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UCLA's James Keefe shows he is recovering well

Coach Ben Howland says he will continue to play it safe by limiting the forward, who has an injured shoulder, to noncontact drills.

October 15, 2009|David Wharton and Pete Thomas

Any college coach likes to see one of his players follow a missed shot by grabbing the rebound and dunking.

It was especially nice for UCLA's Ben Howland when he watched forward James Keefe, recovering from a shoulder injury, attack the hoop during an individual workout this week.

"I think he's a little better off than was originally feared," Howland said.

Speaking to reporters at the team's media day Wednesday, the coach said he will continue to play it safe by limiting Keefe to noncontact drills when practices officially begin Friday.

The senior, who will be counted upon to provide leadership and muscle for a young team, was initially expected to miss four to six weeks and is willing to remain patient.

"We don't have any games right now," Keefe said, "so it's a good time for me to let it heal."

The outlook appears even brighter for sophomore guard Jerime Anderson (groin), who said he is ready for practice, and freshman Tyler Honeycutt, cleared to return from a spinal stress fracture.

First impressions

Wednesday was also a chance for Southern California coaches to gather at the annual John R. Wooden Award College Basketball Tip-Off Luncheon at the L.A. Athletic Club.

New USC Coach Kevin O'Neill talked about inheriting a team that lost three star players to the pros and a number of recruits who went elsewhere after former coach Tim Floyd resigned amid reports of a potential recruiting scandal.

To make matters worse, sophomore forward Leonard Washington, who is academically ineligible, and senior guard Mike Gerrity, a transfer from Charlotte, will be unavailable until at least the second semester.

O'Neill will spend the next week or so assessing what remains.

"I really don't know much about our team," he said. "I've had them out there during conditioning and weightlifting and I like their work ethic. I like them as people. How they perform when we get them on the court in a game, I don't know."

Tough road

When it comes to nonconference schedules, several local college teams are facing challenges.

Cal State Northridge will visit Purdue and Washington, both top-25 teams, and could face Arizona State in an early tournament.

Long Beach State has it even rougher. In the first month or so of the season, the 49ers play Notre Dame, Texas, Kentucky and Duke. They also face West Virginia at home and a tough field in the 76 Classic tournament in Anaheim.

"Everybody thinks I'm crazy and nuts for doing this," Coach Dan Monson said.

Maybe the state budget crisis -- which will force university employees to take unpaid days off -- can ease his pain.

Referring to the upcoming games, Monson said: "Those are going to be the five furlough days I'm taking this year."


Transfers and foreign players will make up a big part of the Southern California scene this winter.

UC Santa Barbara gets Jon Pastorek from San Diego State and former Loyola Marymount player Orlando Johnson. Loyola Marymount, in turn, adds Larry Davis from Seton Hall and Drew Viney from Oregon.

A pair of Slovakians, Pavol Losonsky and Peter Simek, will play for UC Irvine, and Chris Gabriel comes to the University of San Diego via New Mexico State and Cape Town, South Africa.

Long Beach State has Lin Chang, a 6-9 forward from Beijing.

Top coach

Florida Coach Billy Donovan was named the 2010 winner of the John R. Wooden Award's Legends of Coaching Award. Donovan will be honored next April.


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