Let's start with a little video from Coach Howland, his coaches, and our Ben Ball warriors:
Men's Basketball Team's Birthday Tribute to Coach John Wooden (via UCLA)
That should get everyone going. Right?
Well Jon Gold has more fun bites from some of our Ben Ball warriors. I think we discussed at the end of the last season that if there is one guy who has the potential to emerge as the emotional focal point on the court, it would be DG. I thought the comment he made about Trapani in that video above was pretty revealing. He also comes across as someone who will be taking up the leadership role just like AA did vocally very early on during his UCLA career. He sounds fired up about the potential of this young team:
"I wouldn't come here if I didn't think that we had a chance of winning. I have confidence in my freshmen that they are going to step up to the plate. They want to impress Coach Howland, they want to play well for us. We want to play well for them. We want to play well for the seniors, obviously - this is their last year and they want to play well for themselves and us. It's positive energy inside and out."
And kind of being coy about the lowered expectations as a result of the departure of so many Ben Ball veterans this past season:
"This is good for us, it kind of knocks us down a little bit. I guess they were trying to put us on that pedestal after back-to-back-to-back Final Fours. When you get knocked down, the target kind of gets lifted off our backs. It's not us any more. It's good, because we're a sleeper team - we're a lot better than people give us credit for.
"Just because we're young doesn't mean we're not dangerous."
I like the idea of these guys going into this season playing without any sense of pressure yet mindful of what they need to do - in terms of providing maxium effort and energy - to represent well the previous edition of Howland teams at. Little bit more on these guys after the jump.
Speaking to reporters at the team's media day Wednesday, the coach said he will continue to play it safe by limiting Keefe to noncontact drills when practices officially begin Friday.
The senior, who will be counted upon to provide leadership and muscle for a young team, was initially expected to miss four to six weeks and is willing to remain patient.
"We don't have any games right now," Keefe said, "so it's a good time for me to let it heal."
The outlook appears even brighter for sophomore guard Jerime Anderson (groin), who said he is ready for practice, and freshman Tyler Honeycutt, cleared to return from a spinal stress fracture.
Having TH in the fold is going to be a huge help. I think if he and MM can make meaningful contributions in their first season, it will really help Coach Howland deal with the pg dept issue as a result of Holiday's early departure. I am really curious to see how Howland allocates his mins early on during non conference season. It could be a lot of fun if he experimints with ML running the point and then mixing it up with MR/TH/MM at 2-3 spots. I am sure we will have more discussion on that topic later unless you guys want to go ahead and get a head start. Speaking of MM as you can imagine he is pretty excited:
It's definitely going to be a good team. We're real young - three seniors, no juniors, four sophomores and five freshmen. It gives a lot of opportunities for us young guys to come in and play. The seniors that we do have have been to three Final Fours - that's more experience than a lot of teams have. That alone will set us apart."
On the senior class:
All three of those guys are great leaders. Already they've taught us so much just being down here the past couple months."
Just 20 more days to go till we get to see guys D up in Pauley.