Monday, May 14, 2012

Player Perspective: UCLA's Travis Wear

Thanks to Cachorro for posting this on BZ.

Player Perspective: UCLA's Travis Wear

By Jason King |
May, 11, 2012 11:45 AM ET
With the nation’s No. 1 recruiting class set to arrive on campus later this month, most of the offseason buzz about UCLA has centered on the program’s newest players.

But a few of the old ones aren’t bad, either.

Josh Smith -- if he gets his weight and his work ethic in check -- has the potential to be one of the nation’s top centers. Point guard Larry Drew, a North Carolina transfer, practiced with the Bruins all last season and is poised to step into a starting role. And David Wear is back after averaging 10.2 points and a team-high 6.3 rebounds in 2011-12.

No returning player, though, was as good on the offensive end last season as Travis Wear, David’s twin brother. Travis Wear averaged 11.5 points and 5.9 rebounds as a sophomore. He also blocked 1.2 shots per game.

Thursday ,he took time to speak with about why he thinks last season’s struggles -- the Bruins went 19-14 and missed the NCAA tournament -- are a thing of the past.

What’s the vibe around campus right now?

Travis Wear: Everyone is really excited. We have a really good class coming in. We’re putting ourselves in really good shape to be a great team next year. Everyone around here is really excited about Pauley (Pavilion) opening back up again so we can have our fan base on campus supporting us again. With the hype around this season, it makes it that much better.

How tough was it to have to play away from campus last season while Pauley went through renovations?

TW: It was definitely difficult having to play off-campus in downtown L.A. It was tough to get fan support. We didn’t have a great season, so that didn’t help, either. We’re definitely looking forward to playing on campus around our students and being in a home atmosphere.

As a current team member, how exciting was it to watch all of these high-profile commitments roll in during the past year?

TW: It was really neat to see all these building blocks being added onto our team and to think about all the depth we’re going to have, all the versatility and all the great players. Our practices should be just as competitive as the games we’re going to play in next year. Everything is coming into place. People are really excited.

How would you find out when certain guys committed, guys like Shabazz Muhammad and Tony Parker?
[+] Enlarge
Travis Wear
AP Photo/Jae C. HongUCLA has put last season's struggles behind it, forward Travis Wear says.
TW: We knew the dates each one of them were supposed to announce. Most of the time I was off campus, so I’d just keeping checking Twitter.

You mentioned that you struggled at times last season. How convinced are you that those issues are a thing of the past?

TW: We had a big team meeting. We’ve changed up a lot of things around here. This group is tighter right now than it’s ever been, as far as on the court and off the court. Everyone is really handling their business. It feels great. Even when the coaches aren’t there, everyone is always in the gym working out. It feels really good.

What, specifically, has changed?

TW: It’s just mainly our attitude. With the class we have coming in, it’s obvious we have a chance to be really good. Everyone is really embracing that. We’re not just going to go off the hype of, ‘Oh, they have good players, so they’re going to be great.’ Everyone is here, working as hard we can to get to that level instead of just listening to the hype.

What effect did last season’s Sports Illustrated article have on UCLA’s program?

TW: Not much. During the season, it was some adversity that we had to face. We came together a little bit after that. But it didn’t much of an impact as far as motivating us. It might have motivated us a little, but honestly, it didn’t change much.

Everyone knows that center Josh Smith has the talent to be a special player, but he’s underachieved during his first two seasons. What have you seen from him during the offseason that leads you to believe his junior year will be his best?

TW: Josh has been working out every day. He hasn’t missed any workouts. He’s grinding every day with us. It’s nice just to see how hard he’s been working. He has an opportunity to be great. To see him embracing that now is awesome.

Why do you think he’s just now embracing it?

TW: Sometimes, for certain guys, the light just clicks. I guess the light just went on.

What has coach Ben Howland’s demeanor been like?

TW: He’s really excited. He’s very energetic. All of the coaching staff, for that matter, has been great. They go through the workouts with us and they hit us. They’re super-excited. You can just feel the energy from them.

The frontcourt will obviously be crowded with you and your brother and Josh -- plus the new guys coming in such as Tony Parker. How much do you like having that competition?

TW: That’s how you get better. You come and out compete every day for minutes. That’s what makes teams great, being able to compete in practice. Then in the games you execute what you’ve been practicing all along. With Josh and my brother and Tony Parker and (Anthony) Stover ... we’ll have some battles. It should be fun.

You and Larry Drew both started your careers at North Carolina before transferring to UCLA. What about him gives you confidence that he can impact this team as a point guard?

TW: Larry is one of the quickest players I’ve every played with or seen play. His ability to get into the lane and make good decisions is really going to help. It’s really going to help the guys who can step out and shoot, because he’s really good at penetrating, drawing the defense and then kicking it out to the open man. In transition, he’s a great passer. He’s very good at creating for others.

Any thoughts on the Pac-12?

TW: I’m really excited for our conference. Arizona is going to be good. Even USC ... they had so many guys who sat out last year that were transfers or guys that got hurt. I think they’ll have a really good team. The Bay Area schools like Stanford ... they’re returning a lot of guys. Cal is always good. Washington is always good. Our league is going to be very competitive next year, and this new TV contract is going to make it even more exciting. It’s all coming together. Everyone can feel it.

What summer plans do you have besides working out and hanging around the gym?

TW: Not many. I want to spend as much time as I can around the new guys to help them adapt and get used to college life. I want to work out with them and get comfortable with their games. I’ll probably go to the beach a lot, too. That’s definitely something I like to do.

ESPN 710 LA Weekend Warrior: B Diddy probably done

Baron posterizes Kirilenko in 2007 (, You Tube)

"The Coach" Dave Miller and Dr. Robert Klapper talked about B Diddy’s recent injury on Weekend Warrior on ESPN 710 AM this morning (May 12).

From what I can remember (I was driving when this came on the radio), Dr. Klapper said that BD did not just dislocate his kneecap but he also injured ligaments and tendons around the knee, as follow-up MRI showed. He said BD basically dislocated his whole knee (his fibula and tibula separated) and injured surrounding ligaments and tendon. And because BD injured his patellar tendon, he would have to get tissue from a cadaver to repair his injuries. Since ligaments and tendons are bathed in fluids, they are the hardest to heal. Things would have been better if BD did just dislocate his kneecap since associated injuries are not bathed in fluids and so these would heal quicker.

With this injury and him being 33 years old, Dr. Kappler thinks BD is done with basketball.

Speedy recovery, Baron. Shock the world.

To listen the Weekend Warrior 5/12 podcast, click here.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Trip to China will jump-start UCLA's season

Thanks, HowlandWood, for posting this on BZ.
Photo credit: Cultural Crossover: Basketball in China

Trip to China will jump-start UCLA's season

Andy Katz's Blog
May 3 10:47 AM ET

UCLA has the No. 1 recruiting class in the country, and the Bruins are giving themselves every chance to be successful by going on the Pac-12's inaugural tour of China in August.

With the diverse student body of a number of his member schools, Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott has made Asia a priority, hiring Shanghai native Carrie Xu to be a senior manager for the conference. Xu is the creator of and has an MBA from USC.

Scott, who traveled to China in December, said the summer tour of the country is the first event in the initiative and something "we've been working on."

"Basketball is the most popular sport in China," Scott said from this week's Pac-12 meetings in Phoenix. "We're working on having UCLA play the equivalent of NCAA competition in China, as well as this being a goodwill and diplomatic tour.

"UCLA will represent the Pac-12 and plant a flag for the conference. We expect this to be an annual basketball trip by our schools, playing future collegiate teams and the Chinese national team."

Placing the Pac-12 brand in Asia -- and ultimately Pac-12 games -- is a priority, and what better way to show off the conference than displaying the most recognizable brand in the league, UCLA basketball.

"This is a big deal," Scott said. "This is part of our plan to get the Pac-12 Network out there. There's no better way to kick this off than with UCLA basketball."

The timing couldn't be better for the Bruins.

UCLA desperately needed a head start on the season after finishing a disappointing 19-14 (11-7 in the league) and missing the postseason. Ben Howland's program was also the subject of an extensive Sports Illustrated story, detailing the management of enigmatic former Bruin Reeves Nelson.

The program saved face this spring with the signing of 6-foot-6 Shabazz Muhammad (Las Vegas) and 6-9 Tony Parker (Lithonia, Ga.) to go along with 6-7 Kyle Anderson (Fairview, N.J.) and 6-5 Jordan Adams (Lawrenceville, Ga.). All are ESPNU 100 recruits, and Muhammad and Anderson are in the top five.

The Bruins also will have former North Carolina guard Larry Drew II eligible, and the newcomers can make the trip -- the freshmen just need to pass a first-session summer school class.

The only question mark is Anderson, who had surgery Monday to repair a thumb injury.

"It was less than what was anticipated," Howland said. "He didn't have to have ligaments repaired. It was a tissue of his ligament. They originally thought he would have to take a ligament from his wrist and attach it to his thumb. They didn't have to do that."

The Bruins will need returning center Josh Smith to be in shape and need major contributions from Tyler Lamb, Anthony Stover and Travis and David Wear.

Howland said his team will take full advantage of the NCAA rule that allows 10 practices prior to the trip. He said the Bruins will practice five times spread out over the first two weeks of August and five days leading up to the Aug. 21 departure. UCLA is scheduled to return Aug. 29.

Going on this trip could catapult the Bruins to a strong start to the season.

A year ago, Georgetown and Duke both went to China and benefited greatly from the experience. The Hoyas even brawled with the Chinese, which was unfortunate but ended up being a bonding moment for the team.

In addition, Howland said the Asian, and more specifically the Chinese, population at UCLA and other California schools makes it even more sensible to go on the trip to foster interest in the programs.

"We're promoting our brand, basketball and the conference," Howland said.

The Bruins won't slow down when the season starts. UCLA is in the Legends Classic in Brooklyn, N.Y., with top-ranked Indiana along with Georgetown and Georgia and plays Texas in Houston and San Diego State in Anaheim, Calif. There are also home games against teams such as Fresno State and Long Beach State -- and the Bruins haven't exactly been unbeatable against mid-majors at home in recent years.

"It's going to be a difficult schedule," Howland said. "We've got to win those games. That's been tough for us."

Going to China in August will help prepare the Bruins for the long haul before a season that is crucial to both the team and its embattled coach.

"This should be a great cultural thing for our players," Howland said, "and a great thing for us basketball-wise."