Howland Talks to the Media

Head Coach Ben Howland conducted his weekly press conference Tuesday, spoke of Cedric Bozeman's status, how his team can improve, the impact of so many freshmen playing so many minutes, exhibition games and more...

Head Basketball Coach Ben Howland talked to the media Tuesday.

"First thing is that Cedric Bozeman will have his surgery tomorrow morning (Wednesday). Dr. Gerald Finerman, our team doctor, will perform the surgery. Because there wasn't room here at UCLA in such short notice, and Ced wanting to have it done as soon as possible, not experiencing a lot of swelling, which is the reason to wait tupically, he'll have it done in Santa Monica.  He gets there at 7:00 a.m., the surgery is schedule at 8:30, and he'll be scheduled to go home in the late afternoon, which is amazing. It's about a 6 to 8-month process recovery-wise. He'll be in a splint for three weeks where he can't have much movement. I'm happy, because this is where his 6 to 8 month recovery starts, it starts tomorrow."

Will he travel with the team?

"You know, I haven't thought that much about it yet. If it makes sense with his rehab, in order to be with team trainer, Tony Spino, yes. We'll just have to wait and see. We've already put his name on all the (airline) tickets, usually."

With Ced out, will you miss Ryan Walcott?

"No. He didn't want to be here this year. He probably would not be playing ahead of Brian Morrison or Arron Afflalo as the back-up point guard. He might have helped in practice, to get another true point guard in practice. But overall the fact that he didn't want to come back is his decision. And the biggest reason he didn't want to come back is he didn't see himself playing."

Looking at the tape of the game, what did you think?

"I think we did a lot of things good. There are a lot of areas that need some improvement. I thought our intensity was good. Early in that game we missed three or four open shots. We have to score better inside. We took a lot of threes.  I think we took 53 shots and 25 of them were threes, so that's a high-percentage of threes. It's always good for those kids to get their first game under the belt, especially the new players. You can see now that the true freshmen are going to play a lot of minutes this year. You just look at Jordan Farmar, Arron, and Lorenzo Mata, you have three of our top seven guys are freshmen. And Josh Shipp is going to play. He's going to get minutes based on today. So there are four of nine guys are freshmen."

Were you impressed with Josh, how loose he was, compared to some of the other players who looked pretty tight initially?

"Yeah, I think sometimes it's easier when you're not out there the first minute of the game, for anybody. But all those freshmen settled down. Maybe they were a little bit tight because it was their first game ever."

Has Ryan Hollins not met your expectations, after finishing last year strong?

"Not really. I think it's tough anytime you have five months off where you can't play basketball at all. He essentially was out the months of May, June, July, August, and most of September.  That's always difficult. I actually thought he had a good practice yesterday."

How is Dijon Thompson's shooting hand?

"I think it's okay. He had that thing on his hand for quite a while. It's helped to have it off. Our best shooter on the team is Brian Morrison."

Are you concerned at all about the number of fouls you have to give inside, with Mike Fey committing five fouls many minutes against Simon Fraser?

"Fifteen. Yeah. Some of his fouls were just bad fouls. He had a post-up foul on his third foul. Some were just doing things with his arms. He stands out because he's the biggest guy. As the biggest guy you have to get your hands up and just play with your lower body. I thought his fourth foul was a little questionable, the one they called on him early in the second half. That happens. That's why it'd be nice to have Trevor Ariza. Give us one more frontline player."

Fey seemed to play better after that fourth foul, when he got mad. How can you get him to play that way more often?

"We just got done meeting with him and we talked about that. He admits that often times he gets better when he gets mad. I offered to make him mad as much as I could. But he's a good kid. He got angry on that fourth foul and that's what sparked him. A lot of guys don't play well when they're mad. They start to foul and do silly things. He seems to play better when he gets upset. So that's exactly what we talked about. 'How can we do that, Mike? How can we get you to do that?' His biggest problem is he's too nice a guy. Between the lines you have to be a meaner, tougher guy. Outside the lines be yourself. He's the nicest kid. So that's a good thing, outside of playing basketball. He's 273 pounds. If I was that big, you'd be afraid of me out there on the floor."

How will playing the freshmen so much impact the season?

"It is what it is. It will be great for next year's team, but it's never easy. Tell me about all the great rookies in the NBA, or the NFL. We have four very good freshmen, and two of them are starting right now. They're going to get a lot of experience and a lot of opportunity.  But it's hard to have a substitute for experience. As Coach Wooden would say, you'd rather have talent over experience."

Have you ever had a team this young?

"No. Well, I take that back. My third year at Northern Arizona we started two freshmen. And they did well. They were good. They started for four years, and they were the best group of kids they've ever had."

In rebuilding programs, it seems like the third year has been the big year for you. Are you thinking that possibly you could do it in your second year here?

"I hope so. In those third years we won championships in each of my teams. You're correct in that the third year is always the key year in turning things around when you're rebuilding the situation, as we're doing here as well. We'll still be very young next year as well. Next year we'll have 9 freshmen and sophomores, if everything works out."

Do you intend to start the same players Thursday as you did against Simon Fraser?

"As of today. But it's always subject to change. It's early still. But I think it will be pretty much the same. I like people to have a feel for when they're coming in and going out, so they get in a rhythm."

What do you think you have to do offensively to improve?

"We have to get the ball inside a little more, number one. Feed the post a little more. W3e have to run the floor better. We're trying to push the ball, but the only way you can do it is the guys run. I don't expect this opponent to be much different (than the first exhibition opponent), which is a little disheartening. We may change our philosophy here next year in terms of exhibition games. We need to play against the best teams we can in exhibition games. It's a better gauge of where we are."

Do you wish you could scrimmage against a D-2 team?

"I wish I had EA Sports. The game the other night didn't hurt us. I think our guys played hard. It doesn't matter who you play, you show up and play as hard as you can and give your very best no matter if it's the Detroit Pistons or Simon Fraser. But some of the teams in our league have played scrimmages against other D-1 schools and it's been closed. That would actually probably be the best thing."

Why didn't UCLA do it this year?

"Probably for financial reasons. It's part of the season ticket package to have the exhibition games on there. And as you all know, we need as much financial help we can. Honestly, too, I like having people in the stands. You miss out a little bit when you don't have that. Having the lights on. The exhibition games are supposed to be a dry run for the real games. So you want it to be as much like a real game as it's going to be. So there is something to be said about having people in the stands."

So what could happen in the future?

"The way the NCAA is leaning now is that there won't be any more exhibition games after a year. Where the NCAA is going with this is adding another regular season games and no exhibition games, and having scrimmages closed. That's what's on the horizon. They'll give you an extra game on the schedule, and one scrimmage, and that will be it. You know, with these scrimmages....St. Mary's flew to Washington to play Washington. People are getting on planes for these scrimmages."

What's your stance on recruits that are verbally committed to other schools?

"I think every situation is different. I don't think there's an exact answer to that question. You'd have to be more specific. And at this time I can't answer the specifics. But I'd be happy sometime soon."

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