Pac-12 Media Poll:
1. Arizona (15) 403
2. UCLA (16) 402
3. California (3) 325
4. Stanford 296
5. Washington (2) 278
6. Colorado 262
7. Oregon 217
8. Oregon State 166
9. USC 163
10. Washington State 111
11. Arizona State 107
12. Utah 78
THE MODERATOR: We'll go ahead and get started with UCLA. We'll start with an opening statement from coach.
COACH HOWLAND: We're really excited about the upcoming season on a number of fronts. Number one, moving back into Pauley Pavilion. We had our first practice in Pauley on Monday and today is our fourth practice -- that David and I will, obviously, miss -- starting in about a half an hour.
But very, very exciting. Pauley is just tremendous. The transformation from the old Pauley to the new Pauley is really really special. It's a modern day, beautiful arena, but still captured the tradition and history of what's happened there in the past. And I think the university did an unbelievable job in the renovation.
And then I'm really excited about our team. We have a great nucleus of kids returning from last year's team that I think really made strong strides, improvement during the off season. Added with that is a very good freshman class coming in that has some very good players. So that blend of youth and experience is a real positive for us.
I thought our trip to China this summer was a great experience and leading into this season with the extra 10 practices that you receive going on a foreign trip as well as the opportunity to play some games over in Beijing and Shanghai and I thought the bonding experience for our players was very, very good for our team traveling over there.
And then I'm excited about the new TV deal. This is great. The PAC-12 network, this whole building, what's happening with the conference is huge for our conference in terms of becoming more of a national player. Being now on ESPN on a regular basis as well as Fox, along with a network every game in the entire conference being on television night in and night out is huge for the PAC-12.
And this is, the easy access into everybody's home back east I think is going to really help this conference recruit better on a national level, which I think is very important for our continued rise as a conference.
THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions.
Q. First your thoughts on the news that Kyle's going to be eligible to play and then also now that you know he's eligible how do you plan to utilize him and also the balancing with Larry Drew. I think that they may play the same position at some time.
COACH HOWLAND: First of all, we're very pleased that it's been resolved and that Kyle is now eligible to compete a week from tomorrow night, where we open our season and open the new Pauley on November 11th against Indiana State.
Kyle and Larry played together during the summer and including our trip to China and it's really good when they're in there together. You have two very good facilitators that really see the ball. I've always loved having 2-point guards on the floor. We played Farmar and Collison a lot together. We played Drew Holiday and Darren Collison a lot together. We played Darren and Russell a lot together. We had teams in the past prior to UCLA where it's always great.
For Kyle, he is truly a point guard in terms of his vision and seeing the floor and on the offensive end he really handles the ball well, advances it well, but he doesn't match up with point guards defensively. So that becomes the issue.
When Larry's not in the game, it's really going to be important most of the time that we have Norman Powell in there. Norman Powell is, after Larry Drew, our best player at guarding the other team's point guard, and might be better than Larry.
Norman Powell has done a terrific job in terms of his improvement between his freshman year and where he is today right now. I'm really excited about his growth at both ends of the floor. And defensively that's a real strength of his.
Q. It was great to know that you and your team had a very successful trip to China this summer. Will you use Kyle Anderson as a pure point guard or put him more on the small forward position as he has the length and size to play against any small forward in college basketball.
COACH HOWLAND: Well, offensively he'll definitely play minutes as a point guard. He also will play there as a small forward in terms of his field. But he again won't matchup typically with other teams point guards defensively, he'll typically guard the other team's three man, the small forward, although we played him as a four man, played him as a three man, and played him as a one offensively.
So he's the one kid in our team who probably has to know more positions than anybody else. And he's a real bright kid, has a great understanding and feel for the game. So he's very capable.
Q. Larry Drew struggled some at North Carolina and you're going to put a lot of weight on his shoulders, he has a lot to do this year. How has he improved since coming to UCLA and where has he made the greatest strides to kind of help you out since you're going to ask a lot of him?
COACH HOWLAND: We are going to ask a lot of Larry. He had a really good summer, played very well for us over in China. Larry is a very good decision maker. I think he makes good decisions with the ball. He really has a very good assist to turnover ratio in our practices and in the games we played.
He has to continue to improve defensively in terms of when he really locks in on a guy and is really trying to pressure someone, he's very good at it, because he has such good quickness and speed and strength. It's just not having any lulls there in the focus and concentration in that area.
I think he's a good shooter. He has not shot it great thus far in our early practices, but I have a lot of confidence he's going to shoot the ball well. And for Larry I think the big thing for him is he's happy. He's, number one, happy to be back home, he's got a very close knit family, family and friends. In fact, they celebrated his grandfather's 100th birthday last night while we were on our way up here.
So part of his success is the fact that I think he's really comfortable and really happy. He's going to graduate actually at the end of the winter quarter, so really excited about Larry and his senior season.
Q. Have you been given any word on when the status of Shabazz Muhammad will be resolved and how frustrating has it been that the investigations of him and Kyle and son took so long?
COACH HOWLAND: The NCAA review is something that we have been very patient with and continue to be. We have been as cooperative as possible with the NCAA and we had a very good resolve in Kyle's situation and very pleased about that.
And very optimistic about Shabazz. And I can't tell you how long or when, I don't know that. But again, these are great kids and I'm very confident that things are going to work out and very optimistic.
Q. There's a lot of talented big men on your roster. What's practice like?
DAVID WEAR: Practice has been very competitive, which is ultimately going to help our team out a lot. It's something that this year we're trying to push the ball a lot more and take it out early and really work on fast break and fast break offense, but just having bodies like Tony and Josh and my brother and I in there competing against each other every day, it's obviously going to make us better and practices have been extremely competitive.
Q. It seems like you guys and Arizona are picking one or the other to win this thing. Your thoughts on that.
COACH HOWLAND: Well, that's nice, but it really doesn't mean a whole lot. Bottom line is how you finish. I think Arizona obviously has a really good team with a good blend of returners, along with a great recruiting class. But when I look at the breadth and depth of this conference I think it's outstanding.
I think Washington again is going to be very good. I know they lost two players that were NBA draft picks and yet they had other kids sitting out, they have a great team returning.
Cal and Stanford are both going to be very good. I think Cal may have the best pair of guards in the conference. And college basketball is so much about having good guard play.
Stanford returns the vast bulk of their team from a 26 win season that won the NIT.
I think Colorado's going to be very, very tough.
I really like, although the team in Oregon and Oregon State, Oregon State returns everybody but the one player, Cunningham, that went to the pros. They're going to be a team that's going to be really reckoned with. And I think Dana does a great job.
SC has obviously really improved their roster after going through a tough year and all the injuries they had.
So this league is really up again and I'm really confident that the league is going to be real strong and excited about that. I think it's good for everyone in the conference and we're rooting for everybody in those non-conference games for us to get some quality wins here in November and December as a conference.
Q. Josh Smith came in with a lot of expectations and since he's been there he's--
COACH HOWLAND: I didn't hear the beginning.
Q. Josh Smith came in with a lot of expectations and just seems since he's been there he's been fighting weight and conditioning issues. How do you deal with that and how is he coming along this year?
COACH HOWLAND: Well, Josh, first of all, had a great freshman campaign. Josh had a very, very good freshman year and ended up starting at the end of that season for us. And we lost to an outstanding for Florida team in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
And I think that Josh, going into last season, there was a lot of expectation heaped on his shoulders because of the really good freshman year he had. And he didn't meet the expectations that both he had or we had for him a year ago.
And part of it was his conditioning. And that's something that he's going to deal with his entire career. He has a body type that's a blessing and a curse at the same time. Because if he eats anything that's extra out of the ordinary it's going to show up right on the waist line. And Josh knows that. I think he's definitely improved at the same stage from where he was a year ago to where he is right now, but yet he still has a long way to go. And he would be the first to tell you that.
I think that for us, David mentioned it, we're really trying to get up-and-down the court offensively and that's something that is probably most difficult for Josh. When he is in the half court situation that's where he's really at his best and it's very difficult for anybody to matchup with him.
It's getting him to be able to play for longer periods of time and be effective without getting in foul trouble and doing a good job defensively. But overall I'm very excited about Josh going into this season.
Q. Philosophically you're a guy I think over from Pitt and that whose favored veterans, guys who can defend and know your system. UCLA this year and really the league and the PAC-12 is going to rely on a lot of freshmen. I'm wondering if you can ponder on that a little bit and that is that the way the world is going in college basketball?
COACH HOWLAND: Well I think in the BCS conferences when you lose guys early you like we had a real exodus of players early out of this league in 2008 and 2009. And having great freshmen coming in, Arizona's got some great freshman, we have some, there's, you mentioned the big kid at Colorado, he's a very good player that's coming in that may be a little under the radar. He's going to be an outstanding player. There's a lot of good new players that's been added to this conference up-and-down.
And, yeah, I mean you look at the teams and how they advance in the NCAA tournament, you have a Mid Major that have guys for four and five years that sometimes you end up with a Butler, a George Mason, a VCU. But then you also have the younger teams that may have super talented group of guys.
I like our blend this year. I think we have a good blend, because we have an outstanding freshmen class added to I think some really good returners. I think the Wears have really stepped up and really improved in the off season. I really like what Norman Powell has done. I think he will be really someone that you all look at and say, wow, this guy made big strides. I'm excited about Tyler Lamb coming back. He had a good summer and unfortunately had some knee issues where he had to have some cartilage that was floating around removed and it's kind of put him a month behind where obviously we would like him to be right now.
And we talked about Josh, we talked about Larry already. But there's no question that experience is important to have and it's a nice thing to have. But it's also very important to have talented players.
THE MODERATOR: All right. That will do it gentlemen. Thank you very much.
COACH HOWLAND: Thank you.