Matt McKinney is a 6-8, 222-pound redshirt sophomore forward who missed last year due to a stress fracture in his foot.
So, you've bought into Howland's philosophy on getting bigger and stronger?
"Oh, yeah. I've been in the weight room all summer with Doc (Kreis). My bench press went up from about 230 to 315. I've gotten a lot stronger. It's really helped me a lot on the court."
Did Doc really push you?
"Yeah. He wants the best for us at all times. And that means getting bigger and stronger. It's going to help in the long run."
How do you expect to contribute this year?
"Setting screens. Getting guys open. Being a physical player. I'm going to be working for everyone. I'm going to be the definition of the team player this year. Coach has already told me, 'We don't need scorers. We already have those.' As long as I set good screens, make things happen, I'll have my chance to score. He said there will be a lot of playing time available if I set screens, play defense and get rebounds, if I can just do that. We lost T.J. Cummings, our leading rebounder last year, so we're going to be lacking."
How are you with your foot?
'It's 100%. I don't feel a thing. It's been about seven months recovery now, so it's been a long time. It's perfect strong and healthy. Ready to go."
What do you think about the freshmen?
"I was in the Say No League, on the same team with all the freshmen. We have some really good freshmen. Whether they turn out being really good this year or not doesn't matter. Because down the road at least they're going to be great. I'm sure they're going to have a big impact on our team as well. Arron Afflalo is probably one of the best freshmen I've ever seen. Individually, one on one, he can really score on people. He's going to really contribute a lot. They all are."
How much will their impact be in just providing you perimeter play, and outside shooting?
"It will be significant. And having someone like Jordan Farmar, someone who can penetrate as well, and make things happen for the bigs. It will be huge."
So, will you play volleyball this year?
"I am. Right after basketball season is over. So I'll probably get about the second half of the volleyball season, but it depends on how long the basketball season goes."
When's the last time you played volleyball?
"My freshman year, on the team. This last summer I went out and played with the team one time, in a scrimmage."
How'd you do?
"I did really well. So it really got me excited. I haven't even been practicing in a year, so I just went out and played great."
Josh Shipp is a 6-5 wing from Los Angeles (Calif.) Fairfax.
How's it feel the wear the uniform?
"It feels great. I'm glad it's finally getting started. It's been a long summer, working out hard, trying to get ready."
How were the summer workouts with Doc?
"I went through Doc's workouts. It helped me a lot. I put on like 15 to 20 pounds. I weight about 212 now. And I got a lot stronger."
How does that impact your game?
"It definitely helps. I'm playing with grown men now, and it's now a kid's game anymore. So it helps to be stronger."
What do you have to do to step up your game as a freshman to be able to contribute this season?
"I just can't take any days off. I have to go hard every game and every practice. Coach Howland has emphasized that."
How have the workouts gone so far?
"They've been going pretty well. It take some time to get adjusted to the new system. We're learning fundamentals that I never worked on. So it's learning those and getting adjusted."
How's the chemistry between the newcomers and the veterans?
"It's real good. We hang out with the older guys. They've taken us under their wing. They're helping us out."
So, you look taller. 6-5 or 6-6?
"I'll say 6-6. I think I got another inch over the summer."
Jordan Farmar is a 6-2, 170-pound freshman point guard, a McDonald's All-American, from Woodland Hills (Calif.) Taft.
How's it feel to finally have arrived?
"It feels great. It's just great to be at Division 1 program, playing basketball, to get a great education. It's just a great opportunity. I'm blessed."
And you've gotten bigger physically?
"A little bit. Yeah, Doc put us through a good program this summer. It was exactly what I wanted, too. I wanted to get better, and strength was something I needed to work on, so I worked hard on it every day. It's not work when it's something you love doing, and it pays off."
You look like you've gotten bigger in your legs, just not your upper body...
"Yeah. Our strength and conditioning program is great. We do a lot of Olympic lifts, which are core exercises that do your whole body. That's where you gain your most weight and get your most strength. It's the whole thing."
So, give us an update on the nose and the quad?
"The nose is fine. It's not an issue. The quad is still tight. I'm getting treatment on it every day. I started doing individual workouts and playing after with the team this week. I can run up and down, but it's still tight. I keep getting it worked on, I think I'll be fine."
Playing with the team this summer, you must have gotten a feel for playing with them. What's the team going to be like?
"I think we're going to be pretty good. I think a lot of people don't expect how good we're going to be. We have a great combination of young and old, youth and experience. So I think that will blend in great. We have athletes, and a lot of guards, which gives us the chance to keep fresh legs in all the time. So that will be great. I'm excited to get it underway."
Cedric Bozeman said he's excited to play with you on the court at the same time...
"Definitely. We played together a couple of times over the summer. Because of his body, his ability naturally, his athletic ability, he moves over to the three really well. To do that, and give me the point spot, he can really run the floor. And he's really athletic. If he can get out and run, I'll give him the ball and he can finish at the rim. He has big hands, is strong, with long arms, so he can get to the basket. He's a play-maker also, so he can also make other decisions when he gets there to dish off. So if he gets ball up the court, he's another threat for us."
Coach Howland emphasize defense. To stay on the floor, you're going to have to play strong defense...
"I think we don't have to just play defense, but we have to be dominant defensively. With our athletes, with big guys inside, two seven-footers, with one being able to block shots and the other getting rebounds, I think we have a lot of ingredients to produce a good team."
With you, Josh and Arron, is there a certain degree of familiarity already, having played together?
"Yes. I think we have grown to have a good feel for each other. We make eye contact, I know what they're thinking. That's just what a good basketball player does. He should be able to step on the court with pretty much anybody and get a feel like that. But we've been together a couple of months now and we're starting to get that chemistry. Playing with the older guys, it's coming also. Every day we're definitely building that."