UCLA coach Ben Howland is placing a bigger emphasis on the transition game as the men's basketball team works toward its season opener Nov. 12 against Cal State Northridge.
Howland, who normally conducts closed practices, allowed media members a rare look at practice Monday and did a lot of drills that had the Bruins rebounding, running the floor and shooting quickly.
"We’re making a concerted effort to get it to the first big down and we’re trying to get some easy baskets in transition when we can," Howland said.
The Bruins averaged 66.8 points last season, but Howland said the move to a higher pace of play is not necessarily to increase that number.
"We’re looking to outscore the opponent," Howland said. "Some days it may be in the 80s, some days it may be in the 60s. I’m not worried about that, I’m worried about point differential."
Forward Tyler Honeycutt said a faster pace of play suits the Bruins better because they have a bevy of athletic players.
"We have the athletes and everybody can run the floor so it makes it a lot easier," he said. "One through five, all five of us can shoot and bring the ball up the floor. We can change it up in many different ways."
Guard Malcom Lee has been named team captain, Howland said. Lee is the team's top retuning scorer after averaging 12.1 points last year.
"I just want to be a leader on and off the court," Lee said. "Try to get the guys go hard everyday in practice. Just help to get this team back on track."
The battle for the starting point guard spot continues between Lazeric Jones and Jerime Anderson. Jones ran with what appears to be the first team of Lee, Honeycutt, Josh Smith and Reeves Nelson while Anderson played mostly with Tyler Lamb, Matt Carlino, Anthony Stover and Brendan Lane, but Howland said that didn't necessarily mean the first group was going to be the starting five.
"That was just what we were working with today," Howland said.
Howland said he has been impressed with the cohesiveness this team has shown and said it was well ahead of where last season's team was at this point.
"Much better team chemistry, that’s the main thing that separates it," Howland said. "We’re better because Honeycutt is better, Malcolm is better, Reeves [Nelson] is better and now they are the nucleus of this team. Even though we’re younger and have less experience, I like this team right now.
Carlino, a true freshman, will play shooting guard this season. He was a point guard in high school.
"The third point guard would be Malcolm before it would be Carlino," Howland said.
Carlino had a good shooting day in individual drills and also made a few from long distance during team drills.