Howland's Monday Press Conference

Ben Howland updates the media on Tony Parker, talks about the matchup against San Marcos, and discusses how the defense has developed this season...

Ben Howland talks on Tuesday:


BH: I'm going to get started. It's obviously very odd to have an exhibition game in the middle of a season. And I've never done this before, but we did it because of the fact that we wanted to open Pauley [Pavilion] with its first game being played here being a real game. And opening it the right way. So this is not something that'll probably happen again in the future here at UCLA. We're welcoming back Jim Saia who did a great job for Steve Lavin here during Steve's tenure. Jim's a really great guy and is doing a great job building a program at California State University, San Marcos. Their other exhibition game was up against San Diego State where the game was actually tied at halftime. So they played San Diego State really tough in the first half down there. We're going to hopefully play mostly man-to-man against this team and try to improve in that area. Even though Jim normally played a lot of zone against San Diego State, it was something he said they did because they were getting ready to play Syracuse the next game. I've asked him to play at least half the game man-to-man so we can work on some things, our man offense.

Q: how are things looking with Tony [Parker]?

BH: Tony practiced today. Today was Tony's first day back after hurting his ankle in that Cal Poly [San Luis Obispo] game. So he's been out essentially 7-8 days. His conditioning… he was winded. But it was good to have him back out there. Hopefully we can get him going here in the next week to get some of his conditioning back. When you sit out for a week, it's tough. We went up and down a lot today. This wasn't a normal day-before-the-game practice. We really did a lot of up and down and ran a lot today.

Q: Ben, have you ever had so many young key pieces before?

BH: when Arron [Afflalo] and Jordan [Farmar] were freshmen and Josh Shipp, I think that was the last time we played freshmen so much. [audio difficulties] That's when Ced [Cedric] Bozeman, I think hurt his knee early and redshirted the whole year. I guess [Ryan] Hollins and [Michael] Fey were sophomores that season… oh wait, juniors. I take that back. They were juniors. But, yeah, it's not optimal [to play so many freshmen]. Right now, Jordan Adams, Shabazz, Kyle… Those guys are all playing major minutes right now for us. And we're hoping to get going back in the fold here as far as getting them some new experience.

Q: is there anything with that team before and the process of everyone trying to get acclimated, has that thought you anything? … [audio difficulties]

BH: yeah, patience. We have to be patient. Keep pushing hard. But the team will be good. You have to be patient. Everything is new to them. Things get taken for granted sometimes that are just things that normally you would think a freshman would know. You can't take anything for granted.

Q: I know you talked a lot about Shabazz [Muhammad] and how he's acclimating, but how is Kyle [Anderson] acclimating? I know he's not used to losing in high school, and he's kind of not scoring as much as some people thought he would…

BH: I think he's continuing to work on it. He's been asked, more than anybody, to know so many different positions. We play different roles on our team in terms of over the summer and now. He rebounds the ball well. Kyle's learning how to defend at this level for the first time. It's a different level in terms of his abilities and ability to play offensively against more size. He had a size advantage, for the most part, in high school. Well, you don't have that at this level. Everybody matches up in similar size. But I'm pleased with his development. Jordan [Adams]'s done a great job too. Jordan's really acclimated well. Jordan's been away from home the last two years which is kind of advantageous for going off to college for the first time because he's already been away from home for the first couple of years.

Q: did you see anything from Norman [Powell] the other night that might earn him potentially more minutes?

BH: Norman's played 25… he's playing 27 minutes a game at this point and done a good job for us. He got lost a couple times in the zone in the second half and gave up a couple big 3's but everybody makes mistakes. He's definitely one of our best man-to-man defenders, and he got us off when we were struggling offensively in the first half and made a couple big 3's.. [audio difficulties] so we're counting on Norman.

Q: similar to the question earlier about freshmen, have you ever had a freshman having to learn so many different positions or different roles like Kyle has?

BH: no. I haven't. And his versatility allows that. He's a really smart player. Has a very good feel for the game. He knows when he makes a mistake. He sees everything. He has a good feel for it. His dad coached at the college level and he's been around it his whole life.

Q: for Jordan [Adams], ideally, would you rather him be in the starting lineup or come off the bench?

BH: that doesn't matter. We could change the starting lineup again. Bottom line, all 8 guys are playing. Who's finishing games and who's out there at the end… as the season progresses, we have to get better defensively.

Q: That punch he gives you off the bench… that spark…

BH: yeah, it was good for us early. Our rotation changed with the addition of Shabazz back in New York. And we're still kind of finding our way.

Q: as far as the beginning of the season, do you write it off as growing pains… disappointing start?

BH: yeah. We should have at least 1 more win obviously than we do. Losing at home to Cal Poly was a bad loss for us. San Diego State… we were playing a very good team. They got a good crowd over us in terms of how loud they were and obviously we can go back to New York. We played some good teams there. Georgetown is a very good team.

Q: is this a matter of the fan base maybe being patient like you have to be patient…

BH: the fans here are always going to have expectations to win every game. That's UCLA basketball. [audio difficulties]

Q: do you still think this can be a Top-25 team?

BH: I think we can be a very good team. #1, we have to stay healthy. We've got a lot of basketball to be played. I was thinking back… looking at some teams… we've already played 8 games. I was looking up there and [audio difficulties] first game was December 3. It's different how many games we play earlier. How it affects your practice time that you bypass by playing game after game after game. Sometimes it's a disadvantage. Like it was great to get a practice in today. We were just playing game after game after game. It's good to get in a few practices so we can work on some things.

Q: how important has Jordan been just with Shabazz still working back into game shape and Kyle still trying to find his niche?

BH: Jordan's done a tremendous job for us. At the start of the second half of the last game, he came out and hit some big shots. We couldn't get stops. It was 38-all, he made a shot. 41-40, with the ball… We were right there the other night. It's not like we didn't have any opportunities to make a run. We probably should have ran a little bit earlier. The zone in the first half was really good. We were struggling to score. The game was 10-9 with 9 minutes left in the first half.

Q: do you think it's safe to say that Jordan has exceeded expectations so far this season?

BH: based on what I saw this summer, I'm not surprised by what he's accomplished. We thought he'd be really good. We knew he was a good player. But he's going to be a good one. He's a great kid.

Q: with Kyle, has there been a player that you coached or watched extensively that kind of reminds you of…

BH: I haven't really thought about it. Ask me again next time, maybe tomorrow, and I'll give you some thoughts on that.

Q: Coach, were you surprised to find yourself in a road environment at the Wooden Classic?

BH: yeah, I was. But actually when we… I don't schedule the games. When it was scheduled last spring, obviously, we wanted to get a good crowd there for the Wooden Classic, but I knew there would potentially be a game like that… San Diego State being so close and having such a good fan base down there. And they've been really good. Steve Fisher [coach]. Veteran backcourt. They're a really good team. They're a team that could be really dangerous come March.

Q: were you surprised at how poorly your fans travel down?

BH: I don't know… when I go to a game, I'm not paying attention to the fans. I just know there were more of them than of ours. What I was told before the game, we were expecting 15,000 or 16,000, and it was announced 17,000 and they had sold 6,000 tickets through the school, we had sold 1,000, and they had sold about 8,000 in Orange County. I don't know how that was broken down. Last year, I thought our fans supported us really well when we had the road show and played 4 games down there. So it was a big-time San Diego State crowd, the way they traveled.

Q: [University of] Kentucky has taken a couple more losses than people thought, you guys as well, both heavily dependent on freshmen… is there something to be taken away from that?

BH: so 2 games more than people thought… so people thought they were going to be undefeated? That's what you're talking about? Kentucky, UCLA, that's the "normal"? There's a lot of good teams out there throughout the country at all levels. Parity in college basketball continues to be interesting. I was talking to Bill [audio difficulties] at ESPN... Duke's really good. A senior-laden team. But there's no team out there that you can say is a "great" team and so much better than everybody else. Anybody, on a given day, can beat you in this country. I think that's more and more of how you see things because of the early entry to the NBA and other things. Imagine if Kentucky had the team back from last year and added what they have.

Q: do you think the expectations for freshmen have maybe risen because of what Kentucky did last year with so many freshmen that maybe this year people expect more out of freshmen because of it?

BH: I was talking with one of my good friends, Jamie Dixon [head coach, University of Pittsburgh], Kentucky played 6 guys last year. 7th guy was the big kid from Portland. So they only played 6 kids. 4 of them were freshmen. Or 3 of them. And Anthony Davis was not your normal freshman. That guy's one of the best… I can't remember a big guy coming out of college as a freshman with [audio difficulties]… blocking shots. dominating… Durant was a big… [Davis] he's a unique character. He's really, really good.

Q: you like to have balanced scoring throughout your lineup. Do you think that Shabazz is that type of guy that you want to have to be a leading scoring type of guy?

BH: Yeah, I think he's a guy… he's averaging 15 points a game… he's a guy that's capable of being more than that on a given night. He's going to be consistent. I think Shabazz… you have to give him a little more credit than that. He didn't get to practice at all during the summer. He was hurt for 9 weeks. He only practiced 10 practices prior to hurting his shoulder. His conditioning's been a factor. I think he's getting better conditioned. I just saw him after practice. We're just going to run more during practice. We just have to get ourselves… because we're playing 8 guys. We have to get ourselves in great condition for those 8 guys to play as hard as they need to play and to be as effective as we need to be.

Q: what do you see him being when he's at his peak toward the end of the year? Scoring-wise?

BH: I don't think about that. It's game to game. Some teams are going to play very patient. Varies from game to game. he's going to get better and better. Being more comfortable out there too. We're going to get better spacing. It threw us off in the last game, the way they switched on Larry [Drew II]. Larry took 10 shots in the last game. I don't think he's taken more than 6 or 7 the rest of the games. He's had 36 shot attempts going into the game with seven games played. That's not how he normally plays. And he makes a couple of shots that he's going to make.

Q: how close do you think Shabazz is getting to his peak?

BH: well, I think years. For his "peak".

Q: I mean for this season. Shape-wise.

BH: I'm hoping that by January. Another 3 weeks.

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