Basketball season will have a different feel

The UCLA men's basketball team will officially begin practice Thursday for a highly anticipated 2011-12 season, but it will have a decidedly different feel than seasons past.

With Pauley Pavilion undergoing major renovations and the team being displaced for its home games this season, the Bruins also will need to find a new practice home.

So they're going to reach a little into their past.

Workouts and game preparations will take place in "the Old Men's Gym" or the Student Activities Center on campus.

The team held its annual media day Wednesday in the Men's Gym -- a place where coach John Wooden once practiced with his teams from 1948 to '65.

"That chalk board over there is the actually chalk board that Coach used to write on," UCLA coach Ben Howland told reporters. "It's the actual board itself, it's pretty cool. His 101st birthday is Friday, always right at the start of the college basketball season. Coach Wooden's teams practiced in here until Pauley was built."

This season's UCLA team is looking to do big things, despite the departures of underclassmen Tyler Honeycutt and Malcolm Lee, who left school early to pursue professional aspirations.

The Bruins' strength appears to be on the front line, giving the team some size and bulk, especially with the additions of twins David and Travis Wear, former Mater Dei High standouts who transferred from North Carolina and sat out last season.

The Wear twins, each 6-foot-10 sophomores, could open things up on the inside for 6-10, 305-pound center Joshua Smith, who averaged 10.9 points and 6.3 rebounds as a freshman last season. UCLA also returns athletic junior Reeves Nelson, who was the team's leading scorer last season at 13.9 points per game.

Adding depth inside are 6-10 sophomore defensive specialist Anthony Stover and 6-9 junior forward Brendan Lane.

"Our real strength is our front line," said Howland, who is beginning his ninth season in Westwood.

The Bruins though have two senior guards returning in Lazeric Jones and Jerime Anderson, who figure to add leadership and experience to what is generally a young team (though Anderson is suspended for the first two games of the season after an offseason arrest for stealing a laptop, a choice he lamented and spoke about for the first time Wednesday).

Also returning is 6-5 sophomore guard Tyler Lamb, who had his moments in his first season.

Another key newcomer is 6-6 junior transfer guard De'End Parker, who could step in and become a key contributor immediately. The Bruins also are looking for big things from freshman guard Norman Powell, a highly recruited standout from San Diego Lincoln High.

Because of the Pauley renovation, the team already is billing this season as the "2011-12 UCLA Men's Basketball Road Show."

The Bruins will play their home games at three different sites, though the majority (14) will be played at the L.A. Sports Arena. The team also has four games scheduled for the Honda Center in Anaheim. UCLA opens its season with an exhibition game at Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario against Cal State San Bernardino on Nov. 6.

Among the other schedule highlights are the Maui Invitational in late November, a nonconference home game against Texas on Dec. 3 and a road game in New York to face former coach Steve Lavin and St. John's on Feb. 18 at Madison Square Garden. The Bruins also welcome Utah and Colorado to the Pacific 12 Conference schedule and will play home games against the two on Jan. 26 and Jan. 28, respectively.