. 4 Wallace pulled away.

Highly-sought junior guard Branden Dawson added 21 points for Wallace (5-1) as Purdue coach Matt Painter watched. Dawson has scholarship offers from Georgetown, Indiana, Marquette, Ohio State, Purdue and UCLA.

To continue reading article, click here.

Howe all-tourney team
Posted by Kyle Neddenriep
December 23, 2009

Since there wasn't an "all-tournament" team announced Tuesday at Howe, I'll give you mine. We'll call it the Michael Clarke Duncan/Kyle Neddenriep "You Can Do Anything" IPSAC/Midwest Challenge team. Or not. Here goes:

Second team

Branden Dawson, Gary Wallace: It wasn't Dawson's best shooting game, but he still finished with 21 points and 8 rebounds with Purdue coach Matt Painter watching. He scored 15 points in the first half to help put Tech away. The 6-5 guard makes it happen on the defensive end with his long reach and quickness. He had four steals in the first half.

For the complete All-tournament teams (which includes 2010 UCLA PG target, Ray McCallum, Jr in the first team), click here.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

2010 SF target Terrence Jones (Portland, OR)

Terence Jones
Hometown Portland, OR
High School Jefferson High School
ESPN Position rank Small Forward # 3
Height 6'8"
Weight 219 lbs.

Jefferson (Portland, Ore.) forward Terrence Jones averaged over 24 points last season on his way to a state championship. ESPN RISE Magazine

Face the nation
By Jon Mahoney
ESPN RISE(Archive)
Updated: December 22, 2009, 3:36 PM ET

This story appeared in the Oregon edition of the December ESPN RISE Magazine.

Terrence Jones as the face of Jefferson (Portland, Ore.)? The senior never would've believed it three years ago. But that's what Jefferson boys' basketball coach Pat Strickland now calls Jones, both for how he carries himself off the court and how he carries the Democrats on it.

Jones wasn't exactly heading in that direction as a freshman. School was just a nuisance in the way of his basketball dreams, and he treated it as such. He'd often either show up late for class or ask to be excused in the middle to go to the office, only to never return. Detentions followed, as did poor grades -- he had a 2.0GPA during the first semester.

Practice was no different. Jones thought he could just show up with his awesome natural talent and dominate. Consistent effort wasn't there.

"I was doing just enough to get by," he recalls.

But there was no way Jones was going to keep this up if his family had anything to say about it. His mom, Linda Mashia-Jones, his grandmother, Pearl, and his six aunts and three uncles were always in his ear, letting him know they wouldn't stand for him slacking in the classroom. Same with Strickland, who also warned his young superstar that basketball might not be an option if he kept getting bad grades.

The light bulb finally went on during the middle of Jones' sophomore year, when he realized he needed to get his act together both on and off the court if he wanted to reach stardom.

Jones, now a senior, is the No. 15 recruit in the ESPNU 100. Kelly Kline\ESPN RISE Magazine

"I started working harder in practice and at school," says Jones. "It's what I needed to do to mature and stop acting like a little kid and accept my responsibilities."

"He just really didn't take it serious," adds his mother. "A lot of the boys who play sports seem to think that academics and sports don't go hand in hand. He quickly figured that out as I reminded him every day. Now he says, 'Mom, I got this.'"

In the classroom, he's fulfilled his mom's wishes with a 3.0 GPA. And in hoops, he's become the top player in Oregon and one of the best in the country. The 6-foot-8, 210-pound small forward is rated the nation's No. 15 recruit in the ESPNU 100 and was considering Oklahoma, Washington, Oregon, Kentucky and UCLA at press time.

After seeing little playing time as a freshman, Jones became Jefferson's sixth man in his sophomore year. He showed the results of his newfound effort in practice, playing the majority of every game off the bench and averaging a team-high 17.5 points to go with nine boards and four assists per contest.

Jones saved his best play for the postseason, leading Jefferson (25-1) to the Class 5A state title. His signature moment came in the state quarterfinals against defending champ North Eugene, which starred reigning 5A Player of the Year Brian Conklin (now at St. Louis). North Eugene was essentially playing a home game at Oregon's McArthur Court and the gym was packed.

But none of that mattered to Jones, who hit the game-winning bucket with 0.7 seconds left to break a tie and lift the Demos to a 53-51 win. Strickland says the final play was designed for Jones. He received a pass just outside the 3-point line, drove to the hoop and pulled up at the left elbow. The southpaw banked in the shot and was immediately swarmed by his thrilled teammates. It was sweet satisfaction for Jones, who had been disappointed after scoring only eight points prior to the game-winner.

"I knew I was going to make it," he says. "I was determined to redeem myself for having an OK game when there was that much on the line."

"That's when Terrence Jones arrived," adds Strickland, who's in his second year at the helm after serving as an assistant for 10 seasons.

Last year, Jefferson's repeat hopes were dealt a blow when Terrence Ross, the 2008 Class 5A Player of the Year and now the nation's No. 39 recruit in the ESPNU 100, transferred to Montrose Christian (Rockville, Md.). That meant someone on the Democrats was going to have to step up.

Jones happily obliged, averaging 24.6 points, 13 rebounds, five assists, three blocks and three steals per game to earn Class 5A Player of the Year honors. And he led Jefferson to its second consecutive state title by tallying 27 points, 18 boards and four dimes in the Democrats' 60-44 win over Century.

As the numbers suggest, Jones filled myriad roles for the Democrats.

"He's probably the most versatile player in high school basketball," says Strickland. "He can play all five positions and defend all five positions on the court. A lot of players have one skill set. Terrence excels at every aspect of the game at his age."

Jones prepped for his senior season by guiding his AAU team to the Center Stage Tournament title in Las Vegas. He also competed in the Boost Mobile Elite 24 in New York, where he played on the winning team and made all four of his shots en route to eight points and three boards.

Expectations are high this year for Jones and the Democrats as they checked in at No. 30 in the preseason ESPN RISE FAB 50. Strickland thinks Jones will be up for the challenge and will be even better than he was during his superb junior campaign.

"It just seems like it's unfair," says Strickland, who played at Oregon State. "It kind of brings me back to (former Lake Oswego National Player of the Year) Kevin Love. Whenever Kevin stepped on the court, he was going to get his numbers and win and do so with a dominant performance. I feel the same way about Terrence."

What else would you expect from the face of Jefferson?

video credit: on youtube

video credit: on youtube

For more on Terrence Jones, click here.

Josh Smith won't play in T-Mobile event

Whew! Get well soon, Josh!

Josh Smith won't play in T-Mobile event
Posted by Sandy Ringer
The Seattle Times
December 21, 2009 at 3:51 PM

Kentwood will be without 6-foot-10 star Josh Smith for next week's T-Mobile Invitational in Birmingham, Ala.

The UCLA-bound Smith, who came into the season rated as the No. 1 high-school center in the country by some recruiting services, suffered a partially torn patellar tendon in his right knee two weeks ago.

Jo Anne Daughtry, Kentwood athletic director, said she received a phone call this morning from Tracey Smith, Josh's mother, informing her that Josh had been back to his doctor and that he has not been cleared to play. He will be reassessed in another two weeks.

Daughtry then informed organizers of the T-Mobile event that Smith will not be able to play. He is making the trip with the team, however.

Kentwood has lost its past two games without Smith, who averaged better than 24 points per game as a junior. Last Friday, Smith said he expected to begin practicing this week and planned to be able to play in Birmingham.

Thanks to WoodinvilleBruin for tracking Josh Smith's status on the Bruin Zone Basketball message board.

UCLA 2010 PG target, Ray McCallum dominates Midwest Basketball Challenge; 2011 target SF Branden Dawson plays well

updated Dec 25 2009 5:34 am Pacific

Scott Stewart\ESPN RISE Magazine

both videos from on youtube

Prep hoops changing tradition
By Reggie Hayes
of The Fort Wayne News-Sentinel (Indiana)
December 23 2009

INDIANAPOLIS - Indiana high school basketball remains as strong as ever, but it's no longer your father's hoop dreams.

It's more like your blogger's hoop dreams.

The continual blurring of the lines between summer ball and winter ball was on perfect display Tuesday at Indianapolis Howe High School. The marquee matchup of a day's worth of games came when Detroit Country Day beat Bishop Luers 93-77 in the nightcap of the Midwest Basketball Challenge. The event was sponsored by something called Natural Talent Scouting, of course.

These teams met for two reasons: Detroit Country Day's Ray McCallum and Luers' Deshaun Thomas, two of the best prep players in the country.

And the people got their $10 worth. McCallum scored 34 points with a variety of athletic moves, court savvy and overflowing confidence. Thomas, shut down early, finished with a flurry. He scored 34, too, with 18 in the final eight minutes.

The result means nothing in official high school standings. But the game demonstrated how high school basketball knows no geographical boundaries.

I'm fine with this. The modern prep hoops landscape hardly resembles the game of my youth, when a big trip was across county lines. But it's perfect for the ESPN-addicted, online-driven generation.

“If you have a marquee player like Deshaun, everybody wants a piece of you,” Luers coach James Blackmon said. “If we get an opportunity to play these types of games, you can learn a lot from it. It's a good experience to play talented teams going back to our conference.”

Luers is the epitome of a team living in dual hoops worlds. On one hand, the Knights are traveling the local road, fighting for a Summit Athletic Conference title and prepping for what could be a third straight Class 2A state title run.

On the other hand, Luers plays four big-time games beyond its backyard. The first was Tuesday night, the next three are Jan.23 against Columbus (Ohio) Northland at Ohio State, Jan. 30 at Bowman Academy in Indianapolis and Feb. 6 at Lawrence North. The game at Ohio State is a nod to Thomas' plans to play his college basketball in Columbus. The Lawrence North game will be televised live on ESPN as part of its national prep showcase.

“It's exciting,” Luers point guard Kenny Mullen said. “Deshaun always draws attention no matter where he goes. But when we go to these places, other players step up and it opens up attention for us.”

Mullen made the most of Tuesday's game, which will be rebroadcast on WHMB on Friday night. Mullen scored 22 points and spent much of the game trying to check McCallum, which was no easy feat.

McCallum, whose father, also named Ray, was one of the greatest players in Ball State history, had a height advantage on Mullen (6-foot-1 to 5-9), and he's more advanced as a player. But he's also a year older. Fittingly enough, the two played on the same AAU team when McCallum was a freshman and Mullen an eighth-grader.

“He was a great player back then and he's much better this year,” Mullen said. “He rose to the occasion. That's what a great player has to do every game.”

Luers looked shellshocked early in the game, as Detroit Country Day bolted to a 15-2 lead in the first four minutes. Thomas was boxed in by a combination of 6-4 guard Kenny Knight and 6-10 center Amir Williams. They held him scoreless until a three-pointer late in the first quarter.

The double team continued until Thomas forced Williams into foul trouble and some breathing room appeared.

“That's every game,” Thomas said. “Putting up big numbers and playing well, I'm going to see those double and triple teams. I just have to stay focused and keep my head. Back in the day, I'd have been throwing my jersey over my head and this and that. I'm keeping my composure and using my teammates now.”

The attention on Thomas - from opponents and from the media - shows no signs of slowing. Luers has embraced the curiosity as part of the new landscape of high school hoops.

The wide-ranging schedule comes with a cost. Detroit Country Day was too deep with talent and McCallum was the best player on the court. He scored from long range, he scored in transition with some crowd-pleasing dunks and he even rose among the trees for offensive put-backs. There was never a doubt over which team was in control.

“They came out ready to play; we came out a little sluggish,” Thomas said. “Ray McCallum played to the hype, that's what he did.”

Thomas and Luers will have more chances to “play to the hype” this season. That's how the best players, and best teams, operate in today's Indiana hoops scene.

It's decidedly nontraditional, and well worth watching.

Late start but quick end for Luers in showdown
Greg Jones, High school sports editor (Fort Wayne, IN)
Published: December 23, 2009 3:00 a.m.

INDIANAPOLIS – Bishop Luers waited and waited Tuesday for the start of the anticipated matchup against Detroit Country Day.

Then the Knights waited some more.

The game finally started almost an hour after the previous game ended.

The wait was worse for Luers as the Yellowjackets rode a quick start to a 93-77 win in the finale of the Midwest Basketball Challenge at Indianapolis Howe.

Just as in past big games against Chicago Curie and Lawrence North, the Class 2A No. 2 Knights (2-2) found themselves down quickly and by a lot.

The Yellowjackets led 18-4 midway through the first quarter.

“Getting off the long bus ride and sitting around wondering what time we were going to play was a long process of not knowing,” said Luers junior Kenny Mullen, who had 22 points. “Coming out of the gate, we should have come out a lot faster because they came out fast, and we couldn’t match their intensity.”

In the individual matchup, Country Day’s Ray McCallum Jr. and Deshaun Thomas both scored 34 points. The difference was McCallum’s points came early when the Yellowjackets (5-0) were getting off to their hot start.

Facing double and triple teams, Thomas scored 18 of his points in the fourth quarter when the game was pretty much decided.

“We came out sluggish, and they came out hyped and ready,” Thomas said. “They were ready for the game. Ray tried to play to the hype, and that’s what we did.”

Thomas, also had 11 rebounds and had to deal with 6-foot-10 Amir Williams most of the game.

“It wasn’t any kind of pressure,” Thomas said of the individual matchup against McCallum, a former AAU teammate. “I am going to see those double and triple teams. I just need to stay focused. Back in the day, I would have thrown my jersey over my head.”

McCallum made 14 of 21 shots from the field and sat out the last few minutes of the fourth. The son of Ray McCallum, Detroit Mercy head coach – and former Ball State coach and IU assistant – had the speed and athletic ability unseen by the Knights.

Country Day sealed the game with a 10-0 run in the third quarter.

“They went on a run in the third quarter before we even woke up,” Luers coach James Blackmon said. “I don’t think it is anything they did defensively; I just don’t think we matched their intensity at the beginning of the ballgame.”

McCallum had 16 points and six rebounds in the first half, while Thomas had 10 points and six rebounds.

Thomas struggled early on, missing his first three shots, and didn’t score in the opening quarter until a three-pointer with 25 seconds left.

The Ohio State recruit also had a couple of turnovers and two goaltending calls.

The Knights trimmed the margin to 31-25 in the second, but Country Day extended the lead to 47-32 by halftime.

IPSAC/Midwest Basketball Challenge
City teams swept away

Former Hoosier prep standout returns to lead Detroit Country Day

By Kyle Neddenriep
Posted: December 23, 2009

Deshaun Thomas stayed on track to break the state's all-time scoring record, but a former Hoosier prep star stole the show Tuesday night at Howe High School.

Former Bloomington North standout Ray McCallum had 34 points, nine rebounds and seven assists as Detroit Country Day defeated Fort Wayne Bishop Luers 93-77 in the finale of the five-game Michael Clarke Duncan "You Can Do Anything" IPSAC/Midwest Basketball Challenge.

"I've been looking forward to this game for a while," said McCallum, a 6-1 senior who is considering scholarship offers from Arizona, Detroit, Florida and UCLA. "I used to play with Deshaun in AAU ball, so it was fun to play against him. He's a great player and it was fun to show my game off against the best."

Thomas matched McCallum's 34 points, bringing him within 736 of Damon Bailey's career mark of 3,134. But the 6-7 Ohio State recruit scored only 10 in the first half as Country Day (5-0) built a 15-point halftime lead.

McCallum was the difference, scoring 16 points in the first half.

"Ray looked the same as I remember him," Thomas said. "He's bouncy and quick and never gets tired. They have good guard play."

McCallum moved to Detroit prior to his junior year when his father, former Indiana assistant Ray McCallum, was named coach at the University of Detroit.

Kenny Mullen added 22 points for Luers (2-2), the two-time defending Class 2A champions.


Gary Wallace 88, Tech 63 - LaTroy Taylor scored 20 of his game-high 27 points in the second half as Class 3A No. 4 Wallace pulled away.

Highly-sought junior guard Branden Dawson added 21 points for Wallace (5-1) as Purdue coach Matt Painter watched. Dawson has scholarship offers from Georgetown, Indiana, Marquette, Ohio State, Purdue and UCLA.

To continue reading article, click here.

Howe all-tourney team
Posted by Kyle Neddenriep
December 23, 2009

Since there wasn't an "all-tournament" team announced Tuesday at Howe, I'll give you mine. We'll call it the Michael Clarke Duncan/Kyle Neddenriep "You Can Do Anything" IPSAC/Midwest Challenge team. Or not. Here goes:

First team

MVP - Ray McCallum, Detroit Country Day: The 6-1 senior guard stole the spotlight in the matchup against Fort Wayne Luers and standout Deshaun Thomas. Granted, McCallum has a better team around him than Thomas, but he played almost flawlessly in a 93-77 win. He finished with 34 points, 9 rebounds and 7 assists and really controlled the game throughout. McCallum said he's considering Arizona, Detroit (where his father is the coach), Florida and UCLA. He had a couple of impressive dunks, but maybe his best play came when he scored over Thomas and drew a foul in the fourth quarter.

Second team

Branden Dawson, Gary Wallace: It wasn't Dawson's best shooting game, but he still finished with 21 points and 8 rebounds with Purdue coach Matt Painter watching. He scored 15 points in the first half to help put Tech away. The 6-5 guard makes it happen on the defensive end with his long reach and quickness. He had four steals in the first half.

For the complete All-tournament teams, click here.

DCD duo share the love
By Christopher Parish
ESPN RISE(Archive)
Updated: December 21, 2009, 2:50 PM ET

Ray McCallum and Madison Williams are just a part of the elite hoops community at Detroit Country Day (Beverly Hills, Mich.).

This story appeared in the Greater Detroit edition of the December ESPN RISE Magazine.

Ray McCallum isn't shy about telling people how good Madison Williams is at basketball. And one key element is really all they need to know.

"Maddy can dunk," McCallum says. "What else can you ask for? That says it all."

It was actually a secret for a while. Only a select few of her Detroit Country Day (Beverly Hills, Mich.) teammates -- and McCallum -- knew the 6-foot-7 Williams could fly above the rim. Last year, she let girls' basketball coach Frank Orlando in on the surprise.

"One day toward the end of practice, I was kind of kidding around with her and I said, 'Madison, you can't dunk,'" Orlando recalls. "So I challenged her. I said that if she could dunk, we wouldn't run any sprints at the end of the practice. So she took the ball, jumped from the free-throw line and jammed it like a pro."

Williams didn't mind showing off her hidden talent during the closed-door practice, but she's never done it in a game.

"I've never had that urge to dunk on someone and embarrass them," she says. But McCallum is itching for her to give it a shot. "I want her to dunk more," he says. "I'm going to push her every day."

You can count on that. At Detroit Country Day, McCallum's boys' team and Williams' girls' team are extremely competitive with each other. But they're also among the most tight-knit and successful clubs in Michigan.

Rated the nation's No. 100 player in the ESPNU HoopGurlz 100, Williams is a Michigan State-bound senior center whose recruiting stock soared after a remarkable effort in last year's Class B state title game triumph -- 11 points, 11 rebounds and 11 blocks. McCallum, the son of University of Detroit head coach Ray McCallum Sr., is the nation's No. 36 recruit in the ESPNU 100 and is being courted by numerous Division I programs -- including his dad's school.

The 6-foot-2 senior point guard came to the Yellow Jackets from Bloomington North in Indiana after his father left his assistant coaching gig with the Hoosiers to accept the head coaching position at Detroit.

Williams heard plenty of hype about McCallum before he arrived, and it didn't take him long to live up to it. "When I heard we were getting this new kid, I heard about how good he was," she says. "When he got here, it was so true."

You may have noticed Williams says "we" in reference to the boys' basketball team. McCallum wasn't coming to play for the girls' team, after all. But the boys' and girls' players don't think of their respective squads as separate entities; they look at the two programs as one.

"We don't have big student crowds, but you can almost always guarantee you'll see eight or 10 kids from the boys' team at the girls' game," says boys' basketball coach Kurt Keener. "Their hopes and dreams are the same, and it's not uncommon to see them working out together."

McCallum and Williams got to know each other last season as their teams shared space in the weight room during lifting sessions and space on the court during open gyms.

"She's one of my best friends now," McCallum says. "We're all real close with the girls' team. It's a close family. They've won back-to-back state championships, so we have a respect for them. What [Williams] did in the state championship game last year was unreal."

McCallum refers to the triple-double the way many others do -- as an example of Williams' dominance. In the game, which was against Grand Rapids C.C., Williams got off to a tough start. "She actually told a reporter that she felt she was letting the team down," Orlando says. "It inspired her to raise her game to another level."

Williams says she wasn't even the best player on the floor that night and defers credit for the team's 50-40 win to former teammate and current Illinois freshman Amber Moore. But it's hard to mention Williams' abilities without referencing the game, and vice versa.

"I think she had all 11 of her blocked shots in the fourth quarter," Keener says. "Both Ray and Madison are intense, intense competitors. They just love to win. Or maybe they both hate to lose."

When McCallum arrived at Detroit Country Day, he immediately flashed that intensity in addition to his natural talent.

"It was clear right away that he would be our starter (at the point)," Keener says. "I was impressed with his ability to control the game, to run and deliver the ball without having an absolute clue what our offense was. I was blown away by his physical tools."

McCallum averaged 16.9 points and 5.3 assists per game last winter, helping the Yellow Jackets advance to the Class B state quarterfinals.

"He's just got so much athleticism," Williams says. "But he's very humble. He does what he has to do, and he doesn't talk about it."

Williams is a similarly grounded student-athlete. "She's very loyal to the school and to the team," Orlando says. "She's one of the kindest players I have coached in my 42 years here."

Williams and McCallum have a lot in common, but one way they differ is in their future goals. Williams chose Michigan State less for its basketball program and more for its academics because she hopes to become a doctor. McCallum, who had not made a college decision at press time, has a different mindset. For him, college is a stepping stone for the pros. "My goal is to make it to the NBA," he says.

But before he achieves that dream, he has two short-term goals. The first is to win a state title. The second is to get Williams to dunk in a game. And she seems to be slowly coming around to the idea.

"Maybe if I get a fast break or something, I'll do it," Williams says. "I'll do it for the crowd."

No doubt McCallum will be in the stands cheering her on.

For more on Ray McCallum Jr, click here.