What's your opinion on playing some power forward this year?
"I'm looking forward to contributing, no matter what position. I'm looking forward to it, whatever is in front of me."
How has the transition to college been for you so far?
"It's all about time. You just don't have a lot of time to do a lot of things, so you have to manage your time well. There's class, which is pretty hard, and you have to stay focused there, too, as well as on the basketball court."
Even though you're still slender, you look like you've gained weight since high school....
"I'm trying hard, man. I probably weighed 190 out of high school and I've gained 8 pounds. I'd probably like to be about 210. That's what I'm trying to do. It'd be good to match up defensively."
Have you also been working on your jump shot?
"A lot. I've been working on it a lot."
Since you committed to Steve Lavin, did you think much about coming to UCLA with a another head coach?v "I haven't really thought about it. It's just something that happened. I had to go through it. I didn't want to have to get out of my letter of intent and go through the whole recruiting process again, to begin with. But then I knew that this was good for me. I like it here. My mom really wanted me to go here. She didn't want me to leave."
Did you ever consider going somewhere else?
"No. Once I committed, I knew I was going to come here. Even after the coaching change. Even watching them play last year. I know they struggled, but hopefully this year we'll do a lot better."
Is Head Coach Ben Howland as tough a coach as your coach at Westchester High, Ed Azzam?
"I don't know. It's about a tie. Because Coach Azzam was hard. They're about the same. They both want you to work hard and to get the most out of you that they can. They both stress defense a lot."
Guard Cedric Bozeman has been sidelined by a shoulder injury and surgery since last spring, and, after two fairly disappointing seasons, the junior is looking to make a mark this season.
When were you cleared to play?
"In late July. I was tested and cleared. I'm now 100%. I still have some battle scars, though."
Did you think the injury would be that bad?
"I didn't. I thought with a little time it'd be better. But I had to do what I had to do, get it fixed, and now I feel a lot stronger. It's better that I did it.
Have you added some weight?
"I know when I had the surgery done I was probably down to 190. I've put on about 15 pounds since then."
Is your game rusty, getting back in the swing?
"No, not at all. There's no rust. I've been playing basketball all summer. There's been no layoff. Since I was cleared to shoot a basketball, I was back in the gym."
From watching the other players during the summer, who do you think has improved the most?
"The two big men, Mike Fey and Ryan Hollins. They've improved so much. This is going to be their second year, and I've seen a vast improvement from spring until now. They look a lot better. They're aggressive offensively, and both run the floor really well. Their aggressive intensity on offense is good. They get the ball and they look to score."
Do you think it's important for you to have a big year personally?
"I'm just playing it by ear. I want to stay positive. If I'm there, I want to take full control of my opportunities."
What part of your game do you think has improved from last season?
"Probably the mid-range game. I worked on it to take advantage of my height, to shoot over smaller guards. That's going to be a big plus, and backing down smaller guards."
Mike Fey, the 6-11 sophomore center, has put in some work during the off-season in preparing for the 2003-2004 season.
How much different is it with the new coaching staff?
"It's a lot different. It's a lot more structured and serious. The coaching staff stresses things a lot more and are more detailed."
How are you physically?
"Good. At the end of last season, I was probably about 260. Then this summer I lost some weight, down to about 250. Then I've been lifting weights this whole summer and I'm about 255 right now. So I slimmed down and got stronger. When I lost those ten pounds it helped me move quicker and jump higher. The weights are good, too, because I feel much stronger down in the post."
Do you think you'll get some improved big man coaching with the new staff?
"Yeah. Coach (Donny) Daniels runs most of our individual workouts with the big men. He's taught us a lot already. He's coached Michael Doleac at Utah, and others. Coach Howland is a big man coach, too, because they had a lot of big guys at Pitt. So there's a lot of knowledge there. I just want to take everything in."
Did you work harder in anticipation of the new staff coming in?
"I think it was little like that. Last season also didn't go the way any of us wanted, obviously. So, then we got a new coaching staff and everybody has a clean slate. So I just wanted to come out here and prove that I can help out this team. I think it's like that for everybody. It's a new coach and everyone wants to show them that they're here to learn and here to play."
Assistant coach Kerry Keating came to the UCLA staff from Tennessee, where he was considered one of the best recruiters in the business.
How have the individual workouts gone and how have the players responded?
"I've been here the least amount of time. Most of my time is focused on recruiting, which is always important. It's obvious, though, that the players have responded to Coach (Howland), even since June. They're making an effort to give him what he demands out of them, the effort, and I'm excited about it. I'm excited about starting practice, to get the the whole team going instead of four guys at a time. We'll be able to learn so much more in more situations. They'll have to prove it on five-on-five and we'll know better where we are."
Has the team bought in to the weight lifting mindset?
"I think so. Some people who haven't seen Ryan Hollins since last year, they noticed he put on weight. He's up to almost 220 now. He was 205 in the summer. Weight lifting for him is important. Mike Fey is getting bigger. It will probably also show up quite a bit with guys like Trevor Ariza, who need to get bigger, and some of the guards. Coach wants to play physical and the guys understand that."
When will you back on the road for recruiting and where will you go generally?
"We go back on the road November 20th. And we'll go all over the world. We'll all travel. A great thing about working with Coach, and Ernie and Donnie, is at other places in our respective positions we've been heading up the recruiting for that staff. So you're getting a consistent daily effort from three guys as far as recruiting. Whether that changes during the year remains to be seen. But from what we've done, our staff effort as far as recruiting has been very good and really focused. I've been really excited about that. I've never really had that before – where you have three assistants on the staff who are all recruiting like it's life or death. It's great.
"Also, the one thing that will make us better recruiters is that Coach puts forward an effort himself as far recruiting goes. That's really important. That will be the one consistent thing about UCLA: Coach Howland. Assistants can come and go, and you can lose some recruiting effort in transitions like that. But Coach Howland will be here. He's the guy that really heads up the whole thing."
Will you have to look more nationally with the class of 2005?
"We'll always try to do that. We'll try to get the best players no matter where they are. There will always be players in Southern California and the west coast, and our main focus will be there. But we'll try to cover everyone and evaluate as best we can, and take advantage of the time we're allowed to travel to do that evaluation. Evaluation is the key. No matter where the recruits are, in the west or nationally, the biggest thing is evaluating and recognizing them."