Wednesday, July 25, 2012

2013 commit: Zach LaVine (Bothelle, WA) 6-3 165 PG

2013 Prospect: Jarell Martin (Baton Rouge, LA) 6-9 220 PF

Jarell Martin
Power forward
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Class: 2013
Height: 6'9"
Weight: 220 lbs

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For a list of UCLA prospects, check out right side bar.

Ced tearing it up in The Philippines!!!

Thanks to crgreen for letting the BZ faithful know where Ced is currently hoopin!

The first article says that Jelani was in Manila, too, back in May. Looks like Ced's team, Barangay Ginebra Kings got to the playoffs in the PBA Governor's Cup but fell short of making it to the finals (ala the Spurs and the Celtics this year).

Here a last minute shot by Ced on July 8 for the win!!!

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A few articles on Ced and his escapades in The Phillipines:

The Philippine Star
Updated May 14, 2012 12:00 AM
MANILA, Philippines - Blanked out of the finals in the last two conferences, Barangay Ginebra hopes to bounce back with a former Atlanta Hawks guard from UCLA as import in the season-ending Governors Cup starting May 20.

Cedric Bozeman, 29, was recruited to bolster the Kings whose fortunes took a dip in the recent Commissioner’s Cup after Mark Caguioa, voted Best Player of the Conference, suffered a fractured right orbital bone in a playoff against B-Meg for the second outright semifinals slot. Caguioa sat out the entire semifinals and Ginebra was eliminated, 3-1, in the best-of-five series by the eventual champion Llamados.

Ginebra coach Siot Tanquingcen said Bozeman plays point and off-guard, measuring exactly at the height limit of 6-5. “He’s okay but of course, it’s hard to gauge now,” said Tanquingcen. “As for Mark, he was given the clearance to start gradual workouts. Hopefully, God willing, we’ll be back in the finals this conference.”

Assistant coach Juno Sauler described Bozeman as a smart player who’s most effective at the one spot. “He plays one, two or three,” said Sauler. “He can post up when smaller guards defend him, good isolation and pick-and-roll player against bigger guards. Decent perimeter and post defender. We might even make him play the four spot but haven’t really tried it yet.”

Consultant Alfrancis Chua confirmed Bozeman is for real. “He’s good,” said Chua. “At practice, Eric (Menk) is looking good, too. Rudy (Hatfield) came earlier than scheduled from the US and showed up for practice the day after arriving. Grabe ang lakas ng katawan ni Rudy.” Guard Jay-Jay Helterbrand said Bozeman reminds him of PBA import legend Lamont Strothers. “Good all-around player,” remarked Helterbrand.

News of Menk’s recovery should brighten up Ginebra’s hopes. Menk played only a game in the last conference but his presence wasn’t critical because import Jackson Vroman took care of center chores. In the Governors Cup, Menk, Enrico Villanueva and Billy Mamaril will be called on to man the slot with Hatfield, Kerby Raymundo and Willy Wilson playing four.

Bozeman played 23 games for Atlanta in the 2006-07 NBA season. In four years at UCLA, he gained an enviable reputation as the Bruins’ glue. Varsity teammate Jordan Farmar, an NBA veteran, said, “He definitely was our glue, he did all the little things that we needed, Coach (Ben Howland) said it, he’s selfless, the ultimate team player.”

Bozeman was hounded by shoulder and knee problems throughout his UCLA career but stayed the course to merit Howland’s nod as the Bruins court general. Howland cited Bozeman’s hard work and dedication in pointing out how he raised his three-point percentage from .222 as a junior to .393 as a senior, free throw percentage from .556 to .776 and total field goal percentage from .413 to .500. “When no one else was watching in the gym, by himself or working out with his teammates, he got in shape,” said Howland. “He was the best example of giving himself up for the team and doing whatever it took to win, being totally selfless.”

At Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, California, Bozeman was a McDonald’s All-America pick and was chosen to the USA Today All-America third team. Bozeman averaged 20 points, six rebounds and five assists as a senior at Mater Dei in 2000-01. “He reminds me of (NBA guard) Tyus Edney in terms of his disposition and temperament,” said his first UCLA coach Steve Lavin. “He’s got a tailor-made personality to play point guard. I’ve never worried about his decision-making or floor leadership.”

As a UCLA freshman in 2001-02, Bozeman teamed with NBA cagers Matt Barnes and Jason Kapono in powering the Bruins to the NCAA Sweet 16. In the NCAA tournament, he compiled eight points, five rebounds and four assists in 39 minutes as UCLA beat top-ranked Cincinnati in double overtime. Bozeman skipped the 2004-05 season as a medical redshirt to recover from ACL surgery in his right knee.

Bozeman combined with Farmar and another future NBA player Arron Afflalo to take UCLA to the NCAA finals in 2005-06, losing to Florida, 73-57. Bozeman had nine points, three rebounds and three assists in 25 minutes of the title game. “I really felt for Ced, with the injuries he dealt with but I was really happy for the way his UCLA career ended,” said Howland who coached Bozeman in his last two collegiate years. “He had an outstanding senior year, Ced was one of the main driving forces in our run. He really did a great job overall during his five years as a Bruin – as a student, as a person and obviously, as an outstanding player.”

Bozeman played as an import in Poland, China (averaging 20.2 points, 6.2 rebounds and 3.6 assists in 32 games with the Shougang Beijing Ducks in 2009-10) and Belgium. Before moving to the PBA, Bozeman saw action in the NBA D-League with the Reno Bighorns and Maine Red Claws. If he plays for Ginebra, Bozeman will be the fifth UCLA product to invade the PBA after Darrell Allums, Mike Holton, Kenny Fields and J. R. Henderson. Another UCLA veteran Jelani McCoy was in town to play for Meralco in the last conference but was cut before the Commissioner’s Cup opened.


PBA: Never-say-die Ginebra nails game-winner on Jaworski night

July 8, 2012 11:04pm

Cedric Bozeman's game-winner for Ginebra capped off a memorable night for Filipino hoops fans. Nuki Sabio

The Barangay Ginebra Kings ended a historic night with a classic Sunday bout, as they notched a come-from-behind win against sister team Petron Blaze Boosters on a Cedric Bozeman game-winner, Saturday at the Araneta Coliseum, 87-85, as part of the on-going PBA Governors' Cup Finals.

"God couldn't have written it better on a night that we're celebrating the foundation of Barangay Ginebra. To show a never say die spirit, I think that's the best send off retirement gift we could give him," said Ginebra head coach Siot Tanquincen, as they played their second game in the semifinals right after Robert "Sonny" Jaworski's jersey retirement ceremonies.

The Kings wore throwback jerseys to honor the "Big J", who now finds his jersey number bannered at the rafters of the Araneta Coliseum.

Petron raced to an early lead as a Chris Lutz three-point play gave them a 10-3 advantage. Kerby Raymundo and Mark Caguioa teamed up for Ginebra on the other end, going on a 6-1 run to trim the lead to two, 11-9, but Lutz would score seven more to spark a Petron rally to end the quarter strong, 23-15.

The Boosters continued to enjoy a comfortable lead in the second period, with Dondon Hontiveros pushing the advantage up to 13, 32-21. Caguioa would spark a Ginebra run at the other end to bring the lead down to six, 33-27, before new import Marcus Faison helped Petron keep the Kings at bay to end the half, 42-34.

Just before the start of the second half, Robert Jaworski came out to shake the hands of the Ginebra players to the delight of the crowd. The gesture went a long way, inspiring his heir apparent Mark Caguioa to score nine in the third, including the Kings' first go-ahead basket, 56-55.

Petron would regain its composure at the other end however, as Hontiveros chalked up eight points, including a buzzer-beating three to end the third, 69-58, with the Blaze Boosters still up.

The Kings started to roll at the start of the fourth, going on an 11-4 run to cut the lead to four, 73-69. The game started to get very physical, with both teams hacking at whoever ventured to take an attempt in the shaded lane.

After two missed free throws from Arwind Santos, Caguioa would score inside to help Ginebra inch closer, 80-79.

On Ginebra's next posession, "The Spark" drew a foul while taking a three. Though last conference's best local player went 2-of-3 from the line, it was enough to propel the Kings ahead, 81-80. Chris Lutz responded by taking the ball inside on the other end, with Rico Villanueva being called for a goaltending violation to give the lead back to Petron, 82-81.

A Bozeman split from the line tied the game at 82-all, before Santos split from the line to give Petron a one-point advantage, 83-82. After Caguioa missed a floater, Petron called a timeout with 41.4 seconds remaining in the game.

Faison would miss but Ginebra's Rico Maierhofer was fouled while attempting to grab the defensive rebound. Maierhofer missed two crucial freethrows, but the Boosters left Dylan Ababou to collar the offensive rebound for a basket and a foul, giving Ginebra a two-point lead, 85-83, with 25.8 seconds remaining.

Alex Cabagnot responded on the other end however, as he evaded the defense of Willy Wilson with a crossover and a tough right-handed layup to tie it up at 85-all in 15.9 remaining.

After a timeout, Ginebra milked the clock. With Caguioa denied, Cedric Bozeman would take a screen from Kirby Raymundo, as he went right towards the baseline for a floater. The shot swished through, leaving Petron to take a Hail Mary heave from their backcourt with 0.8 remaining. It of course missed, as Ginebra marched on to take their second straight victory in the semifinals.

"Great players make great plays. The play was for Mark, but he was being defended by their import. Adlib lang nabasa ng mga players. (It was a) good win for us and I'm thankful for it," said Ginebra head coach Siot Tanquingcen.

Caguioa led all scorers with 25 points, to go with his six rebounds and six assists. Bozeman added a double-double of 13 points and 11 rebounds, while young guns Dylan Ababou and Rico Maierhofer combined for 23 markers and 12 boards.

Petron got four players as well in double-figures, led by Faison's 19, but nine missed free throws in the final period did them in, as they finished 10-of-22 from the foul line, in sharp contrast to Ginebra's more solid 20-of-30 outing.

Ginebra managed to cop the win despite allowing Petron to shoot 46.1 percent from the field. They did rule the boards however, to the tune of 54 to 41, with a six offensive carom advantage, 18 to 12. - AMD, GMA News

The scores:

GINEBRA 87 - Caguioa 25, Bozeman 13, Ababou 13, Maierhofer 10, Villanueva 8, Raymundo 8, Helterbrand 4, Cortez 3, Hatfield 3, Maliksi 0, Wilson W. 0, Mamaril 0.

PETRON 85 - Faison 19, Lutz 17, Washington 11, Hontiveros 11, Santos 9, Yeo 6, Cabagnot 6, Pena 4, Miranda 2, Reyes 0, Ildefonso 0.

Quarter scoring: 15-26, 34-42, 58-69, 87-85


By Nelson Beltran (The Philippine Star) Updated July 16, 2012 12:00 AM
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B-Meg import Marcus Blakely loses his balance as he tries to skip over a fallen Rudy Hatfield of Barangay GInebra as Gin Kings’ Cedric Bozeman and Llamados’ Marc Pingris look on during their crucial PBA Governors Cup matchup last night. JUN MENDOZA| Zoom
MANILA, Philippines - B-Meg sprang back from a loss to Meralco Wednesday, stopping Barangay Ginebra, 82-70, to gain an outright playoff shot at a finals passage in the PBA Governors Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum last night.

The Llamados engaged the Kings in a defensive battle in the first half before working on key runs in the last two quarters for the crucial victory assuring the team of a tie for second place at the close of the semifinal round Wednesday.

Coach Tim Cone and his chargers go for an automatic finals entry versus the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters in their closing game in the semis.

Ginebra slid down to third place behind Rain or Shine (9-3) and B-Meg (9-4) with an 8-5 card. The Kings, however, remained in the running for the finals under the “four-or-five” incentive rule.

Coach Siot Tanquingcen and his Gin Kings gain a playoff for the second finals berth if they beat the Talk n Text Tropang Texters Wednesday.

“The biggest key was we came out with a defensive mindset. We came in with a renewed commitment to play defense and we made a statement right in the first quarter,” said Cone.

“We limited their output (to 16 points in the first quarter and nine in the second period) and that gave us good feeling. It carried through to the end,” Cone added.

The Llamados limited Mark Caguioa to three points, and that best typified the good defensive effort B-Meg put in the game. The Ginebra main man averaged 21.3 points before this contest.

Offensively, Marc Pingris stood out for the Llamados by coming through with a personal season high of 24 points. It was actually his highest production in the last three seasons.

James Yap went scoreless in the first half before finding some rhythm, firing 11 points in the second half.

Mario West drove past three defenders and made the winning basket in the closing seconds as Meralco closed out its campaign in the season on a winning note, eking out a 113-112 squeaker over Petron Blaze in the second game.

West defied the defense of Jay Washington, Chris Lutz and Arwind Santos, scoring on an acrobatic layup as the Bolts pulled off the win to forge a tie with the Boosters at 6-8 (win-loss).
Meralco wound up with a 20-23 record in the season, a big improvement from its 13-20 mark in its debut season in the local pro loop last year.

Petron ended up with a 23-23 slate, the franchise’s worst in the last four seasons or since finishing with a 24-24 card in the 2007-08 season.

The Boosters’ mediocre performance in the season sparked talks of a possible exit of coach Ato Agustin next season.

A certain San Miguel Corp. official said they would consider tapping in the services of Serbian coach Rajko Toroman to take over from Agustin. Toroman currently serves as consultant of all three SMC teams in the PBA.

“We definitely enjoyed this game. The goal was to end the season on a high note, and we did,” said coach Ryan Gregorio whose troops won their last two games in the season, including one against the B-Meg Llamados.

“Talking about progress, we did improve from the previous one. I’m giving myself three days of rest, then I’ll start formulating to get the team even better next season,” Gregorio also said.

The youthful Meralco mentor said they would certainly find ways to improve their roster power.

The Bolts took control most of the way but needed West’s big shot at the end to avoid what could have been a sorry loss.

Alex Cabagnot scattered 29 points, including a booming three-pointer that capped a key Petron run that shoved the Boosters to a 112-111 lead with 5.7 ticks left.

West, however, won’t let his teammates down.

“He had two options. One was to create for his teammates or go strong to the basket. He chose the latter and made the final statement for us,” said Gregorio of his import who preserved his explosive 41-point game.

The Boosters waged a determined chase from a 14-point deficit at 91-105, pulling even at 107-all on a three-point play by Lutz with 2:12 left to play.

The Bolts regained some breathing room as Mark Cardona canned in two charities then Sol Mercado pumped in a 20-footer to beat the 24-second shot clock buzzer in the ensuing plays.

Still, the Boosters threatened to steal the game, 112-111, as Cabagnot made a five-point swing capped by a trey off West.

West had the last laugh in the end, though.

The scores:
First Game
Meralco 113 – West 41, Cardona 26, Mercado 19, Ross 10, Taulava 10, Macapagal 5, Reyes 2, Timberlake 0.
Petron 112 – Cabagnot 29, Lutz 22, Santos 16, Faison 15, Washington 11, Peña 6, Yeo 5, Hontiveros 4, Baclao 2, Duncil 2, Lanete 0.
Quarterscores: 29-24, 56-46, 88-79, 113-112

Second Game
B-Meg 82 – Pingris 24, Blakely 17, Yap 11, Reavis 11, Urbiztondo 9, Simon 4, De Ocampo 4, Villanueva 2, Barroca 0.
Ginebra 70 – Bozeman 22, Helterbrand 16, Raymundo 14, Mamaril 4, Cortez 4, Caguioa 3, Maierhofer 2, W. Wilson 2, Hatfield 2, Villanueva 1, Maliksi 0, Ababou 0, Canaleta 0, Menk 0.
Quarterscores: 19-16, 32-25, 62-51, 82-70


July 18, 2012 9:36pm

Mark Caguioa (right) bounced back from a conference-low outing to drop 18 points on the heads of Talk 'N Text. Nuki Sabio

(Updated 9:58pm) Talk 'N Text Tropang Texters import Paul Harris stepped out of bounds on what could have been the last possession of the game, turning the ball over, and handing the Barangay Ginebra Kings the win, 73-71, Wednesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, forging a playoff between sister teams for the other vacant Finals spot in the PBA Governors' Cup.

The B-MEG Llamados had earlier lost to the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters, with the latter advancing directly to the championship round. By winning, Ginebra eliminates Talk 'N Text, and sets up a loser-go-home game on Friday between them and B-MEG, both of which are owned by the San Miguel Corporation.

An early Cedric Bozeman dunk fired up the Ginebra side. Nuki Sabio

Harris had earlier looked like a hero, getting his side to within two, 73-71, with 39.9 seconds left in the game. Then on the next possession, TNT forced a 24-second violation, which gave them the ball back and a chance to win the game or force overtime, but off a timeout, Harris made a crucial mistake that doomed his side.

"Magandang biyaya napagkaloob sa amin pero di kami kontento. We're content with what we have but we're not content of what we can become," said Ginebra head coach Siot Tangquincen.

Ginebra raced out to a 12-7 lead in the first quarter before the Texters went on a 10-5 run to even it up at 17-all after back-to-back threes by Ryan Reyes. On the ensuing play, Cedric Bozeman scored on a slam, posterizing Ali Peek before Caguioa hit a three to settle the first quarter score at 27-21.

In the second Paul Harris led the Texters to a comeback, stringing together eight points to tie the game at 38-all, but the Gin Kings would hold on to the lead at the half, 42-40.

The third quarter finally saw Talk n' Text surge ahead via a Jayson Castro layup, 52-50, before Mike Cortez completed a four-point play to snatch back the lead, 54-52. Bozeman and Rico Maierhoffer then converted on drives into the lane to go up 58-54.

Free throws by Talk n' Text kept them close, but a Maierhofer lay-in was enough to keep Ginebra on top at the end of the period, 61-59.

Paul Harris finally put the Texters ahead, 68-66, in the middle of the final period. The Kings fought to regain the lead, as Kerby Raymundo hit a crucial three to grab a four point lead with a little more than two minutes left, 73-69.

Jayson Castro (center) and the rest of TNT were frustrated by the Ginebra defense. Nuki Sabio

Several fruitless possessions finally boiled down to Harris converting with 39.9 seconds remaining to trim the lead down to two, 73-71. Talk 'N Text then forced Ginebra into a 24-second shot clock violation, giving the Tropang Texters 15.3 seconds to tie or win the game.

The Texters had Harris driving down the baseline, but before he could pass the ball to a wide-open Alapag in the three-point area, the import stepped on the line, giving the Kings the ball with 3.9 seconds remaining. The Kings were successful with the inbound, as Willy Wilson threw the ball into the air as the time expired.

Mark Caguoa posted 18 points, eight rebounds and two assists to lead Ginebra to victory, while power forward Kerby Raymundo chimed in 15 more points. Import Cedric Bozeman tallied a 14-point, 13-rebound double-double, while Jayjay Helterbrand came off the bench to quarterback his side with seven dimes.

Talk 'N Text drew a game-high 25 points from Paul Harris, 11 coming from the foul line, plus 18 rebounds, but no other Tropang Texter finished in double digits against the Kings' defense. Ryan Reyes and Ranidel de Ocampo each tallied eight points, while three TNT players finished with seven apiece.

The game also marked Chot Reyes' final game as the Talk n' Text head coach. The multi-titled coach will be replaced by Ateneo Blue Eagles' mentor Norman Black next season, as Reyes departs to take on the full-time role of head coach of the Smart Gilas national team. - AMD, GMA News

The scores:

Barangay Ginebra 73 - Caguioa 18, Raymundo 15, Bozeman 14, Cortez 11, Maierhofer 4, Mamaril 4, Hatfield 4, W. Wilson 2, Villanueva 1, Ababou 0, Helterbrand 0.

Talk 'N Text 71 - Harris 25, Reyes 8, De Ocampo 8, Castro 7, Alapag 7, Peek 7, Williams 3, Aguilar 2, Fonacier 2, Carey 2, Aban 0.

Quarter scoring: 27-21, 42-40, 61-59, 73-71

July 20, 2012 8:55pm

In a battle of superstars, James Yap (right) got the better of his rival, Mark Caguioa. KC Cruz

(Updated 9:39pm) The B-MEG Llamados drew a clutch second-chance make from Peter June Simon to lift them to the Finals of the 2012 PBA Governors Cup with a 74-72 win over the Barangay Ginebra Kings, Friday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum

"This felt like a game 7 against Ginebra. It's gratifying when you worked that hard. To win it makes the win a lot sweeter," said B-MEG head coach Tim Cone.

The Kings held a slim lead in the opening minutes of the first quarter before back-to-back baskets from B-MEG gave the Llamados the lead, 9-8.

A Marqus Blakely triple made it 21-13 for B-MEG, before Cedric Bozeman hit four free throws to cut the deficit to four, 23-19, to end the period.

In the second, the Llamados hit six straight to post its largest lead, 29-19, but the Kings responded with a 10-3 run of their own to cut the lead to three, 32-29.

James Yap then snapped out of his slump, hitting a fadeaway and a three, 37-31. With 42 seconds left in the first half, Kerby Raymundo hacked a driving Yap on the face, resulting in a shooting foul for two free throws. Down 10, Ginebra would end the quarter strong, as a JJ Helterbrand baseline jumper followed by a Cedric Bozeman buzzer-beating three brought the lead back to five at the end of the half, 41-36.

Yap was still on fire though at the onset of the third, hitting a triple to put the lead back up to eight, 52-44, before Ginebra strung together eight straight to bring the lead down to one, 52-51 with 4:23 remaining.

A technical foul on Ginebra head coach Siot Tangquincen for violently reacting to a non-call gave B-MEG an extra point, but a Bozeman three with 2:18 remaining finally gave Ginebra the lead, 54-43. The Kings then drew a technical foul from Rafi Reavis, giving them another bonus look from the free throw line.

Shortly after, Mark Caguioa continued to sizzle, hitting another jumper that made it 57-53. But it was B-MEG which would end the quarter stronger, as a Yap jumper off a Pingris screen and a Simon leaner off a crossover on Enrico Villanueva with four seconds remaining gave B-MEG back the lead going into the fourth, 58-57.

The final period was one of several lead changes, with neither team getting ahead by more than one in the first seven minutes, before a Marqus Blakely baseline slam from Jonas Villanueva made it 72-69.

The Llamados played tough defense on the other end, leaving Ginebra two seconds to put up a shot with 2:01 remaining. After a timeout, the Kings would lean on Niño Canaleta to hit a baseline three to tie it up at 72-all.

With 43 seconds left in the game, Ginebra drained much of the clock, opting for a Kerby Raymundo three. Raymundo missed, giving B-MEG 22 seconds to set up for the win. Llamados head coach Tim Cone then called for a time out with 16.9 remaining.

The result was a Blakely drive to the baseline for a jumper that missed, but PJ Simon collared the offensive rebound for a put-back to put B-MEG on top, 74-72, with 2.5 seconds remaining.

In their last attempt, Ginebra found difficulty with the inbounds, leaving Raymundo to take two pump fakes and a well-defended three which resulted in an air ball.

"We're winning by the skin of our teeth," added Coach Cone. "[The] PBA's hard. [It was] pure luck PJ is in the right place at the right time.

"When I saw that jump shot go up, I knew we were going to overtime. Thankfully, the three-pointer by Kerby didn't go in."

Marcus Blakely played all but one minute of the game and led B-MEG with 22 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and five blocks. James Yap poured in 16 markers and PJ Simon added 11 more, as the two guards each also tallied five boards.

Cedric Bozeman, Blakely's counterpart on the Ginebra squad topped the scoring list with 27 points. Mark Caguioa chimed in 14 on 7-of-26 shooting, while Nino Canaleta was a big factor late, hitting two corner triples on route to nine points.

B-MEG held a big advantage from the charity stripe, making 26-of-35, as compared to just 17-of-24 for Ginebra.

The Llamados will now prepare for Game One of the Finals, scheduled on Sunday, where they'll face the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters, who sent them to this playoff against Ginebra with a 92-82 drubbing last Wednesday.

"Admittedly, they're a tough matchup for us. [Jamelle] Cornley is a tough matchup for us. We're gonna need big games from our guards; we gotta be creative and figure out mismatches. I think over seven games we're gonna figure them out," Cone said of his team's Finals foes. - AMD, GMA News

The scores:

B-MEG 74 - Blakely 22, Yap 16, Simon 11, De Ocampo 8, Pingris 7, Barroca 5, Urbiztondo 3, Reavis 2, Villanueva 0.

Ginebra 72 - Bozeman 27, Caguioa 14, Canaleta 9, Raymundo 7, Hatfield 6, Villanueva 3, Ababou 2, W. Wilson 2, Helterbrand 2, Maierhofer 0, Mamaril 0, Cortez 0.

Quarter scoring: 23-19, 41-36, 58-57, 74-72.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Kevin Durant's 27 Points Lead USA To 86-80 Win Over Argentina

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Kevin Durant's 27 Points Lead USA To 86-80 Win Over Argentina
July 22, 2012 • Barcelona, Spain

Twenty years after the 1992 USA Basketball Dream Team made its indelible impact on international basketball at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, USA Basketball’s 2012 Men’s National Team (4-0), wearing 1992 USA Basketball throwback jerseys, returned to the hardwood in Barcelona and battled to a hard fought 86-80 win over Argentina. Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City Thunder) drained 7-of-11 3-pointers to finish with a game high 27 points in the win.

“We started off pretty well, got a couple of shots. Argentina did a great job of slowing the game down, making the right passes and penetrating and executing. So, it was a good game for us. We learned a lot tonight. We just have to keep getting better for the Olympics and our guys did a good job of playing through everything, playing hard, playing together,” said Durant, the Tiffany & Co. Player of the Game.

The Americans will conduct a practice Monday in Barcelona, then finish off their National Team tour with an exhibition game against host Spain on Tuesday (4:30 p.m. EDT) at Palau Sant Jordi.

“It was a great game for us because we played against champions. The Argentine team played like champions for over a decade and to play in a game like, I thought it was really our first international. I thought our guys did a great job at the start of each half,” said Mike Krzyzewski, USA and Duke University head coach.

“I thought Kevin was sensational tonight against man and zone. He looked like he did in Istanbul tonight.” added Krzyzewski about Durant, who earned MVP honors in leading the USA to gold at the 2010 FIBA World Championship in Turkey.

In a preview of the upcoming Aug. 6 USA-Argentina Olympics preliminary round game, the 2012 USA Basketball Men’s National Team dominated Argentina early then turned back each Argentina comeback attempt.

Durant gave an indication of things to come when he dropped back-to-back 3-pointers on the USA first two possessions and after Kobe Bryant (Los Angeles Lakers) scored with 8:46 still to play in the quarter the Americans were off to a flying 8-0 start.

Argentina’s Luis Scola made one of two free throws to get Argentina on the board, but the U.S. threatened to make a rout of the game after Bryant and Durant each added 3-pointers and Bryant converted off a fast break to push the USA advantage to 16-1.

A Bryant 3-pointer, the USA’s fifth of the game’s first 3:15, made the score 19-3. Argentina reeled off six consecutive points to cut the deficit to 19-9 with 3:30 remaining in the opening quarter, and with 46 seconds to play in the period the USA led 25-14.

Carmelo Anthony (New York Knicks) got in the 3-point parade with a three with 38 seconds left before the horn, and when Deron Williams (Brooklyn Nets) hit nothing but net from beyond the 3-point arc as the first quarter buzzer sounded, the Americans had control 31-16.

The U.S. continued to have its way and following four points from Bryant, two free throws and a hoop off a drive, the USA lead was up to 20, 39-19, with 6:56 remaining before half.

Argentina climbed back into the game with a mini 10-0 run. The run included a six point series when USA guard Chris Paul (Los Angeles Clippers) was whistled for a foul, and called for an intention foul on the continuation. Argentina’s Fauundo Campazzo made 3-of-4 free throws, then after being awarded possession of the ball as well, Carlos Delfino nailed a three to cut the USA lead to 39-29.

Russell Westbrook. Andrew D. Bernstein /NBAE/Getty Images
LeBron James (Miami Heat) stopped the run, but Argentina kept chipping away and following a 3-pointer from Leo Gutierrez, the American advantage was down to five, 45-40. Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City Thunder) cushioned the U.S. lead to seven, 47-40, when he scored off an Andre Iguodala (Philadelphia 76ers) block and fast break feed with just two seconds to go in the first half.

A Durant jumper, a Bryant 3-pointer, and a James basket got the USA off to a good third quarter start and upped the lead to 54-40.
Ahead 61-49, the USA ripped off eight straight points including another three from Durant, and the lead was back to 20 points, 69-49, with 3:01 left in the third.

Argentina again rallied and after outscoring the U.S. 12-3 to close out the third quarter, the USA’s lead stood at 72-61 heading into the final period.

Owning a 78-63 led early in the fourth, Argentina got eight points from NBA All-Star Manu Ginobili in a 11-0 run which saw Argentina close to within four points, 78-74, with 2:50 left in the game.
Durant made his seventh 3-pointer when the USA needed it most, and when Paul followed up with his own 3-pointer with 2:07 to go, the USA regained momentum and control 84-76 and rolled on in for the 86-80 win.

In addition to Durant’s 27 points, Bryant added 18 points, James recorded 15 points, seven rebounds and five assists, and Westbrook tossed in 13 points. Tyson Chandler (New York Knicks) led the U.S. effort on the glass with eight boards.

Ginobili finished with 23 points for Argentina, while Delfino added 15 points Scola finished with 14 points.

Along with USA assistant coaches, Syracuse University and Hall of Fame coach Jim Boeheim and former NBA head coaches Mike D’Antoni and Nate McMillan, Krzyzewski has led the USA.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Basketball: Love good fit for U.S. team

(Geoff Burke-US PRESSWIRE)

Basketball: Love good fit for U.S. team

Published: July 14, 2012 Updated: 9:19 p.m.     
Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love already has made two NBA All-Star Games before his 24th birthday.

Now he will play in his first – and possibly only – Olympic Games at the age of 23.

Games at the age of 23.

As expected, the former UCLA standout on July 7 was chosen to the 12-man U.S. team that will play in London later this month.
It could be his first and last Olympic experience if the Games allow only players 23 years old and younger to play in 2016, a concept that Commissioner David Stern supports and one that is being discussed.

"It's going to be a very special time," Love said on an NBA TV telecast on which the roster was announced. "It could be the last time for guys to play at this age."

If it is, it's the last time you will see LeBron James perhaps playing some point guard and Kevin Durant or Carmelo Anthony spotted at power forward. The Team USA roster is deep and versatile despite missing NBA superstars such as the injured Dwight Howard, Derrick Rose, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

The final 12-man roster still has James, Durant, Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant, Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook, the Clippers' Chris Paul and Brooklyn's Deron Williams on it.

It also, of course, has Love, who isn't an NBA center in height or nature, but he will play one in London.

With big men Howard, Bosh, LaMarcus Aldridge and Lamar Odom all missing, Love will be the man in the middle on a team where Tyson Chandler and rookie-to-be Anthony Davis also fill that position. Chandler is the only true center on the roster.

Davis is filling in for the injured Blake Griffin, who returned to L.A. on Thursday to undergo knee surgery.

Love parlayed his place on the 2010 World Championships gold medal-winning U.S. team and his unusual versatility into one of 12 spots on the Olympic team. Also making the roster were James Harden and Andre Iguodala while Eric Gordon and Rudy Gay did not.

"I'm the type of person who sets goals for myself, so I wouldn't say I expected to make it, but I definitely saw myself making it," Love said. "I worked hard and did whatever I could the past few years. I represented myself in a good way and represented my country in a good way, so I felt I had a very good shot."

Love envisions himself setting picks for his superstar teammates and popping free to shoot the nearer international three-point shot.

The Olympic three-point line – 3 feet nearer in some spots – isn't the only difference from the NBA game. There are others, including a 40-minute game rather than 48.

"I really liked how the game fits into what I do," Love said. "The game is a lot more physical, and the referees let a lot more things go."

Last season, Love averaged 8.3 three-point attempts from the farther NBA three-point line and made 37.2 percent of them.

That's also his career NBA average.

"Very versatile '5' man, unconventional, to be quite frank," U.S. Olympic coach Mike Krzyzewski said, referring to Love and the center position. "Some of the (international) teams have a '5' who can shoot from the outside. He's not a low-post player; he can defend that position. He becomes a very difficult guy to defend. He opens the door for our other four guys, he's such a good shooter."

And, of course, Love sees himself hitting the boards, particularly on the offensive end.

"If he gets the minutes, he'll lead us in rebounding," USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo said. "He's one of the best three-point shooters in the game. Kevin Love is a guy you can count on. He'll knock them down."

Friday, July 13, 2012

UCLA, and Joshua Smith, appear hungry for basketball success

Thanks to PLAINDISGUSTED for posting this on BZ!

Junior center Joshua Smith had made big strides in controlling his weight and improving conditioning as Bruins prepare for a momentous season with a touted freshman class and renovated Pauley Pavilion.

By Chris Foster
The Los Angeles Times
6:14 PM PDT, July 10, 2012

Joshua Smith crashed through the lane and jumped . . . yes, jumped . . . to tip in a rebound.

He then sprinted . . . yes, sprinted . . . to get back on defense.

Back on offense, he posted up and spun quickly . . . yes, quickly . . . for a layup.

As UCLA prepares for the 2012-13 basketball season, there are several weighty topics to discuss: The four incoming freshman who comprise one of the nation's best recruiting classes . . . a trip to China for three exhibition games in August . . . and, of course, renovated Pauley Pavilion, which reopens in November.

But the meat-and-potatoes talking point remains Smith, who was billed as the future of Bruins basketball when he arrived from Kent (Wash.) Kentwood High two years ago.

Smith led the then-Pac-10 Conference in offensive rebounding as a freshman but grew more in girth than in game last season. He said he lost his appetite for basketball while falling into poor eating habits.

Months of soul-searching later, the 6-foot-10 Smith is 15 pounds closer to his listed weight of 305 and more capable of handling the up-tempo plans Coach Ben Howland has for the Bruins.

Smith kept pace during an open practice Tuesday, leaving the court head up instead of hunched over and gasping for air. He looked more like the dominant big man that was his billing out of high school.

"I didn't want to just talk the talk," said Smith, who will be a junior this fall. "I want people to look out there and say, 'He's lost 20-30 pounds.' I want to be able to play more than 17 minutes a game."

Howland knows what that could mean.

"I don't think there is anyone in the college game who can stop Josh one-on-one in the post," Howland said.

Smith still considers himself a work in progress. But he said he is no longer an exercise in regress.

Even during a productive freshman season in which he averaged 10.9 points and 6.3 rebounds and shot 55.5%, Smith was not in top shape. He finished the season with a 16-point game, making seven of 11 shots in a loss to Florida in the NCAA tournament. But he said he didn't do much in terms of training last summer and it showed.

Last season, his weight rose while his effectiveness — and numbers — dipped. He averaged 9.9 points and 4.9 rebounds.

There were still moments — Smith scored 24 points and made nine of 13 shots against Washington —but the highlights were fewer and farther between.

"Last season was well documented," Howland said.

Everyone saw it. Well, almost everyone.

"I heard the talk," Smith said. "I tried to ignore it."

Denial was over after he huffed and puffed through just nine minutes in a season-ending loss to Arizona during the Pac-12 tournament that left the Bruins 19-14.

"It's always been easy for Josh," Howland said. "He was bigger and has been able to take advantage of that. . . . That is minimized as you move up the ladder."

Smith now consults a nutritionist who has changed his diet and habits.

"I'd go to class, have a Jamba Juice and go to practice," Smith said. "I would be running on fumes all day and try to make up for it later. Your body is looking to store the food you need. When you eat all at one time, it's going to store it all."

Now, Smith said, "I have a protein shake in the morning, maybe some chicken tacos or soup before I work out. At home, maybe have another shake or some grilled chicken, brown rice, some veggies."

Basketball is also back on the menu, as Smith said he rediscovered "my passion" for the game.

"Two years have gone by fast," Smith said. "I can't look back. I have two years left to do something."

That could become an easier task with some help. The Bruins' four freshmen — forward Shabazz Muhammad, guard Kyle Anderson, center Tony Parker and guard Jordan Adams — are ranked second nationally as a class by

Parker in particular could be viewed as a 6-foot-9, 270-pound wake-up call for Smith.

"Josh was motivated the first couple times he went against Tony," Howland said. "Here's a young kid, an All-America [in high school], as was Josh, coming in to battle for playing time."

That competition will be across the board.

The Bruins will get bonus practice time this summer because of their trip to China in late August. They are also getting to work out with coaches under a new NCAA rule that allows for summer practices.

Muhammad "grabbed every offensive rebound the first practice," Howland said, but he suffered a high ankle sprain and has not practiced since. Anderson, a 6-8 point guard, has not been allowed to participate in contact drills after surgery on his left wrist. Both are expected to be ready to play on the China trip.

The Bruins will play two university teams on the tour, plus the Shanghai Sharks, a pro team.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Joshua Smith vows a different approach

Joshua Smith
Jayne Kamin-Oncea/US PresswireAn in-shape and motivated Joshua Smith could be the key for UCLA to make a championship run. The junior center says he wants to show everyone how serious he is this season.

Joshua Smith vows a different approach
July, 10, 2012 7:01 PM PT

LOS ANGELES -- The thought crept into Joshua Smith’s head without warning: What if two more years go by and nothing has changed?

The 2011-12 UCLA basketball season was forgettable for the Bruins in part because Smith’s untapped potential remained trapped in underachievement.

Those types of seasons tend to send thoughts streaming into your head. What went wrong? Why did it happen? What could I have done to prevent it? Those are the questions for which Smith had easy answers. He came to camp out of shape, never did anything about it and should have done more than sit on his couch in Washington all last summer.

But the thought of another season in which he fails to live up to expectations inspired Smith to take action. He vowed not to let his conditioning go unchecked for an entire summer. Instead of returning home, he would stay on campus and work with his team. He sought the advice of a nutritionist and bought a Magic Bullet blender.

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Joshua Smith
Stephen Dunn/Getty ImagesJoshua Smith readily admits he could have done more last offseason to be in better shape and also questioned how much he wanted to play basketball.
In short, he decided that he no longer wanted to be the guy who was supposed to break out as one of the country’s best big men. He wants to be the guy who does.

“Two years have already gone by,” Smith said. “There’s a lot of things I would want to change, but I can’t. I’ve got two years left to do something. It’s kind of like I woke up after my sophomore year and said I don’t want to look back at college and say, ‘If I would have done this or if I would have gotten in shape, things would have been different.’ I just want to do it and see what happens.”

Smith took the lion’s share of the blame for UCLA failing to meet expectations last season. A 6-foot-10 All-American coming out of high school, Smith seemed destined to become a star. He’s charismatic, well-spoken and has shown flashes of NBA ability throughout his two seasons.

Motivation, however, has been an issue since before he stepped on campus. Smith never was one of the players who stayed after practice to work on skills and conditioning. He didn’t put much stock into grinding in the weight room. He played basketball mostly because he was big. And because he was big, he could hold his own. But he sometimes thought of himself as a baseball player trapped in a basketball body.

“I’m not going to lie, I questioned how much I wanted to play basketball,” he said. “I never really loved the game. I just kind of coasted off the fact that I was 6-10.”

In college, Smith clearly couldn’t coast. Guys he easily outplayed in high school were outworking him by leaps and bounds and out-playing him. He averaged 10.9 points and 6.3 rebounds as a freshman, but that dropped to 9.9 and 4.9 as a sophomore. The main culprit was foul trouble that kept him off the court. He played 21.7 minutes a game as a freshman and only 17.2 last season.

Many of those fouls were conditioning related. He got tired easily, so he got lazy and began reaching in or tried plowing though people because he didn’t have the stamina to make a move. Teams routinely neutralized him with double teams because he simply didn’t have the energy to find a way out of it.

Smith acknowledges he knew things weren’t going well, yet did little to prevent it. This year, he said, is going to be different.

“I want to actually do something about it and not just talk the talk and not walk the walk,” he said. “That’s just what I’m trying to do now so that when it comes to the season, people are like, ‘Wow, this guy is really serious. He’s lost 20-30 pounds and he’s motivated.’ I don’t want to show up like I did last season where since the exhibition game, it just went all downhill.”

If Smith follows through on those promises, UCLA will be a force in college basketball this season. The Bruins have added the nation’s No. 1 recruiting class with players such as Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson, who can be immediate difference-makers.

Add in a solid core of returning players, such as twins David and Travis Wear, Tyler Lamb and Norman Powell , and you have a team that many are picking to make a serious national championship run. Smith, of course, is the X-factor.

If Smith is in shape and effective, it will either open the floor for slashing scorers such as Muhammad and sharpshooters such as freshman Jordan Adams or create a favorable matchup for Smith in the paint.

“I think Josh is key,” coach Ben Howland said. “I think that Josh is as hard of a matchup as there is. I don’t think anybody in the college game can stop Josh one-on-one in the post. He is the key for us, no doubt.”

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Joshua Smith
AP Photo/Frank Franklin IIUCLA coach Ben Howland says he doesn't think anybody in the college game can stop Joshua Smith one-on-one in the post.
And Howland said Smith is finally beginning to figure out just how much better the team will be if he can play productive minutes.

“He understood that last year because I told him that,” Howland said. “But I think he’s starting to embrace it.”

He’s also making strides in the effort to get in better condition. He’s eating smarter, for one thing. Last year, he said, he wouldn’t eat before practice and that created a vicious circle in which he would run out of energy while practicing and therefore be unable to work himself into shape.

Then, to make matters worse, he’d go home after practice and eat a big meal because he was so hungry from not eating and working out.

“I was having a Jamba Juice and that’s all I would eat,” Smith said. “I’m running on fumes, two workouts and a practice and then by the time I’m eating, I’m in starvation mode.”

Now, with the aid of a nutritionist and his Magic Bullet blender, Smith is eating smaller meals spaced throughout the day. He also checks in with her before he goes out to dinner and asks for some good options at the restaurant.

He gets weighed once a week but never asks the total. He knows only that he has lost between 15-20 pounds since the end of last season and still has a long way to go.

“I feel a lot better,” he said. “I’m just trying to take care of my body, just make sure I’m hydrated, make sure I’m eating and I just feel good. Running up and down I feel like I can still do better to where I can play 30 minutes a game without getting in to foul trouble and giving it my all.”

Given what happened last summer when Smith said he “was chilling and enjoying my summer,” his teammates promised to keep a close eye on him this summer. They all know how important he is to the team’s success and wanted to make sure he reported ready to play when the season opens. So far, however, they haven’t had to say much.

“We haven’t really had to be on him,” Lamb said. “Everybody saw what happened to us last year and Josh knows what he can do and what he’s capable of and he’s been on himself. He’s been real disciplined.”

It’s already paying dividends on the court. During a practice session of nearly an hour Tuesday, the Bruins worked exclusively on transition offense -- getting out and running the floor. Smith played the entire session without a break and never seemed to lag far behind.

He ran the floor as hard as he could, scored, rebounded and blocked shots. A youth basketball camp was there watching and, after the session was over, the Bruins treated the kids to a slam-dunk session. Smith threw down three two-handed power jams without much of a problem.

“It’s just a process,” Smith said. “I feel better running up and down, but the season isn’t for another four months so I’ve got to keep going. … People aren’t expecting anything out of me. They’re just like, 'Josh had a decent year his freshman year, had a lackluster year sophomore year and it’s not like he’s the kind of guy who can do that' and I’m just trying to prove them wrong.”

Arrival of fabulous freshmen raise the expectations

Shabazz Muhammad
Kelly Kline/Getty ImagesShabazz Muhammad hopes to take UCLA to new heights in the coming season.
Arrival of fabulous freshmen raise the expectations

LOS ANGELES -- The basketball season is still four months away, but Shabazz Muhammad can already feel the pressure starting to build.

Muhammad has been at UCLA less than two weeks but has already seen the people pointing at him as walks by and heard the whispers about how he and his fellow freshmen would be the guys to pull UCLA out of the college basketball doldrums.

Muhammad is used to that kind of attention having been the top high school recruit in the nation for most of the past year, but the stage suddenly became a lot bigger when he arrived at UCLA to begin summer school on June 25.
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Shabazz Muhammad
Courtesy Scott KurtzShabazz Muhammad says he felt the pressure right away when he stepped onto the UCLA campus, but he plans to be a leader for this team.

During the recruiting period, everyone fantasized about the potential monster recruiting class, with Muhammad joining Kyle Anderson, Tony Parker and Jordan Adams. After all four signed with UCLA, giving coach Ben Howland the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation, the fantasy turned to speculation about just how good UCLA would be.

But fantasy and speculation turned to reality once those four players stepped onto campus. Even though they could barely find their way from dorm rooms to class rooms and practice facilities, they were looked at as the guys who would lead UCLA back to the college basketball promised land.

“I could feel the pressure right away,” Muhammad said. “There’s been a lot of talk about this class and what we’re going to do for UCLA, but now we’re here and we have to go out there and prove ourselves. It’s a great opportunity for us, but it’s also a lot of pressure.”

Anderson, Parker and Adams also used the word “pressure” several times when talking about arriving at UCLA. A certain amount of pressure comes with the territory of being named the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation, but the pressure for these guys is different.

UCLA has a storied tradition with 11 national championships and a place on the Mt. Rushmore of college basketball programs, but the Bruins are in the midst of a downturn. They missed the NCAA tournament last season for the second time in three seasons and haven’t made it to the second week of the NCAA tournament since a run to the Final Four in 2008. Add to that a Sports Illustrated report last March that painted the program in an unflattering light and you have a program on the brink of sliding into oblivion.

Yet somehow Las Vegas bookmakers list the odds of UCLA winning the national title at 15-1. Only Indiana, Louisville and Kentucky --- teams that made deep runs in the NCAA tournament last season -- are more heavily favored. The arrival of Muhammad, Anderson, Parker and Adams is a major reason why.

“All of us know that they had a down year last year, so they brought us in here for a reason and that was to win,” Adams said. “We know there is going to be pressure because we’re expected to do big things. It’s going to make us better because we don’t want to be embarrassed by pressure. It’s going make us dig down and fight.”

Jordan AdamsCourtesy of Brendan NolanJordan Adams figures to be one of the Bruins' best outside shooters this season and is ready for the challenge.

Some have called this class the saviors of UCLA basketball and of Howland’s job. Muhammad is the type of dynamic scorer who can elevate a team by himself. Anderson, an enigma as a 6-foot-9 point guard, provides a matchup nightmare for opponents because of his post-player size and guard-like skills.

Parker is a big-bodied, 6-9 post player and Adams is the lethal outside shooting specialist. In the ESPNU class of 2012 high school prospect rankings, Muhammad was No. 2, Anderson No. 5, Parker No. 26 and Adams No. 41. Only defending national champion Kentucky had a class that compared.

It’s a class that on paper certainly appears to have what it takes to pull UCLA out of its current tailspin, but that savior talk might be taking it a little too far, according to the players. Saying that infers that the program needs to be saved, and they just don’t see it that way.

“I don’t think we’re the saviors,” Parker said. “I think we’re just putting some light on something that was already there. We’re just picking up where things left off a few years ago. John Wooden started all this. When a team has 11 national championships, there isn’t anybody who can be a savior or anything like that.”

They can, however, help UCLA return to the nation’s elite. Howland had UCLA very much in the national championship picture when he led the team to three consecutive Final Four appearances from 2006 to '08, but the past three seasons have been mostly forgettable as the Bruins have endured a mediocre 56-43 record in addition to off-court indignity.

Pulling off a turnaround that puts UCLA back in the national championship picture is a major motivating factor for the incoming class. It would have been easy to turn away UCLA during its downturn in fortunes, but all four freshmen cited the opportunity to turn around the program as a primary reason for picking UCLA.

“If I’m on a team who helped turn the program back to where it was before, that puts my name and my teammates’ names up there with UCLA legends and greats,” Anderson said. “If we’re able to get UCLA back to where it was before, that just marks our names in this storied tradition.”

The first step in reversing the current down cycle was getting the players on campus. The next step lies in figuring out the proper way to use them. Howland has found himself in a perfect storm in that regard. First, the NCAA relaxed restrictions on summer practice, so coaches are allowed to hold practices for two hours a week.

And second, UCLA will embark on a trip to China for three exhibition games in late August, so Howland will be allowed to hold 10 full practice sessions in advance of that trip.

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Tony Parker
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhTony Parker says the group of freshmen coming to UCLA are no saviors by any means. He just wants to continue the tradition John Wooden started.

“That extra time is huge for us this year,” Howland said. “It’s going to help build the relationship between the coaches and the players and build the chemistry between the players, and all that will help get these guys integrated. That is a good thing for this team, especially since we’re so young.”

Howland says he plans on emphasizing the up-tempo game during these summer workouts. With the athleticism of Muhammad and Anderson along with speedy point guard Larry Drew -- a senior transfer from North Carolina who is the other new face for UCLA this season -- the team is well-suited to push the tempo.

And with good depth at every position for the first time in several seasons, Howland said he’ll be able to rotate guys in and out more often so speeding the tempo won’t cause too much fatigue.

“We’re really trying to speed up how fast we’re going to get the ball up the floor and take advantage of having good depth by playing faster,” Howland said. “Obviously, we want to build our defense from day one, but we want to get a lot better than we’ve been at pushing the ball the past couple of years.”

The arrival of a highly anticipated freshmen class has had the side effect of inspiring the returning players. Practices so far have been ultra-competitive with older players knowing they will have to step up their games to avoid losing playing time.

It’s a different practice environment than Muhammad remembers seeing when he came to UCLA on a recruiting visit last season.

“Last year, I remember watching them practice and they weren’t practicing hard and it wasn’t a good practice,” Muhammad said. “We’re getting after it this summer. Guys like Josh [Smith] don’t want to get embarrassed. It’s a whole culture change and I think that’s really going to change our team and make us a really good team.”

Getting there isn’t going to happen overnight. Anderson is unable to participate in live drills until Aug. 1 as he recovers from surgery to repair torn ligaments in his thumb. Muhammad sprained his ankle last week and was in a walking boot earlier this week -- a grim reminder that one wrong step could derail a lot of the hopes for this season’s team.

“We don’t really talk about turning the whole thing around in one day or one week or one summer,” Anderson said. “We have an entire roster of guys that want to bring it back to where it used to be and turn it around from that downward trend that people are saying UCLA is going, but we know that it’s going to be hard. If being good was easy, everybody would be good, so we know it’s going to be difficult and we’re looking forward to that challenge.”

Muhammad is also waiting to hear from the NCAA regarding his eligibility. The NCAA is investigating ties between his family and a pair of financial advisers, but Muhammad said he expected to be on the floor when the Bruins open a refurbished Pauley Pavilion on Nov. 9 against Indiana State.

“Right now, I think I’m eligible to play,” he said. “I’m in constant communication with [the NCAA] and it’s going good so far.”

Howland said he hasn’t heard anything either way.

“That’s an ongoing process,” Howland said. “It’s just a process that’s continuing, so I have no definitive answer on that.”

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Kyle Anderson
J.Anthony Roberts/ESPNHS.comKyle Anderson, a 6-foot-9 point guard, says he knows turning around UCLA's recent downtrend will not be easy

Losing Muhammad for any period would deal a significant blow to UCLA’s designs on climbing back to the top. He is expected to be UCLA’s top scoring threat this season and he’s also a natural alpha dog who intends to step right into a leadership role on the team.

“I think last year this team didn’t really have a leader to uphold them throughout the game,” Muhammad said. “I’m just trying to get everybody in line. There are a whole bunch of pieces to this team, a whole bunch of All-Americans. A whole bunch of talent. So if we get a leader like myself, I think we can really go far in the tournament.”

Muhammad, self-confident and assured by high levels of success at every level so far, is not concerned about imposing that attitude as a freshman.

“I think they knew I was going to take that role when I came in, because of my aggressive demeanor,” he said. “I really appreciate them letting me take that role and I’m going to try and do a good job and lead the team every game.”

The goals for this season are very high: Anything less than an appearance in the Final Four would be a disappointment. Parker and Adams would like nothing more than to make the Final Four because it will be held in Atlanta next spring, near the hometowns of both players.

Anderson says he can’t see anything that would prevent such a run other than if the Bruins start looking ahead. Muhammad, already projected as a lottery pick in the 2013 NBA draft, said he would put his NBA career on hold if UCLA fails to reach the Final Four this season.

“Obviously, I’m looking forward to us doing really well in the tournament and then we’ll see what goes on from there,” he said. “I could see myself coming back if we don’t do a really good job in the tournament because that means I didn’t do what I was supposed to do coming here, and just leaving wouldn’t be right.”

Passing up millions of dollars if he doesn’t lead the team deep into the NCAA tournament?

Now that’s pressure.

Pacers deal Collison, Jones to Mavs for Mahinmi

Pacers deal Collison, Jones to Mavs for Mahinmi
Posted Jul 12 2012 12:46PM - Updated Jul 12 2012 3:41PM

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- The Indiana Pacers are sending point guard Darren Collison and wing player Dahntay Jones to the Dallas Mavericks for center Ian Mahinmi, according to the agent for one of the players.

Mark Bartelstein, who represents Jones, confirmed Thursday that the deal is in place.

"That's going to happen," Bartelstein said.

The Mavericks are adding 7-foot center Chris Kaman, a step forward for a team that failed to persuade guard Deron Williams to leave the Brooklyn Nets and play in his home town. Dallas is also losing guards Jason Kidd and Jason Terry in free agency.

Collison lost his starting job to George Hill late last season after starting 135 games for the Pacers in two seasons. He averaged 13.2 points and 5.1 assists two years ago and 10.4 points and 4.8 rebounds this past season.

Jones, a defensive stopper, joined the Pacers for the 2009-10 season and started 31 games in three years. He averaged 5.3 points in 16.2 minutes per game last season.

Mahinmi, an athletic Frenchman, started 12 games for the Mavericks last season and averaged 5.8 points.

Jones was considered a key part of Indiana's rebuilding effort, but he couldn't get much playing time. Danny Granger was entrenched at small forward, then Paul George emerged as a budding star at shooting guard. Now, Lance Stephenson is playing well in summer league, and the Pacers picked up Orlando Johnson on draft night, leaving few minutes for Jones.

"I think there was a logjam at the wing spots," Bartelstein said. "He's a proven player in this league. He has the opportunity to go somewhere where he can get more playing time."

Jones sent out his thoughts in two tweets:

"Thanks Pacers fans for all the support over the past 3 years. I gave my heart and soul on the court and in the community," he wrote. "Indiana is definitely a place I will always remember. Happy to see my guys (at)StephensonLance and (at)King24George grow into great players &men."

Collison was considered a key building block for the Pacers when they picked him up in a trade, but he became expendable when the Pacers traded for Hill during the 2011 drafted. Collison kept his starting job for most of the season, but after a groin injury late last season, coach Frank Vogel moved him to a backup role for good. Hill started throughout Indiana's run into the second round of the playoffs.

Mahinmi will have a chance to back up Roy Hibbert, a restricted free agent who reportedly will re-sign with the Pacers. Indiana drafted Duke center Miles Plumlee in the first round last month, so Mahinmi's addition solidifies the position.

Mahinmi also sent out his thoughts on Twitter:

"Hey PacerNation I'm very excited to start a new journey with indy, looking forward to get to work!!! thanks for the warm welcome pacer fans!" he wrote.