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Men's basketball sees improved ball movement, teamwork in its three wins in China

Redshirt sophomore forward Travis Wear and sophomore guard Tyler Lamb go up to block junior guard Chris Colvin’s shot.

By Steven Covella

Sept. 2, 2012 12:14 p.m.

When the UCLA men’s basketball team left for China, they were banged up and incomplete, but that was good enough.

Well, perhaps more so.

In their weeklong tour of China, the Bruins won all of their three games – two against Chinese college teams and one against a professional team – by an average margin of 39.3 points.

While the results were staggering, UCLA was more concerned with the way they played rather than the score.

Several members of the team noted that ball movement was their main area of improvement. That skill was lacking last year and hindered the Bruin offense.

“Everyone was very unselfish … and we shared the ball really well,” said rising junior guard Tyler Lamb. “That’s the result of having a lot of weapons and guys that can score; no one man feels like they have to do it all by themselves.”

With most of the team in China comprised of returning players, the spotlight was on two of UCLA’s incoming freshmen, and they shined.

Only half of the Bruins’ recruiting class – Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams – were able to see the floor in China. Shabazz Muhammad was forced to stay in Los Angeles and Tony Parker traveled but didn’t play because of an injury.

Anderson proved versatile, playing multiple positions and registering multiple double-doubles.

Meanwhile, Adams showed that he would be able to knock down shots when called upon to do so. In the Bruins’ second game, Adams went 9 of 17 shooting for a game-high 20 points.

“(Adams) did a good job scoring and making plays as well as moving the ball. The biggest area he needs to improve in is becoming a better defender,” said coach Ben Howland.

“(Anderson) did a really nice job for us. He rebounded well in all three games and had his best game in his last game against the (Shanghai) Sharks.”

In many ways, this was a business trip for UCLA, as much of the focus centered around the on-court product. But the team stressed the importance of experiencing and embracing the Chinese culture as well.

Among their various tourist stops was the Great Wall of China, which Lamb and rising redshirt junior forward Travis Wear both called the highlight of the trip.

The embracing of culture was mutual, though, as the Bruins were extremely popular in China, often garnering louder cheers than the home teams, Wear said.

“Everyone was smiling and wanted to take pictures with us. I just felt really welcomed over there and could feel the hospitality,” Wear said.

“Basketball is a popular sport there and UCLA is a pretty recognizable name “¦ those two things right there are probably the main reason we’re so popular over there.”

Above all, the biggest benefit of the trip may have been the off-the-court chemistry the team built with each other over the week.

“All the sightseeing we did, we did as a group. It was awesome, because whenever one of us would go one place it wasn’t a couple guys going, the whole team would go as a giant group,” Wear said. “We had an awesome time and it felt like we were all family out there.”

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Steven Covella
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