The only UCLA basketball practice open to the media this season was Monday at Pauley Pavilion. A few observations:
1) Reeves Nelson made seven consecutive shots from near the three-point line early in the practice before losing his long-range touch, prompting Coach Ben Howland to work with the sophomore power forward on his form. Nelson's frustration mounted as his shots began to stray, and he briefly pulled his jersey over his head, but he said his accuracy had improved since last season. That could help the Bruins stretch opposing defenses.
"Coach just tells me to keep shooting because he's confident in my shooting abilities, and I think I'm shooting a pretty high percentage overall in practice so far," Nelson said. "Today was a little off, but the other days have been going pretty well, so I'm liking it."
Nelson also displayed the hard-nosed side that won him fans as a freshman, bulling his way into the post for a dunk and later going from one end of the court to the other after a steal only to come up short on an attempted dunk and take a tumble.
2) Malcolm Lee, the team's leading returning scorer who averaged 12.1 points last season, said he hoped to be even more assertive on the offensive end, but Howland stopped one play to admonish the shooting guard for passing up an open shot. Shortly thereafter, Lee buried a jumper with freshman Matt Carlino in his face.
3) Neither point guard distinguished himself, though Lazeric Jones played almost exclusively with the first team. Both Jones and Jerime Anderson committed some ugly turnovers with bad passes, and Anderson also struggled at times with his shot.
Though he appears to be the front-runner, Jones said no decision had been made on a starter.
"Everything's still up in the air right now," said Jones, a junior college transfer from Chicago who was brought in in the wake of Anderson's struggles last season. "I don't really know who the starting five is, so right now I'm still working hard trying to get on the floor, period."
Asked about the battle at point guard, Jones said, "It's been going back and forth every day. He's been doing really well and I've been trying as hard as possible. I don't think there have been bad days for him or me or us as a team. That's why it's really up in the air."
Lee described Anderson as more of "a pure point guard" while saying that Jones "has more of a playground edge to him, plays with a chip on his shoulder."
4) Joshua Smith, the 6-foot-10 freshman center who appears heavier than his listed weight of 305 pounds, knocked Anthony Stover to the floor ... with what seemed like only a tiny shift of his massive body. "He's three-plus bills on the block," Lee said of Smith. "That's hard to move." Smith displayed some deceptive quickness in half-court sets, though. He appeared beaten by Stover on one move only to pin Stover's shot against the backboard.
5) Sophomore forward David Wear displayed a nice touch from three-point range, making several shots during full-court action. Too bad for Bruins fans the transfer from North Carolina will be ineligible this season.