Coach Ben Howland talked about the fact that Darren Collison and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute announced they'll return next season.
It didn't seem like
the Collisons seriously considered that Darren would
"That's not true. I think they did give it some thought. To be honest, if he came out this year, he'd probably be a potential late first-round pick, but the thinking is, and I think it's wise, when he tests the waters next year, which I definitely think is the plan, that he'll move himself way up in the draft a year from now, and be a potential early to mid-round pick."
How hard is it for you as a coach to go through this, knowing you could lose a kid like Darren?
"We lost Jordan Farmar last year, and I'm glad that's worked out for him. I'm confident it will work out for Arron Afflalo. These are good problems to have, from the standpoint, look, if you don't have really good players, these instances don't occur. And you need to have really good players. It's a good problem. Even though when you're living it, it's not easy because there is so much uncertainty, but at the end of the day it's a still a problem you want to have, if you want to call it a problem."
What does this allow you to do with your lineup next year. You talked about using Josh Shipp at the two. How do you see it now?
"We have 11 players on scholarship. I'd definitely say that Josh is going to play significant minutes at the two next year. I think that Luc Richard Mbah a Moute will have a chance to play some significant minutes and be the starting three man. But it all remains to be seen. Everybody has to show up and earn their time. We have four returning starters right now. We have the best big kid in the country coming in out of high school. We have a number of young players that return that I'm confident will improve in the off-season, like Russell Westbrook, James Keefe, Alfred Aboya...and I think Nikola Dragovic is going to make big strides this year. He'll start right from the beginning and not have to worry about missing the first ten games because of the snafu with the NCAA. The biggest thing next year with 11 guys on scholarship is the health isue, as it was this year. It's going be huge for us. We don't have a lot of room for injuries, short-term or long-term. If we didn't have the depth we had a year ago, we would have never gotten to the Final Four for the senior year of Ryan Hollins and Ced Bozeman."
How seriously did Mbah a Moute consider putting his name in the draft?
"I think he looked at it seriously, but was advised by other people that it'd be smart for him to wait another year to do that. To really work hard in this off-season. I would anticipate that both Luc and Darren at this time next year will be putting their name in the draft and testing the waters, for sure."
How are Luc's knees? Has he had anything done on them?
"He has some tendinitis in his knee, but we're putting him on a very rigorous strengthening and rehab program that will help to allieviate some of his problems."
What day did you meet with Darren and what did you go over with him?
"We got back on a Sunday from the Final Four. I met with him that following week. It was the 10th. We went over a number of things. I showed him where exactly where the draft is. One thing I think that will benefit our players that are returning this year is that when you look at this year's draft, this is one of the strongest drafts in the last ten years because it skipped a class. When you look at the top of the list of most of the mock drafts, you have three kids that were freshmen in college this year, with Oden, Durant and Brandan Wright. Also putting their names in are Thaddeus Young, Spencer Hawes...and there's another outstanding freshman I'm forgetting. There are six or seven guys. In years past, four or five of them would have gone right out of high school. So this year it's really, really a special year. You also have Horford, Noah, Brewer. You have a lot of great players coming out."
When you talked to Darren about the NBA, do you talk about things like, this is where I think you're going to go, this is the kind of money associated with it, or is it anything about UCLA, Coach Wooden and banners hanging in the rafters...
"Not really. It's more about them, their future. Every kid that we recruit to UCLA has aspirations to play beyond the college level and hopefuly in the NBA. I'm very confident Darren will be a first-round draft pick when he leaves UCLA. See, you want to enter the NBA as a high draft pick. It really helps. If you look at the numbers, and I show them all this, and where you get drafted, there is a direct correlation to your success in the league, and the longevity of players in the league. The higher you get drafted, it's just overall way better for you in so many different respects. I think most GMs would tell you that as well. You can go on the Internet and look at it. The guys that are drafted top 20 in the first round have longer careers. Darren struggled playing just have a game as a freshman. It used to drive him crazy. If he entered as a late first-rounder and had to sit the majority of the time, I think it'd be really tough for him, because he loves to play. He cares more about being in the game than anything."
Were you at all concerned about Darren's mom resigning from her job, and what that might have meant?
"No. His parents are tremendous people, and great role models for him. They put education first. They're both obviously very educated, college graduates, and very successful professionals. So, that was really just her going into a different aspect of her career."
How do you think Darren needs to develop next year?
"I think, number one, just getting bigger and stronger. That's something we really want to focus on this year, is to maintain his strength and weight throughout the season. There are a number of aspects that are coaching things between me and him."
If Darren had left, would depth at guard be a concern?
"There are those 'what-ifs' again."
Even with Darren, you don't have a lot of depth at guard.
"If you remember, though, a year ago I was planning on Jordan and Darren both being here. There are some things that are just hard to plan for. It's a good problem to have, that Darren had the kind of year he had, and is and will be talked about as an NBA player."
How is Josh doing recovering from surgery?
"Josh is doing good. He was at our team meeting on Monday on his crutches. He's getting around, attending class, catching back up on the things he needs to do academically. He's started his rehab with our trainer, and he's headed back. He's in good spirits. He looked very good on Monday."
Is everything then set for next year? Any more signings or players leaving?
"You never know. That's the exciting thing about this business."