1.Ben Howland took Larry Drew II into his office Monday to continue coaching his mind as much as his playmaking skills. He needs both from Drew for UCLA to be a Pac-12 champ in the upcoming season. The North Carolina transfer has one season to play for the Bruins but he is the only true playmaker for UCLA. “He has the quickness and speed that we haven’t seen since Darren Collison,’’ said Howland. “He’s a very good decision maker. He’s gotten much stronger and improved his body. We have high expectations for him.’’ The only other option for UCLA at the point isn’t really a true point in 6-foot-7 Kyle Anderson. Howland said Anderson isn’t cleared yet for contact after offseason thumb surgery while fellow freshman Shabazz Muhammad isn’t working out with the team yet either. Muhammad is recovering from a sprained ankle from earlier in the month. Howland said the Bruins will start practicing for an August trip to China on July 31, Aug. 1-4 and then Aug. 14-21 with one day off on Aug. 18. The Bruins won’t be practicing in the renovated Pauley Pavilion until October.
2.Valparaiso coach Bryce Drew is doing everything he can to put together a possible at-large schedule if the Crusaders don’t win the Horizon League automatic berth. Drew capped his schedule with a road game at Atlantic 10 favorite Saint Louis. Drew had already said the Crusaders will play at Murray State (OVC favorite) and New Mexico (MWC contender) in addition to possibly challenging games against Nebraska, Kent State, Oakland and Missouri State.
3.Former URI and current Canisius coach Jim Baron said that the Rams hadn’t settled up on his final two years that he was owed after being fired in March. URI responded Monday: “The University of Rhode Island Athletics Department continues to honor its financial obligation to former URI head men's basketball coach Jim Baron, since he was released from the final two years of his contract on March 4, 2012,” said URI spokeswoman Linda Acciardo. “University officials have had ongoing discussions with Coach Baron's attorney to negotiate a final resolution. Although we are disappointed that this remains unresolved, we will continue to work with Jim Baron's representatives to negotiate a fair resolution.’’ URI said Baron has received a total of $126,708.09 in regular salary payments since he was fired. Baron earned $350,000 a year in his final URI deal.