Howland: "We've Added Physicality"

Head Coach Ben Howland answered questions from the media after practice Monday, about how prized freshman Kevin Love is doing, how more physical the practices are, adapting practices with some players out, and more...

Head Coach Ben Howland answered questions after Monday's practice.

Are you glad to see Luc (Richard Mbah a Moute) get up from that charge?

"What an unbelieveable collison that was.  I was more happy to see him take the charge, to see what a good job he did. Alred Aboya was so out of control on that play I couldn't believe it.

"Alfred hurt himself today lifting. He was doing a clean, and the bar hit his knee on the way up, so the knee was sore all day.

"Kevin Love, in fact, hurt his back today (in the weight room). I have to go find the strength coach and make sure we back him off from doing that."

Is he setting any lifting records?

"I don't know about that, but he's very strong."

What parts of the program are you most anxious about getting ready before the first game?

"Just about every aspect. It's fortunate that we have a lot of veterans on this team. But you still have to go over everything again. We basically are laying down our foundation defensively these first ten practices, and also in our motion offense. We'll start putting in set plays on Wednesday, and start putting in a lot of our different sets in the half-court, once we don't have something on the push game. And then some of our plays against the zone. You saw us do our press offense today, five on zero. We're going to see some presses early in the year. We have to attack those aggressively. There's just so much to put in. Game situations. How do you attack a box-and-one, a triangle-two."

Are you where you thought you'd be? Ahead or behind?

"Our big thing is health. On Saturday morning, Kevin Love was out with a calf contusion. Lorenzo Mata-Real was hurt, and he couldn't really go. Luc woke up and his back had a knot in it, and he couldn't go. We're already without James Keefe. So we're down to seven guys on scholarship.  So, it's about us staying healthy. Knock on wood, Josh Shipp has been great. Josh has been there and good every day in practice, and has been consistent. He's really done a nice job. Darren Collison has been consistent and there every day."

During that charge, what went through your mind?

"I wasn't worried at all about Luc getting hurt. I was thinking, 'What is Alfred doing?' And way to go, Luc."

Luc was saying that this was the most physical practices have been since he's been here. Is there any thought to pulling back on that?

"Not when we're playing, but in the amount of time we go five-on-five or four-on-four. For example, on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, we'll spend 20 minutes a day, minimum, just running through sets, five on zero. So that cuts down the amount of time we're being physical. But when you're playing, that's how you play. Our practices are short. Two hours or less. Some schools practice must longer than that."

This year with the different personnel, how will that change the offensive sets?

"Yeah, we'll tweak some of things we'll look to do. We're tweaking some things."

Do you agree with the assessment that this is the most physical practices have been since you've been here?

"I would say probably, yeah. Part of that is that Kevin adds to that because he's so physical. And the other guys are backing down from him. Alfred, he's very physical. Those four guys, Lorenzo, Kevin, Luc and Alfred. You know, though, Josh is very physical. Mike Roll. All of those guys."

When you lost all of those guys for practice that day, who were your bigs?

"We didn't have any."

Does this remind you of Pittsburgh, how physical the practices are?

"We've been physical the last two years. I think we've added physicality inside because of the addition of Kevin. But even Ryan Hollins played hard and physical. And Mike Fey did. So we've been physical. No question."

How's Love doing defensively?

"Good. He's getting better and better. Sprinting to hedges is something all freshmen have to learn. James Keefe, the whole year. It took Lorenzo a whole year just to call it out loud enough. It takes time, but Kevin is a very quick learner. He's picking up stuff very quickly. The big question will be, as he gets tired in a game, how he responds, pushing through that, and being able to play effectively."

How far along is he defensively compared to the other bigs at the same time in their freshman year?

"I would say he's above average. Where he's advanced way beyond anybody is at the other end. His skill level, passing and shooting, and scoring around the basket, the outlets, all of that."

How's Chace Stanback doing?

"He's done a pretty good job. He's doing a good job on the boards. He hasn't shot it well yet from three, which doesn't surprise. He's still learning what a good shot and a bad shot is. When you're the high school star, every shot is a good shot. Now it's a little different. He shot 26% through nine practices from three. That's the lowest on the team, and he has to get better there. Part of it's strength. When you're a freshman you come in and all of a sudden you're in a high-intensity practice. And he's a freshman with all veterans on the perimeter. He's learning quickly. Chace is getting better. He had a very good practice yesterday. He had seven assists and zero turnovers in yesterday's practice, which was one of his best."

How's Nikola Dragovic defensively? He looks like he's shooting well.

"He's getting better, and that's what he can do best. He spaces to shoot, against zones in particular. He causes real problems for teams trying to zone because of his ability to space. He's doing a pretty good job defensively. By far better than he was a year ago."

Can you see him playing this year?

"Yeah, we'll see. I can see him."

Has he been slowed physically at all by the hernia operation?

"A little bit."

How has the free throw shooting been?

"Usually shooting at the end of practice we've been phenomenal. Today was horrible. It was our fifth day in a row, and yesterday we went really hard, and it was a very good practice. It was a fifth day in a row and they need a day off.  Our best day shooting the ball was practice six after a day off. So, watching your legs and staying healthy that way is really important for us."

Now that you've had Love for ten days, anything stand out more than you would have anticipated?

"I saw him a lot in high school, so I'm not surprised by what he's doing and how good he is. Yesterday in practice was his best day. He was 16 of 25 from the field with 14 rebounds. We went two hours of everything being competitive, so everyone's numbers were up in terms of more attempts. But 16 of 25 with 14 rebounds we'll accept."


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