Oct. 15, 1999
LOS ANGELES - UCLA head coach Steve Lavin begins his fourth season at the Bruin helm, returning 11 lettermen, including nine players who at some point during last season were in the starting lineup. The Bruins will again be a young team in 1999-2000. Last year, UCLA was the second-youngest team in the nation, finishing 22-9 overall, with a third-place finish (12-6) in the Pac-10 and the school received its 11th consecutive NCAA Tournament bid. This season, the Bruins will have only one senior on their roster, along with eight underclassmen, including a highly-touted freshman recruit.
In his three years as UCLA's head coach, Lavin has a career and school record of 70-26 (72.9), averaging 23 wins a season. He's the only coach in Bruin history to win at least 70% of his games in each of his first three years at UCLA. Lavin has led the Bruins to a Pacific-10 title (1997) and three consecutive NCAA Tournament bids, including Elite Eight (1997) and Sweet 16 (1998) appearances. Lavin is the first coach since John Wooden in 1974 and '75 to lead the Bruins to at least five total NCAA Tournament wins in two consecutive seasons (1997, 3, 1998, 2). On March 29, 1999, Lavin was rewarded with a contract extension through 2004-05, which included a rollover clause.
The Floor Leader
Six-foot-one junior guard Earl Watson will take his leadership role to an even higher level with the departure of Baron Davis, who announced on May 12, 1999 that he was forgoing his final two years at UCLA and entering the 1999 NBA Draft (the Charlotte Hornets selected Davis as the No. 3 pick in the first round). During his two-year UCLA career, Watson has been the only Bruin to start all 64 games (31 last season and 33 as a true freshman). His production numbers increased dramatically from his freshman to sophomore campaigns. Last season, Watson was the team leader in minutes played (34.0), was second in scoring (13.3), assists (4.58, sixth in the Pacific-10), steals (1.6) and free throw percentage (70.3) and fourth in rebounding (3.7). He led the team in double-figure scoring (25 in 31 games) and he's one of UCLA's best defensive performers. In 1999, Watson earned second-team NABC All-District 15 and honorable mention All-Pac-10. As a true freshman, Watson averaged 5.8 points and 3.2 assists.
"Earl Watson is now this team's leader, both on and off the court," said Lavin, the only coach in Bruin history to win at least 22 games in each of his first three seasons at UCLA. "He's been a catalyst for us the last two years. As a staff, we're expecting even bigger and better things from Earl during his junior and senior seasons. His offensive production improved last year and we are always depending on him defensively to stop our opponent's top guard. He plays through pain and injury. Earl Watson is the complete college basketball player."
UCLA had two of the nation's top young big men last year in true freshmen, 6-11 Dan Gadzuric and 6-10 Jerome Moiso. After a year of experience, both players in 1999-2000 could be among the nation's dominant inside performers.
Gadzuric, a first-team freshman All-America selection by College Hoops Insider and on the Pac-10 All-Freshman squad, missed the final five games of the season after injuring his left knee (lateral meniscus, arthroscopic surgery) in practice. He was also slowed throughout 1998-99 with tendinitis in both knees. For the season, Gadzuric started 17 of 24 games, averaging 20.0 minutes, 8.6 points (fifth on the squad) and 5.7 rebounds (third on the team, No. 7 on the Bruin freshman chart), while leading UCLA in field goal percentage (54.0) and blocked shots (1.3, sixth in the Pac-10). After rehabilitation and knee rest, Gadzuric resumed playing in late May.
Moiso, who played center for the Bruins when Gadzuric was sidelined with his knee injury, is more comfortable at forward, combining size and agility with an outside jump shot. A first-team College Hoops Insider freshman All-America selection and honorable mention All-Pac-10 frosh, Moiso started 21 of 29 games, averaging 23.8 minutes, 10.8 points (fourth on the team) and 5.8 rebounds (second on the squad, No. 6 on the Bruin freshman charts) and shot 48.7 (third on the team) from the field. Moiso scored in double figures in 16 of 29 games and led the Bruins in rebounding on 11 occasions. He was slowed at the end of the season by arch problems.
"Dan and Jerome give us an excellent presence under the basket," said Lavin, entering his ninth season as a member of the UCLA staff. "Both players bring us rebounding, shot blocking and defense. Dan may be one of the most dominant post players in the country and Jerome is one of the most skilled players, for his size, that our staff has coached. Both were injured at various times during last season and I don't think we ever saw the two of them together healthy. We're looking forward to having two healthy big men for the entire year."
Eight More Veterans Return
UCLA returns eight other veterans - six who started last season, a third-year performer and one redshirt who started once as a true freshman in 1997-98.
Returnees joining Watson in the backcourt will be 6-2 junior Ryan Bailey and 6-3 sophomore Ray Young. Both players appeared in 30 games last year and each started five times. Young, a 1998 McDonald's All-American, averaged 16.1 minutes a game last year as a true freshman, averaging 5.4 points and 2.6 rebounds and leading the Bruins in three-point (40.8) and foul (70.4) shooting. At UCLA's annual year-end banquet, Young was given the UCLA Alumni Association Award for Academic Achievement and Team Contribution. Bailey, who sat out the 1997-98 season after transferring from Penn State, last season averaged 15.2 minutes, 4.2 points and 1.7 assists. While at Penn State in 1996-97 as a true freshman, Bailey was the Nittany Lions' starting point guard. He's the younger brother of former Bruin standout Toby Bailey, now with the Phoenix Suns.
"Ryan and Ray are two experienced players for us at the guard positions," said Lavin, the first Bruin head coach since Gary Cunningham in 1978 and '79 to record consecutive seasons (1997, ?98) of at least 24 victories. "Last year, Ryan was a spot-starter and Ray provided a spark at both ends of the floor. We're expecting consistent guard player from these players this year."
Helping at both the guard and forward positions in 1999-2000 will be two sophomores, 6-6 JaRon Rush and 6-7 Matt Barnes (Barnes is academically ineligible for the fall quarter). Although they played mostly forward last season, Rush started 22 of 28 games, including the Bruins' last eight contests and Barnes started eight of 30 games, both players have the agility and quickness to play either guard or forward.
Rush demonstrated last season that he also has the strength and durability to play inside. He led the Bruins in rebounding for all games (7.3, ninth in the Pac-10 and No. 2 in UCLA freshman history) and conference contests (8.2, sixth in the Pac-10) and was third on the team in scoring (11.4, No. 6 in Bruin frosh annals) and minutes played (28.1). Rush ended the year playing his best basketball, getting three of his five double-doubles in the season's last four games and averaging 10.2 rebounds during the final nine contests. He led the Bruins in rebounding a team-high 12 times, including eight of the last nine games. Rush earned Basketball News second-team freshman All-America and first-team All-Pac-10 freshman squad.
Barnes in 1998-99 averaged 13.1 minutes, 3.9 points and 2.9 rebounds. Like Rush, Barnes was at his best at the end of last season. In his last 10 games, he averaged 4.5 points, shot 46.9 from the field and also played double-figure minutes in eight of those 10 contests.
"In JaRon and Matt, we have the luxury of having two quality players who can play multiple positions," Lavin said. "JaRon is a great competitor. I thought at the end of last season, he was playing as well as any freshman in the league. Matt is one of the best athletes on the team. In high school, he was a star football and basketball player."
The Bruins have only one senior on this year's squad, 6-6 forward Sean Farnham. Last season he started seven of 19 games, including six of the Bruins' last seven contests. UCLA was 6-1 in 1998-99 when he started, losing only the NCAA first round contest to Detroit Mercy. Farnham, known for his intensity on the court, averaged 7.9 minutes, but played double-digit minutes in seven of UCLA's last eight games. He averaged 1.6 points and 1.3 rebounds and shot 59.1 from the field.
UCLA will also have three more multiple-position veterans on this year's roster - juniors, 6-4 forward/guard Rico Hines and 6-5 guard/forward Todd Ramasar, along with 6-5 sophomore guard/forward Billy Knight.
Hines missed 11 games in the middle of the season because of a foot injury (required surgery, pin inserted for a fractured fifth metatarsal of his right foot). He returned for the last six games of the year but was slowed because of the injury. When healthy, Hines is one of the most versatile Bruins. Before his foot injury, he played in 14 games and started on six occasions. During those 14 contests, Hines had double-digit minutes in 10 games and during that span he also recorded career-bests in minutes (33 vs. San Francisco), points (11 vs. Delaware State), rebounds (6 vs. San Francisco) and assists (6 vs. Loyola Marymount). For the entire season, he averaged 12.6 minutes, 2.5 points and 1.7 rebounds.
Ramasar appeared in 13 games last year, including six of the last eight contests, and started both of UCLA's early exhibition games. Last season he set career-highs in minutes played (9 vs. Washington State, h) and points (6 vs. WSU, h) and overall averaged 2.7 minutes, 0.8 points and 0.2 rebounds.
Ramasar had surgery on his left shoulder in mid-October and will be out at least six-to-eight weeks.
Knight redshirted last season because of a persistent groin injury. Known for his outside shooting talents, as a freshman in 1997-98 he appeared in 24 games and started once, averaging 6.0 minutes and 2.8 points.
"These four players have made major contributions to this program throughout their careers," Lavin said. "Rico and Billy were injured most of last year and it will be good to get them back healthy for this season. Sean Farnham started his career as a walkon and has performed admirably as a starter in some big games for us. Todd has probably improved more than any player in our program. They will all have an opportunity to make an impact on this season."
The Bruins have a new freshman in the program - McDonald's All-America 6-7 forward Jason Kapono, from Artesia HS in Lakewood, a proven performer from the three-point and free throw lines.
Kapono comes from the same high school (Artesia) and coach (Wayne Merino) that sent the O'Bannon brothers, Ed and Charles, to UCLA. As a senior, Kapono led the Pioneers to 32 wins, the CIF Southern Section IAA championship and the CIF Southern Section Div. I final. In 1999, he averaged 23.5 points, 9.0 rebounds, 7.6 assists, 3.3 steals and 1.4 blocked shots and shot 92.5 from the foul line. He set school records for career (211) and game (eight) three-pointers. Along with his McDonald All-America honor, Kapono also earned first-team prep All-America from Parade and Street & Smith and he was the John R. Wooden and CIF Div. I Player of the Year.
"The UCLA coaching staff is thrilled to have Jason Kapono join our basketball program," said Lavin. "His ability to shoot the basketball will help us in the areas of three-point and foul shooting. He comes from a great family and from an established high school basketball program. Jason is a model student-athlete who is a perfect fit for our University. UCLA's long-standing tradition of success is based on our program's ability to sign the top players in southern California, while also recruiting successfully on the national and international levels."
Bruins Lose Davis, Loyd and Reed
Baron Davis in just two seasons at UCLA established himself as one of the top guards in school history. Last year as a sophomore, fully recovered from a left knee injury that required surgery at the end of his freshman season, the 6-2 1/2 Davis led the Bruins in scoring (15.9), assists (5.1) and steals (2.5) and was a national finalist for the Wooden and USBWA Player of the Year awards. Davis was also a first-team All-Pac-10 member and the Pac-10 Freshman in the Year in 1998.
As the No. 3 pick in the 1999 NBA first round by Charlotte, Davis became the 26th player in Bruin history to be selected in the opening round. Since 1967, only eight other UCLA performers have been equal or higher first round draft selections - 1979-David Greenwood, No. 2, Chicago Bulls, 1977-Marques Johnson, Milwaukee Bucks, No. 3, 1976-Richard Washington, Kansas City Kings, No. 3, 1975-David Meyers, Los Angeles Lakers, No. 2, 1974-Bill Walton, Portland Trail Blazers, No. 1, 1971-Sidney Wicks, Portland Trail Blazers, No. 2, 1969-Lew Alcindor, Milwaukee Bucks, No. 1 and Lucius Allen, Seattle Supersonics, No. 3.
"Coaches dream of having players like Baron in their program," Lavin said. "The two years he spent with us will always be memorable in my coaching career. He's a hard-worker and diligent basketball player. Those characteristics helped him come back from that knee injury and play his way into being one of the top choices in this year's pro draft."
The Bruins also lose 5-11 Brandon Loyd, last year's only senior, and 6-7 sophomore Travis Reed, who is transferring to Long Beach State.
Loyd for four years was UCLA's zone-buster, known for his three-point shooting prowess. He appeared in 91 games, including three starts as a senior and four as a junior, and averaged 7.6 minutes and 2.8 points as a senior and 8.3 minutes and 2.1 points for his career. In his career, he hit 53 of 142 (37.3) three-pointers.
During Reed's two-year (1997-99) career at UCLA, he appeared in 58 of UCLA's 64 games and started seven times, three as a freshman and on four occasions last season. His career averages were 14.1 minutes, 4.7 points and 2.7 rebounds, while shooting 50.9 from the field. As a sophomore last season, Reed appeared in all 31 games and averaged 15.9 minutes, 5.4 points, 2.8 rebounds and shot 50.0 from the field.
UCLA this season will have one of the nation's most competitive schedules. The Bruins could play 14 teams that were selected for postseason play in 1999. Eight teams - Gonzaga Florida A & M at the Pearl Harbor Classic, Purdue, at North Carolina, at Syracuse and Pac-10 opponents Arizona, Stanford and Washington are from last season's NCAA Tournament. Six are from last year's NIT field - DePaul, Colorado State in the Pearl Harbor Classic, Pepperdine and league rivals USC , Oregon and California. Gonzaga lost in the 1999 NCAA West Region final to NCAA Champion Connecticut, 67-62 and in NIT action last year, California won the title and Oregon reached the NIT Final Four.
"This is the toughest schedule we've had since I've been head coach at UCLA," Lavin said. "We have an experienced team returning and this schedule will be a great test for us. We will find out very early how our team ranks against some the top squads in the nation."
1999-2000 Status of Players
Starters Returning (4)
|JaRon Rush||6-7||207||So.||F||11.4 ppg||7.3 rpg||-||1.6spg|
|Jerome Moiso||6-10||235||So.||F/C||10.8 ppg||5.8 rpg||-||-|
|Dan Gadzuric||6-11||248||So.||C||8.6 ppg||5.7 rpg||-||1.1spg & 1.3bpg|
|Earl Watson||6-1||190||Jr.||G||13.3 ppg||3.7 rpg||4.6 apg||1.6spg|
Other Returning Lettermen (6)
|Ray Young||6-3||210||So.||G||5.4 ppg||2.6 rpg||-||-|
|Ryan Bailey||6-2||207||Jr.||G||4.2 ppg||1.6 rpg||1.7apg||-|
|Matt Barnes||6-7||230||So.||F||3.9 ppg||2.9 rpg||-||-|
|Rico Hines||6-4||217||Jr.||F/G||2.5 ppg||1.7 rpg||1.0apg||-|
|Sean Farnham||6-5||218||Sr.||F||1.6 ppg||1.3 rpg||-||-|
|Todd Ramasar||6-5||204||Jr.||G||0.8 ppg||0.2 rpg||-||-|
|Jason Kapono||6-7||199||Fr.||F||23.5 ppg||9.0 rpg||7.6apg||3.3spg & 1.4bpg|
|Billy Knight||6-5||210||So.||F||2.8 ppg||0.9rpg||(1997-98 stats)|
Starters Lost (1)
|Baron Davis#||6-2||210||Jr.||G||15.9 ppg||3.6 rpg||5.1 apg||2.5 spg|
Letterman Lost (2)
|Travis Reed*||6-7||237||Jr.||F/C||5.4 ppg||2.8 rpg||-||-|
|Brandon Loyd||5-11||190||Sr.||G||2.8 ppg||0.3 rpg||-||-|
#Entered NBA-First round, No. 3 pick by Charlotte.
*Transferred to Long Beach State.