COLLEGE BASKETBALL 1995-96 : Looking for Leadership : Defending Champion Bruins Will Rely on Dollar to Keep Young Team Under Control
Slumped on a plank of wooden grandstand, Cameron Dollar looked like an exhausted troop leader, and that Arkansas title game seemed so very long ago.
The national championship was last season. Tyus Edney, George Zidek and Ed O’Bannon are in the NBA. And the challenge of guiding this new, exuberant and reckless Bruin team to success is basically in his hands.
After opening the season with a panicky, impatient loss to Santa Clara in the Maui Invitational, here is the brittle new reality of UCLA basketball, post-national title dream season:
The Bruins can run with anybody, and, if they’re not careful, they can run themselves right out of games against anybody.
Someone has to keep steeplechasers Toby Bailey, Charles O’Bannon, Kris Johnson and J.R. Henderson in control, and that someone had better be Dollar, the junior point guard.
Otherwise, the whole thing will crumble into a schoolyard jumble, as it did Monday against Santa Clara. In the the most telling moment of that embarrassment, O’Bannon gave up an open-court layup to float a pass toward the rim, then watched Bailey and freshman Jelani McCoy crash into each other trying to complete the spectacular alley . . . oops .
With a young team intent on showing its bubbly, sometimes pouty personality, are you beginning to realize, Dollar is asked, just how much Edney carried on his point guard shoulders?
“I always knew how much responsibility he had,” Dollar said. “But his was kind of spread around with Ed on the court. Sometimes, it’d be Ed who pulled the ball out and slowed everybody down.
“Right now, it’s on me to do that. I’m the only one. And it’s not pressure. I was born to do this sort of thing. I can do it. From here on, that’s what you’re going to see.”
What exactly does that mean?
“Some guys don’t like to do things simple,” Dollar said. “Like if we run Play A 500 times, and it works 500 times, we’ve got to keep on running it until it gets stopped. But some guys want to jump right to Play B, or Play C, or whatever.
“Or maybe a guy running on the wing is a real scorer, and if you give him the ball, wherever he is and wherever the defense is and however much time there is, he’s going to put it up. You have to convince him that, hey, if you don’t take that foul-line shot, make two passes and we have a layup. You have to have patience.”
Sub Dollar’s tenacity for Edney’s contributions, Henderson’s versatility and low-post game for Ed O’Bannon’s steady play, the frenetic shot-blocking McCoy and sophomore omm’A Givens for the disciplined but hardly agile Zidek, add more playing time for the talented and slimmed-down Johnson, and it’s hard not to argue that UCLA might be as athletically talented as it was last season.
Or, when things are clicking right and the pressure defense heats up and McCoy and Givens are galloping down the floor side by side with O’Bannon or Bailey and the ball is being slammed through the rim at warp speed, more talented.
“This team is a lot quicker than last year’s,” Bailey said. “This year, we have big men who run up and down the court. Last year, George, he kind of slowed us down sometimes. This team is a lot more athletic. We’re going to run even more.”
But, away from the flash and dash, the hammer dunks and NBA posturing, the numbers tell another story. Ed O’Bannon, Edney and Zidek combined for more than 50% of the team’s 87.5 points a game last season--and most of that was in the crucial half-court offense--grabbed more than 40% of the team’s rebounds, and had nearly 50% of the team’s assists.
They also made 82 of the team’s 118 three-point baskets last season. So far, nobody has come close to assuming the role as the team’s clutch outside shooter.
More often than not, these Bruins look like a team that can take a serious shot at returning to the Final Four next season, when the talent is seasoned, some shooters develop, and the pace is under control.
This season, no matter how fast they can go, who steps up in the key moments? Who slices up the defense as Edney did when everybody was covered? Who takes over the final moments as Ed O’Bannon did? Who converts on the pressure set plays as Zidek did?
“Sure, they’ve still got great talent, but it’s young talent,” Arizona Coach Lute Olson said. “And that’s very different.”
Through the exhibition and Maui games, the 6-foot-9 Henderson, who has crucial low-post and ballhandling duties on this club, has begun to emerge as a player who can be counted on in a possession-for-possession half-court battle.
Who else will grow into mature roles against the likes of Stanford, Arizona and Washington State?
“Our emphasis this year, our kind of theme, is ‘Boys to men,’ ” Coach Jim Harrick said. “That was the theme of the opening of our first practice. And that’s going to determine what kind of basketball team we have. Right now, I’d still say we were in the boys category.
“This team will play with emotion. This team will play with fire.”
This team, which was ranked fourth in the nation before the season started, will also, given its tough nonconference season--games at Kansas, at Notre Dame, at Duke, and Louisville at Pauley Pavilion--and the rising tide of the Pacific 10 Conference, face its share of adversity.
Last season, UCLA went 25-2 before the tournament, and closed out the run with 19 consecutive victories, beating half-court teams and running teams, winning close games and blowouts.
This season, the veterans know that 25-2 is not going to happen again and that a Pac-10 title is a high goal. How will the young players react?
Harrick appears ready for a long and bumpy campaign, interspersed with moments of brilliance.
“With this team, I need to be a lot more forceful because they have a tendency to talk more, and I don’t know if it means play less or not,” Harrick said. “Because last year’s team didn’t do any talking, and played.
“Will they rest on their laurels, or will they be a hungry, attacking pack of wolves, like we really were last year? Those are things I’m not quite sure of this year.
“On one hand, there’s times it’s the hardest-working team I’ve ever had. And other times, it’s maybe a self-satisfied group. Sometimes, as I watch them out there, I get a little bit of impression from the guys that played last year, except Dollar, of, ‘Well, I can turn it on when I want to. I’ve done it before, and I’ll be there.’ ”
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UCLA Facts and Figures
Player: Toby Bailey
Comment: Had two 26-point games in NCAA play
Player: Kevin Dempsey
Comment: Long-range shooter is only Bruin senior
Player: Cameron Dollar
Comment: Played best games when Edney was out
Player: omm’A Givens
Comment: Averaged 1.6 points and 1.3 rebounds
Player: J.R. Henderson
Comment: Scored in double figures 12 times
Player: Kris Johnson
Comment: Significant number is weight
Player: Brandon Loyd
Comment: As prep, hit 49.5% of 3-point shots
Player: Jelani McCoy
Comment: 8.1 blocked shots per game as prep
Player: Bob Myers
Comment: Played in three NCAA games
Player: Ike Nwankwo
Comment: Averaged 2.7 points and 1.6 rebounds
Player: Charles O’Bannon
Comment: Averaged 13.6 points and 6.1 rebounds
* Coach: Jim Harrick, 8th season at UCLA, (169-57 at UCLA, 336-154 overall, 11 NCAA appearances)
* 1994-95 Team Record: 16-2 Pac-10 (1st), 31-2 overall (Won NCAA championship)