Saturday, March 24, 2012

Tony Parker's inner circle

Kudos to Puffdaddy for posting this Tony Parker article on BZ.

Tony Parker's inner circle

The heavily recruited senior turns to family, friends and his coach for advice

By Jason Jordan
Updated: March 23, 2012, 6:36 PM ET

Ty Freeman/ESPNHS Tony Parker and his parents, Virgil and Hazel, let ESPNHS be a fly on the wall as the prized recruit, his family, friends and coach candidly debated where he should go to college.

LITHONIA, Ga. -- Woodstone Road sits roughly 25 miles west of the pop and glamour of Atlanta, but it might as well be clear across the country. It's quiet and homely. It's one of those roads you've got to know is there in order not to miss.

Midway down the road, at the top of a steep hill, sits a two-story, brick-lined house with a well-manicured lawn. It's at this house where a meeting of the minds will ensue. Where Tony Parker, a senior forward at Miller Grove (Lithonia, Ga.), has summoned the help of his inner circle to weigh the pros and cons of his college suitors -- UCLA, Memphis, Duke, Ohio State, Kansas, Georgetown and Georgia.



The meeting is vital on so many different levels.

Parker is a McDonald's and Jordan Brand All-American who could change the fate of any school he chooses.

As one college assistant from a top-10 school put it, "Tony could mean the difference between the Sweet 16 and the national championship."

"I've never looked at it like that," Parker said. "That's kinda crazy. The roundtable just got more crazy, huh?"

March 16, Pre-Roundtable

At 8 a.m., Parker's oozing with so much energy you'd swear he'd just downed a case of Red Bull as he rides shotgun on his way to school.

He has just finished a grueling two-hour workout with his trainer, Kevin Peoples, that's got him ramped up for the day.

"I've got to go somewhere that has a crazy trainer like KP," Parker said. "That's one of the things I love about Kansas. I love Hudy."

Ty Freeman/ESPNHS As intense as the recruiting process can get, Parker remains relaxed with his family and friends.

Andrea Hudy is the assistant athletic director for sports performance at Kansas and trains the Jayhawks' men's basketball team.

Hudy also trained eight national championship teams at Connecticut, where she worked for 9½ years before joining Kansas in 2004.

"She's a monster," Parker said. "She'll get you where you need to be. Kansas has a lot of things I like. They love me there."

He gets the same adoration at Miller Grove.

As soon as he steps onto campus it's clear that Parker is in his element.

Here's a guy who wears a brown and gold Louis Vuitton belt with a matching wallet that's attached to his belt buckle and dangles to the side.

Parker wasn't in school three minutes before a school administrator asked him to autograph her newspaper clipping of the Wolverines' fourth-straight state title win, a feat they accomplished just six days prior. Parker averaged 18 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks a game this season for the Wolverines.

"He thinks he's got swag," joked the school's police officer. "But he ain't got no swag. Well, maybe a little."

Dripping with swag or not, what Parker does have is an infectious personality.

At 6-foot-9, 275 pounds, Parker may look the part of a ferocious nightclub bouncer, but the reality is more Teddy Ruxpin than Mr. T.

Parker's bubbly and charismatic, engaging and funny, and has the innate ability to make everyone think he's their best friend.

In the hallways between classes, guys give him pounds, girls smile and wave, and teachers hang on to his every word.

Parker relishes the attention.

He doesn't need it, but it's clear that he'd rather have it than not.

"The funny thing is when people I don't even know give me nicknames like 'T' or 'TP,'" Parker said with a laugh. "I think to myself 'I don't even know you,' but I would never say something like that. Couldn't embarrass them."

The prevailing question amongst the student body is a cliché one.

"Where are you going to school, Tony?" one girl asked.

Parker takes it in stride.

He smiles and shrugs before saying, "I'll know more tonight."

Suddenly, Parker's old social studies teacher Cherie Pinchem steps into the hallway and issues a threat.

"If you choose Ohio State, I'll have to beat you down," said Pinchem, who graduated from Michigan in 1994. "I just can't even think about you picking that school."

"Wow, it's like that?" Parker asked. "I'm weighing it all out tonight, Ms. Pinchem. I do like the Buckeyes, though. Can't lie. Still love ya though."

Tony Parker's inner circle
Ty Freeman/ESPNHS Miller Grove coach Sharman White says Tony Parker will play wherever he goes.
She rolls her eyes. Parker laughs and walks to his coach Sharman White's office.

Parker gave White the nickname "Elvis" after the Wolverines won their fourth state title.

"Elvis was the greatest to ever do it," Parker explained. "And Coach White is the Elvis of high school basketball coaches."

White shakes his head and laughs.

"This guy is crazy," White said. "Tony, you know [Georgia] coach [Mark] Fox has been trying to get in touch with you."

"Yeah?" Tony said. "I need to call him back. I would have last night, but I was talking to [Duke] coach [Mike] Krzyzewski. That was a good talk."

White calls Fox and hands Parker the phone. They make small talk for five minutes and Parker hangs up.

"Coach Fox be on it," Parker said. "He goes hard. Gotta respect that."

Parker walks around and looks at the press clippings plastered all over White's office. He talks about the agonizing nerves that torment him before big games to the point of insomnia.

Then Parker pauses.

He slumps down on the maroon couch on the back wall and stares blankly up at the ceiling almost in a trance.

"You know the only thing that I'm more nervous about," Parker said. "Picking the wrong school."

"I know, I know," White said. "It's something that I think about too. We'll talk it out tonight. We'll put it all out there."

Parker nods, but remains in a daze. He continues to stare blankly as if he's deep in thought.

"Yep," he said. "Tonight. Tonight."

Roundtable Commences

The gloomy overcast has forced the sun into hiding on this breezy evening, but the grim weather has done little to subdue the mood in the Parker house.

A small crowd of 11, including family members, White and friends, stirs about waiting on Parker to shower up after his second workout of the day.

The house is immaculate and Hazel, Parker's mother, keeps it that way. Still, the vibe is inviting. The Parkers don't enact the "shoes off at the door" rule; it's come as you are.

Tony Parker's inner circle
Ty Freeman/ESPNHS Parker's choices are narrowed to UCLA, Memphis, Duke, Ohio State, Kansas, Georgetown and Georgia.
The aroma of Hazel's baked chicken wings snakes through the house, enticing everyone while Virgil, Parker's father, lightens the mood with his dry sense of humor.

African art hangs on the walls, board games are neatly displayed in front of the fireplace and seven sheets of paper with the logo of each team that he's considering are taped to the shiny wooden piano.

The men lounge on the brown leather couches and debate whether Kentucky "will realize they're a bunch of freshmen" as they watch the NCAA tournament while the women reminisce about old times at the dinner table over a game of cards.

"Tony was so chubby when he was 10, that he literally got stuck in the slide at Chuck E. Cheese," Parker's godmother, Malissa Hayes-White, recalled. "They literally had to kick him down the slide."

Hazel and Linda Colvin, Parker's best friend's mom, tear up in laughter.

The doorbell rings.

It's Dion Glover, the former Georgia Tech star who played six seasons in the NBA with the Atlanta Hawks, Toronto Raptors and San Antonio Spurs.

Glover is Parker's basketball trainer and the beeline he makes for Hazel's wings and the manner in which he scarfs them down before he even makes it to his seat make it very obvious that he's a part of the family.

When the conversation turns random, Virgil knows the time has come.

"All right guys," he said. "Let's do it."

Parker's anxious to start.

He glances over at the sheets of paper taped to the piano and says, "Let's start with Georgetown."

The pros are as expected for the Hoyas and even Memphis, the next school they discuss.

Parker's sister Kelsey loves the fact that Georgetown is in Washington, D.C. Hazel loves the academic reputation at both schools, but Chris Colvin, Parker's best friend's dad, has some concerns about Parker in the Princeton offense.

"I don't know if I like Tony hitting the backdoor cutter all the time," Chris said.

The men nod and discuss. "OK, Ohio State," Parker said.

Ty Freeman/ESPNHS Parker drove home all of his points with specific examples all night.
Hazel starts with how impressed she is with the academic reputation there, but adds that "it's really far and really cold there. Beautiful school, but it's far and cold."

The women start a small conversation to discuss those points before Virgil shakes his head and interrupts with "OK, well if we're done with that unimportant stuff, maybe we can talk about the basketball side of things now?"

The group laughs.

Parker likes the Buckeyes' pitch that he could come in and be the next Jared Sullinger, he likes the coaching staff and loves that "the fans are crazy."

The only thing that gives him pause is the focus on Sullinger dropping weight. He's dropped 16 pounds since last season.

To be fair, Sullinger's numbers are almost identical to last season -- 17.4 points, 9.1 rebounds -- but his stock has dropped in most mock drafts from projected top-five pick last season to late lottery this season.

"He's still the man, but I think that weight helped him," Parker said of Sullinger. "You don't see [Glen] 'Big Baby' [Davis] or DeJuan Blair losing weight do you? That's what makes them effective."

Just when the group begins to give him props for making a good point, Parker finds a way to make his own physique be the segue into the discussion about UCLA.

"And that's why I don't know how much more weight I'd want to lose," Parker continued. "I mean I've got to think about my career as an underwear model if I'm out in L.A."

The group bursts into laughter. Virgil shoots him an incredulous squint and shakes his head.

"Well, I'll tell you right now," Virgil said. "If you go there, we're probably going to be asleep when you're playing."

The group nods almost simultaneously.

Kelsey brings up the Sports Illustrated article which depicted UCLA as an out-of-control program in utter chaos.

"Man, that article was corny," Parker said. "It was mostly about Reeves [Nelson] who caused most of the problems, but he's not even there anymore. Doesn't hold weight with me at all."

"OK, but what about you being homesick?" Hazel asked.

"I'd manage, Mom," Parker responded with a laugh.

Hazel's not so sure. Virgil neither.

Ty Freeman/ESPNHS Chris Colvin, left, Parker's best friend's dad, and Dion Glover, his basketball trainer, listen intently as Parker shares his thoughts.
Parker knows why.

He laughs and throws his head back before saying, "Y'all just want to be able to come visit all the time. That's the thing."

Virgil disagrees, but Parker cuts him off and drives home his point with the backing of Linda and Hayes-White.

Virgil won't concede, but for a split second flashes an incriminating grin before Glover offers his two cents.

"I just think that would be the best fit for Tony based on the things he wants to accomplish," Glover said. "It's got nothing to do with the fact that Korey [McCray] is my best friend. I'm totally unbiased."

McCray, Parker's primary recruiter, and Glover won a state title together at Cedar Grove High School in 1997. UCLA hired McCray as an assistant last June after he served as CEO of the Atlanta Celtics, one of the most prestigious AAU teams in the country, which produced NBA stars like Dwight Howard, Amar'e Stoudemire and Joe Johnson.

"Plus they're bringing in Kyle [Anderson] and they've got a good chance to get Shabazz [Muhammad]," Parker said. "That's big!"

A hush falls over the room.

They all know Parker's got a point there. Even the women who admittedly "don't know much about basketball" have heard of them.

It makes sense. After all, Anderson and Muhammad are both top-five recruits. Parker is ranked No. 21 in the ESPNU 100.

"Plus they've got the best campus in the country," Parker continued. "It's just so ..."

"Far!" Hazel interrupted. "But it's your decision. I trust you."

She means it, but it's obvious that she wants him closer to home. It's the maternal side seeping through.

That's painfully evident when Parker says, "OK, let's talk Georgia."

Hazel smiles, sits up on the couch and makes an enticing offer.

"I could do your laundry all the time," she said.

Tony Parker's inner circle
Ty Freeman/ESPNHS Parker's father, Virgil, made good points all night while Parker researched on his phone.
Virgil turns in disbelief.

"You would really do that boy's laundry?" he asked.

"Yes!" Hazel said. "And I really like Coach Fox."

Parker isn't opposed to the idea of staying home and bringing the Bulldogs back to national prominence. Plus they've already got his former teammate Donte' Williams on the roster and are bringing in his current teammate Brandon Morris.

Still, Parker has concerns about the lack of fanfare at home games and the fact that it may be too close to home.

"You really think we're that excited to come see you all the time, huh," Virgil joked. "Trust me we wouldn't be seeing you all that much. We've got lives."

It's obvious that the group isn't buying it.

"Well, as a Tech man I think you should probably just tear that Georgia sheet of paper up altogether," Dion interjected. "I can't even stand looking at it."

"You hate them that much, Dion?" Virgil asked.

Glover goes on to tell the story about how he would've chosen Georgia had Tubby Smith still been the coach, but opted for the Yellow Jackets when Smith left.

"So if you were going to go there," Virgil said. "Why do you hate them then?"

"Simple," Glover said. "When I got to Tech, they told me to hate 'em."

Virgil laughs and Parker smiles and shakes his head.

"On that note," Parker said. "Let's talk Kansas."

It's obvious that Parker is high on the Jayhawks; he's like a kid reeling off his wish list for Christmas. It's almost as if he has rehearsed this spiel on what he likes about them.

He talks about the offensive sets, his love for all things Andrea Hudy, the focus on getting the ball inside and then there are the fans.

"They're insane," Parker said. "Being at the game there was indescribable."

"Atmosphere isn't something that would impress me," Hazel said.

"This isn't an atmosphere," Parker said. "This place is like a cult or a religion."

For the first time in the discussion, Virgil gets excited.

He visited Kansas with Parker on Feb. 25 for the Jayhawks' nail-biting 87-86 win over Missouri.

"I've got to agree with him on that," Virgil said. "I'm not even that kind of fan, but that place draws you in. I was up slapping hands with dudes I didn't know. I was into that place."

Still, the Jayhawks have things working against them.

There is some concern with the logjam of Kansas' five-man 2012 recruiting class, which includes three post players.

"It's something you've got to look at," White said. "But Tony's a guy who won't need to worry about playing time wherever he goes, so that shouldn't be as big a factor."

Ty Freeman/ESPNHS Parker was well-prepared to discuss the pros and cons of each school.
"It's not that big a deal to me," Parker said. "But you've got to consider it. OK, Mom, now we can talk about the school you've been waiting to say all night."

Hazel smiles and says, "Duke. Yes, Duke. Well, you know I like Duke, Tony."

"Well, I don't know much about basketball," said Parker's cousin Jamila Holmes. "But I know you should be going there. Duke is my team!"

Parker seems eager to dispel the notion that he's not interested in Duke. He thinks that people have what he sees as legitimate concerns confused with "typical Duke hate."

It's obvious that Parker is very impressed with Coach K. He raves about him. Even refers to him as the "best coach in the country."

His chief concern is one that Parker says "everyone thinks."

"Just the development of their big men is something that concerns me," Parker said. "People think I hate Duke. That's crazy. Love Duke, it's just something I have to factor in."

Parker has thought about this extensively.

He reels off a list of names of supposed "can't miss" prospects in high school who never lived up to the hype in Durham, N.C.

Names like Shavlik Randolph, Lance Thomas, Josh McRoberts and "even Mason Plumlee."

"Mason was a monster in high school," Parker said. "Don't get me wrong, he's really good now, but I thought he would be much further along."

"What about Chris Burgess," Glover said.

Burgess was a 6-foot-11 center from Woodbridge, Calif., who was widely regarded as the No. 1 player in the 1997 class over players like Glover, Elton Brand, Baron Davis, Lamar Odom and Tracy McGrady.

After two dismal seasons at Duke, Burgess transferred to Utah and ended up overseas.

"I just don't see Tony as a guy who slaps the floor and takes charges," Glover said while hopping out of his seat and simulating Duke's famous floor-slapping maneuver. "I can't see that."

Everyone laughs. Everyone but Virgil.

He's convinced that, of all the schools on Parker's list, Duke needs him the most.

"Tony in a Duke uniform means he's somewhere that he's depended on every night," Virgil said. "If that's not a selling point, especially at a school like Duke, I don't know what is."

"Yes, and their academic reputation is great," Hazel added.

"That's true," White said. "And Coach K is a powerful man. Very powerful."

Parker concedes, but seems a bit frustrated. He doesn't think they're putting enough stock into the lack of development in the paint at Duke.

Karen Gibbs sees his point. Gibbs is the mother of Parker's girlfriend, Destinie, and a close family friend.

Parker talks about Destinie all the time.

To hear him tell it, waiting on him to ask her out two years ago, "was the hardest work Destinie's ever done."

"I see what you're saying, Tony," Gibbs said. "You want to make sure they're going to use you the correct way, right?"

"Exactly," Parker said. "I really like Duke. I just can't honestly say that I'm 100 percent comfortable with a guard teaching me about the post. Coach [Steve] Wojciechowski is like 5-foot-6."

"Well, I'm only 5-foot-11, Tony and -- " Virgil said.

"And you're the worst big-man coach in America," Parker joked.

Tony Parker
Ty Freeman/ESPNHS Tony Parker knows he has an important decision to make.
The room erupts into laughter. Even Virgil fails miserably in his attempt to keep a straight face on that gem.

When the laughter subsides, Virgil turns serious, catches eyes with Parker, points at him and continues, "If you don't remember anything else, remember this," he said. "Go where you're needed. Forget about how whatever school used other guys. You're Tony Parker. You're going to get the ball. You're going to produce. That said, I support you 100 percent. We all do."

"I know, I know," Parker said. "It's a good point. It's a good point. I appreciate y'all."

Parker's Next Move

The den is empty.

There are no more chairs forming an imperfect circle, no more laughter to the point of tears, no more heated debates about defaming articles or mild complaints about the Pacific time zone.

Now it's just Parker and his thoughts.

He droops down on the brown leather couch, rubs both sides of his head and lets out a deep sigh.

A normally carefree kid whose God-given abilities have forced him into a situation that's anything but.

His vibe is serious. He's not the resident "fun guy" now. He's not "Tony Parker."

The knee-jerk reaction is to pity him. You almost want to take away the stress and get him back to his goofy self.

And then, almost suddenly, an epiphany.

"This talk, it's something that I needed," Parker said. "I didn't want to hear all of it, but, if I'm keepin' it real, I needed to. It's all about the decision now, and I'm close. Might even know. Might even know."

Soon everyone else will too.

Muhammad, Parker to Announce By April 11

    Tony Parker, Photo:

Muhammad, Parker to Announce By April 11

By Adam Zagoria
March 24, 2012, 4:06PM

BOSTON -- The college basketball recruiting picture will become a whole lot clearer by April 11.

Shabazz Muhammad and Tony Parker, two of the top uncommitted players in the Class of 2012, are set to announce on back-to-back days, April 10 and 11.

    Shabazz Muhammad

The 6-foot-6 Muhammad is reportedly planning to announce on the 10th and the 6-foot-9 Parker will announce “at his school [Miller Grove] on the 11th,” his father, Virgil, told Saturday.

Virgil had previously said his son would announce at next week’s McDonald’s All-American Game in Chicago, where Muhammad will also play.

Parker is considering UCLA, Kansas, Duke, Ohio State, Memphis and Georgia.

Asked if his son had already decided, Virgil said, “Not yet but he is getting there.”

UCLA remains the clubhouse leader for Muhammad, whose parents are from Los Angeles.

Muhammad is also considering Kentucky, Kansas, Duke and UNLV.

It remains unclear whether Muhammad will take an official visit to UCLA prior to announcing. His father, Ron Holmes, had initially told he would, but then realized the weekend he had in mind conflicted with the Nike Hoop Summit.

Still, Muhammad has been to the UCLA campus on many occasions and probably doesn’t need to see it again.

One of UCLA’s main recruiting draws for both Parker and Muhammad remains 6-9 point guard Kyle Anderson, who has been compared to Magic Johnson and recently completed his two-year St. Anthony career with back-to-back New Jersey Tournament of Champions titles and a 65-0 record.

“I think that UCLA is definitely high on the list,” Virgil Parker previously told “Those kids have competed against each other for a long time.”

Said Ron Holmes: “It would be very appealing for [Shabazz] to play with Kyle, if Tony comes in, and you got Jordan Adams. It’s a strong freshmen class coming in, so that makes it appealing.’

Anderson will be with both players next week at the Mickey D’s game and last week he told that UCLA could be “Final Four good” if Muhammad joins him in Westwood.

“I’m excited for the McDonald’s Game, but with Tony and Shabazz, I’m just going to let them live the moment because it’s a great process to be a part of for those two kids,” Anderson previously told

“I’m not gonna pressure them to go to UCLA with me, I’m gonna put it in their head, but it’s up to them. It’s a decision I want them to be happy with.”

Kevin and Russell go for career highs, Kevin wins 51-45


Thunder survive Love's 51, outlast Wolves in 2OT

Posted Mar 24 2012 1:12AM

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) When Kevin Love drilled the most dramatic of his career-high seven 3-pointers during his first 50-point game over Russell Westbrook, he gave his former UCLA buddy a good ribbing.

At the end of the night, it was Westbrook who got the win.

Westbrook scored a career-best 45 points, Kevin Durant added 40 points and a season-high 17 rebounds and the Oklahoma City Thunder overcame Love's franchise-record 51 points to beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 149-140 in double-overtime Friday night.

"There's a lot of great performances throughout this game but the good thing about it was our team victory," Westbrook said.

Westbrook set the tone in the second overtime, stealing the ball on Minnesota's opening possession and racing to the other end for a layup that resulted in a three-point play.

The West-leading Thunder never trailed in the period and put it away with nine straight points after Nick Collison blocked Love's shot that would have tied it at 140.

Westbrook and Durant became the first tandem in NBA history to have two games in the same season with 40 points apiece.

"That's going to be a game that's going to be played for a while now," Durant said. "It was fun to be a part of. ... We made some big plays. Guys trusted each other and that's what good teams do: make the right basketball play."

Love, who beat Durant in the 3-Point Contest on All-Star weekend, also pulled down 14 rebounds while becoming the third player to eclipse 50 points this season.

Durant (51) and New Jersey's Deron Williams (57) previously passed the half-century mark.

"It doesn't matter. We lost," Love said. "We needed this game, especially the last game of our road trip against a very good team. This could have definitely been a driving force for us in these last 17, 18 games."

Love, whose previous career-high was 43 points, was 16 of 27 from the field and went 7 for 11 on 3s, hitting his first five attempts.

J.J. Barea complemented him with his first career triple-double - and the first for Minnesota since Kevin Garnett did it in 2007. He had a season-high 25 points a career-best 14 assists and matched his best rebounding total with 10.

Anthony Tolliver chipped in a season-high 23 points for Minnesota, which was without second-leading scorer Nikola Pekovic (left ankle) and Michael Beasley (left big toe) and fell to 2-6 since point guard Ricky Rubio was lost to a season-ending knee injury.

"Everybody made plays when it counted," Love said. "There was just a concerted effort from their team in that second overtime. The ball bounced their way with a little bit of luck and they made stops."

Love answered Durant's tiebreaking 3-pointer with 3.9 seconds left in regulation by hitting his own over Westbrook with just 1 second left to force overtime.

"That's my man, my main guy. Definitely talking trash out there, especially after he hit the one right in my face," Westbrook said.

"He said, `In your face,' He just kept pointing, like, `In your face, in your face."'

Love then scored Minnesota's first eight points of the first overtime, but the Wolves couldn't close it out after taking a 129-124 lead on Tolliver's three-point play and fast-break dunk with 46.3 seconds left.

Westbrook hit a jumper in the lane and, after Love was called for traveling, Durant drilled a 3 over his outstretched arm with 10 seconds left. Barea missed a potential game-winning 3 and Durant's heave from the opposite free-throw line hit the backboard and rim.

Love couldn't keep it up in the second overtime, and the Thunder's tandem of All-Stars were finally able to put away their first consecutive wins in more than two weeks.

After Love's shot at the tie was swatted, Durant hit a step-back jumper from the left side and Westbrook followed with a two-handed slam to for a 144-138 lead with 1:15 remaining.

"The stars were stars tonight. There's no question about it," said Derek Fisher, who logged 36 minutes in his second game with Oklahoma City. "That's why those three guys were All-Stars in the Western Conference. I think they showed in every way why they're three of the best players in our game right now.

"Fortunately, we had two on our side and they only had one."

James Harden scored 25 off the bench and Kendrick Perkins contributed a season-high 12 points despite not playing in the fourth quarter or overtime for Oklahoma City.

Minnesota coach Rick Adelman expressed before the game that he was concerned how his team would respond at the end of a franchise record seven-game road trip that came right after losing Rubio.

The Timberwolves lost 15 straight to end last season and were 1-23 down the stretch the previous year.

"I worry about it a lot. I think the thing you worry about with this group is they've really struggled in the last couple years and you can't give into the situation. You can't give in to the tough schedule, you can't give in to the fact that you've lost players or lost games," Adelman said.

That was never an issue.

The Timberwolves didn't lead between the end of the first quarter and the start of overtime but stayed in striking distance before rallying in the final minute to tie it, first when Westbrook tried to save a ball from going out of bounds and instead threw it to Barea for a layup to tie it at 113 with 27.3 seconds left.

"There's still a lot of fight in us. We might be down but we're not out, if we can just continue to get better," Love said. "We need to have more games like this."

NOTES: After spending the past 12 days on their longest road trip in franchise history, the Timberwolves don't get much of a reprieve: a single game at home on Sunday afternoon before four of their next five on the road. "We get to go home for, what, 36 hours?" Adelman said. ... F Ryan Reid, who was waived Wednesday so Oklahoma City could sign Derek Fisher, rejoined the Thunder organization Thursday by signing with the franchise's NBA Development League affiliate in Tulsa. ... Love had never previously made more than five 3-pointers in a game.

St. Anthony Finishes Unbeaten But Without A Mythical National Title

St. Anthony Finishes Unbeaten But Without A Mythical National Title

By Adam Zagoria
March 21, 2012, 11:10AM

Bob Hurley has coached at St. Anthony for 40 years and won 27 State titles and 12 New Jersey Tournament of Champions crowns.

After Tuesday night’s 66-62 victory over Plainfield in the TOC final, Hurley has now led seven teams to undefeated seasons, according to Jim Hague, St. Anthony historian and journalist at the Hudson Reporter.

In four of the previous six unbeaten seasons, the Friars won a USA Today mythical national championship.

But this year, for the third time, St. Anthony won’t win the mythical national title.

That’s because Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, Va., completed its season 44-0 and is ranked No. 1 in both the USA Today and ESPN polls. Findlay Prep (29-1) is currently No. 2 in both rankings and St. Anthony is No. 3 in both.

“I hate to blow your bubble on this one but I really don’t care,” Hurley told in a recent interview. “All I’m interested in is The Star-Ledger poll in New Jersey given out to the No. 1 team in the state at the end of the year. If you do really well in the Ledger poll then you’ve had a really good year.

“The rest of the stuff is so subjective that I’ll leave it up to the people who have been able to take 20,000 high schools and rank them in the country. I know I couldn’t do that. I know in our state it’s a little bit easier.”

High school basketball is subjective the way college football and the BCS are.

Unlike the NCAA Tournament in college basketball, there’s no all-inclusive tournament that features all the top teams. Thus, there’s simply no ironclad way to determine the true national champion.

St. Anthony is also No. 1 in the MaxPreps poll, meaning they could potentially receive a national championship banner from that company.

Five Star Basketball, which includes both prep schools and four-year high schools in its poll, has the Friars at No. 4 behind Oak Hill, Brewster Academy, a prep school that includes fifth-year players, and Findlay Prep. (Full disclosure: I am a consultant for Five Star, but don’t formulate the rankings.)

For the first time in school history, St. Anthony has completed back-to-back perfect seasons — going 65-0 across two campaigns under the leadership of UCLA-bound point guard Kyle Anderson.

St. Anthony previously won mythical national titles as awarded by USA Today in 1989 (32-0), 1996 (31-0), 2008 (32-0) and 2011 (33-0). Last year they also received a national championship banner for finishing No. 1 in ESPN’s Powerade Fab 50 rankings.

“I’ve been coaching for 40 years here and I don’t know of another team ever having back-to-back undefeated seasons,” Hurley told The Ledger after Tuesday night’s win. “That’s saying something because we play some pretty good basketball in this state.”
Bobby Hurley, who the 1989 TOC with St. Anthony and then two NCAA titles at Duke, says this team ranks with any of the previous ones because Anderson is so special.

“Any time you have a player of Kyle Anderson’s caliber and what’s he’s accomplished individually I think the record speaks for itself,” he said. “I think they played great competition. They’ve been perfect so they would certainly I would assume rank with the best teams, my team in ’89 and some others that St. Anthony’s has had. I’m happy for the kids and I’m happy for my dad , all the work that they’ve put in.”

While Findlay Prep still has to compete in the ESPN National High School Invitational later this month, they cannot erase the one loss they have. In fact, all eight teams in that event — including Newark St. Benedict’s Prep — have at least one loss on the season.

The one team that will finish the season unbeaten and with more wins than St. Anthony is Oak Hill, which won a school record 44 straight games without a loss.

The Warriors recently completed a tour of China and elected not to play in the ESPN event.

“I think what we’ve done speaks for itself,” Oak Hill coach Steve Smith told recently. “If polls want to rank us [No.] 1, obviously that’s great for our school and our team and if they choose somebody else that’s up to them.

“We played 10 teams in the Top 50 so I don’t think anybody else has done that.”

Smith, whose teams have competed three times in the ESPN event but never won it, conceded it’s difficult to come up with a system that accurately determines a mythical national champion.

In that way, high school basketball does mimic the BCS poll in which an unbeaten team from a non-BCS conference can sometimes get left out of the mix for a national champion.

“I don’t know,” Smith said. “It’s hard to do that. All the states are involved and the state high school associations are involved. Some teams are playing in the NHSI, the ESPN tournament, some teams can’t. I don’t know.

“It’s hard to get it all uniform. Obviously, you’re proud when your teams finished No. 1 in the country.”

Photo: Tim Farrell /

Anderson, St. Anthony Win Tournament of Champions, Complete Back-to-Back Perfect Seasons

Anderson, St. Anthony Win Tournament of Champions, Complete Back-to-Back Perfect Seasons

By Adam Zagoria
March 20, 2012, 11:13PM

Special to ZAGSBLOG

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – When you look at Kyle Anderson, the stats are pretty outrageous, but none crazier than this.

The 6-foot-9 UCLA signee has lost just once in the last three seasons at the highest level of high school basketball in New Jersey. That came in the 2010 Non-Public North B final against St. Anthony when Anderson was still at Paterson Catholic before the former North Jersey basketball powerhouse shut down after that school year.

That March night at Rutgers was the last defeat he would taste and as Bob Hurley joked in the media room at the IZOD Center on Tuesday evening after St. Anthony’s latest Tournament of Champions win, Anderson couldn’t beat them, so he joined them.

When Paterson Catholic closed and some of the state’s top players went scrambling for homes, Anderson eventually picked the Friars and they have been better off for it.

Anderson closed out a remarkable high school career on Tuesday with a 66-62 TOC final win over Plainfield in a rematch of last season’s final. With that win, St. Anthony’s 12th TOC championship under Hurley, Anderson’s resume has reached all-time status. A 93-1 mark over his last three seasons, including 65-0 and two TOC crowns in his two years under Hurley.

The question begs asking. Is Anderson the greatest player at the state’s preeminent boys basketball power?

“He’s the most complete player to ever play at the school,” said Hurley, the Naismith Hall of Famer. “In a time when we’ve had some really good ones, his overall game and just what he’s done over these last two years is remarkable.

“This was Jerome’s [Frink's] statistical game today and Tariq Carey statistically played very well. But the blood and guts and the glue, the play that makes us the team we are is Kyle Anderson.”

Frink finished with a game-high 26 points and shot 13-for-23 from the field, while Carey added 18, but Anderson did what he has done so many times before. The 14 points, five blocks, four steals and four assists does not tell the entire story. The way he so completely controls a game from baseline to baseline is what has Bruins fans and head coach Ben Howland salivating at the possibilities. There have been comparisons to Magic Johnson and while that may seem crazy, it’s not unfair.

“Coach told me to look for other guys and I found Jerome underneath a bunch of times, Tariq, Hallice [Cooke] out on the perimeter and it wasn’t a game where I was scoring much,” Anderson said. “It was a game where I was able to get my teammates involved.”

The most complete player in St. Anthony history will now turn his attention to the McDonald’s All-American Game next week in Chicago. He will not only be playing, but he will be recruiting as highly-touted Class of 2012 recruits Shabazz Muhammad and Tony Parker remain on the big board and are considering UCLA.

As first reported Sunday by, the 6-6 Muhammad will take his final official visit to UCLA before deciding between the Bruins, Kentucky, Kansas, Duke, Arizona and UNLV.

Anderson told Monday that if Muhammad were to join him in Westwood, the Bruins could reach a Final Four and challenge for another NCAA banner.

“I’m excited for the McDonald’s Game, but with Tony and Shabazz, I’m just going to let them live the moment because it’s a great process to be a part of for those two kids,” Anderson said. “I’m not gonna pressure them to go to UCLA with me, I’m gonna put it in their head, but it’s up to them. It’s a decision I want them to be happy with.”

Kyle Anderson Sr. Thinks It’s Shabazz to UCLA

Shabazz Muhammad of Bishop Gorman High School dunks the ball over Sierra Vista High School’s Donovan Williams during a game at Sierra Vista Monday, January 10, 2011. Steve Marcus, Las Vegas Sun

Kyle Anderson Sr. Thinks It’s Shabazz to UCLA

By Adam Zagoria
March 19, 2012, 7:43PM

JERSEY CITY, N.J. — Kyle Anderson Sr. says he believes Shabazz Muhammad will commit to UCLA next month and join his son in a powerhouse recruiting class for Bruins coach Ben Howland.

“I think he’s going to UCLA because that’s where his parents are from and I assume they would want to get back to L.A.,” Anderson Sr. told during an exclusive interview Monday at St. Anthony’s practice facility, where Kyle Anderson Jr. and the unbeaten Friars (31-0) went through their final preparations before Tuesday’s New Jersey Tournament of Champions final.

“That’s just my opinion,” added Anderson Sr., a longtime coach with the Playaz Basketball Club AAU team. “That’s not based on any conversations or any inside information.”

As reported exclusively by Sunday, the 6-foot-6 Muhammad will take his final official visit to UCLA in early April and then make a decision shortly thereafter.

“That’s going to be our last official visit,” Ron Holmes, Muhammad’s father, said of the UCLA visit. “Then I think he’s going to decide on the 9th or the 10th, something like that. He’ll do something at [Bishop Gorman] high school [to announce].”

After initially planning the visit for the weekend of April 6, Holmes said he only realized Monday that that conflicts with the Nike Hoop Summit in Portland, Ore., where Muhammad will compete along with Anderson and Tony Parker, another UCLA target.

“[We've] got to figure out a new date for the visit,” Holmes texted Monday evening.

Whenever the visit comes off, Kyle Anderson Jr. believes it could end well for UCLA.

“Yeah, yeah, I’m excited,” Anderson told “I think once they get to the campus and see what’s going on, I think they’re going to finally make their decision and hopefully it’s to UCLA.”

Anderson took his final visit to Florida before picking the Bruins over the Gators, Seton Hall, St. John’s and Georgetown, but believes it’s good news that Muhammad will take his final trip to UCLA.

Muhammad is also considering Kentucky, Kansas, Duke, Arizona and UNLV.

“I think it’s a good thing for UCLA to be his final visit,” Anderson said.

Naismith Hall of Fame St. Anthony coach Bob Hurley has called Anderson the “modern-day Magic Johnson.”

If Anderson were to pair with Muhammad, the top uncommitted wing in the Class of 2012, the St. Anthony star believes UCLA could get to a Final Four.

“We could be Final Four, maybe even a national championship team good,” Anderson said. “With or without him, I think there’s a lot of talent at UCLA, but mainly with him we could do some real good things.”

A recruiting class that includes Muhammad could be exactly what the doctor ordered for the embattled Howland, who was the subject of a damning Sports Illustrated story and needed a vote of confidence from UCLA AD Dan Guerrero to ensure his return for next year.

But look at the class of winners Howland could bring in.

Muhammad scored 36 points in the Nevada Class 4A state final to give Bishop Gorman its third state title in four season.

Jordan Adams, a UCLA signee from Oak Hill Academy, went 44-0 this season and his team is ranked No. 1 by USA Today and ESPN.

Parker, who is also mulling Kansas, Duke, Ohio State, Memphis and Georgia, won his fourth straight Class AAAA state title with Lithonia (Ga.) Miller Grove.

And Anderson will take a 64-game winning streak into Tuesday’s New Jersey Tournament of Champions final against Plainfield at the Izod Center. He is 98-1 in his last three seasons, including one at Paterson Catholic.

“He’s the most complete player I’ve ever coached,” Hurley, who has coached his sons, Bobby and Danny, Terry Dehere, Jerry Walker, Tyshawn Taylor, Mike Rosario and Tray Woodall, among others, told

Asked if Anderson was better than Bobby Hurley Jr., who won the team’s first Tournament of Champions in 1989 and then won back-to-back NCAA titles at Duke, Hurley said: ”He can do more. You pay in inches in basketball and at this size, he’s had the same impact and perhaps more because he’s so driven to win.

“All the really good ones that have been here were winners. Bobby played on four straight state championships, three straight Final Fours, two championships in college.

“[Anderson] is about winning,” Hurley added. “He’s lost one game since the beginning of his sophomore year of high school.”

If Anderson and the Friars beat Plainfield Tuesday night, is he the greatest Friar ever?
“He’s pretty close to it now,” Hurley Sr. said. “He’s got some really good players around him, but this isn’t one of those teams where you’re just looking at the team and there’s like a player at every position that’s a good player.”

Anderson left Paterson Catholic in June 2010 after the school closed and is now one game from completing his St. Anthony career unbeaten and finishing with a jaw-dropping 65-0 record in two seasons.

“It’s just a great thing to be a part of with my team,” Anderson said. “A couple of teammates, we were talking about it. We’ve been pretty happy about it. [Sixty-four] and 0, I think that’s the school record so it’s good.”

Yeah, it’s good all right.

And after wrapping up his high school career Tuesday night, Anderson will bring his talents to UCLA where he hopes to be joined by Shabazz Muhammad, maybe the best wing player to come along in a while.

Ask Kyle’s father, and he’ll tell you he thinks it’s already been decided.

Shabazz to Take Official to UCLA, Then Decide

Shabazz to Take Official to UCLA, Then Decide

By Adam Zagoria
March 18, 2012, 8:37 PM

Shabazz Muhammad, the top uncommitted wing player in the Class of 2012, will take an official visit to UCLA in early April and then announce his college decision, likely April 9th or 10th, his father told Sunday evening.

“I think Coach [Ben] Howland wanted him to come at the beginning of April, for that weekend in the beginning April [6-8], but I know that’s close to the Jordan Game, so I have to look at those dates,” Ron Holmes told “I’m not exactly sure but that’s when I’ve got it penciled in for.”

After that visit, the 6-foot-6 Muhammad plans to decide relatively soon.

He has previously taken officials to Texas A&M, Kentucky, Duke and Kansas and is considering UCLA, Duke, Arizona, Kansas, Kentucky and UNLV.

“That’s going to be our last official visit,” Holmes said of the UCLA visit. “Then I think he’s going to decide on the 9th or the 10th, something like that. He’ll do something at his high school [to announce].”

Muhammad will also play in the McDonald’s All-American Game March 28 in Chicago and the Jordan Brand Classic April 14 in Charlotte, N.C.

As previously reported by, Holmes supports Howland in the wake of the recent damning Sports Illustrated article.

Now, they plan to follow up with a visit to discuss things in greater depth.
“That’s why he’s going in to do an official, to get to the nuts and bolts of that and see what they’re talking about basically, and then go from there,” Holmes said.

As previously reported by, the NCAA is monitoring Muhammad’s recruitment because it has reason to believe he may have received improper financial benefits.

Yet none of the aforementioned schools are known to have stopped recruiting Muhammad.

“I don’t even want to get into that,” Holmes said. “My lawyers don’t want me really speaking on their behalf.”

UCLA AD Dan Guerrero recently said Howland would return for next season, when the Bruins have 6-foot-9 McDonald’s All-American point guard Kyle Anderson coming in along with Oak Hill wing Jordan Adams.

They are also involved with 6-9 forward Tony Parker of Georgia.

“It would be very appealing for him to play with Kyle, if Tony comes in, and you got Jordan Adams,” Holmes said. “It’s a strong freshmen class coming in, so that makes it appealing.’

Holmes said he and Shabazz have been watching as much of the NCAA as they can, when they’re not doing a workout.

“We try to watch as much as we can,” Holmes said.

Holmes said he was “very surprised” that No. 2 Duke was upended Friday by No. 15 Lehigh, and that the loss only underscored Duke’s needs going forward.

“Very surprised but Coach K had been talking about that team with us and he understood that they had some deficiencies so that’s why he’s recruiting Shabazz so hard because he wants a more athletic player, a player that has the abilities to be a defensive player and things of that nature,” Holmes said. “He kind of saw the punch coming, I think.”

Of the teams recruiting Muhammad, only Kentucky and Kansas were still alive as of Sunday evening.

Kentucky cruised into the Sweet 16 by virtue of an 87-71 victory Saturday over Iowa State and Kansas was set to face Purdue later Sunday.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Ben Howland Statement Regarding His Return as Head Coach

Ben Howland Statement Regarding His Return as Head Coach

UCLA Men's Basketball

March 13, 2012

Ben Howland issued a statement about his return as head coach of the UCLA men's basketball team:

"This past season has been the most challenging of my 31 years as a college basketball coach. I have endured seasons with fewer wins, but none with more disappointment. The unfavorable light that is cast upon our program is my responsibility as the UCLA head coach. But we will get better, and I will get better.

Dan Guerrero and I have had lengthy conversations about how we as a program and I as a coach can improve, and we are in agreement that improvements need to be made. In fact, I welcome the opportunity. I want to thank Dan for his belief in me and in our future at UCLA.

I have poured my heart and soul into coaching my entire adult life and having the honor of being the Head Coach at UCLA is a dream that is still hard to grasp as real. I love this place.

I love walking by the Hall of Fame and seeing the success of so many Bruin teams. I love the tradition, the values, the expectations, the fans, the passion for winning championships here.

We have some quality young men in our program right now, and we look forward to adding outstanding recruits to join them next year.

Make no mistake--we will work hard every day to build upon this year's 19 win season and make the Bruin family proud of who we are and what we accomplish."

UCLA Athletic Director Dan Guerrero Confirms Ben Howland's Return

UCLA Athletic Director Dan Guerrero Confirms Ben Howland's Return

UCLA Men's Basketball
March 13, 2012

UCLA Athletic Director Dan Guerrero has confirmed that Ben Howland will return as head coach of the UCLA men's basketball team.

Guerrero's statement:

"As I have stated before, at the conclusion of each sport's season, a program and its coaches are evaluated. That evaluation includes a comprehensive review of the performance of the team, including its competitive success and its continued commitment to academics, but where other aspects related to the overall management of the program are also considered.

I had several discussions with Head Coach Ben Howland before deciding on what was best for the future of UCLA Basketball. Subsequent to these conversations, and in consultation with Chancellor Block, I have made the decision that the UCLA men's basketball program will remain under Coach Howland's leadership and direction.

Obviously, we are aware of the recent criticisms of our men's basketball program; Ben understands full well that the management and oversight of the program needs improvement. He has assured me that, going forward, both the character and performance among our student-athletes will reflect the University's values and the basketball program's storied tradition. I believe that his overall record and performance proves he is more than capable of delivering on these assurances."

Brendan Lane moving on

UCLA forward Brendan Lane to transfer
By Peter Yoon, UCLA Report
March, 13, 2012 7:00 PM PT

UCLA reserve forward Brendan Lane plans to graduate early and transfer to another school, he said Tuesday.

Lane, a 6-foot-9 junior, will enroll in graduate school at his new destination and therefore will be able to play without sitting out a season under the graduate transfer rule. He will have one year of eligibility remaining. Lane averaged 1.6 points and 1.8 rebounds in 19 games and 6.6 minutes per game this season.

"It's hard," Lane said. "I've been here three years and the coaches have been supportive and my teammates have been supportive. It's been a really tough decision, but I've got to make the decision that is best for me."

Lane will graduate with a degree in economics and has the option of extending his graduation until next year by adding classes toward a minor degree, but said he isn't interested in doing that.

Lane was among the top-20 power forward recruits in the nation out of Rocklin High School, but never quite developed into a top-level player with the Bruins. He averaged 2.4 points in 10 minutes a game as a freshman and three points and 3.1 rebounds in 15 minutes a game last season.

This year, his playing time diminished because of the emergence of David and Travis Wear, twin transfers from North Carolina who play the same position as Lane.

"It's a little bit of an issue, but mostly academics is the most important part right now," Lane said. "I want to focus on graduating and getting somewhere I can go and obviously someplace I can play, too."

Lane said he hadn't yet begun to explore possible schools and that he could stay close to home or "have the experience away from California." Coach Ben Howland said he will do all he can to help Lane find a school and said it would most likely be a "mid-major institution."

"Brendan has been absolutely fantastic in terms of the type of kid he is," Howland said. "He's someone that I will always have great appreciation and affection for. ... We'll try to help him find the possibly situation both academically and that also fits the opportunity where you know that you're going to have a great chance to start and play your last year of college basketball and really have a great experience with that."

UCLA going nowhere

Like the infamous SI article, not dancing this time of year is "not the UCLA way."

UCLA not in the NIT, season over
By Peter Yoon, UCLA Report
March, 11, 2012 6:46 PM PT

UCLA was not among the 32 teams selected for the NIT and the school will not accept an invitation from the CBI or CIT, meaning Bruins' season is over.

UCLA (19-14) was a bubble team for the NIT after finishing fifth in the Pac-12 and then bowing out in the second round of the Pac-12 tournament. Coach Ben Howland said the team would accept an NIT invitation, but UCLA's name did not come up when the bracket was announced Sunday night.

Washington and Arizona were seeded No. 1 while Oregon and Stanford were also selected and seeded No. 3.

Because UCLA will not play in the post season, the college careers of seniors Lazeric Jones and Jerime Anderson have ended.

"It’s going to be tough but we got another part of my life to live," Jones said. "I still have to finish school and hopefully I’ll stay playing basketball on another level after this."

UCLA's Pac-12 tourney loss adds more disappointment to difficult season

UCLA's Pac-12 tourney loss adds more disappointment to difficult season
By Peter Yoon, UCLA Report
March, 8, 2012 9:26 PM PT

Joshua Smith
Gary A. Vasquez/US PresswireThe expression of the UCLA bench says it all in the waning moments of the Bruins' loss to Arizona.

LOS ANGELES -- A difficult and sometimes bizarre season took a disappointing turn for the UCLA basketball team in a game that pretty much summed up the way the season went.

The Bruins lost, 66-58, to Arizona Thursday in a Pac-12 tournament quarterfinal that, much like the season, featured UCLA fighting through adversity, looking as if it might turn a corner but could never quite get things rolling in the right direction.

UCLA (19-14) will lament losing the game in a wide-open Pac-12 tournament that was their only possible path to the NCAA tournament, especially after the Bruins' path to the final cleared somewhat with top-seeded Washington's loss earlier in the day, but the inconsistencies that have plagued UCLA all season did so again against Arizona.

The Bruins did not put together a win streak of more than three games in conference play this season and could not put together a stretch of more than five minutes of high-level play Thursday. The Bruins fell into an early hole, climbed back out and made a run, but could not close it out.

"We had our opportunities to win and did not seize the moment," coach Ben Howland said.

The same could be said for UCLA all season. UCLA lost four conference games by three points or fewer and lost four times on the road after taking second-half leads. Those close losses ended up being the difference between making the NCAA tournament and hoping for an NIT invitation.

But so are so many other things.

The Bruins entered this season without two of their top three leading scorers from last year after Malcolm Lee and Tyler Honeycutt left school to enter the NBA draft. UCLA lost the third member of that group when Reeves Nelson was kicked off the team seven games in. The fourth-leading scorer, Joshua Smith, reported for the season grossly out of shape and was hardly a factor most of the season.

The rest of the Bruins tried to keep things together, but simply never built any momentum.

"It was hard to get a consistent happy feeling that we were playing at the top of our game," forward Travis Wear said. "It was just a lot of ups and downs this season. We dealt with it pretty well, I think. We all stayed together and didn’t fray amongst ourselves so if there is a positive in all of this, it's the way our team stuck together."

The difficulty of the season began long before it even began. UCLA was forced out of its home arena because of a year-long renovation project at Pauley Pavilion and the Bruins had no real home court this season.

A few games at the Honda Center and mostly poorly-attended games at the Sports Arena provided a bizarre backdrop for the season. Then came Smith's problems and Nelson's incidents and the mysterious disappearance of De'End Parker, who played the first two games and then not again before finally transferring in January.

Late in the season, a Sports Illustrated report alleged mass dysfunction among the team. This was no picnic of a season.

"I don’t feel like many teams could have went through what we went through without breaking apart," senior captain Lazeric Jones said. "It shows the type of character that this team has that we came out and were able to fight for each other. That's one thing we can hold our heads up about."

Moral victories don't really count at UCLA, though. For the season to end without a berth in the NCAA tournament can be described as nothing but a failure at a school that has won 11 national titles, was ranked No. 17 in the nation to start the season and was picked to win the Pac-12 but finished fifth.

"It wasn't a good season for us," center Joshua Smith said. "All the hype that was surrounding us and we didn't do the things we wanted to do.

A quick look at how UCLA's failed season came to an end against Arizona:

OVERVIEW: Arizona forwards Solomon Hill (6-6) and Jesse Perry (6-7) attacked the bigger, but slower, Bruins on the inside and dominated the action with a combined 41 points and 24 rebounds despite playing against a UCLA front line that includes Travis Wear, David Wear, Smith and Anthony Stover -- all of whom are 6-10.

Those four UCLA players combined for 21 points and 18 rebounds with Smith and Travis Wear both fouling out.

Hill and Perry continually made aggressive moves in the paint against the Bruins and Hill added some outside touch as well, making 3-of-6 3-pointers. Arizona out-rebounded UCLA, 39-30, despite a distinct size advantage for the Bruins.

UCLA started slowly for the second consecutive day, falling into a 21-11 hole with 6:40 left int he first half, but surged back to within one at 24-23 before going into halftime down, 29-23. The Bruins fell behind, 43-36, midway through the second half, but rallied back to tie the score at 51-51 with 6:16 to play before Arizona closed it out by making 13 of 15 free throws in the final 5:41.

TURNING POINT: UCLA seemed to be fighting back from deficits the entire game, but had the score tied at 51-51 on a 3-pointer by Jerime Anderson with 6:16 to play before going into an offensive funk.

The Bruins made only one field goal after that, shooting 1-for-7 as the Wildcats (22-10) ended the game on a 15-7 run. Arizona stretched its lead to 61-53 with 2:52 to play and made 5-of-6 free throws in the final 42 seconds to seal the victory.

UCLA STAR OF THE GAME: Anderson had 14 points, four rebounds, four assists and three steals and was most effective when the Bruins were battling back. He scored six points during a 16-8 run as UCLA closed a 16-7 deficit to one point then scored seven points when UCLA rallied from down 43-36 to a 51-51 tie. Anderson's 3-pointer tied the score with 6:16 to play.

STAT OF THE GAME: Arizona made 31-of-36 free throws (86.1 percent) including 24-of-27 (88.9 percent) in the second half. The Wildcats scored all but 14 of their 37 second-half points from the free-throw line and had only six points from the field in the final 16:25. They did not make a field goal in the final 4:43.

UCLA, meanwhile, got to the free-throw line only 16 times and shot 62.5% (10-of-16). UCLA's front line players of the Wear twins, Smith and Stover attempted only six combined free throws.

WHAT IT MEANS:UCLA's postseason hopes rest in the hands of the NIT selection committee because the Bruins needed to win the Pac-12 tournament to advance to the NCAAs. It will be the second time in three years UCLA has missed the NCAA tournament.

The Bruins say they will accept an NIT bid if invited so the season may not be over just yet, but it's certainly a disappointment whenever UCLA doesn't make the Big Dance.

"I'll be back" -- Josh Smith

Joshua Smith says he's coming back
By Peter Yoon, UCLA Report
March, 8, 2012 7:01 PM PT

Joshua Smith
Gary A. Vasquez/US Presswire After losing Thursday to Arizona, Joshua Smith said, "There's no way I'll ever leave on a note like that."

LOS ANGELES -- UCLA center Joshua Smith said Thursday that he would be coming back to UCLA.

Smith, a 6-foot-10 sophomore center, had a disappointing season averaging only 10 points and 4.9 rebounds but is thought to have NBA potential because of his size. But after UCLA was knocked out of the Pac-12 tournament with a 66-58 loss to Arizona, Smith said he was not ready to test the NBA waters.

"I’m coming back," Smith said. "I can’t -- there’s no way I’ll ever leave on a note like that. Whenever I leave I want to make sure we go out with a bang and I go out with a bang, nothing like this."

Smith was a major reason why UCLA was ranked No. 17 to start this season and picked as the preseason favorite to win the Pac-12 title. But he reported to school this year grossly out of shape, spent the first half of the season just trying to get back into shape and was an equally major reason why the Bruins failed to live up to those lofty expectations.

He continually found himself in foul trouble throughout the season and averaged only 17.4 minutes a game. As a freshman last year, Smith averaged 10.9 points and 6.3 rebounds in 21.7 minutes per game.

"I’m extremely upset with myself," he said. "I realized in the season with the way I was playing and my numbers compared to what they were when I was a freshman. I was supposed to make that jump and I didn’t.”

Smith says he realizes that he needs to work harder in the offseason to play at the level that made him a high school All-American.

"I've got to put in the work I know I can do," Smith said. "Last summer, after the season, I just basically chilled. I went home kind of chilled and went back to the season kind of the same. For me to be the kind of player I want to be and to be the player my team needs me to be, I need to put in the work in the offseason."

That would be music to coach Ben Howland's ears. Howland has harped on Smith's conditioning all season and hinted last week that Smith's heart hasn't always been in the game this season. A dedicated Smith would mean a much-improved Smith, Howland said.

"He's a kid that is young and needs to figure out how important basketball is to him," Howland said. "If he decides it's really important for him, he can be a very effective player."

Monday, March 12, 2012

UCLA loses to Arizona 66-58 in PAC-12 tourney

Bruins stumble out the way they came in