UCLA basketball: Spring program starts for the Bruins
UCLA's basketball players are embarking on their own version of spring training, beginning a program they hope will help lay the foundation for a deeper run in the NCAA tournament in 2012.
The Bruins' spring program will entail three 40-minute sessions of skill development per week starting Monday, supplemented with weight lifting and yoga.
Coach Ben Howland said during his season-ending meeting with the media last month that he typically breaks his roster up into groups of four players to work with them on various skills. With Pauley Pavilion unavailable because of renovations, the Bruins will work out in the men's gym and the Wooden Center.
"You want to work on every little thing, guys learning how to play lower and guys getting bigger and stronger and in better condition," said Howland, whose team lost to Florida in the third round of the NCAA tournament.
Howland has said players often make the most improvement during the off-season between their freshman and sophomore seasons. Howland said coaches would work with freshman center Joshua Smith on his jump hook, among other skills, and hoped the 6-foot-10, 324-pound center could continue to reduce his body-fat percentage.
"A big thing for him is going to be a commitment to really trying to get his body to the point where he can get it down to 12%," Howland said.
Players can work with a strength coach up to eight hours per week, and several will be taking up yoga with the same instructor who works with Minnesota Timberwolves star Kevin Love and Clippers standout Blake Griffin.
"We've seen in the past how that's really been helpful in terms of being more flexible and being stronger," Howland said. "I know the Wear twins have been on a very good program."
Photo: UCLA freshman center Joshua Smith looks to score against Oregon State during a Pac-10 game at Pauley Pavilion. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times