|Wooden likes what he sees in 16th-ranked UCLA|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 12 December 2008 15:52|
The Bruins (5-2), with five touted freshmen, face DePaul (4-3) on Saturday in the John R. Wooden Classic, part of an important stretch before Pac-10 play in January.
``We have a mix of inexperience and experience, which in many ways is always the best,'' Wooden said. ``They're working better together. Their play might not be as good as it will be.''
The 98-year-old Hall of Fame coach's voice was raspy Friday when he arrived in Anaheim ahead of his annual doubleheader. Wooden said he's been bothered recently by a cold and sore throat.
Saturday will be the first time Wooden sees the Bruins in person this season. He gets around in a wheelchair these days, partly because of a fall in February in which he broke his left wrist and collarbone.
ooden has no complaints about his health.
``I've been blessed,'' he said. ``Someone is watching over me all the time.''
Coach Ben Howland knows the feeling.
``I am the current caretaker of Coach Wooden's program and it is his program,'' Howland said. ``We always want to make Coach happy.''
That means winning their game in the doubleheader so Wooden can present a trophy to the Bruins. They are 8-3 in previous appearances, including 7-0 as a ranked team.
While the current Bruins have been criticized for Howland's emphasis on defense over the high-scoring teams Wooden ran, the former coaching great isn't part of it.
``I'm sure there's times he's wondering what we're doing out there, but he's a perfect gentleman and always keeps things to himself,'' Howland said.
Wooden has an extra reason to follow UCLA this season. Tyler Trapani, his great-grandson, is a walk-on guard who has yet to see a second of playing time. He's not one of the five highly regarded freshmen recruited by Howland.
``I'm very proud of Tyler and I'm very proud he came out of high school with a 4.5 GPA. I'm prouder of that,'' Wooden said.
Asked his assessment of the 6-foot, 185-pound Trapani's game, Wooden doesn't spare his own kin, admitting that his comments have hurt his great-grandson's feelings.
He doesn't have the quickness for changing direction that I always like to have.''
UCLA began a stretch of six consecutive games at home (except the Wooden Classic) by beating Cal State Northridge 85-67 on Sunday.
DePaul is coming off three consecutive losses heading into its first game against UCLA since 2001.
It will be the third meeting on a neutral court, with the teams splitting the previous ones, including DePaul's stunning victory over the Bruins to reach the 1979 Final Four.
``It's an opportunity to get our conference season going early,'' Blue Demons coach Jerry Wainwright said, referring to Howland's previous Big East stint at Pittsburgh.
``It's not necessarily at the best time. We've had an injury or two. I'm not real sure what we'll do tomorrow. We're going in about seven different directions, but we're going. We have really struggled to shoot the ball and we're playing one of the best defensive teams in the country.''
San Diego State and St. Mary's meet in a rematch of last year's opening game, won 69-64 by St. Mary's in the pairing of Northern and Southern California schools.