UCLA Basketball Preview: Part Three

Part Three provides in-depth player profiles for entire 2001/2002 Bruin basketball squad...

GUARDS AND WINGS: Cedric Bozeman, Billy Knight, Jason Kapono, Ray Young, Rico Hines, Dijon Thompson, Ryan Walcott, Janou Rubin, Gene Barnes, Quinn Hawking.

Cedric Bozeman, FR PG, 6-6, 195. The freshman point guard comes from Santa Ana (CA) Mater Dei, where he averaged 20 ppg, 6 rpg and 5.5 apg. He has great height, strength and athleticism for a player with such outstanding ballhandling and passing skills. He spent the summer working on his jumper and has added about 15 pounds of muscle since graduating from high school. Most scouting services assume he will be good enough to be a first round NBA draft choice after, at most, two years of college, but college basketball fans will recall that Gerald Wallace of Alabama was a first round draft choice this past summer after averaging less than 8 ppg as a FR. And Seton Hall barely finished over .500 despite having NBA lottery pick FR Eddie Griffin, NBA first rounder Samuel Dalembert, and highly-touted FR PG Andre Barrett (along with two other potential NBA prospects). In other words, NBA potential does not equal college success. On the other hand, Ced has an unusual blend of poise, talent and size, and we believe he will make an immediate high-level impact from his very first game. He should be considered the leading candidate to be Pac-10 freshman of the year and likely will be one of the top 10 freshmen in the entire country this year. He plays a very team-oriented game and his unusual combination of size and skills will enable to him to overmatch most collegiate point guards. The 1-4 offense is well suited to Ced's skills, but he is also significantly better equipped than Earl Watson to quarterback a motion offense and, especially, a fast break . Obviously, freshmen make mistakes and no doubt Ced will make his share (he will have to make an awful lot of mistakes to match Earl). There are some questions about his ability to match up defensively with quick 5-10 point guards. On the other hand, defense is played by a team, not individuals, and apart from USC's Brandon Granville, UCLA is unlikely to face any quick 5-10 PGs this year who rely on dribble penetration as a main component of their team's offense (guards like Jason Gardner and ShanTay Legans tend to hug the perimeter in their motion offenses, and are opportunistic scorers rather than offensive machines, though Lute Olson might have a hard time convincing Gardner of that this season). Also, given how poorly the Pac-10's many shrimp-sized PGs did in defending the 6-1 190-lb. Earl Watson last year, one wonders what they will think when they find themselves getting posted up by a player who's 9 inches taller than they are.

Billy Knight, SR SG, 6-6, 200. When listing Billy as a shooting guard, there's an emphasis on the word "shooting." If he can equal the numbers he put up last season as a starter, he would probably rate out as the third best shooting guard in the Pac-10, behind Stanford's All-American, Casey Jacobsen, and Oregon's Fred Jones, and Billy perhaps might be better than Jones. Billy had some monster shooting games from the three-point line last year and also showed an affinity for sneaking along the baseline and posting up smaller guards in isolation situations (he scored 8 straight points down the stretch against ASU last year on short drives and post up plays). His defense improved last year, but he must improve it even more this season if the Bruins want to do a better job of pressuring opponents' 3 attempts. Billy will always lack the quickness to handle quick 6-2 shooting guards one-on-one, but his size can be crucial to UCLA's extended pressure defense. Billy worked on his ballhandling skills and strength over the summer, and hopefully will become a more versatile, all-around offensive threat this season. Billy is expected to graduate by no later than the 2nd quarter this year. Billy is formerly from Westchester High in Los Angeles, California, where he was an all-City selection two years in a row.

Jason Kapono, JR SF, 6-7, 215. Jason might play both guard spots as well as small forward this year. Jason and Casey Jacobsen appear to be the two best scoring swingmen in the conference and two of the best in the country, and they, along with USC's Sam Clancy, should be the leading candidates to be the Pac-10 player of the year this upcoming season. Considering that he has been the focus of most opposing defenses, his 45.7% shooting percentage from 3 is almost ridiculous. Imagine if the team actually set more than three picks per game for him. This year, as the team plays more motion offense, Jason will almost certainly see more picks and more wide-open shots. The ability of both Ced Bozeman and Dijon Thompson to penetrate with the ball should also create more scoring opportunities for Jason. Jason is also one of the best FT shooters in the country and in UCLA history, and the Bruins could benefit enormously if they can get Jason the ball more often in a position where he can draw fouls; his added strength should give him a boost in this area, and Jason's off-season work on his one-on-one skills and movement without the ball should also pay off in this respect. As Jason points to the NBA this season, he hopes to show a more versatile offensive game and better rebounding and defense (his rebounding certainly showed definite improvement already last season). Jason has now added 20 pounds of muscle since entering college, and he will likely have a very strong season and will garner some attention as an All-American. Jason was a McDonald's All-American at Artesia High in Lakewood, California.

Ray Young, SR, 6-3, 210. Ray has had a frustrating career at UCLA since being named a McDonald's All-American while at St. Joseph-Notre Dame High School in Alameda, California. He shot 40% from 3 as a freshman and provided some exciting dunks off breaks, but his shooting from 3-point range has deteriorated dramatically since then, falling to 31.5% as a SO and 21.2% as a JR. Ray shot a set-shot coming out of high school and as a freshman; his efforts to develop more of a true jumper haven't paid off so far, though he reportedly averaged nearly 30 ppg this summer in league play and shot the ball very well from both 3 and midrange. His shot selection has been consistently terrible for the past two seasons. However, in a recent interview, Ray indicated that he had spent a considerable amount of time working on his shot selection, ballhandling and playmaking over the summer (per a specific request from the coaching staff), and he also stated that he was focusing much more on his midrange game than on taking the long 3. On the positive side, he hit 82.2% from the FT line last year and was particularly clutch in the last 5 minutes of games, making 92.3% of his FTs, the best on the team in that regard, even better than Jason Kapono. His entry passes into the low post from the wing are uniformly excellent. When Ray takes the ball to the basket and then pulls up for the short jumper, he can be very effective, as he is stronger and more athletic than most college guards. When you combine that with the fact that Ray seems much more adept at hitting the midrange jumper off the catch and shoot than he does setting up for 3s off constant cutting motions (he's just a better player when he touches the ball more), Ray could be a prime beneficiary of the increased use of a motion offense this year. He's very strong taking the ball to the hole off a steal in the open floor, and thus will likely continue to have an important role on a team that presses (and pressures) a lot, and his athleticism should make him a primary feed on a team that breaks a lot, which is the Bruins' goal for this year. On defense, Ray has matched some very strong performances with some very mediocre performances. We're pulling for Ray to have a strong senior year and he certainly has the capability to play starter's minutes and challenge for a starting job. But he will have to have a strong senior year to match his minutes from last year: This season, unlike last season, he has serious competition for back up minutes. If Ray is able to improve his shot selection, become a more consistent defender and hit the mid-range jumper, he might as well as be considered a starter, whether he starts or not, as he will almost certainly play starter's minutes. Perhaps just as importantly, Lavin likes to use what he calls a "closing starting lineup": 11 players might play in the game, but if it isn't a blowout you will see the same 5 guys out there at the end. Because of Ray's incredibly clutch FT shooting and his experience, he's a prime candidate to be part of UCLA's closing starting lineup.

Rico Hines, SR 6-4 SG, 195. Two years ago, Rico averaged 14.7 mpg, 3.4 ppg and 2.1 rpg, starting 7 games. He redshirted last season. Because he lacks well-developed guard skills, he is sometimes described as a "too small combo forward." Rico has played against shooting guards, wings and power forwards in the past. He only made 20.8% of his 3s two years ago, but that puts him just a fraction behind Ray Young at this point. Rico sets good screens and runs the offensive sets correctly. He is a very good rebounder, an excellent, intense defender and often provides an emotional spark to the rest of the team when he's on the floor, a factor that should not be underestimated. Unless he shows dramatic improvement as a shooter and ballhandler, his chances for starting any more games are virtually nil, but he can certainly be expected to play every game, as the Bruins are expected to play 10-11 players on a regular basis. If, by chance, Rico has improved his jumper to the point where he shoots the ball better than Ray Young does, he can take some of Ray's minutes and may emerge as a very crucial player off the bench. Rico came to UCLA from St. John's Prospect Hall in Maryland, via prep school and will get his degree before the end of the season.

Dijon Thompson, FR SF, 6-7, 205. A multi-dimensional player out of Redondo Beach (CA) Redondo Union, where he averaged 23 ppg and 7 rpg, Dijon arguably is one of the most highly-skilled freshmen around. He can hit the 3, create an opportunity for a drive or short pull-up jumper, penetrate and dish, run a fast break and bring the ball across the floor at a high rate of efficiency. He's added at least one inch and approximately 18 pounds of muscle since graduating from high school, and appears quicker, faster and more athletic than ever before. He's also noticeably improved the range and consistency of his jumper. He will likely spend time at point guard, shooting guard and small forward this season, and when the Bruins run their high post offense, expect him to play some power forward as well. He seems particularly well suited to the Bruins' offensive and defensive schemes, equally at home in either a 1-4, high post or motion offense. If Dijon shows he can hit over 35% of his 3s on a regular basis, he will likely wind up playing over 20 mpg this season and might as well be considered a starter, whether he starts or not. Several NBA players told us that Dijon was UCLA's best player in workouts against the pros this summer and they feel he has excellent NBA potential. Maybe the Bruins will be lucky and keep him for more than 2 years. Maybe.

Ryan Walcott, R-FR PG, 6-0, 175. He played his high school ball at Shadow Mountain in Phoenix, Arizona, where he started all 4 years at the point. Ryan is more of a "pure" point guard and struggled with UCLA's version of the 1-4 offense, which places a premium on scoring-minded guards with strong one-on-one skills. Having added some muscle from last season, UCLA is hoping that Ryan might be ready to make a solid contribution to the team, especially when UCLA utilizes a motion offense. He's a precise passer with a good feel for getting the ball to the right player at the right time for the open jumper, and he understands how to run a fast break. However, the Bruins are very deep at the guard and wing spots, so we expect that Ryan will not see much action this season.

Janou Rubin, SO SG, 6-3, 190. The walk-on shooting guard is originally from Logan High in Union City, California, and is in his second year on the team. He has good strength, athleticism and especially quickness for a guard, and played well in mop-up minutes last year, showing a good handle and jumper, and playing very solid defense. He picked up the offensive schemes very quickly. He has improved his jumper in the off-season but, barring some surprise developments, one should assume that Janou's most valuable contributions this year will continue to come on the practice court. He is definitely a D-1 player who would probably be seeing real impact minutes at some Big West schools, and, probably being the quickest player on the team, has a chance to contribute down the line at UCLA.

New Walk-ons:

Quinn Hawking, FR SG, 6-4, 175. Quinn is a 6-4 shooting guard from Anaheim High School in Anaheim. The son of former Simi Valley and Cal State Fullerton coach Butch Hawking, Quinn averaged 25 ppg last season and hit nearly 45% of his 3s. He's a good spot-up shooter, but has very little chance of playing, and his primary contribution will come on the practice floor.

Gene Barnes, FR PG, 5-10, 170. Gene is a stocky 5-10 point guard from The Branson School in Novato, California (Ray Townsend territory). Gene averaged 18 ppg and 8 apg as a high school senior. He'll make the biggest impact on the practice floor this season.

POST PLAYERS: Matt Barnes, Dan Gadzuric, TJ Cummings, Andre Patterson, Mike Fey, Josiah Johnson, John Hoffart.

Matt Barnes, SR PF, 6-8, 235. Matt will likely be a swingman in the NBA one day, where his size and athleticism will enable him to defend a wide variety of players, ala Stacey Augmon, but for now he is UCLA's starting power forward. Like Billy Knight, Matt showed meteoric improvement last season. Some analysts, such as Fox Sports' Frank Burlison, have suggested that Matt, rather than Earl Watson or Jason Kapono, was UCLA's MVP and best player last year, and one can see the argument, especially with Matt's play in the final third of the season. Last year, his scoring usually came off of drives from the top of the key or wing, where his quickness, first step and ballhandling ability allowed him to out-quick most post players, or off of a wicked jump hook or drop-step to the right under the hoop. He's an outstanding passer, though he also makes a lot of turnovers trying to create plays for his teammates, which isn't always a bad thing. His mobility makes him very hard to track inside for larger players, and Matt also scored off his share of pick and rolls. Over the summer, Matt worked hard on two areas: Improving his left hand, and his jump shot. Early reports are that the hard work has paid off considerably more with respect to developing his left hand than it has with respect to his jump shot, but the test will come in the real games. Matt's lack of a consistent 17-footer really hurt the Bruins against Duke, which used Shane Battier as a roving free safety to control the paint because they were confident Matt couldn't make him pay with the jumper from the FT line. Because he draws so many fouls, Matt must dramatically improve his FT shooting, or at least be able to hit 65% of them, for the Bruins to reach their full potential. Defensively, Matt often seemed to be two places at once on the press, keying the Bruins' entire attack and wreaking havoc with opponents' offenses; a few times, he was abused by taller, stronger players close to the basket, but Matt's effort and productivity on defense were light years ahead of where they'd been earlier in his career and most of those big post players have graduated. Plus, Matt looks very strong and physical himself right now, and as a SR he'll be looking to have a real strong season. If Matt shows anything like the improvement this year that he showed last year, he should be considered a strong contender for all Pac-10 honors, and he will likely be the second-leading scorer on the team (and will probably be second in rebounds and assists and blocks and lead the team in steals as well).

Dan Gadzuric, SR C, 6-11, 240. (He's a center in college, but he'll likely be a power forward in the NBA unless he adds about 40 more pounds). Dan turns 24 in February, and with the departure of the Collins twins, Loren Woods, Brian Scalabrine and Jason Heide (as well as Oregon's two top Cs and Cal's Nick Vander Laan), this is his chance to assert himself as the top inside force in the conference and as one of the top inside players in the country. As noted above, Dan's statistics, following a one-game layoff after a monster performance against Arizona, spiked upward by a noticeable degree in the final ¼ of the season, including the NCAA Tournament. It remains to be seen if he reached a turning point last year or simply had a strong run, but if Dan can consistently score and rebound in double-figures and continue to be a powerful shotblocking presence without getting into foul trouble, the Bruins will be a handful for even the very best teams in the country. Most of the nation's top post players are between 6-7 and 6-9. Usually, mobility wins out over power. But sometimes, power will do enough damage to limit mobility's advantages (ask Corliss Williamson and Elton Brand about that), and Dan is more mobile than most power players are. Having said that, Dan's offensive game is still that of a true power player, whose most effective weapon remains the dunk, though he has a solid two-handed jumper when squared up to the basket. UCLA fans and the NBA would like to see some sort of back to the basket game; Dan showed an occasional turnaround jumper last year, but he must improve that shot and show a jump hook to truly be a consistently dangerous inside scorer. On defense, Dan's surprising speed and, more importantly, his hustle, enable him to get more steals than many shorter post players, and again his shotblocking really became a factor late last season. If Dan can improve his game to the point where he can play the whole season like he did in those final 8 games, the Bruins should be much improved, but we don't expect him to become a major scoring threat. The Bruins just have too many other weapons, and Dan's offensive limitations, especially his abysmal FT shooting, are too pronounced. But 12 ppg, 10 rpg and 3 bpg, game in, game out, would be just what the doctor ordered. And if UCLA goes to a motion offense, it will be interesting to see what kind of damage Dan can put on all those 6-7 post players with his screens (assuming he can do so without getting into foul trouble).

TJ Cummings, SO PF, 6-9, 225. Out of Flossmoor High in Homewood, Illinois, and the son of former NBA all-star Terry Cummings, TJ started out his college career with a bang, torching Kansas for 24 points. It was all sort of downhill from there, at least statistically, and TJ did seem to tire and fade out in the final 1/3 of the season, though he had several strong games before that. Throughout the season, he showed an excellent midrange jumper, good quickness and was very solid as an offensive rebounder. TJ's weaknesses were a lack of strength (he finished the season at 202 pounds on a 6-8 body), which especially showed itself on defense, as he often conceded deep position to the many powerful post players in the Pac-10, and a lack of aggressiveness around the hoop on offense. TJ has grown more than one inch and added over 20 pounds of solid muscle this summer, and several NBA players and other observers were very impressed with TJ's play against the pros this summer. He's reportedly much more assertive physically at both ends of the floor, especially as a shotblocker and dunker, as well as displaying improved ballhandling and inside/outside scoring skills. If TJ can step up his play by a significant degree, as appears likely, the Bruins will have one of the strongest frontcourts in the country. TJ should play 20-25 mpg this year and might as well be a starter, even if he doesn't start. So, UCLA basically has 8 starters this season. This is probably the deepest team UCLA has ever had.

Andre Patterson, FR PF, 6-7, 195, Patterson averaged 27 ppg and 13 rpg at Washington High in Los Angeles last season, when he was named Los Angeles City Player of the Year. Andre is the first LA City POY to sign with UCLA since Kris Johnson in 1994 (Kris won the award as a JR in 1993). Kris was the first LA City POY to sign with UCLA since Stuart Gray in 1981. Gee, I wonder what happened to UCLA basketball between 1981 and 1994? Andre is actually a transplant from John Wooden country, Indiana, where he attended high school until last year. Andre is a speedy, acrobatic, long-armed athlete with very quick hops and a superb baseline game. He probably has the most instinctual low post skills of any player on the team, despite being a freshman. Now, for the bad news: Andre can't shoot. At least, not from more than 2 feet away from the basket. His ballhandling is in the beta stage and his defense is less advanced. And 6-7 (and actually maybe just 6-6 ½) and 195 just isn't very big for a college post player, where most of the 6-7 guys are likely to weigh in at 240 and more. So, Andre will definitely have marked strengths and weaknesses as a FR. His quickness and long arms will give UCLA added depth on the press, where he can substitute in to give Matt Barnes a breather without the Bruins losing any quickness, and he should be nasty filling a wing on a break generated from the press. Given time and enough yelling from the coaches, he could become a very good weakside help defender and shotblocker. If Dan, Matt or TJ draws a double-team down low, Andre could be a very effective weakside scorer and rebounder. On the other hand, Andre will probably be toast matched up defensively with a player like Sam Clancy or Carlos Boozer, could have trouble holding position on offense, and it's unclear what he will do when the opposition zones the Bruins, though if he gets the ball in an interior gap in a zone his quickness, hops and footwork should enable him to score at will. We expect Andre's playing time to vary wildly. Some games, he'll play 15 minutes; some games, he'll play 5. Overall, he might play about 10 mpg, possibly less. As he adds muscle and develops his skills, he could be a scary Shawn Merion-type by his JR year and start drawing NBA attention, but unless one of UCLA's top 3 players gets injured, it's unlikely that Andre will be called upon to be a major factor this year, as UCLA will likely utilize both Jason Kapono and Dijon Thompson inside a lot, as both players are taller than most college post players. Andre should be a solid role player off the bench.

Mike Fey, FR C, 6-11, 235. Because it seems likely that Mike will enroll at UCLA sometime this season, likely in time for him to be eligible for the UC-Irvine game on December 15, we are counting him as part of the team. It's possible that he will redshirt this year, but we believe it's very possible the coaches intend for him to start playing regular minutes as soon as he shows up. Mike is probably one of the top 3 FR Cs entering college this year in the west, along with Jamal Sampson of Cal and David Harrison of Colorado. He has very solid all-around offensive skills, combining a jump hook, a classic hook and a turnaround jumper with a solid jump shot out to about 15 feet. He has a huge body and good mobility and speed for a true big man (he's added an inch and about 10 pounds of muscle over the summer). The only thing that Mike needs to become a good starting center at the High D 1 level is strength, experience, maturity and an attitude; he might easily be UCLA's starting center for three straight years after Dan Gadzuric leaves, unless, of course, Mike turns pro early, which is far too difficult to predict but has been par for the course these days for any big man who can score in double figures. He's a very, very good big man prospect who played his high school ball at Capital High in Olympia, Washington, where he averaged 20 ppg and 13 rpg as a SR. If Mike shows up as early as the end of the first quarter, he would only miss the first 6 games. And UCLA's depth up front will be a little ridiculous.

Josiah Johnson, R-FR PF, 6-6, 240. Josiah might be a "tall" 6-6. In fact, Josiah is so tall for a 6-6+ player that UCLA lists him at 6-8, but we're not buying it, as he definitely looks shorter than everyone on the team who isn't a guard. But he has been "officially" measured at 6-8. Josiah played his high school ball at Montclair Prep in Van Nuys and redshirted last year for medical reasons (injured foot). Josiah is a gifted offensive player with a smooth shooting touch out to 17 feet, a quick release and good fundamentals under the basket. In high school, he often played at a weight considerably over his ideal target, and he didn't appear to have the athletic ability to make an impact at the High Major level of college basketball. Josiah has lost at least 30 pounds of "baby fat" since high school and, at 240, looks remarkably trim, which indicates just how broad-shouldered he is; he is very strong in the upper body (wider than Gadzuric, actually) and this could be the key to his ability to score and defend at this level despite a lack of a great vertical leap or lateral quickness. If he gains even more muscle and experience he possibly could be able to match up with all but the most athletic players. Only time will tell. We don't expect Josiah to play much this year, but he definitely can shoot the ball and with his big body he has a chance to make some contributions in a couple of seasons.

John Hoffart, SO C, 6-10, 280. A redshirt walk-on center who transferred from Cal Poly SLO last season, as a freshman at Cal Poly, John started 7 games. As a high school player at Davis High in Davis, California, John put on an impressive display of skills and athleticism in the spring of his JR year, before any college coaches could watch him. Then he broke his leg and missed his entire SR season. John shed about 20 pounds over the summer and reportedly has shown improved mobility, quickness and vertical leap and has surprised some people in early workouts, but UCLA fans should assume he will mainly provide depth on the bench, as well as a big body to bang on Dan Gadzuric, TJ Cummings and Mike Fey in practice. John was a very promising prospect before his injury and his potential development into an impact player down the road shouldn't be discounted at this stage of his career, though players who fail to nail down a starting spot on a sub-.500 squad from the Big West rarely become impact players in the Pac-10. If Mike Fey redshirts, John could see some action against certain teams, like the Oregon and Washington schools, which feature more traditional and slower frontlines.

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