Oct. 12, 2011
LOS ANGELES - In the shadows of John Wooden's original chalk board in what was once known as `the Old Men's Gym,' Ben Howland's 2011-12 UCLA men's basketball team this afternoon held their annual Media Day in the now named Student Activities Center on the Bruin campus.
UCLA players, coaches and media mingled on the same floor where Coach Wooden's teams practiced from 1948-65 and was actually UCLA's full-time home floor arena from 1948-1955. Coach Howland opened the session talking about the Bruins' experienced returning front line.
"Our real strength is our front line," said Howland, beginning his ninth season as the Bruin head coach. "We have six players on the front line, with the addition of the Wears (David/Travis), we have Reeves (Nelson), Joshua (Smith), along with (Anthony) Stover and Brendan (Lane). That gives us a lot of size."
Howland highlighted how hard the Bruins have been working all summer, preparing for the coming season.
"A number of players had great off-seasons, notably Lazeric Jones," he said. "Lazeric was in here every morning at 6:45 a.m., shooting every day the entire summer. He really got a lot of confidence from all the hard work he put in. Not just shooting and lifting, but also playing against the NBA players who were around all summer.
"Reeves Nelson really worked his tail off this summer as well. He was doing yoga five days a week, along with lifting four days a week, along with shooting -- having the same kind of regiment like Lazeric. The Wears have been really great about their workouts. The yoga has been really good for our players, I've seen it really help them. They got involved in it in January and kept it up. Those guys, along with a number of other players, have really done a great job. They are four of our best players. It's nice to have your hardest workers be some of your best players."
Howland noted the significance of UCLA using the same practice facility that Coach Wooden's Bruin teams also used for their workouts.
"That chalk board over there is the actual chalk board that Coach used to write on," he said. "It's the actual board itself, it's pretty cool. His 101st birthday is Friday, always right at the start of the college basketball season. Coach Wooden's teams practiced in here until Pauley was built (1965)."
The Bruins will begin practice tomorrow (Oct. 13) for what is being billed as the `2011-12 UCLA Men's Basketball Road Show.' With the ongoing renovation of Pauley Pavilion, the Bruins this season will use the Student Activities Center as a practice facility and play their home games at three different sites. UCLA will open the season with an exhibition game on Nov. 6 vs. CS San Bernardino at the Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, with the remaining home games played at the Los Angeles Sports Arena (14 games) and the Honda Center in Anaheim (four games). UCLA will also have a closed scrimmage against Cal State Fullerton in the Sports Arena on Oct. 27.
"With all of the games being played off campus, we're going to have to be more mentally tough," Howland said. "It's going to be a mental toughness issue, to deal with the travel and the logistics. But what awaits us at the end of the rainbow is a brand new Pauley Pavilion. So it is totally worth it. All the heartache of not having Pauley this year will be made up tenfold when we get back in there in 2012.
"I'm going to make a concerted effort to get out to the students, to the fraternities, to the sororities, to really reach out to our fans. To me it's so important. We have a chance to be a really good team this year and we need our fans, we need the support to be there for our team, these kids deserve that. They've worked really, really hard in the off season. So I'll really be encouraging our fans to come out and support the Bruins."