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Ben Ball Party Gets STARTED THIS Week

So are you guys getting ready?

While UCLA football for the first time in almost a decade keeping all of us interested on a week to week basis, the Ben Ball party is about to get started here in Westwood.

Bruins will have a media day on Wednesday as practice will officially get started this Friday.

So with that in mind wanted to share some snipets from what I consider to be the best pre season analysis available anywhere in the traditional media: Blue Ribbon College Yearbook preview, which is currently available free on ESPN.

There are not a lot of surprises here. The folks at Blue Ribbon concludes UCLA basketball program is in tip top shape thanks to who we believe is the best coach in this game:

Last season, Howland became the third coach in NCAA history to have won at least 30 games in three consecutive seasons, along with Adolph Rupp and John Calipari, who also joined the exclusive club on the strength of his NCAA runner-up team. Yes, John Wooden never did so.

As for life at UCLA, in what has become an annual summer occurrence, Howland signed another contract extension. This one guarantees him $1.97 million this season, not including incentives. And Howland makes no bones about this being his dream job; it would surprise few if he retired here, although many coaches have that urge at some point to test the NBA waters.

The program couldn't be in better shape, that despite the host of early departures the last three seasons. UCLA continues to draw the nation's top recruits -- this season's class ranked by the majority as the country's best.

As for our players, of course it all starts with DC, who Coach Howland believes (and we agree) is the best pg in the country:

"I have no doubt, no one does, that Darren would've been a first-round pick in the NBA draft," Howland said. "He gives us an All-American at the point. To me, he's the best point guard in the country.

"He's a next-level player coming back for another season. The leadership and veteran presence he brings is hard to explain. And he's stronger than ever; he's been lifting since the season ended, he might be 175 pounds for the opener.

"Darren's going to have the ball in his hands a lot, and he's always been our defensive point guard. This is a kid that could lead the conference in three-point and free-throw percent-age, assists and steals."

Providing DC with veteran leadership will be JS, who for the first time since his freshman year is coming into a season totally healthy:

Shipp was 100 percent healthy this spring and summer.

"This is the first summer Josh was able to work out and play basketball in three years; he could actually focus on his game rather than recovering from surgery," Howland said. "I'm counting on a big year from Josh, we haven't seen his best basketball."

It will be very interesting to see what kind of season we get from JS this season. I think if this kid is finally feeling totally healthy can show us that defensive aggression and nose for the ball that made him a fan favorite way back in his freshman season, he could leave Westwood with a memorable legacy. If Josh can bring defensive intensity evey game and play within Howland's offensive scheme, it is going to be fun to watch him.

Speaking of fun, it's Holiday time Westwood:

"First of all, with Jrue, he has a good body, he's going to be around 200 pounds this season and he's very athletic," Howland said. "And he has the potential to be outstanding defen-sively once he learns the schemes. For a high school kid, he's solid defensively; he doesn't gamble.

"He has a great left hand, not only dribbling wise but he can shoot with it, and not just layups, either, he can shoot from 8-10 feet with his left. For a right-handed player, he has as good of a left hand as I've ever seen at this level."

The 2008 Gatorade Player of the Year, Holiday would have played the point if Collison had departed for the NBA, but as it is, he'll probably see limited minutes at the one, which is no problem; he's a natural scorer but more than willing to pass when penetrating the lane.

We are getting so spoiled under Howland. After being treated to JF and AA, he transitioned us into DC and AA, which evolved into DC and RW. Now we get to have DC and JH with all the talented guards waiting in the wings. And yet there are some people out there who tried to claim with a straight face Howland can't develop guards. lol

Anyway, there are lot more good stuff in the Blue Ribbon preview. You can read rest of it here.

I did find it interesting that they have AA2 and JMM (BoBo) pegged as starters in the front court with AA2 at 4 and JMM at 5. My hunch is that we will have JK getting the starting nod at 4 with AA2 at 5.  Should be more than interesting how it all shapes up when practice gets started at the Cathedral of College Hoops this Friday in Westwood. Besides the (much deserved) glowing preview, I do have lot of questions around our team, which I will try to lay out in next few days. Still despite those questions, with Howland in charge we can look forward to another fun year at UCLA.

So after a long season ... once again time to get started dreaming about more shining moments in blue and gold:

We are ready for the Ben Ball party.  Are you?

Thank God for Ben Howland.