SAN FRANCISCO — A chasm separates UCLA basketball players Kyle Anderson and Larry Drew.
One is a freshman, the other a fifth-year senior. One hails from the East (New Jersey), the other the West (Encino). One stands 6 feet 9, the other is 6-2.
But both are point guards, and Coach Ben Howland said Thursday they’ll often be in the same lineup.
“I’ve always loved having two points guards on the floor,” Howland said at the Pac-12 Conference’s men’s basketball media day.
Howland noted that he employed that tactic when Jordan Farmar, Darren Collison, Jrue Holiday and Russell Westbrook wore Bruins blue.
Playing Anderson and Drew in tandem — for stretches at least — helps solve the riddle of which maestro will conduct UCLA’s potentially potent offense. They both will.
Anderson wasn’t in the equation for sure until Wednesday, when the NCAA declared him eligible after a lengthy investigation into his father’s ties with a sports agent.
“We’re so excited for him to have that weight lifted off his shoulders,” Howland said.
That weight is still weighing on another UCLA freshman, Shabazz Muhammad, who has yet to be declared eligible by the NCAA. Investigators are looking into his family’s and AAU team’s ties to two financial planners.
The NCAA was expected to interview Muhammad’s parents, Ron Holmes and Faye Muhammad, late this week, according to people close to the investigation who were not authorized to speak publicly. The timeline for a possible resolution is unclear. Howland said he’s “very optimistic” Muhammad will be deemed eligible.
In the meantime, Howland can finally discuss Anderson’s role, knowing that he will be available for UCLA’s season opener Nov. 9 against Indiana State at Pauley Pavilion.
Aside from playing point guard on offense, Anderson probably will defend small forwards, Howland said.
“He’s the one kid on our team who probably has to know more positions than anybody else,” said Howland, whose team was picked in a vote of media members to finish second in the Pac-12 behind Arizona.
On offense, Howland said Anderson excels at pushing the ball up the court with passes, whereas Drew, a transfer from North Carolina who sat out last season, will jet up the court by dribbling.
Those skill sets could be crucial for a team that says it wants to play more up-tempo on offense this season.
However, if the Bruins revert to the grind-it-out offense for which Howland is known, Anderson and Drew will operate mostly in the half court.
Howland said that if Drew isn’t in the game, Norman Powell will be for the purpose of guarding opposing point guards, a task for which Anderson isn’t physically suited.
Regardless, UCLA’s offense will be in good hands — no matter whom those hands belong to, forward David Wear said.
Wear noted how well the Bruins’ offense flowed when Anderson and Drew were on the court together when UCLA went 3-0 during an exhibition trip to China last summer.
“They’re both really good decision makers; they’re both dynamic in their own way,” Wear said. “We have two guys out there with great vision. That’s going to benefit us.”
UCLA will play host to Nevada Las Vegas in a closed scrimmage on Saturday. By NCAA rule, UCLA is not allowed to publicize the results.