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Ben Ball Roundup

We have bunch of Ben Ball related notes to throw your way this Friday. Coach Howland is holding his first basketball practice tonight at Pauley, and good ole Diane sounds a little sad that Howland is keeping his practice ‘private’:

The Bruins, coming off back-to-back Final Four seasons, are ranked No. 1 in several preseason basketball magazines. Coach Ben Howland should be eager to show off top recruit Kevin Love, the 6-foot-10 post player from Oregon who, if summer tales are true, shoots confidently from three-point range, makes strong and crisp outlet passes and can set a screen hard enough to stop an avalanche -- or at least one of Stanford's 7-foot Lopez twins.

Howland holds these practices sacred, though, so what Love is doing to cause veterans such as Josh Shipp to say "Kevin's better than advertised," and Darren Collison to say "He's wise about the game in ways I've never seen," won't be observable to the rest of the world until Nov. 2, when the Bruins have an exhibition against Azusa Pacific.

Even tonight's "Midnight Madness-esque" opening practice, beginning at 10 p.m., will be conducted in private -- unlike at most schools, where the cheerleaders show up, the band plays, students cause a cacophony, and ESPN might even drop by.

Not at UCLA.

The first practice will be serious. Howland tried to sound grim Thursday after the annual Los Angeles Athletic Club-sponsored College Basketball Tip-Off Luncheon.

Center Lorenzo Mata-Real won't be ready for today's workout, Howland said, because his sprained right foot hasn't fully healed. "Maybe Monday he can go all out," Howland said.

Sophomore forward James Keefe is also unavailable for full scrimmaging as he rehabilitates his surgically repaired shoulder. "We'll only have 10 scholarship players available," a sad-eyed Howland said in hopes, maybe, of earning some sympathy.
I don’t know about you guys but I absolutely love how Coach Howland deals with the morons covering the UCLA beat from the local media. He provides them with detailed, substantive, and concise information they need to know for their jobs (so they can actually report them back to us), while keeping his program and practices guarded enough to keep gossip mongering tools like Pucin at bay.

One of the guys who attended our media day this week was Jeff Eisenberg from the Press Enterprise, who penned a pretty good column encapsulating the state of our program in Westwood. Jeff wrote about the options Coach Howland will have going into this season:
The addition of Love helps offset the departure of all-American guard Arron Afflalo, who left after his junior season and was selected by the Detroit Pistons in the first round of the NBA Draft. Afflalo was UCLA's leading scorer and top perimeter defender last year, but the Bruins still return four starters and 75 percent of their scoring to a roster more versatile than any Ben Howland has coached.

If Howland wants to outslug teams, he can play Love alongside 6-foot-9 Lorenzo Mata-Real down low, with 6-foot-8 rebounding machine Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and 220-pound Josh Shipp at the wings.

If he prefers to sacrifice size for speed, Howland can play Love in the middle, slide Mbah a Moute and Shipp to power forward and small forward, and insert promising sophomore Russell Westbrook at shooting guard. Westbrook, perhaps UCLA's best pure athlete, showed the ability to get to the basket against anyone last year.

"We have a lot of options, but we're going to play bigger a lot more," Howland said. "Luc's going to play more minutes at small forward. And there's definitely going to be times where we have Kevin and Lorenzo in together."

No matter what lineup Howland chooses, he'll have one of the nation's top point guards leading it.

Collison, UCLA's third-leading scorer last year at 12.7 points per game, provides fierce on-the-ball defense and a quick first step off the dribble. He and Love developed instant chemistry as counselors at a basketball camp in New Orleans this past June, the big man feeding his future teammate outlet passes and Collison converting them for layups.

"At the end of the camp a lot of the pro scouts were asking, 'How long have you and Darren been playing together?' " Love said. "When I told them it was the first time, they kind of looked at us stunned. That was probably the biggest compliment we got."
Now I know we are all extremely excited about this coming season. How can we not be given the toxicity around Dorrell’s joke of a football program? It’s a relief that cannot get here soon enough. Still we need to be cognizant of the fact that this team is still coming off a number of injury issues that were referenced in the papers earlier this week. I don’t picture this team coming out and operating like a machine from the first game. I do think we will see the protypical Ben Ball inside the jersey defense and an offense grounded in fundamental from the first game. It will just take a little while for our boys to get in total sync. In both of our Final-4 years it took our team a little time to get in total gear, as they improved through the season, before clicking on all cylinders during the Madness.

Anyways, I will end today’s Ben Ball roundup with this. Above I mentioned how our basketball coach has a grasp on ridiculous amount of information. Well check out this piece from Garry Parrish in (who interestingly clowned Dorrell earlier in the week by alluding to the "Dorrell factor" in his football column). Parrish has an article on the NBA talent we will see in the Pac-10 this season, and he started off his column with this story on Coach Howland:
I was sitting at an establishment near UCLA late Saturday, drinking a brew that tastes like pumpkin and chatting with Ben Howland about the football day that was, about how UCLA and USC had managed to -- as columnist T.J. Simers would subsequently write -- put the loss back in Los Angeles despite being favored by a combined 60 points.

Then out of nowhere, the Bruins basketball coach offered a trivia question.

It was like Pub Quiz, the hoops edition.

"What's the record for first-round draft picks from a conference in a year?" Howland asked, and I told him I had no idea because, between you and me, I've never been much on trivia, history or the regurgitation of mostly useless facts. I don't have the memory for it. But I promised to do some research upon returning home, and so on Tuesday I called Howland back to relay the news.

"What'd you find out?" he asked.

"The record is eight. Set by the ACC in 1995."

"Well, I think the Pac-10 will equal that this year, at a minimum," Howland said. "I would say there's a good chance we're going to equal eight, and we might get more."
Quick. Does anything think CTS has that kind of knowledge about the game he is pretending to be "coaching" and getting millions buck a year for it?

As we have said number of time someone like Dorrell wouldn’t be qualified to even fetch a cup of coffee in a program coached by Ben Howland. The difference should be embarrassing to someone like Dan Guerrero.