Q&A: Former UCLA Coach Ben Howland



Q&A: Former UCLA Coach Ben Howland



Editor’s Note: Former UCLA coach Ben Howland addressed the Twin Cities media through a conference call after the Timberwolves made a draft night deal that brought Bruins guard/forward Shabazz Muhammad to Minnesota. Below is a full transcript of his phone interview, detailing Muhammad’s strengths, weaknesses and what he can bring to the Wolves.

What are his best attributes on the court?

Ben Howland:
Shabazz has handled it great. He’s had this expectation on him because of all he’s accomplished since he was very young. He’s handled the limelight and all the media attention, and all the scrutiny very, very well. It’s going to serve him well in the NBA because he’s had the experiences in this program in the second largest media market in the country.

How will he adjust to a system where he won’t take as many shots?

BH:
He was a guy who we wanted to take the most shots, that was his role. Put the ball in the basket. He did it very well, shot a very good percentage. Inside the 3, from 3, likes to get fouled. He wants to get hit. Coach Adelman’s going to love him because he’s a shooter and he can score. He can post up, he can shoot 3s, he’s a skilled passers, he’s going to have better players around him at the NBA level. He’s a smart kid. He’s very coachable.

What can he bring to an NBA team?

BH:
No. 1, he’s a very good scorer, he’s great in the open court. This is his first year, he got better in college learning to use screens, take pace, read the defense off screen. He’s an excellent rebounder. He’s going to be tough to match up with on the low block. He’s going to go after it.

The thing I love about him most: His game rises when the lights go on. If you look at his body of work over the whole season. He missed the first three games. It took time to get back in shape. He’s a great competitor, he loves to win and he hates to lose. Losing kills him. Practice or a drill. That’s what you want, you want a guy who’s really competitive and really driven. 

Can he guard the 2 and the 3?

BH:
I see him guarding 2s, some 3s. Small ball. you see them with spacing, physicality in the NBA post game. You can really bang people with the arm. You started out in that standpoint. Most freshmen do. He really improved as the season progressed.

How do you think he handled the Draft season questions and adversity?

BH:
I thought he handled adversity extremely well. He had a lot of it, the NCAA, not knowing when he’d be cleared, not knowing that uncertainty but staying positive and working hard. He’s a kid who knew he was one and done, not missed anything academically. Did everything he’s supposed to do, a lot of busy work.

Kevin’s going to be a great role model for him, he’s so driven.

How will he transition into the NBA game?

BH:
I think he understands he’s staring over. This is a kid who is just out of college, two years out of high school in the NBA. Fortunate to have a coach who is so experienced with so many great players. I think Adelman’s system is a really good situation for him.

I’m excited for him. He knows how he is. He has to go out and prove himself. He’s starting all over. He has a chip on his shoulder, and he can’t wait to get out there. He’s a great competitor. When the lights go on, he gets better.

Can he go to his right?

BH:
Not his strength, but he’s getting better at it. Now there’s no academics. He doesn’t have pass any more classes. One thing I’m proud of is they continue to improve. It's all about continuing to get better. Kevin is one of the best 3 point shooters in the league now. We started that his freshman year. It's about improving your game and going as a player every year.

How do you think he dealt with his lofty expectations in college?

BH:
There’s so much scrutiny. Its’ a big investment. But they have a committed to him. A guaranteed contract. I assured them that this kid is a great kid, not a good kid but a great kid. There won’t be issues off the floor. He’s driven, he wants to be great. He’s a player, like Kevin and Jrue Holiday, that was a No. 1 kid coming out of high school. I think that benefits them moving forward. They want to compete, they want to be the best. He’s going to improve as a player. He’s a great kid. I look forward to following their team next year and see how they develop.

What are some of his best physical tools?

BH:
He’s a good shooter. We have NBA scouts at every one of our practices, all of our games. He has huge hands. When you see his hands, his hands are gigantic. It’s a real advantage in basketball to have great hands. He can really shoot the ball with range. He’s strong, good lower body, he can continue getting better. He’s going to be a very, very good shooter. I’m excited because Ricky Rubio’s a great passer. I think they had a great Draft. I love the kid they got from Louisville (Gorgui Dieng). I thought they did a big time job packaging those two picks to get two picks.


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