Howland's Press Conference

Head Basketball Coach Ben Howland takes the press to breakfast Monday and answers questions about the Michigan State game, injuries, personnel, and much more...

What's the situation with Morrison? Will he stay in L.A. for the holidays?

"No, he's going home. He'll see a friend who's a trainer with the Seattle Seahawks, and he'll be able to work on him while he's at home. Morrison didn't have an MRI. But he can't even put weight on it right now. I talked to him this morning. He can move it, so now he can dress himself. But he couldn't put his own socks on after the game. This is a serious injury. "

What was he doing when he injured it?

"He was trailing and following a player really closely. I thought, though, the way it looked, that he was angled. I think it was the angle of how he was turning. I think he was running at an angle, like a bend of track, and all of sudden you can see, boom, go on film. I asked our trainer. Is it a lack of stretching. He said not at that point in the game. It could be a lack of potasium. He could have been dehydrated. You just don't know. I can't remember the last time someone I coach hurt his hamstring. When was the last time a basketball player at UCLA had a hammy? Most of it could be just the way he's built. He's really strong. He's all muscle. He has no body fat."

What's Walcott's status?

"Walcott supposedly felt better after the game. I asked our trainers this morning if he'd be able to go on Christmas (for practice), and he felt he would. Those are muscle spasms, so it's musculature. Hopefully this time away will help that, because we need him. With Morrison being out a minimum of two weeks, and I expect him to be out for the next five games. In my head, that's what I'm preparing for. That's unfortunate for us. We can't afford to have this happen to us, but that's just the breaks. When you consider Janou Rubin was put on scholarship when the season began because we had one, we now have nine scholarship players again available to us."

So does this mean no rest for Ced?

"No rest for Ced. It sounds like a song, or a poem, or something. We have to get him rest. If Walcott is able to play in the next game, which I anticipate he will, we'll give him a little more rest. You could see it in the game the other night. He had a bad turnover in the second half with six minutes to go, he just couldn't go anymore, kind of gave into it. I'm telling him he has to fight through it. I don't care how tired you are."

When you were speaking to him on the sideline, was that about the game or fatigue?

"That was about the game. I did talk to him about the fatigue, when he was still out there. We couldn't get him out. It was like, ‘Hey, you're in.' We couldn't use a timeout, because we had used timeouts early. So it was like, fight through it, we'll get you out when we can."

What do you about his foul shooting, when it looks like it's in his head now?

"I don't know if it's all in his head. I was disappointed, because he's shot so much better in practice. He's been very good in practice from the foul line. There have been no signs of this. I think some of it was fatigue. We practiced hard Thursday and Friday. It's not like I was giving him any breaks. We have to get him to be a leader, if you're a captain.

"He has a little this (he makes a motion pushing the ball), where it's not one fluid deal. He just has to keep working at that."

Is it a matter of him missing a couple and then losing confidence?

"My whole attitude about this is this is going to be an aberration. We're going to really look at it this week. Christmas night, I'm going to grab him myself and we're going to shoot 100. And we'll talk about it. But you can see, one of his fouls shots, he didn't even follow through on it. The first few he missed, it was actually proper form. He just missed it. But then he may have thought about it. Yeah, I haven't talked about it with him. But we'll talk about it now. You have to have your point guard be able to make free throws in games. I'm confident he will."

What do you think of the play of T.J. Cummings?

T.J. has played very well, considering he's been out all this time. The first two games, to step in like he has. The thing I'm most pleased about with T.J.? He's letting the game come to him offensively. I can't remember one bad shot he's made in two games. Consequently he's 11 for 16 or something like that. We're going to get him more and more in the fold. He was in foul trouble in that last game. He was pretty good defensively in the Michigan State game. Much better than against Santa Barbara. He really had lapses his first game back. He was late, when UCSB would screen on the ball, he wasn't up there in time to hedge the screen. So all of a sudden they're creating. We gave up six straight points on him losing his ability to hedge three times in a row. He was much better against Michigan State defensively. He rebounded better. He got some big defensive rebounds for us. Where I think he had one rebound in 26 minutes against Santa Barbara, I think he had five or six against Michigan State. I think he had five defensive boards. I think he led us."

Do you need to get him more touches inside, and Michael Fey?

"We have to get more touches inside. They have to be more demanding of the ball, and do a better job sealing. We'll probably have to put in a few plays for T.J. to get the ball in there. T.J.'s best area to score is facing from 17 feet, though. That's where T.J. is really good. He probably is the second best inside scorer next to Mike. And Mike needs to get catches, and be able to score."

Is it a matter that they're not getting position, or is it that the perimeter players aren't looking for them?

"The other night, that team was very physical. If you're trying to get set, boom, the forearm shiver. I'm bigger and stronger than you, and meaner than you, and you can't have it. I think Fey has been pretty good at getting position in other games, and we have to do a better job of seeing him and hitting him, and not floating it in. It has to be a short pass to the post. We have to get better at that. The reason I played Ryan Hollins more than I played Fey, he was better defensively. He showed better defense on Paul Davis. In retrospect, with hindsight being 20-20, I did a poor job against UCSB in terms of the rotation. I thought Josiah Johnson's 11 minutes coming off the bench were critical for us. I should have played him against Santa Barbara. He didn't play at all. He's going to play minutes in every game in the forseeable future. I should have played Hollins more against Santa Barbara, even though he isn't much of an offensive threat. He's better defensively than Mike in terms of quicker and more active. That Davis kid will be in the NBA. I thought Hollins' defense was good, and this is what he brings to the table for us, his presence defensively."

Is there a way to get your big guys tougher and meaner?

"We're trying. It's not an overnight process. It's a slower thing than you would like.

"It was a physical game Saturday. Michigan State is a very physical, tough team. You can see they lift. They have bodies. If you go watch the film and wonder why we didn't get a lot of post touches, someone comes in there and boom, there's a forearm. You saw a team that's built a lot like Stanford in our league. I went to the Lakers game last night, I see even the skinny guys, like Shawn Marion, he's still strong. There aren't many at that level that are skinny little guys. Everyone at our level, they aspire to be at that level. It's just, go look at their bodies, guys." Do you see Hollins moving into the starting five?

"It doesn't matter that much to me, whether he starts. You see, Mike's best matchup are guys his own size. When he's guarding a 6-6 or 6-7 guy with quickness, it's much less difficult for him to guard a bigger guy who's an inside player. Davis could space out and shoot. And he had a hard time getting out there. For Hollins, he's very good at going out and guarding a guy like that. And for a few of those rebounds, he went up in the crowd and got them. Ryan's natural thing, offensively, is to space out and get out on the perimeter. But you have to be able to score in the post to be a good team offensively, and have a balance between inside and outside. That's Fey's number one thing. And the second guy is T.J. It's not Ryan, even though we want it to be Ryan. We just have to get better at it. I was just thinking the other night. We have to teach Ryan the sky hook. Just catch the ball and go to the Abdul-Jabbar sky hook. Something that he's comfortable with. What he likes to do is catch it down there on the short corner on the left block and then start a running, little four-step thing into his sweeping hook. We just have to keep working."

Are you concerned about the turnovers in the last few games? Ced's assist-to-turnover ratio?

"I just think that we're asking him to do so much. Guard the best perimeter player on the other team. Handle the ball for 38 minutes a game. We're asking the world of Ced, and I think for the most part he's delivering pretty well. His decision-making on those turnovers against Santa Barbara were very poor. He's growing. He's learning."

With Dijon Thompson in a little shooting slump, what kind of freedom does he have to feel to be a scorer?

"I don't think there's any question that he has the freedom to take shots. If you were to ask our players, they would tell you the same thing. Dijon is not feeling any pressure from me on him taking shots. The only pressure he feels from me is on blocking out, defending, staying in his stance, and doing the things he needs to do in that respect. "His ability to bounce it has got to improve. It becomes a toughness issue. You better bring the ball through..."

He did that against Michigan State...

"Well, we worked on it in practice. We actually lined the guys up one on one, and said, this is how you triple-threat the ball, and create space for yourself. If someone's climbing into you, you'd better be swinging your elbows through..."

But then he could take somebody's head off.

"And that's a beautiful thing. That's the mentality he needs to learn to have all the time. If he doesn't, like anybody, he'll get eaten alive.

"What happen is, in the Santa Barbara game, he put the ball above his head, and the Brown kid, got right up in him, and got right in his face, he was falling back and he threw it into the backcourt. What you're supposed to do is make it so that the defender is an arm's distance off of you, or he will get hit in the face.

"I think that mentality will help him. Dijon, though, really made some big shots for us in the second half."

Why in the second half did you start Morrison and Hollins?

"W thought that the five that started the second half were doing the best job for us defensively. We wanted to get off to a good start."

Are you going to break out those retro jerseys again?

"I told my assistants, if we win with these jerseys, we're wearing them at the next home game. Provided someone in the athletic department doesn't say no, I'd like to wear them again. I kind of like them."

What about the shorts?

"The shorts had a belt, too. I think if we wore them that would make Sports Center."

What do you think about the play of Trevor Ariza?

"He played the most minutes in the game. He didn't score a lot of points, and was 2 of 8 from the foul line. He still is an integral part of what's going on. He's just going to get better and better. Especially as he starts to get back into shape. Those 17 days off really affected his conditioning. As it will Brian Morrison, when he's out three weeks."

Do you think Ariza can't get into an offensive rhythm?

"I don't really see that. He missed some open looks. He had the great steal at the end of the half when the thing just wouldn't go. He just had a tough night. He wants it so bad, he might have been pressing a little bit. I see him starting to come on here as we get further along."

What do you think about how Michigan is playing now?

"Good. Their win against NC State was a good one. Their only loss was to Vanderbilt, and Vanderbilt is very good. Michigan's perimeter player is especially strong. Daniel Horton, I think was the conference freshman of the year last year. Bernard Robinson is one of the top players at his position in the country as a senior. Courtney Sims, a freshman big, is really playing well. This kid, Lester Abram, is very, very good. The fact that we beat Michigan State, for Michigan players in Michigan, you know they can't wait to get a piece of us now. They lost Chris Hunter. I guess he's out 6-8 weeks. And the J.C. Mathis kid is a transfer from Virginia who I recruited. Nice kid. The dad's a high school coach in New York. Dion Harris is another. This Bernard Robinson is special. I don't know how he played against UCLA last year out here. But I remember him playing for an AAU program, DC Assault. He is good and talented. And Horton is a great point guard. I think Tommy Amaker does a real good job.

"This series with Michigan will be continued. We'll play them again here next year. Two good academic schools in big-time leagues that have great tradition and history of basketball."


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