Howland's Tuesday Press Conference

Head Coach Ben Howland talks about the Vermont game, the UC Riverside game tonight, moving in a new starter to the lineup, and the areas the team needs to improve...

Exerpts from Ben Howland's press conference Tuesday:

Can you give us an update on Trevor Ariza?

"Trevor had an x-ray done yesterday, Monday, which shows his lung is filling back up, but is not completely expanded yet. He's scheduled to have a CT exam of that lung tomorrow (Wednesday) early in the morning, which is precautionary in one sense, but also give us more information about his lung. I would say the earliest, optimistically, the very earliest, would be the 13th (Loyola Marymount). And I'm actually in my own mind shooting for the 17th (UCSB)."

When will he be able to practice?

"I'd say he's at least another week away. Assuming that it's healing at a normal pace, then there will be light activity for four or five days before he'll be allowed to practice. We're going to err on the side of caution. He may not come back until January. I can't tell you for sure. For sure he's out for the next two games, and most likely the next three."

Is there long-term treatment or medication for the condition?

"Not really. This thing will scar and heal on its own, from my understanding. There is some potential down the road of at least a 20% chance that it will re-occur, in cases like this. But typically that's at least six months, a year, a year-and-a-half down the road."

When he comes back, will you take it slow with him?

"I don't know that. I'm going to leave that up to our doctors. We have a great medical staff here. On Thursday he had a side ache. We didn't think it was necessarily anything serious. He had an x-ray done that showed the problem. Our team doctor there at the hospital, Friday, after Thanksgiving, we had a specialist with UCLA medical center on top of it. He's getting the very best treatment you can get here at UCLA. It's one of the top five hospitals in the country. Whatever they tell us to do, we're going to do. If they say, ‘Hey, you can do whatever you want with him,' right away he'll be back."

Are you practicing with Fey and Hollins in the lineup together?

"Yes. Yesterday was the first time we really did that. There were a few times during the first 30 practices, but yesterday, it was the whole time. We spent the first hour and 45 minutes watching the film against Vermont. I wanted our players to see exactly where we are, and how far we have to go. Then we went into about an hour and forty-five minute practice. We'll have another short practice today (Tuesday) and not do a lot of up and down work today to try to save ourselves for tomorrow against UCR, who has a very good team. Their team is 0-3 and I know a lot of people would say, ‘How can they be any good?' They'll be a factor in their league. They played Arizona State very tough on Saturday, were up six at halftime. Their big kid (Vili) Morton is coming off an injury, where he missed the initial practice time and just started playing when games started for them, two weeks ago. He's getting better and better. This kid, (Nate) Carter is a very good player. The kid (Kevin) Butler is a good player. And they're well coached."

Did Donny Daniels give you some scouting information, since he's seen them the last couple of years at Fullerton?

"Yes. Donny knows their personnel well. When you look at these first games, for me, we have Donny, then for Kentucky Kerry Keating is the scout, since he was in the SEC last year at Tennessee. Then Donny will be the Santa Barbara scout since he was in their league a year ago. But he knows UCR's personnel. This team is a much more athletic team than the team we played on Saturday. I told our players I think they're a better team than Vermont. And Vermont obviously gave us everything we can handle."

Will Josiah Johnson start?

"Josiah's not starting. We will be starting Ryan Hollins, until Trevor or T.J. Cummings, hopefully both somewhere down the line are able to play for us. Initially the reason I started Josiah at the four I was worried about foul trouble. And both Ryan and Michael Fey got into foul trouble in the first half of that game in Saturday, which is the worst thing you could hope for. And now, you're going to see John Hoffart play. He'll play at some point in the game tomorrow. That's kind of sideline story. Here's a kid who's not had a chance to do anything, maybe five-on-five in practice. And yesterday after we watched the film, I told John, ‘Hey, the playing time is open.' Jon Crispin: ‘Playing time is open.' Get it done in practice and you'll get a chance to play in the game. That's how I do things. Productivity in practice relates to your playing time in the game."

What can you say about Fey in the Vermont game?

"That he was nervous to start the game, as he was the first exhibition game, then he settle down in the second exhibition game and played really well for us. Second half he came out and settle down and was the main factor. He scored 18 of our 45 points. I'm excited for him. Remember this is a career high in minutes played for him, much less points. 24 points in a game is the most he's ever played since he's been here, and I expect him to play more than 24 minutes every night. So we have to keep him out of foul trouble, and he has to learn to play without fouling. He gets a lot of silly fouls, or offensive fouls, going over the back, being aggressive. His first foul on Saturday was probably not his fault. He slid over and took the charge on Coppenrath and it went against us. Watching the film, it was a charge."

What was your impression of Fey when you first conducted workouts last spring in terms of being a player?

"He had a nice touch, his size. Size is very important. When you're 6-11, 260, and you hae a nice touch you have a chance. He can run pretty well. He's got decent hands. He has to continue to work on using both hands. He really has a nice right hand, and we're encouraging him to use his right hand more when he turns with that shoulder. He's a very good face-up shooter, too. He can really stroke the ball from 15 or 17 feet out, face up."

He has said that he really didn't know how to post up before...

"That's typical. How to make yourself big, how to get wide, how to play low. We started from scratch in terms of our teaching in post play."

Did he pick it up quicker than most?

"I don't know that. He's a year older. That year away hurt him last year, having sat out and not played at all competitively. But I think maturity-wise now it's a good thing that he's a year older."

Playing Hollins and Fey, does that change your approach offensively and defensively?

"It's tougher offensively because Ryan is just getting familiar. Ryan has not played on the perimeter so he doesn't have a real good feel for what we want in terms of screening, spacing, moving without the ball. That's something he'll have to learn here on the job and in a hurry. Ryan is very intelligent and bright, in terms of him picking up plays. He's pretty good considering he hasn't done it. It's tough right now. We're in dead week going right up to finals. We're going to have two players miss most of practice on Friday because they have to go to a review session. We have players meeting every night this week for academic reasons so we can make sure we pass all of our classes."

When Trevor and T.J. come back, will Dijon Thompson slide over to shooting guard?

"I hope that will happen. Let's hope that we get both Trevor and T.J. back. That will really improve our team. And then he'll be able to play some two as well as the three spot. He'll play both positions. And Trevor will play some three and play some four."

Did Josiah not play well against Vermont?

"He had six rebounds in 20 minutes, but he couldn't match up defensively against Coppenrath. He had no answer for a player like him, to be able to match up and stop him. He has to be going full speed to be able to keep up in terms of his ability to transition at both ends of the floor. This is something we've talked about, and he knows."

Why did Walcott and Crispin hardly play at all?

"I think Walcott played three minutes, and Crispin didn't play at all. I'm going to play Cedric Bozeman as many minutes as he can handle and be effective. He had nine assists and one turnover. Their second best player, Sorrentine, was a non-factor in the game, largely due to Ced just overwhelming him with his athleticism and size. He did a good job. Unless Ced needs a blow for reasons that he's not producing because he's tired, he's going to play a lot of minutes. I think I said that from day one. I figured that out. The one thing I learned. I remember when I first got to Pitt, they had a player the year before I got there that played 40.1 minutes a game, Vonteego Cummings. And I said I'd never do that. Well, I had Brandin Knight play about 38 minutes a game, because when you have a really good player, you can't afford to have him out of the game, he just has to learn to play those kind of minutes. I know Ced's not used to it, but he'd better get used to it."

After watching the Vermont game, where are you now?

"We are decimated, with only 8 players eligible to play. We have 8 guys, and we're going to do our very best. I know it's very boring for the media. I was just doing a radio show and they wanted to ask me about the Kentucky game. I'm not even thinking about Kentucky. I haven't even looked at Kentucky. I don't even care about Kentucky. All I care about is UCR. I read some of their comments in the papers today. They said they were catching us at the right time. There were comments about Trevor being out, and not having T.J., and how exciting it is to play in Pauley Pavilion. Their assistant coach is quoted as saying that winning at Pauley Pavilion will legitimize and put our program on the map. This is what we're facing in our opponents, that kind of attitude and that type of preparation for this game. We're going to have to play a good game to be successful. All you have to go watch the tape against Arizona State, who has a very good team, and many respect might be better than they were a year ago when they were in the NCAA tournament, and it was an even game with eight minutes to go. ASU has a first-team All-American in the post, who's a stud, who had 31 points in that game."

Can you address whether the players are not over-looking Riverside and looking ahead to Kentucky?

"I think that after Saturday I don't even have to suggest a thing. We're in no position to overlook anybody. Make no mistake, in terms of where their team is mentally coming into this game, I want our players to know. This is what they're saying out loud to the media. I respect John (Masi) as a coach, bringing his school from D-2 to D-1. They have good players. You'll see for yourself. This kid Butler is a very good athlete. Their two inside kids had 19 and 18 against ASU are good players. They'll be playing their fourth game. Part of the factor on Saturday was that it was our first game. Our guys were a little nervous and tense going into their first game of the year. We were one of four teams in the country who hadn't played a game yet. So thank God we're beyond that."

How's Cedric's ankle?

"He was in pain yesterday in practice. He tweaked it again. He battled through it and finished the practice. I think getting through this week and getting to the week of finals will actually be a good thing. We'll take Sunday and Monday off and not practice at all in preparation for finals. Our practice Tuesday and Wednesday will be shorter and a little spotty. We have a lot of finals later in that week, Thursday and Friday. They'll need that time to also hopefully get healed up a little better."

After watching the film, what aspects do you need to improve?

"Block outs. We were horrible at blocking out. It was just absolutely horrible in our block outs. So that's the number one thing. And that's what we emphasized in practice yesterday more than any other aspect. We have to do a better job of blocking out if we're going to be able to beat opponents. We have to lay a body on people. We out-boarded them by four or six, but it's not because we did a good job of blocking out, by any means."

How did Brian Morrison look to you?

"He was a little too wound up to start the game. But in the second half he settled down and made a big three for us. The biggest play is he took the charge. We bailed out on a couple of charges in that game that would have been a difference-maker. We had a couple of guys get out of the way of an oncoming guy that was an easy charge. That'd be the second thing, after block outs, that we have to take charges. We had Coppenrath coming right at us and Janou Rubin just bailed right out of the play. That's a difference-maker. I told Jon Crispin: Take some charges in practice and maybe you'll get to play. I think the one thing too in that first half is that we were really impatient offensively. In the second half we got it inside and we shot 60% in the second half, and we were must better in the second half. But you did a hole down by 11. If you look at that game, we're down 8 with the ball with 17 seconds to go in the first half, so the worst-case scenario is that you'll go down 8 at half, but we burp up a quick shot, and they come down and hit a quick three and go up 11. That's like a high school play. You know when you have the ball at the end of the half, you're not taking it until the last shot."

Do you think it's because Rubin is a walk on and hasn't played a lot of minutes?

"He's just excited. It's the first game of the year. ‘I can make this shot and cut the lead to six.' Well, miss it and now it goes to 11. He knows. Janou is a great kid. He's done everything we've asked him to do. I really like Janou. But when I go back and look at that game, shooting that shot and bailing out on that charge, those are things we can't afford to do with our team right now. We have to play at a very high level with the eight guys we have, Janou being the ninth, in order to win, against anybody."

Break down Cedric's game and performance...

"I'm really pleased with his assist-to-turnover ratio. If you averaged 9 assists a game, you'd lead the country in assists. Last year it was less than nine. Only one turnover, but it was a big one, the lob with just a few minutes to go. He knows that was a mistake. He won't do that again. Even if your roommate's pointing and you're really close friends, you have to be the coach on the floor and make the right decision that situation. In terms of the rest of his game. He's a really good on-the-ball defender. He will start on the other team's best perimeter player. So he won't always be at least until we get Trevor and T.J. back, that he'll be starting on their point guard. He may start on the two or the three. You talk about how we'll mix up things when Dijon slides over to the two, Dijon will have a hard time guarding a point guard, while Morrison can right now. Morrison does a good job, and what I like about Brian is what he brings to the table defensively, as he gets better, learns more and works at it. Ced has to rebound more. One rebound in 37 minutes is not enough. I expect way more out of him in that respect. He has to become a better defender when he's not guarding the ball. There was one instance in that game when Coppenrath had the ball down low and Ced is standing right next to him, and Coppenrath is shot-faking, and all he has to do is sneak in underneath and swipe the ball out his hands. So he has to pick up some of those opportunities when he's not on the ball, because he's so athletic. He could affect the game so much more than he is right now defensively."


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