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Ben Ball News & Notes

Right now it is quiet in the world of Ben Ball. I imagine our guys are busy with their finals. Not much news coming out except for little tidbits here and there. So Pucin took the time to chat with Bob McKillop, the Davidson head coach, and asked him to compare UCLA to Texas, UNC, and Duke, the teams Davidson took on before losing to UCLA. Here are some choice grafs from that LAT article:

McKillop gave credit to UCLA's Russell Westbrook for playing the "toughest" defense against Davidson star Stephen Curry.

Curry had 15 points against UCLA on six-for-19 shooting. He scored 20 against Duke on eight-for-17 shooting and 24 against North Carolina on eight-for-22 shooting.

On Davidson basketball message boards, anonymous fans were more willing to make value judgments.

"Let me say as a College of Charleston fan, UCLA is ridiculously tough," said one. Another said, "UCLA has the athletes, desire and coaching to lock you down defensively and keep you off the boards. Duke and UNC don't."

And then there was this: "I think we just played the team that will win the national championship. This was the best game [Davidson] played all year."
Speaking of Duke, LAT’s Robyn Norwood has a profile on Duke freshman Taylor King, a local product from the OC, who had committed to Coach Howland as a high school freshman, before signing up to play for the ratface from Durham:
The courtship between the Bruins and King didn't work out, but King said he felt UCLA Coach Ben Howland was gracious about it, and the experience obviously didn't convince Howland not to try again. Some coaches feel they almost have to, because if they don't make an early offer, another school will.

"It is what it is," Howland said. "I don't think it's going to happen that often. I think it's going to be more the exception. But it's a positive for some kids. Recruiting is a tough experience. For some, it's very distracting.

"It has to be the right kid, the right situation in terms of the parents and the background," said Howland, prohibited by NCAA rules from discussing the oral commitment made by sophomore guard Kendall Williams of Rancho Cucamonga Los Osos High last month.
Man, the phrase - "It is what it is" – sounds lot different when it is coming from a competent head coach. Doesn’t it? Anyway, Norwood engages in a little bit revisionist history implying that King had gotten away from UCLA, when the reality is a kid like King realized he was going to get lot more minutes in a thin Duke team, which wasn’t as loaded as Coach Howland’s program coming into this season. Not only that King probably also so he wasn’t going to get a lot of minutes going up against Shipp, Westbrook and Roll, who had already been well versed in Ben Ball defense. Whatever. We wish King luck and look forward to pounding his Dukees with our defense, if they are fortunate enough to take on UCLA somewhere along the Big Dance.

Going back to our warriors has some nice notes on Westbrook, who is auditioning hard to feel the role of new AA:
"Russell has really embraced the role that Arron Afflalo had for us the past three years, which is guarding the other team's best perimeter player," UCLA coach Ben Howland said. "That speaks to his intensity, to his athletic ability and to his quickness. I'm really proud of Russell and the way he's improved."

After playing sparingly last season as a backup point guard, Westbrook spent much of the offseason in the weight room, adding much-needed bulk to his spindly frame. The hard work has translated into increased playing time as Westbrook started at point guard in November, then slid over to wing once Darren Collison returned from a knee injury.

Westbrook played 37 minutes against Davidson on Saturday, chasing Curry through a barrage of screens and picks and limiting him to 6-for-19 shooting. Before that, Curry had scored at least 20 points in six of the seven games he'd played.

"My main focus is coming out and playing great defensively," Westbrook said. "Coach said we'd need me to play well defensively, and I have to do any role I can to get on the floor. If defense is what it is, that's what I'm going to do."
I am going to anxious to see how RW comes out and perform in next three games, especially the road game in Ann Arbor in couple of weeks. If he truly has embraced the role of the defensive stopper of this team, it will create more opportunities for him on the other end of the court, as so many times AA used to generate his offense out of his attacking defense. We should all really enjoy and appreciate this kind of player development as it happens right in front of our own eyes.