Basketball Media Day

Basketball Head Coach Steve Lavin faces the press as the 2001/2002 basketball season kicks off with Media Day...

Steve Lavin met the press yesterday at UCLA's media day and is still standing.

The highlights…

On Conditioning…

Lavin expressed great satisfaction with his players' conditioning to date. Unlike some previous years, most of veterans remained in Los Angeles for the summer and, as a result, the off-season conditioning and weight lifting program appears to have been very successful. Dan Gadzuric, Matt Barnes and especially T.J. Cummings appear to have bulked up considerably, especially in the upper body. Josiah Johnson almost appears svelte at 240 pounds, and freshmen Cedric Bozeman, Dijon Thompson and Andre Patterson all appear to have added significant muscle since the close of their high school careers. Jason Kapono, Billy Knight, Ray Young and Rico Hines all look to be in excellent shape. Jon Crispin looks like a baby bull.

On the style of play of the team…

Lavin indicated that the team would play high-pressure defense and "attack offense" for 40 minutes per game. He doesn't feel that finding enough playing time to go around will be a major issue. Lavin stated that he would like to see UCLA play high-pressure, transition-oriented 40-minute basketball year-in, year-out. In his recruiting, he looks mainly for "really good players." In short, he emphasizes skills and "mental makeup" more than athleticism, but he also stated that UCLA must recruit NBA-level athletes to compete with the top teams in the country.

On the Pac-10 Tournament…

Lavin feels that the Pac-10 Tournament will eventually pay dividends for UCLA and the other Pac-10 schools as an additional national TV event that should help with recruiting. He also likes the idea of giving the team a chance to play in a tournament-like setting prior to the NCAA Tournament. So, basically, he's all for the conference tournament, and he especially likes the fact that it's going to take place in Los Angeles this year, at the Staples Center.

On the hiring of two new assistants…

Lavin spoke briefly about his assistant hires, Gerald Madkins and Patrick Sandle. Lavin likes the fact that both are guards who played a lot of point guard in their careers. He feels that having a former UCLA player like Madkins on the staff is essential to selling recruits on the athletic and non-athletic advantages that UCLA offers. He also feels that Madkins' NBA and other professional basketball experiences suit him particularly well to communicating with student-athletes on issues of vital concern to them. Sandle brings 18 years of coaching experience at the high school, JC and college level. His reputation is as a defensive specialist and big man's coach and he will fulfill both functions at UCLA. Madkins, along with Jim Saia, will focus on working with the backcourt players. Madkins was a UCLA co-captain in Lavin's first year as a UCLA coach and Sandle and Lavin were teammates in college.

About winning the Pac-10…

Although several reporters tried to get Lavin to state unequivocally that he expects his team to win the Pac-10 this year, Lavin would only admit that he expects UCLA to win the Pac-10 every year and that this year will be no different in that regard. He did admit that this team has an unusually high number of quality players with experience and maturity as well as some "very special" recruits, and so he's looking forward to the coming season.

On true freshman point guard Cedric Bozeman…

Lavin doesn't believe that Cedric Bozeman's status as a freshman is an area of major concern. He believes that Bozeman's unusual maturity, poise and skills combined with the presence of a high number of quality players with experience and maturity will ease Bozeman's transition into college as a point guard. UCLA loses Earl Watson's leadership; Lavin expects that leadership gap to be filled by the collective presence of 6 upperclassmen, including 5 seniors, as well as Bozeman.

On the issue of closing practices…

Lavin indicated that over the summer he'd spoken to Lute Olson, Mike Krzyzewski and Tubby Smith, among others, regarding the merits and demerits of holding open practices versus closed practices. He's decided that closing practices to the press and public allows for the "best teaching environment for coaches and players." Much grumbling ensued. UCLA Assistant SID Bill Bennett assured the collected representatives of the Fourth Estate that they would be timely informed of any injuries or other breaking (no pun intended) stories emerging from practice sessions.

Lavin confirmed that UCLA is actively recruiting Mike Fey. He isn't allowed to say more under NCAA rules.

More to Come: A Media Day Photo Gallery; an exclusive, in-depth interview with Steve Lavin; an interview with assistant Jim Saia, and interviews with many players. Also coming soon is the preseason preview of the team.


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