UCLA Basketball Media Day happen. As expected the LA Times focused on one thing, the elephant in the room:
And hovering around it all was the man wearing gray, Kevin S. Reed, UCLA's vice chancellor of legal affairs. At this point, he may be as much a part of the team as center Joshua Smith.
The elephant in the gym was the on-going NCAAinvestigation into eligibility of freshmen Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson.
Three times a UCLA official told the media, "We will not be speaking about the NCAA review or its impact on this team."
. . . Muhammad, from Las Vegas Bishop Gorman High, and Anderson, from Fairview (N.J.) St. Anthony, have yet to be cleared for competition by the NCAA, though they are with the team. Under rules, both can participate in workouts for 45 days, after which they either have to be cleared or must stop working with the team.
But what was discussed at media day itself? The word of the day was a college course, Chemistry. Howland said:
All extremely talented. Those kids all mesh well together. The chemistry as good as we have had since I can remember.
On individual players Howland praised everyone, of course. He emphasized playing fast. (On the Josh question he said better shape than last year at this time but not where he needs to be yet.)
At one point Howland said:
40% of our team being freshman, they are going to play the major minutes.
- Shabazz compared Kyle to Magic Johnson and Kyle basically said that is who he wanted to be. Shabazz understands the expectations to be high.
- Kyle also said he will work on defensive rebounding to start getting the ball early to begin the break.
- Tony Parker spoke about a new style of basketball and toughness. He also talked about playing the four and five.
- Jordan Adams talked about winning and the role Coach McCray had in convincing him to come to UCLA.
Watching the interviews, I think AP has it right:
Expectations -- always high at a school that owns a record 11 national championships -- are through the roof for the Bruins to be back in title contention after coach Ben Howland landed one of the nation's top recruiting classes.
Howland and the players seem to embrace them. Another issue off the court was literally the building holding the court.
one bright spot for the school is that it will debut the newly renovated Pauley Pavilion with a John Wooden statue.
Howland said the building came in under budget at $136 million. The original estimate was $180 million. UCLA will start practicing at Pauley Pavilion on Oct. 29 after some details are finalized, according to Howland.
"Speaking of Pauley, this is a really exciting year," Howland said. "A year ago at this time, we were talking about playing off our campus the entire year. It's so wonderful after that logistical nightmare playing downtown at the Sports Arena and Orange County to be back on campus."
Hopefully Shabazz and Anderson are eligible early and the nightmare is over and the dream can begin.