I went to the open men’s basketball practice Sunday afternoon at Pauley and here are my principal takeaways. I didn’t see the entire practice, I had to leave early as I had some work to do. But these are my takeaways of about an hour and 50 minutes of watching.
Maybe 300 people were sitting in the north stands, mainly alumni and their kids and grandkids. Regretfully, there were very few students in the house. The fans in the stands applauded several fine offensive plays but were generally quiet. Part of the reason is we kept looking at the rosters provided as we walked through the north entrance at Pauley trying to figure out who is who in terms of the new kids.
First, Coach Alford (it doesn’t make me happy to have to use those words--believe me) was in complete control of the practice. And by that, I mean there was none of the deer in the headlights look he gets when he is on camera or talking to reporter. He gave instructions in a terse direct manner. He did not yell at the players. He is out of his element when interacting with journalists whether he is talking about basketball or any other subject. On the court, there is none of that.
Second, this will be an up tempo team. The days of the Ben Howland grind it out and out and out and out are gone. During 5 on 5 drills, every time the ball came up the court it raced up the court. And while that was happening the coaches kept their collective and individual mouths shut which is different from Ben constantly yelling instructions while Zeke or the great Larry Drew II who were just trying to set up the grind it out offense to grind.
Third, in the 5 on 5 drills, here is who played the most: the Wears; Jordan Adams (who apparently has never learned how to miss a free throw--ice water for blood--geeeez!); Kyle Anderson (Mr. Cool who has to really work at it to miss free throws); Norman Powell (who was awesome and got the most applause for some steller shots); Zach LaVine (shot the lights out on 3 point shots (as did Jordan) during the 5 on 5 drills but missed too many free throws); Bryce (the coach’s kid--as a point guard, brought the ball up the court in a flash); Tony Parker (more about him in a minute); and Sooren Derbogoisan (and I don’t know if he was there to act as a big man or because he will get some minutes). My notes are incomplete on Nick Kazemi but Wanna Bail, Noah Allen, Aubry Williams and Kory Alford, the coach’s other son, played very little in the 5 on 5 drills.
Fourth, as has been noted here, Tony Parker, has lost weight and looks like a different youngster than last year. He made some fine shots (but he missed a lot too but it is hard to put the ball in the hoop with Travis Wear hanging all over you) and looks like he may no longer be the foul machine he was last year. Parker played more under control than he did last year--he only fell down once IIRC. During the 5 on 5 drills, the coaches called fouls and I didn’t see him called for a foul. On a fast break, Parker is the slowest Bruin but he moves more quickly than last year and not at all with the lumbering slowness of poor Josh Smith. Credit goes to the coaches for doing what coaches are supposed to do, get players like Tony ready to play. What kind of year will Tony have--beats me. But he is a different player than he was last year--that was obvious. But he still has the heart of the fans. When he made a good play, the fans applauded.
Fifth, for Wooden purists (and I am one among many) some the fundamentals drills would have sent Coach ballistic. There was a drill where the players dribbled between their legs. And as Coach was watching from heaven, those behind the back passing drills no doubt caused him to scoff in a heavenly way, "Gracious sakes alive." And the fast break drills led to some vicious slam dunks. My favorite is a tie, one of the Wears probably damaged the floor because the ball went Mach 2 through the hoop and bounced up with such force, it crashed into the hoop on the way back up. Bryce (one of the coach’s kids) did a slam dunk and NASA is still trying to track the his trajectory and that of the ball. But God bless several of the players--they used the glass to put the ball in the hoop just like Coach would have wanted them to--they know who is watching.
Sixth, one of the 5 on 5 drills required an assistant coach to throw up a shot which is supposed hit the rim. A defensive player then grabs the uncontested rebound and all 10 players race up the court--something about a transition game. Well, either Coach Grace or Coach Schilling (I don’t remember which) repeatedly shot the ball aiming for the rim. And guess what, the ball kept going in. Finally, Coach Broussard was the only coach who could throw up the ball and miss so the players could zoom down the court. If it wasn’t for Coach Broussard having mastered the art of how to miss a shot, we would all still be sitting in Pauley waiting for practice to end.
Seventh, the players seemed to get along. The would congratulate each other on solid shots even if they were scrimmaging against each other. Eighth, I have no sense of how well we will play defensively. I don’t remember a blocked shot. All I remember is we played a man defense. Finally, I had a good time. If others were present and I got something wrong, please, please fire away. If I accidently got something right you can say something too.
Go Bruins--let‘s squash Cal State San Bernadino a week from Wednesday in the exhibition opener.