Howland's Friday Teleconference

Ben Howland talks about his job security and whether he's had a conversation with Dan Guerrero, and also discusses the growth of the team this season...

Q: Can you just tell us what you've seen from the tape of Fresno State?

A: They play extremely hard. They really pressure in their man to man defense. They're primarily a man to man defensive team that really gets out and pressures you. They have some kids that play extremely hard. I've been really impressed with their freshman center Robert Upshaw, who we had recruited some, who's probably lost about 30 pounds. He looks in great physical condition. Huddleston and Johnson, Foster, Jerry Brown, they have another kid who has a name that I have a hard time saying, maybe you guys can help me, No. 3, how do you pronounce it?

Q: Olekaibe.

A: Olekaibe, very good Chris, I asked the right person. They're all good players. They had a great chance to beat Texas at Texas. They split with Long Beach, and I think Long Beach is pretty good. They played Washington State very tough on the road. That final score doesn't indicate how close that game was. They have some good pieces so it's going to be a tough game.

Q: What do you see in Shabazz Muhammad's progress after missing the first three games? Is he getting to where you want him to be?

A: Yeah, he's getting better and better. We just completed an hour now as a team just shooting and working on shooting off dribbles, shot fake shots, we're doing a lot of things with Shabazz. He's just a freshman. When you think about our freshman class right now, I've been impressed with all four of them. Tony Parker had a really good practice yesterday which I was excited about, but all four of these kids, when you start comparing them…I was just talking to our SID and he was telling me that's the first time in the history of the school that two freshmen had 20 points in the same game, which I was stunned at, but pretty amazing in our last outing to have two freshmen for the first time in the history of UCLA basketball score 20 or more points in the same game.

Q: What game was that?

A: The Long Beach game. Both Shabazz and Jordan Adams, I think it was 24 and 21. That never happened before. I know Kareem and Jamal didn't get to play as freshmen, that's always an asterisk with all these freshman records, but still pretty impressive.

Q: Can you talk about Parker and where his progress is at this point?

A: Yeah, like I said earlier, I thought he had a great practice yesterday. Tony's going to end up playing major minutes for us in huge games as this season unfolds. He's making good progress. I'm excited about Tony. He didn't play many minutes against Long Beach. It was a very difficult match up game I thought. I'm excited about Tony and think he's going to be a very good player. He just had a very good shooting practice right now. We come back this afternoon at 3, but I'm excited for Tony.

Q: Do you think he needed a little more time than the other three freshmen?

A: Well, I don't know that. I think it's different when you're playing inside and those guys are so physical. It's just different when you're playing inside versus outside. It's just a different game. Everybody's different. Tony's going to be a good player, and he is a good player.

Q: How much did his injuries in the early season hurt his development?

A: This summer, when we had our first practice going to China, he tore his hamstring. So he was out with a hammy for the entire summer. And then he's been hurt a couple different times, both with his back, when we went to Brooklyn and came back, and then right after he came back, he sprained his ankle. So he's had some tough luck with certain things, and he seems to be getting in better condition right now, and I think he has yoga here in an hour. Just reminded me, I've got to call and make sure he gets to his yoga.

Q: Ben, something was written on a UCLA board yesterday suggesting that your job could be in jeopardy even during the season. Do you read that? Do you pay attention to that?

A: No, I don't read it. What board are you talking about?

Q: Tracy's board. Bruins online.

A: No, I heard about it, but I don't read it.

Q: What did you hear about it?

A: Just what you said.

Q: Does that bother you, or even make a difference, penetrate your consciousness?

A: You know what, this profession is [inaudible] profession, so you're always going to have things written. I'm just doing everything I can to help this team improve, and grow, and become the best team it can become, and help the players as individuals grow and become the best individual players they can be. But I can't help you with substantiating anything that is written on the boards.

Q: Have you had any discussions with Dan Guerrero or anyone in the Athletic Department about your future?

A: No. Everything at UCLA since I've been here has been very much the same in that you're evaluated at the end of every season.

Q: How much better are you guys playing now than you were a month ago?

A: A lot better. And part of that is that we're so young. When you look at the eight guys that are playing, four of them are freshmen. They're growing and improving and the returners are improving. I thought Larry Drew had his best game as a Bruin in that last outing. He's improving and getting better. I really like what the Wears are doing right now. I think Norman Powell is improving. So, I think we're a much much better team than we were a month ago. And that's what you expect.

Q: How important are these next two games before Pac-12 season starts?

A: Diane, as you know since we've worked together before, I'm not even thinking about Missouri. All I'm concerned with right now is doing the very best we can to prepare for Fresno Stat e and if we don't play to our best then it's going to be our game to win. They're going to come in here, I tell you what, Rodney's doing a great job. These kids are playing extremely hard and they have a great following and a great fan base in Fresno. I go back, as our radio host Chris Roberts knows, all the way back to our Big West days with Boyd Grant and the Red Wave and Fresno State. I have great respect for their program and their history. We have great focus on what we're trying to accomplish and what we need to continue to improve with tomorrow's outing against the Bulldogs.

Q: What's your guys' schedule for the Christmas holidays?

A: After tomorrow's game we'll have off Sunday and Monday, then we'll come back and practice Christmas night, and then practice the 26th and 27th in preparation for the game on the 28th.

Q: Are the out of state guys going to go home or are they going to stick around?

A: They're going to stick around. It's just tough right now. I feel bad that they won't be able to get home, but playing basketball, your holidays are a little different. It's hard when you're playing games.

Q: Are you allowed to have Christmas dinner for all of them, is that allowed under NCAA rules?

A: All our players will have a nice Christmas dinner before practice. 

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