While other local college basketball coaches were telling jokes and ribbing each other, UCLA's Ben Howland spoke seriously about his team during his time at the lectern Wednesday at the College Basketball Tip-Off luncheon at the Los Angeles Athletic Club.
Howland said injuries have already hit the Bruins.
Freshman guard Jerime Anderson from Anaheim Canyon High has been slowed for months by a deep groin pull. And while complimenting Nicola Dragovic for showing up in top physical shape, Howland said the junior forward mentioned pain in his left foot Tuesday that was serious enough for trainers to schedule an MRI exam, which showed a cyst that will need further evaluation.
The Bruins are a week away from official practices, though players have been working out since school started.
Howland also mentioned injuries will be a concern all season because UCLA has only 11 scholarship players.
There was a bit of good news about one injury. Howland said junior swingman Michael Roll is practicing with no pain from the foot injury that caused him to redshirt last season.
Howland also said if he were naming the starting five today, it would be senior Alfred Aboya at center; junior James Keefe at strong forward; senior Josh Shipp at small forward; senior Darren Collison at point guard and "probably one of the freshmen" at the other guard -- and that most likely means Jrue Holiday.
Asked about USC this season, Howland said, "I'd pick them over us to win the conference."
With the USC basketball team scheduled to begin practicing Oct. 17, forward Alex Stepheson is waiting to hear from NCAA officials about his eligibility for the coming season.
The 6-foot-9 junior transferred from North Carolina and would normally have to sit out a year, but he applied for a waiver because his father suffers from an illness that prompted the former Harvard-Westlake High star's desire to be closer to home.
"I'm keeping my fingers crossed," Stepheson said en route to a training session at the Galen Center.
Barnes newest 'legend'
Texas Coach Rick Barnes will receive the next John R. Wooden Legends of Coaching Award in April when the Wooden Awards are presented to college basketball's top players.
Cal State Northridge Coach Bobby Braswell got a little emotional thanking his assistant coaches for filling in when he missed six weeks of work this summer after being in a car accident.
But he quickly turned lighthearted, adding: "You do wonder if somebody's trying to get your job, though, when you notice your chair's a little shorter. Wilson, stand up. Wilson's a little shorter than I am."
Braswell was pointing at top assistant Louis Wilson, who he also playfully accused of changing the photos in his office.
Times staff writer David Wharton contributed to this report.