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UCLA BASKETBALL

UCLA Coach Ben Howland looking for big things from Joshua Smith

Freshman center impresses the Bruins' leader with his speed during team's first practice.

October 15, 2010|By Ben Bolch

Joshua Smith didn't count calories Friday evening. He was too busy with a different kind of tallying.

The mammoth UCLA freshman was a big hit during the Bruins' first basketball practice, leading his team with eight rebounds and three assists.

"I was very excited with big Josh today," Coach Ben Howland said during a teleconference with reporters. "He's 6-10½ in shoes and he's got a 7-foot-3 wingspan. … When he is planted on the block, you're not moving him."

Howland had expressed concerns about the 305-pound center's mobility but said he was pleased with his speed during limited up-and-down action.

Smith has already dropped 50 pounds since arriving on campus in June, prompting nutritionist Becci Twombley to tell Howland that Smith was the best student she had ever worked with.

"This is the first time I've actually looked at a box and seen how many calories are in this," Smith said earlier this week.

Smith wasn't the only interior player who impressed Howland on Friday, with the coach saying he was excited about a "noticeably stronger" Brendan Lane and that he also saw positive signs from redshirt freshman Anthony Stover.

Twin forwards David and Travis Wear have immediately improved the Bruins, Howland said, because of their size and feel for the game, though the 6-10 transfers from North Carolina won't be eligible to play until the 2011-12 season.

Howland said he had already noticed improved team chemistry from a year ago and was happy with the leadership displayed by juniors Jerime Anderson and Malcolm Lee, who were "urging their teammates, being positive, playing hard."

Sophomore forward Tyler Honeycutt was limited to 40 minutes after tweaking a hip flexor Wednesday, Howland said. Barring a setback, Howland said he planned for Honeycutt to practice for about 70 minutes Saturday.

Saying aloha

The Bruins have been selected to compete in an expanded 12-team Maui Invitational next season that will include some games played on the U.S. mainland prior to the usual three-day, eight-team tournament in Hawaii. Duke, Kansas, Georgetown, Michigan, Memphis and Tennessee are among the teams in the tournament field.

ben.bolch@latimes.com

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