UCLA basketball shoots for big-time improvement
Two reasons UCLA finished tied for fifth in the Pacific 10 Conference last season were the Bruins' three-point shooting (32.5%, eighth in the conference) and free-throw shooting (63.2%, last in the conference).
Both of those areas have been addressed during the team's first two practices, with Coach Ben Howland saying Saturday that he is particularly pleased with the improved shooting of guards Malcolm Lee and Jerime Anderson. Freshmen Tyler Lamb and Matt Carlino, prolific shooters in high school, could also help the Bruins significantly raise their three-point accuracy. Howland said Carlino could prove especially effective in stretching zone defenses because of his range.
Sophomore Reeves Nelson, who did not take one three-pointer last season, will at times shoot from beyond the arc as the result of a transition from center to power forward. And Nelson's success at the free-throw line -- he made 52.1% of his foul shots a year ago -- will go a long way toward determining whether the Bruins can escape last place in the conference in that category.
"He'll improve upon that significantly," Howland said of Nelson's free-throw accuracy. "He will take the most foul shots on the team this year along with [Tyler] Honeycutt and Josh Smith."
Honeycutt, slowed by a tweaked hip flexor, participated in practice for about 70 minutes. Howland said he planned to increase Honeycutt's practice time to about 95 minutes Sunday, noting that he wanted to be cautious with the Bruins' regular-season opener -- Nov. 12 against Cal State Northridge -- less than a month away.
Howland lamented that his sophomores were behind defensively because the Bruins played about 2 1/2 months of zone defense last season, something the coach plans to get away from this season in the wake of a 14-18 showing.
"We want to limit our time in the zone defense and get back to man to man," Howland said. "That's where our program needs to be as it moves forward. Kids want to play at the next level; you don't get ready by playing zone."
-- Ben Bolch