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October 28, 2011

Ben Howland

Lazeric Jones


DAVE HIRSCH: We'll continue with UCLA coach Ben Howland and senior guard Lazeric Jones.
COACH HOWLAND: I'm excited about this year's team. I think that the strength of our team is obviously up front. We've got a lot of depth and a lot of size starting with Josh. He, I think has improved as an offensive player during the springtime and the fall. A lot more back-to-the-basket moves. Reeves returns. There are high expectations for him. We have the two Wear twins that are both 6'10", and have done a great job getting themselves ready for this year.
Then we back those two up again with Stover who started half the games last year for us, and Brendan Lane. So we're going to play big.
We're either going to have De'End Parker or Dave Wear at the three, so we'll either be 6'10" at the three, or 6'6", 215. What's key for us is the back court.
And Zeric right here has had a great off-season. He's really worked hard. He benefited a lot from getting healthy again. He played with his left-hand not being able to even move it half of the year last year, which is really hard. He showed a lot of toughness to get it up through all of that, but he's had a great summer. A great spring, great summer, playing against NBA players every day in the men's gym. A lot of people rave about how he played, so I'm excited.
Jerime Anderson is our other senior who will give us depth, and had a solid junior campaign, so when we need a big year out of him.
Tyler Lamb is our starting two guard. He played last year as a freshman, but he's had a good off-season, and I think he'll take over the role that we always have someone guarding the other team's best wing player. Norman Powell will give us tremendous -- he's a very good athlete. He's just getting adjusted to playing at a high level in Division I.
I like our squad. Obviously, it would be great if we still had Malcolm and Tyler Honeycutt. That would really be good.
But that being said, we are where we are, and I'm still optimistic about our team.

Q. Coach, you guys were predicted to win the Pac-12. How are you going to be able to stay focused and not read the press and continue to compete throughout the season?
COACH HOWLAND: Our team always has high expectations. It's the expectations we put on ourselves that matter most. It's always nice to be picked high, but that doesn't guarantee anything. It's where you finish. I don't know who was picked for first last year, but I don't know how many times you guys get it right.
I heard Larry talking about that earlier, Krystkowiak. But we've got to go out and prove it. But part of it is being healthy. Maintaining our health. Sometimes you can't control that.
We've had already a bug of injuries thus far between De'End Parker having a knee issue, then getting a concussion. Stover hurt his shoulder two days ago, and also sustained a concussion. But hopefully if we stay healthy and stay focused on what we're trying to do, everything will take care of itself.
We're obviously challenged because we're playing all of our games off campus this year. We played Cal State Fullerton yesterday in a scrimmage game at the sports arena, and it shows that we have a lot of work to do for us to be a team that's going to finish first in the Pac-12. We've got a long way to go.
But we've only had 12 practices and one scrimmage. We're going to keep working very hard as we get ready to open up two weeks from today against Loyola Marymount.

Q. After last season, this summer have you decided to change anything different about how you approach this season? Is anything different that you thought about last year that you said I'm going to make a change this year as a coach?
COACH HOWLAND: We're going to play bigger this year. As a coach, you want to scheme to play your best players as many minutes as possible. That being said we're going to play big. Dave Wear isn't actually a four man, but we need help at the three spot.
So he played all his minutes yesterday except for a couple at the three, and did a very good job, especially defensively, which is my biggest concern. That's where it's going to be a real challenge for him being a guy that at the end of the day it's really going to benefit him as a player. I think it helps us rebounding-wise, because he's going to be a very good rebounder for us.
We're going to play mostly man-to-man. We didn't play any zone yesterday. There are no secrets. We just want to go out and execute. This year we've really got to get back to dominating the boards. I think the last two years prior to this year, even the last three years, we haven't been a dominant team on the boards. We've got to get back to doing a good job on the glass.
Usually when you look at rebound margin in college basketball, the teams that are up there in rebound margin every year are the teams that are winning.

Q. When you talk about the Wear twins, how do you distinguish their games? How are their games different from each other?
COACH HOWLAND: They're very similar, actually. It's interesting. Dave -- they're the same size. They work out. Everything they do together. It's unbelievable. These guys take every class together. They share the same bedroom. I mean, everything's together. They're really close.
But what I'm most impressed about them is their work ethic. They've improved a lot from a year ago to where they are right now. It's just through their hard work and efforts. They've been involved in doing yoga three days a week since January, and I really felt that's been a great thing for them.
They've worked out a lot in the off-season. They lift four days a week during the off-season. They work out seven days a week. They're very similar though, like whenever they come together and we're going to switch everything. So whenever they're in the game at the same time, they'll be switching on you, ball screens or any screens because they're that similar.

Q. You play with Derrick Rose when you were in high school. Do you still reach out to him for any advice to add to your game?
LAZERIC JONES: I mean, we're just really good friends. We don't talk too much about basketball. It's more like back in high school and things like that. But the most things, the biggest thing he tells me is make sure I get my degree. That is really important. After basketball, you have to have something to fall back on.

Q. Two years ago you were playing junior college ball. Talk about how far you've come in such a short time?
LAZERIC JONES: I've come a long way from just me watching film on myself and other players. Our video coordinators have really done a good job, bringing me in, having me watch film. I feel like that's really what made me better.
Not only that, but being able to get the experience with the pros in the summer. They've taught me to do a lot of things, and walking through a lot of things. Just picking their brains helped me out. My game has changed a whole lot. I've become a better point guard, and I feel like I'll continue to become a better point guard as the season goes on.

Q. Several coaches here today have expounded on the advantages of some of the European tours for the teams. Obviously the extra supervised practice. UCLA hasn't availed themselves of such a tour since 1992; is that a missed opportunity planning to do that in the future?
COACH HOWLAND: It's ironic you ask that question. I just met yesterday morning with people at the University about trying to look into a trip to China. We're going to try to do it as early as this coming fall. So that is something that we are going to do here in the very near future, and there are a lot of benefits that you've heard from the different coaches. There's no question about that.
I want to do it in a window though that they don't miss the opportunity to go to session A or session C in summer school. We have players that really take advantage of going to summer school and picking up units.
Brendan Lane, for example, is graduating in three years in econ at the end of this spring quarter. Alfred Aboya graduated in three years, so that's been important.
For Zeric who is a JC transfer, he's actually going to be four classes short of graduation after this quarter. So I'm really proud of all of those kid that's we've had, and them taking advantage of that. So that's been one of the reasons we haven't done it. We want them to be able to go to summer school.
But hopefully we can fit that window in. It's actually between the 15th, and 26th of September of 2012.

Q. Status on Stover's shoulder, the prognosis?
COACH HOWLAND: We had an MRI done yesterday. I don't have the results. I was just trying to call when I was rushed back for this interview.

Q. What were your first impressions of the L.A. Sports Arena yesterday? What is it going to be like playing so close to USC?
LAZERIC JONES: I mean, it was cool. It was different. But it was all right. The fact that we're right by SC is kind of weird. I was talking to somebody earlier about us getting booted on our home games, but it will be a different experience. It's all right for us to be able to play on the road. I feel like we come together on the road. I feel we'll be mentally tough enough to fight through it.
COACH HOWLAND: They've done a good job. The facilities people at UCLA working with the sports arena staff in terms of fixing it up to make it feel comfortable for UCLA. Our locker room is very nice. They're still doing a bunch of work yet on it that will be completed in the next two weeks in terms of the entire facility. But what we have to look forward to after being gone for a year is really exciting.
Poly, I went through there with a hard hat on a month ago. It's going to be spectacular. For our players and our fans and the ability to recruit new players is a really important step for our program. I think it really puts our program in a real good situation here for the years to come.

Q. Coach, lots of rumors and discussion in the off-season about Josh Smith, and his conditioning and his weight. Where is he right now and are you happy with where he is right now?
COACH HOWLAND: Josh has got to get in better condition, there is no doubt about it to be as good as he can be. Josh is a force, number one, because he's skilled and has great size. When he finally does reach his potential in terms of his conditioning, he'll be unstoppable.
That's how good I think he can be. He's got great hands, great feet, and is a very good athlete for a man that size.

Q. Can you talk about the new recruiting rules a little bit? Ben, do you want to text and tweet? Do you want to have to text message and tweet more? And Zeric, do you want to hear more from coaches that way if you were being recruited?
COACH HOWLAND: I'll answer that first. I don't mind texting. That's fine. I think it's good for us. Having to keep track of every phone call that you make and write it down is very, very difficult. You see, I'm trying to tweet right now. I apologize. That was my trainer trying to update me on the MRI. I won't take it now, but I'll let you know right after.
But I think it's good. I think the rules have changed, including us going out in April again is very important. It's really putting coaches way behind recruiting-wise to not see kids.
My biggest complaint has been as a head coach, when we start our season, I want to spend as much time as I can with my team and my players. I want to help them become the best they can be and help our team become the best that it can become. Therefore, it's really important you're able to spend a lot of time during the season with your team. It makes it harder when there is so little time to recruit outside of the regular basketball season.
But some of these rules are always changing. It's always evolving, and it will be interesting to see how it comes into play.
I like being able to get kids to come back again in January of their junior year, and I think it's a great rule they changed to allow us now to pay for their parents to come. That is something that's been long overdue. It just costs more so thank God for the new TV contract.
LAZERIC JONES: Really with me I feel like it's different with me. I wasn't that highly recruited out of high school, so I'd like to be able to get anyone to want to call me or text me. In junior college, I was welcome to all the texts and all the calls. It was cool with me.

Q. I'm wondering whether you think the Pac-10 is stronger in basketball with two more teams and specifically the two that have joined?
COACH HOWLAND: You mean the Pac-12? Yeah, I tell you what, I played my college basketball career at Weber State my junior and senior years. I'm very familiar with the University of Utah. I really, really admired and learned a lot from Rick Majerus during his tenure in Utah, and I coached for Jerry Pimm who was 23 years in Utah.
Utah has an unbelievable history and tradition in college basketball. I think it's one of the Top 10 winningest programs in the history of college basketball. A lot of NBA players, great fans, and that's going to be great for our conference.
I think Colorado with Coach, he did a fantastic job last year in his first year. They should have gotten in the tournament. I thought they actually deserved to be in. They have a real advantage in that they're so high above sea level. It's hard to play there. I'm glad Zeric doesn't have to play there, so I can talk like that now. Yeah, they're 5,000 feet above sea level. That affects you.
They've got a great home-court situation because of that. And I think joining this league makes more sense for them geographically. They were already reaping the benefits of good recruiting. They've done a good job recruiting a couple of very good players out of L.A.
So I think they're going to be a great addition for our conference. I'm excited about the Pac-12, and think we have a great, great situation as we move forward.

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