Howland's Press Conference

Coach Ben Howland talked about his team improving, Larry Drew's defense, Long Beach State, and more...


BH: yeah, he [Kareem Abdul-Jabbar] was here doing an interview for CBS. A big interview for CBS News. I think it's a Sunday program. I don't know when they're going to show it. After we were doing shooting this morning. And so an opportunity presented itself so he could speak to our team. It was really nice. Here's the guy that's arguably the greatest player to ever play the game. He's the greatest player to ever play here. And yet so much of his experience here at UCLA was about education and his involvement in social issues. To me, he's a great example of what our players should be trying to do with overall experience at UCLA.

Q: was that his biggest message as far as off the court? Did he talk to them about anything basketball-wise?

BH: yeah, he said, "We're behind you". "Keep working hard." Those types of things. You can ask the players. To me, I asked him to talk about his experience here educationally and his involvement in the antiwar movement, civil rights movements. The guy's written books, and he's obviously highly educated and intelligent. For our players to get a chance to see that and meet him and listen to him talk. He's such an impressive individual. I think it was really special.

Q: what do you hope they got from that?

BH: basically here's a guy who's the greatest player ever. Leading scorer in the history of the league. 9 nine championships, overall, between college and the pros. And just for him to talk about how important the overall experience is and giving back to your communities and when you go home, taking things that you learned in college and be able to help better your own communities where you're from. Those were all important messages.

Q: Ben, how have you seen Larry [Drew II]'s progression this season, being from a guy who didn't play last year to now becoming the leader, the sole senior on this team?

BH: I think Larry's done a really good job with his decision-making. We're spending more time now, (now that we have time) in particular getting some extra shooting in during the week. I'm confident that I want him to look for his perimeter shot more. I want him to continue to improve his on-ball defense. When he's really locked in and playing as hard as he possibly can, he is a very good on-ball defender. And we need to have that out of him. He makes it a lot harder to run your offense for the other team's point guard if you're having to deal with Larry Drew at his best defensively. Really, really working hard, pointing the ball, and pressuring. Which is really new to him. It's not something that he's been asked to do a whole lot of. How we want to have him pressure the ball because he's so quick and strong and fast.

Q: would you say that he hasn't done that for a lot…

BH: I don't think that he was asked to do that like I want it done. Like he has the ability, like Darren Collison did, to where when he's really, really going as hard as he can, it makes it very difficult to deal with him. If you're a point guard and you have to deal with a "Larry Drew" or a "Darren Collison," which is similar type athlete, it's really hard to just deal with them, much less try to run your team. But it takes a lot of energy and work. Like that one possession late in the Texas game where he kept getting in front man, in front of the man. It's frustrating, but it's getting Larry to play with that type of effort. And it's hard.

Q: is it tough with the lack of depth on the team with just 8 players? And is it hard for him to sustain it over [the length of a game]?

BH: he's in great shape. He's just got to do it… I'm trying to give him more of a rest when I can. He's getting a rest. He was really playing very, very hard in Texas in the second half, and he got really tired. He did get tired, but if he's doing it every day out here which is what I've got to continue to stress, then when it comes game time, he's been doing all the time. It's just… the thing is, he's so quick and so fast and so strong. Other than Darren, he would be the guy that would be the quickest, fastest guy we've had. And maybe Russell [Westbrook].

Q: have you asked Kyle [Anderson] to be more aggressive rebounding? He's leading the rebounding this year.

BH: well, we talked about him being able to rebound, going into the season. Yeah, that's something that he was conscious of. That he wanted to do. So if you ask him, that's a goal of his: to lead us in rebounding. That's something that he can, I think, do. And not only is he a good rebounder, he can get tough rebounds. And I like that he's getting them on the defensive end. So that's good for us. Seeing him get 11 the other night was nice. And that one exhibition game, he had 16. I think it was 16.

Q: are you preparing as if Long Beach State might get those ineligible guys back for the game?

BH: I fully expect them to be eligible. Yeah. We have one day preparation. We had yesterday off. Today [12-17-12] we came and shot. We're going to practice here in less than an hour. Then we'll have the walkthrough tomorrow. The game is at 8PM. But I fully expect… Keala King is a heck of a player, and we know that from playing against him when he was at Arizona State. And he's a very, very good player. [James] Ennis is really a good player. He's a hard matchup for us. That kid's a heck of a player. Their point guard, [Mike] Caffey is a very good penetrating driver, finish-to-the-hoop… They've got good personnel. And they've played an unbelievably difficult schedule. Going to Syracuse, going to Ohio State, playing North Carolina at home. They had one other, playing at Arizona. They've played some really, really good teams thus far.

Q: how different is that team with those players back? Does that completely change…

BH: yeah, especially Keala [King]. I don't know if the kid from DePaul, [Tony] Freeland… I think the other two will be, but I'm not sure if he [Tony Freeland] will or not.

Q: what do you see from [James] Ennis on tape? A lot of people say he's probably a [future] pro. What do you see from his game?

BH: well, he can step out and shoot 3's. He's very good off the dribble, and that's going to be what's tough for us. He really bounces it well. Finishes. Spin dribbles. Gets to the hoop. Very good offensive rebounder. They're just a very athletic team. And he's very bouncy. He's a hard matchup. Because he's played the 3 before, but now he's playing some 4. And it's really an advantage to try to have a 4-man try to guard a guy that's a 3. Kind of like Dijon Thompson. His senior year, he was a 3 that played the 4 on offense. And it was a difficult matchup for people because he can take bigs out on the perimeter and shoot it or if you get out on him, then he can drive you. So he's very, very versatile.

Q: how does that impact Kyle?

BH: it's going to be a tough matchup. He has to guard him.

Q: assuming those guys come back, with Keala [King] and perhaps Tony [Freeland] and [audio difficulties]

BH: it's different. They've been playing the whole time. As far as I know, they haven't been injured. He [Shabazz Muhammad] missed time, I'm talking about Shabazz. And the difference is Keala is a third year. He's a third year player now. He's not a freshman. And he's played major college basketball for a couple years at a high level. So it's different. In Shabazz's case, he had never even played a college game before. So both those kids transferred from LMU… third year players.

Q: so you think you'll see man or see zone?

BH: both. I think that they'll play man-to-man. And they switch. There's a lot of switching going on. Ball screens. They'll switch 1 through 4. 1 through 5, at times. Switching all screens. They'll press after free throws. Both a 1-2-2 full court or a 2-2-1 three-quarter court, back to zone. They'll play 2 different types of zone. A 1-2-2 and a 2-3. So they've got a lot of different looks that they go and we expect that they'll be doing all of them.

Q: do you think your zone offense has improved?

BH: yeah, it has. And we've changed a few things, but I think we're getting more comfortable with it now. And I thought we attacked it well the other day against Prairie View [A&M]. And we'll keep continuing to improve because we're going to see it and we're practicing against it more… like I said, in the summer time, I think most teams you'll see earlier in the season have difficulty attacking the zone, maybe in November. But by the time January and February come around, after you have been doing for a few months, all of a sudden you're practicing against it every day… no one practices against… no one up at the Men's Gym in the summer, "let's play some zone today. We'll help each other get better at playing against zones." It just doesn't happen. And the zone forces you to slow down and be patient on offense. And that's not something that's normal in the summer time either.

Q: how key has Kyle been to that?

BH: yeah, he's so good in it because he's a facilitator that wants to catch the high post and turn and face. And we've got to keep getting him as many touches as possible. You know who's really good in there too is Jordan [Adams]. Jordan is very good. We have an offense where we call "rover" where there's just 2 guys that are kind of freelancing, going in and out. Spacing the floor. And I think he'll be terrific at it as well because he's got good passing skills, and he's comfortable in there. Inside. And he's got a nice little touch. He can finish.

Q: is this a team where you think you'll play zone?

BH: are you working for Dan Monson [head coach, Long Beach State] here? [smiling] We definitely could play some zone tomorrow.

Q: how much are you practicing zone?

BH: we've been spending the majority of our time in man-to-man but we have been working on some zone because we're playing against it offensively so our guys are working on zone for sure each day.

Q: and are you seeing the signs that the freshmen are picking up on the concepts that makes you believe…

BH: we're getting slowly but surely. A little better… in terms of [audio difficulties] on the ball. How to trail screens. How to bump curls. How to extend screens. How to get more help side. We just have to keep growing. Tomorrow's going to be a big test. Long Beach State is a very well-coached, very athletic team. And they've won three straight Big West championships. They're slated to win a fourth. They've got good players. Their big kid inside, [Dan] Jennings, I think that's his name. The kid from West Virginia, he's a load. He's averaging just under four offensive rebounds a game. He's a big body. He's aggressive and physical. He's a problem. The kid [audio difficulties] can really shoot at goal. He can really shoot the ball well. He's good at 3-point shots. They have a kid named Deng Deng who's a kid from Utah who can really shoot the ball. So they've got a nice blend. They have a lot of depth and talent.

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