Tuesday Practice: Notes and observations

Miguel Melendez here filling in for Jon Gold (username and all) ….

* The update today on linebacker Patrick Larimore is that he indeed suffered a concussion on Saturday. Mora said he wasn’t sure if Larimore would miss only today’s practice, the next week or the entire spring practice. Linebacker Aaron Wallace, who also appeared to have suffered concussion-like symptoms on the same play that involved Larimore’s injury, did practice after his symptoms cleared.

** Wide receiver Damien Thigpen, who had been nursing a groin injury, returned to practice and looked decent for the first half before pulling it again running a route. “He ran a crossing route and he just kind of turned weird and pulled it a little bit,” Mora said. “He’s been fighting through it. I’d like him to be able to finish the spring.” Mora added that Thigpen was taken out for cautionary reasons.

*** It’s no secret that the defensive line will be UCLA’s strength this season. Wesley Flowers is a beast out there and Datone Jones is like a classic muscle car that hauls on diesel. “We have outstanding depth,” Mora said. “And that’s without (five-star signee) Ellis (McCarthy). We have about eight guys that are legitimate players at this level. A couple legitimate at the next level. I think we’ll have a nice rotatio at end and nose tackle, be able to keep guys fresh. To me right now it’s probablly the strenght of our football team.” Mora said a big credit goes to D-line coach Angus McClure.

***** Practice was shorter today than it was Saturday. No particular reason was given. Nothing earth shattering happened. Quarterbacks looked about the same, though I’d give Richard Brehaut the slightest of edge. Kevin Prince was intercepted on a low-hanging short route.

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Plutko tabbed for Team USA

From UCLA:

DURHAM, N.C. – UCLA sophomore right-hander Adam Plutko has been named to the 2012 USA Baseball Collegiate National Team Roster, as announced Tuesday afternoon by USA Baseball.

Plutko, a 6-foot-3 product from Upland, Calif., has gone 5-2 with a 2.98 ERA in a team-leading 63.1 innings for the Bruins this season.

“I am honored to be selected as one of the collegiate players who will represent the United States this summer,” Plutko said. “This has been one of my dreams for a long time, and I’m looking forward to the opportunity.”

He becomes the fifth UCLA selection to the Collegiate National Team in the last four years and the sixth selection under eighth-year head coach John Savage. Other recent selections from UCLA include Gerrit Cole (2009, 2010), Steve Rodriguez (2010), Trevor Bauer (2009) and Brandon Crawford (2006).

“Adam has been very consistent for us over his first year and a half at UCLA,” Savage said. “It’s great to see another one our players selected to compete for the United States on the Collegiate National Team. This is a well-deserved honor for Adam, and we’re confident that he will represent UCLA and Team USA at the highest level.”

The schedule for this summer’s team includes a five-game series against the Cuban National Team in Havana (July 5-9), as well as a trip to Haarlem, The Netherlands, for the Honkbal-Haarlem Baseball Week (July 14-22).

Cole and Rodriguez helped Team USA win the silver medal at the 2010 World University Baseball Championships in Tokyo, Japan.

The 2012 Collegiate National Team will be coached by Tennessee head coach Dave Serrano. The team’s assistant coaches include Jason Gill (head coach at Loyola Marymount), George Horton (head coach at Oregon) and Andy Stankiewicz (head coach at Grand Canyon).

USA Baseball selects its Collegiate National Team based on its professional teams’ selection model. The player pool is primarily comprised of non-draft-eligible college players. Trials are no longer utilized to select the team.

Other college players who have accepted selection to the 2012 Collegiate National Team include Kris Bryant (San Diego), Austin Cousino (Kentucky), Michael Lorenzen (Cal State Fullerton), Bobby Wahl (Mississippi) and Trevor Williams (Arizona State).

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Parker and Co. bring their winning ways

They say it’s darkest just before the dawn.

If that’s the case, get Ben Howland some shades, because things are looking pretty bright in Westwood.

After missing the NCAA tournament for the second time in three years last season, the UCLA basketball team continued its impressive offseason haul, picking up the commitment of No. 20-ranked prospect Tony Parker out of Miller Grove High in Lithonia, Geo., on Monday afternoon. Parker announced his intentions in front of a packed audience in a 45-minute ceremony, choosing the Bruins over Ohio State, Georgia and Duke.

Parker becomes the fourth member of a monster recruiting class for Howland, joining No. 2-ranked Shabazz Muhammad, No. 4 Kyle Anderson and No. 76 Jordan Adams, enough to secure UCLA either the No. 1 or No. 2 ranking from most top recruiting services.

“It is icing on the cake today to have Tony Parker join this recruiting class,” Howland said. “”He is a great player that has an unbelievable work ethic. I’m so excited for our program to have a quality big man like Tony join our team and Bruin family. ”

Parker joins a crowded frontcourt that includes returning juniors Joshua Smith, Anthony Stover, David and Travis Wear, but Howland insisted that he would battle for playing time early. With a backcourt that returns Tyler Lamb and Norman Powell and adds North Carolina transfer Larry Drew, the Bruins could jump into the preseason top-10.

“(Parker) is going to come in and compete right away for a starting position,” Howland said. “This thing is wide open. We have 11 on scholarship and each position will be contested. He’s competing for major minutes right away as a freshman.”

Parker’s commitment comes on the heels of Muhammad’s announcement that he would join the Bruins over Kentucky and Duke, and he is now the second signee largely credited to assistant coach Korey McCray. Both Parker and Adams played on McCray’s Atlanta Celtics AAU team, and Howland gave McCray, whom he hired before last season, his due.

“No question; Korey McCray has done an incredible job recruiting both Jordan Adams and Tony Parker from his home state,” Howland said. “Were he not on staff we wouldn’t have gotten either one of those kids.”

Howland highlighted the foursome’s winning ways in high school, as the group combined to go 128-13 last season. Adams led Oak Hill Academy to a 44-0 record, Muhammad guided Bishop Gorman to a Nevada state title, Anderson went 65-0 in his final two seasons at famed St. Anthony’s in New Jersey and Parker became the first player to win four Georgia state championships, taking home the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Mr. Basketball honors this season.

Howland knows that with the star-studded lineup comes increased expectations. He almost sounds relieved that they’re back.

“What’s the alternative to that?” Howland said. “That’s my answer to that. These are the kinds of problems we want to have. High expectations, we have those anyway. We’ve failed to meet the high expectations we’ve had for this program two of the last three years.”

(Additional Howland quotes after the jump:)

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Parker makes it official

From UCLA:

UCLA head coach Ben Howland announced today the signing of Tony Parker to a National Letter of Intent to attend UCLA in the fall of 2012.

Parker, a 6-foot-9-inch, 270-pound forward/center out of Lithonia, Ga. (Miller Grove High School), is a McDonald’s All-American and joins the Bruins’ signing class that is currently rated No. 1 in the country and consists of fellow McDonald’s All-Americans, Kyle Anderson, a 6-foot-8-inch, 225-pound point guard out of North Bergen, N.J. (St. Anthony High School) and Shabazz Muhammad, a 6-foot-6-inch, 215-pound wing out of Las Vegas (Bishop Gorman High School) and Jordan Adams, a 6-foot-5-inch, 220-pound wing out of Atlanta (Oak Hill Academy).

“It is icing on the cake today to have Tony Parker join this recruiting class,” Howland said. “He is a great player that has an unbelievable work ethic. I’m so excited for our program to have a quality big man like Tony join our team and Bruin family. He has all of the intangibles to go with being a very talented player. He is a driven and motivated talent that plays with physicality, toughness, enthusiasm and passion. He’s the first player in the history of the state of Georgia to play in and win four straight state championships. He is a winner and has an unbelievably bright future.”

Parker led the MGHS Wolverines to four straight Georgia 4A state titles while averaging 16.8 points 11.0 rebounds and 3.0 blocks per game as a senior in 2012. He scored 21 points and had 13 rebounds and three blocks in the state championship win over Southwest DeKalb (Decatur, Ga.) as the Wolverines ended the year 24-9. A two-time gold medalist with USA Basketball, Parker captured an 8-0 record and a gold medal at the 2010 FIBA U17 World Championships in Hamburg, Germany. He also helped USA to a 5-0 record and a gold medal in the 2009 FIBA Americas U16 Championship in Mendoza, Argentina, as he averaged 8.2 points and 6.6 rebounds per game. He contributed 10 points, seven rebounds and two blocks for the East team, which lost 106-102 to the West in the 2012 McDonald’s All-American game on March 28. Parker scored eight points and had a game-high 12 rebounds for the East, which lost 99-95 to the West, in the 2012 Jordan Brand All-American Game on April 14 in Charlotte, N.C.

While at Miller Grove HS, he ended his high school career on a 16-game winning streak and an overall postseason record of 20-0 under head coach Sharman White. He was named the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Mr. Basketball for the state of Georgia in 2012. He was named the Georgia Hoops 2009 Freshman of the Year after averaging 7.5 points and 10.3 rebounds per game while starting 32 contests and leading the Wolverines to a 30-3 record and the first of four state titles. Miller Grove HS went 117-19 (.860) in his four years as a starter (2009-12).

Parker is ranked as the No. 20 player in the nation by Scout.com and ranked No. 26 by ESPN.com and No. 27 by Rivals.com. He is rated as the No. 6 center in the country by Rivals, at No. 7 by ESPN and No. 8 by Scout. He joins Muhammad, who is ranked as the No. 1 player in the nation by Rivals.com and No. 2 by ESPN.com and Scout.com. ESPN and Scout have him rated as the No. 1 small forward in the country while Rivals ranked him as their No. 1 shooting guard. Kyle Anderson is rated as the No. 3 player in the country by Rivals.com, the No. 4 player by Scout and No. 5 by ESPN. Anderson is rated the No. 1 small forward by Rivals and the No. 2 small forward by ESPN and Scout behind Muhammad. The fourth signee of the class is Jordan Adams, who is rated the No. 41 player in the country by ESPN.com. Adams is also rated No. 62 by Rivals and No. 75 by Scout. ESPN rates Adams as the No. 9 small forward in the country while Rivals has him at No. 14 and Scout at No. 16. Muhammad’s signing to UCLA jumped the Bruins from No. 12 on ESPN’s recruiting class rankings to No. 3. Parker’s signing to UCLA jumped the Bruins from No. 3 to No. 1 on that same list. UCLA is the only program to land two of the top five recruits in the 2012 class.

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Banner seasons ahead?

UCLA is one of just three schools to be ranked in the top-12 in both football and basketball recruiting for the 2012 classes.

The Bruins ranked 12th nationally in football and the commitment of Tony Parker to the basketball team today solidifies the Bruins in the top-two nationally in basketball.

Only Texas (No. 1 in football, No. 6 in hoops) and Michigan (No. 4 in football, No. 9 in hoops) are also in the top-12 in both.

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Parker picks Bruins

Ben Howland has reeled in another big one. A really big one.

Scout.com’s No. 8-ranked center and 20th overall prospect, Tony Parker, committed to UCLA on Monday afternoon, giving the Bruins four top-76 prospects. Parker joins No. 2 prospect Shabazz Muhammad, No. 4 Kyle Anderson and No. 76 Jordan Adams to give UCLA a consensus top-2 class.

Parker was long considered to be a UCLA lean, and the recent commitment of Shabazz Muhammad only helped seal the deal for the Bruins, who will re-open Pauley Pavilion with a squad that should be ranked in the preseason top-10.

Taking a look at UCLA’s lineup next year, there is true talent and depth at each position for the first time since its run of three straight Final Fours:

Point Guard
Larry Drew/Kyle Anderson

Shooting Guard
Tyler Lamb/Norman Powell

Small Forward
Shabazz Muhammad/Jordan Adams

Power Forward
David Wear/Travis Wear

Joshua Smith/Tony Parker/Anthony Stover

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Weekly Q&A

Fire away with questions for this week’s Q&A. Please don’t post new questions on the answers section, because I don’t always check the comments. Save them for next week.


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