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UCLA BASKETBALL

Young veteran Honeycutt aiming to take on a bigger role with Bruins

October 22, 2010|Ben Bolch

Tyler Honeycutt led UCLA in rebounding last season.

He was pretty good when it came to grabbing missed shots as they caromed off the rim.

For much of the season's early going, though, the small forward couldn't catch a break as he continually bounced back from injuries. First came a spinal stress fracture that sidelined him over the summer.

Then, after he was cleared to practice and spent almost a month going through drills with the Bruins, Honeycutt sustained a stress reaction in his right tibia. That cost him the first six games of the season.

UCLA lost four times during that stretch on the way to a 14-18 finish.

Honeycutt said it was frustrating to be on the sideline "when you know you can be out there making a difference, and I definitely think I'm making a difference now and I'm taking advantage of" being able to play. He has shrugged off a tweaked hip flexor from a few weeks ago and resumed full practices.

More will be expected of the 6-foot-8 sophomore after a season in which he averaged a team-high 6.5 rebounds, becoming the third freshman to lead the Bruins in that category in the last five years (Luc Richard Mbah a Moute did it in 2005-06 and Kevin Love in 2007-08).

Honeycutt, who averaged 7.2 points last season, said he wants to become a more aggressive scorer, a better defender and take more of a leadership role on a team with no seniors.

"I'm going to try to make every play but make it as smart as possible," Honeycutt said, "because if I turn over the ball and make mistakes, it doesn't leave much for the freshman to look at."

The Bruins got a glimpse of the kind of all-around game Honeycutt is capable of late last season. He led all Pacific 10 Conference freshmen with four double-doubles, all coming over the final 11 games.

Honeycutt acknowledged that he would like "to have played a bigger role offensively, but we had a lot of older guys and I had to do what it takes for us to win and I was fine with that. As one of the older guys and leaders now, I will have to take a bigger role."

Coach Ben Howland called Honeycutt one of the Bruins' best players and said he had improved his shooting since his freshman year, when he made 49.6% of his field goals and 34.5% of his three-point attempts.

"I think he's going to be a much better perimeter player than a year ago because of the time he's put into it," Howland said. "I expect him to have a really, really solid year."

ben.bolch@latimes.com

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