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Ben Ball Roundup: Regrouping Without Gordon With "Fundamentals" & "100 Percent Effort"

<em>Photo Credit: insomniacslounge (<a href="" target="new">flickr</a>)</em>
Photo Credit: insomniacslounge (flickr)

Well I guess the only modicum of good news right now is that we don't have a basketball game to play during the middle of the week. Given the bombshell news from yesterday our team has few days to get it together before taking on Kansas (gulp) at Pauley on Sunday. We have already read highlights of Howland's comments from yesterday in earlier posts. Wanted to excerpt another graf that ran today in the LA Times (emphasis added throughout):

Some teammates were not sorry to see him go, a source close to the program said. Certainly his relationship with Howland, who values discipline, had grown increasingly tense.

"We have expectations of how our players represent the university on and off the court," the coach said. "When those standards aren't met, there are consequences."

Obviously everyone here agrees with that point. From what I have read so far, I am supportive of the coach's action in this case. However, I couldn't help but wonder about Howland's actions with respect to Dragovic when I read that quote. Forget Dragovic's off the court troubles (I have already made my thoughts clear on that front as I think he shouldn't have come back until his legal issues were resolved). I am having a hard time reconciling those words from Howland with what I have seen from Dragovic over the years (and not just this season). Yes, Dragovic came on a little last season when he made some clutch 3s in some games. However, most of the time from what I have seen from Dragovic, hasn't been someone who has lived up to the Ben Ball standards of playing solid team defense and patient/methodical offense.

Anyway, I will not dwell too much on Dragovic for now. I will let it go and see how he performs in next few games. Meanwhile, the veterans like MR doesn't sound too upset about Gordon leaving the team:

"As far as it going down, I don't really know," senior guard Michael Roll said.

"I came into lift today and I heard the news. It's unfortunate for both him and for us, and hopefully it works out for him. We're going to make it work for us here."

MR's comments seem very poigant these days. I especially remember the following ones after the Long Beach State game. I believe I have excerpted this on BN once already but they are worth highlighting again:

"Practice," Roll said, when asked what the Bruins can do to get better. "This whole week (in practice) we're going to have to listen to coach, get back to the fundamentals and get back to 100 percent effort every day."

I think those kinds of quotes provide even more context around Gordon incident. More after the jump.

As mentioned yesterday, Gordon's departure means more PT for RN. His team-mates such as MR sound excited about it:

The 6-8 freshman with the faux-hawk hairdo has been a bright spot, averaging 7.3 points and 4.7 rebounds in 14.8 minutes.

"He's a really strong kid," senior Michael Roll said. "Just comes in and tries to bully people, get rebounds, play physical, just do the dirty work that we need."

That attitude might be UCLA's only way out of a hole.

Hopefully RN will provide the much needed element of smart intensity (not out of control street ball) around the rim. Coach Howland is going to need that intensity from his team even if he tries out a zone on Sunday:

"I coached in the Big East for four years, worked against Syracuse, the best zone defense in the country, and they really work hard at it," said Howland, who coached at Pittsburgh from 1999-2003.

"One thing we can do at times is have length and size in there. You have bigger, longer players in that zone and it's difficult to play against. But you have to understand you have to work really hard in the zone.

"Defense, whether its zone or man, is meant to be played with intensity."

Keep those words in mind if we get to see JMM in a zone defense in the coming days. Watch how he defends the paint. Watch whether he is making an effort to provide help to his team-mates defendind down low and whether he is doing his part prevent dribble pentration. I always hear the loud cries of people wanting PT for him.  I think for that to be justified he really needs to prove himself on the court defensively.

I don't think we need to give up on JMM. However, at the same time I think we need to watch him closely instead of holding on to perceptions based on the news clippings we read about him as a hot shot recruit. From what I have seen from JMM so far, he reminds me more of Rodney Zimmerman than PAA, when it comes to toughness around the rim. Like I said, I hope he proves his doubters (like yours truly) wrong by earning mins by proving himself during practices, and then translating the practice efforts into solid (defensive) showing during games. Like MR said it all goes back to sticking with fundamentals and giving 100 percent effort every day. Hope JMM is getting the message.

FWIW it sounds like JA struck the right note in terms of our outlook against Kansas:

"Our morale might be down and the season's not looking good," Anderson said. "But we're at UCLA. We have to fight back."

We expect nothing less.