Exclusive Basketball Practice Report

Bruin Report Online gets an exclusive look at UCLA's basketball practice Thursday, and it's a detailed, play-by-play report of the drills, the coaches, and the players...

I had the opportunity, along with some other Bruin basketball boosters, to watch the last 75 minutes of the UCLA men's basketball practice on Thursday, October 27, at Pauley Pavilion. In as much detail as I can recall, this is what I saw (and as a contrast and supplement to other practice reports we have read, I will emphasize process in addition to individual player scouting reports).

Coaches and Staff:

Those in attendance who I observed were Ben Howland, Donny Daniels, Kerry Keating, Chris Carlson (Director of Basketball Operations), and Scott Garson (Video Coordinator). Ernie Zeigler was definitely not there [editor's note: Zeigler is on an overseas recruiting trip].

Coach Howland definitely runs the show at practice. He is very hands-on and vocal. He is the traffic cop at the busy intersection. In half-court drills he was positioned about 10 feet above the top of the key and initiated the action; Keating was positioned at the half-court circle and Daniels was positioned on the baseline. In full-court drills, Howland was positioned at mid-court near the sideline, with Keating and Daniels at opposite baselines. Once the action ensued, all three coaches shouted instructions and corrections; Howland was the only coach who spoke when introducing and summarizing the results of each drill and possession.

Howland's tone was very intense, no nonsense, emphatic, instructive, demanding, encouraging, and congratulatory (when an exceptional play was made) throughout. Instruction, correction, and questioning (of individual players who make mistakes or appear lost and confused) is constant and unrelenting from Howland. During water breaks between drills (taking 2 to 3 minutes) all the coaches would huddle (as at the beginning of timeouts during games) to discuss the practice plan, which each coach had a paper copy of. Howland constantly checks his watch to make sure the practice stays on schedule. Team managers operate the overhead and backboard clocks to time all drills (the full shot clock was used on full-court drills; 30 seconds or less were allotted for half-court drills; and suicides needed to be completed in 30 seconds or less). The entire practice is videotaped for later review by coaches and players; statistics are kept on lap top computers.

Daniels was very vocal during the action and, again, worked the baseline in order to have optimal access to the post players he tutors. Both he and Keating are great at taking players aside after a possession and providing private instruction. Keating was the least vocal of the three, but is not shy at speaking up during and after the action.

There was no wasted time. Everything was very efficient and professional. There was not a single instance of joking or laughing. The environment was impressive as a laboratory of basketball learning. Bruin fans and Coach Wooden would be proud.

Injured Players:

Josh Shipp shot free throws and jump shots at a side basket. He was walking gingerly and looks like he will need some time before resuming full practice activities. Alfred Aboya was doing the same thing as Shipp. To me, he looked like he was walking almost as gingerly as Shipp and needs some time before he can practice. We'll see.

With about 45 minutes left in the practice, at about the time the full-court drill ensued (see below), Jordan Farmar ostensibly pulled or strained his groin (I did not see the specific incident). Trainer Tony Spino took him off the floor and into the locker room for about 10 minutes. When Farmar returned, he sat on a folding chair on the sidelines (shouting instructions and encouragement) with an ice pack on his right knee. In talking with Scott Garson briefly after the practice, he confirmed that there was an issue with the groin that would be checked out immediately by the trainers and doctors. We will need to follow up to determine how serious his injury is.


There were five separate drills performed while I was there (and keep in mind that I was not there for the entire practice).

In the first drill, the available squad was broken up into roughly three teams (with all walk-ons participating) that rotated into half-court competition of offense against defense. The focus was on fighting through and hedging on screens against the basic Howland motion offense. The UCLA coaches were unhappy at the level of communication among teammates in calling out the screens, both in terms of quantity and quality (volume). This drill looked like typical early season basketball – the play was very ragged. Farmar's team lost and had to run a suicide.

In the second drill, the available squad was broken up into two teams (with Kelvin Kim the only walk-on to participate) that alternated between playing offense and defense full-court. The defense was a 2-2-1 full-court zone press that collapsed into a 2-3 zone defense in the half-court set; the offense was the basic Bruin press offense that pushed to score in transition and then collapsed into the basic Bruin zone offense. There are a couple of things to note about this drill. The first is that Howland emphasized to the offense the need to push the ball at all times against the press. The second is that Scott Garson confirmed for me after the practice, in answer to my question, that the 2-3 zone was mostly designed to provide the team experience working the Bruin offense against it though a minor goal was to have the Bruin defense practice using the zone for special situations (such as foul trouble).

In the third drill, Howland ran the squad as divided into two alternating teams through five or six set offensive plays in half-court, with no defensive opposition, in order to get the plays down.

After the offensive run through, a Howland and Carlson coached team of Hollins, Mata, Roll, Bozeman, and Afflalo played half-court against a Daniels and Keating coached team of Wright, Mbah a Moute, Rubin, Collison, and Kim in the fourth drill where the offense huddled and agreed on which of the previous five or six plays they were going to run. The defense then played basic man-to-man against those plays. If the offensive plays broke down or failed to convert, motion continuity would be reverted to. It should be noted here that the level of man-to-man defense was very intense, in your jersey, and not the gapping style of man defense we have seen from UCLA in the last two seasons.

In the fifth drill that concluded the practice, Howland chose five free throw shooters to take one-and-ones. For every miss, the entire team had to run a suicide (for the uninitiated, a sprint from baseline to the free throw line extended then back to the baseline then to mid-court then back to the baseline then to the opposite free throw line extended then back to the baseline then to the opposite baseline then back to the original baseline) in less than 30 seconds. Collison made both free throws; Mbah a Moute, Mata, and Wright missed the front end; and Hollins made the first but missed the second; so the entire team had to run four suicides, with approximately 45 seconds of rest between each.


Jordan Farmar – clearly the best player and team leader; stronger and in better shape (he was at least a third of the court ahead of teammates in running suicides); can break down the defense off the dribble and gets to the rim a lot; defense seems much improved; should have a huge season.

Darren Collison – quickest player on the team; strange jump shot that is taken almost as far behind the head as Keith Wilkes – but it goes in; making mistakes but playing confidently for a freshman; will only get better and get minutes in spelling Farmar; seems to be in solid shape, but needs to get stronger.

Arron Afflalo – solid as a rock; stronger and in better shape; better release and confidence in the jump shot; seems to be reverting to taking smaller defenders down low on the blocks with the ball (as he did so effectively in high school); same great defender.

Janou Rubin – experience and confidence shine in a squad that has lots of freshmen, walk-ons, and injuries; doesn't make mistakes; not afraid to take the shot and break down the defense; may get minutes early in the season based on experience if NCAA grants the sixth season of eligibility.

DeAndre Robinson – did not participate at all times; game is mostly indistinguishable; seems like a basic practice player at this point.

Ryan Wright – the freshman with the most to learn; explosive of the floor and around the basket; seeing is believing – he is a five at this point without much of a perimeter game (and was strictly used against Mata or Hollins throughout the practice); makes mistakes but his enthusiastic and a hard worker.

Lorenzo Mata – impressed me by hitting a baseline jumper and jump hook down on the block with much improved touch and backspin – perhaps signifying an improved offensive game; looks stronger; seems to be more confident; will be very interesting to watch him at game time; I didn't think he or anyone else (other than Mbah a Moute) rebounded particularly well in this practice; solid on ball defender when his feet are in position.

Ryan Hollins – stronger and more confident; made some nice, aggressive moves to the basket with the ball that the coaches applauded; post defense remains to be seen, though I am optimistic.

Michael Roll – making mistakes but learning quickly; confidence will grow with experience; knows the game and can stroke it.

Ced Bozeman – still rusty, but still has great vision and passing instincts; experienced and doesn't make mistakes; solid on ball defender; worked exclusively as a wing in this practice.

Luc Mbah a Moute – wouldn't know he is a freshman without a program; plays smart and aggressive and solid for a freshman; great defender and rebounder; ability to be around the ball reminds you of Josh Shipp; didn't take an outside shot, which tells me he understands his role; surprisingly doesn't make mistakes; will play a lot.

Kelvin Kim – works hard and knows how to play; took 8 or 9 shots around and beyond the three-point line against the defense throughout the day and never missed; size and average quicks cause him problems with the ball when pressured and will prevent minutes at this level; great practice player for the Bruins who could be on a full ride as a low- or mid-major.

UCLA Men's Basketball Injury Update/Oct. 28

Sophomore point guard Jordan Farmar – suffered a right groin strain in practice on Thursday. He will be re-evaluated on Tuesday, and will be held out of practice for the next five days (the Bruins will not practice on Sunday).

Freshman forward Alfred Aboya – had a left knee arthroscopic procedure on Oct. 12. On Monday, has been cleared for up to an hour of noncontact work. By the week of Nov. 6, could be cleared for contact practice (on a limited time basis).

Senior center Michael Fey – before the start of practice (Oct. 14), was diagnosed with a severe groin strain and will remain out of practice for a minimum of one-two weeks.

Freshman guard/forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute – before the start of practice (Oct. 14) was diagnosed with sprained right shoulder. He returned to full-time practice status on Oct. 22.

Sophomore forward Josh Shipp – on Sept. 28, had an arthroscopic right hip procedure. During his initial rehabilitation, he was on crutches for almost a month (came off of crutches on Wednesday). Shipp is approximately seven-eight weeks away from playing.

Bruin Report Online Top Stories