Injuries and getting in shape are the lead story lines right now. New Strength and Conditioning Coach Wes Long has his work cut out for him but so far the players are buying in for what could be a key to next season.
Jordan Adams is doing well in his recovery. Adams comeback is key to UCLA. If Adams was not hurt last year, UCLA gets Arizona's seed in the tournament and probably the sweet 16. Without Adams, UCLA couldn't beat a washed up big 12 team. As ESPN says:
Jordan Adams, UCLA: Adams was arguably the Bruins' top player (yes, even over Shabazz Muhammad) at the end of the season. He scored 24 points in a Pac-12 tournament semifinal win over Arizona, but broke his foot in that game and was unable to play against Oregon in the title game or against Minnesota in the NCAA tournament. If Adams is healthy, the Bruins can begin the season with one of the top talents out West.
Dad wants him to play point with Kyle Anderson. The big question is how many minutes? He has impressed his fellow players with his point guard skills and he is only playing one right now. Still playing one in pickup games (where defense is optional) and real games are different stories.
Everyone talks about how much improvement there is from the first and second year. When that applies to Kyle Anderson you immediately think he will be a better shooter. While Kyle is working on his shot, he is also working on becoming stronger and bigger. In other words Kyle could be becoming a true 4 (he is tall enough). So point power forward?
Alford hinted to ESPN's Andy Katz last month that he may employ a lineup that features two point guards on the floor at the same time. In that scenario it'd likely be his son and 6-foot-8 sophomore Kyle Anderson, who can play multiple positions. Anderson didn't see much action at the point last season because of the success of Larry Drew II, who graduated.
"[Point guard] is a position [where] we'll be tested by youth," Alford told Katz. "Kyle can play all over the floor."
Wanaah is hurt and out until October. While it is always bad to have a player hurt especially with such a short bench, I never understood those who thought Bail was going to start. Bail is raw and now with a late start even less likely to start. Bail is an athlete which in basketball speak also means "has a lot to learn" about basketball. Coupled with the fact it takes longer for bigs to develop, I don't think Bail is more than a guy off the bench best case and worst case another body. Two years from now, could be a different story.
The following is an old quote about shaking the Bruins up in March of last season by replacing Larry Drew II with Norman Powell. I think the argument is incorrect for last year but at some point this year the argument may be similar with Bryce Alford.
Powell plays an aggressive, physical style that provides a much needed mean streak that the Bruins severely lack. For the most part the Bruins' defense is lackluster and they struggle at times but with Powell on the floor they play with a spark and play with more energy on both sides of the ball.
Avi Wea for his lack of rebounding and D was his nickname. Unlike his brother I think the critics of Howland were right for crying favorite with David. David slightly improved his rebound per minute numbers up to a rebound every 4.49 minutes over his team leading total the season before (4.65). Of course Kyle averaged a rebound every 3.46 minutes which was almost identical to Reeves Nelson (3.45) team leading total in 2011. But shooting is where David got worse from 49% FG and 78% FT to 45 and 64%. David was hurting in 2013 but he also lost confidence at times (see the ASU game). But he shot the same number of times with a shot every 3.4 minutes despite being a backup in 2013 and a starter in 2012.
Moral: David's rebounding is slightly improving, but he needs to realize he is probably the fifth option on offense when he is on the floor. David was also hurt by Howland's favoritism. Hopefully he will understand his role better this year.
Zach athleticism is lighting things up in scrimmage reports. But again often when the talk is of athleticism too much it also means raw. Zach is the player to watch his minutes. Howland screwed up Norman Powell, Alford better not screw up LaVine.
Like LaVine Allen is a player who really wanted to come to UCLA. Unlike LaVine the first thing you hear about LaVine is he is smart, he previously committed to Harvard. Allen is likely a four year player and will be a help at practice. For those who think he can be another sleeper like Jordan Adams, Adams was a top 100 player who many scouts doubted because of his pudgy body and relative lack of athletic ability despite being a stud in high school. Allen is a 3 star player. His role may also to be to help with the GPA.
Everyone thinks that Parker would benefit the most from a coaching change, they were right but it is not the coach that one would think. According to Parker, it was the new Strength and Conditioning coach that convinced him to stay:
The return of strength coach Wes Long, who left UCLA for Wyoming in 2011, convinced Parker to stay - and has since helped him shed over 20 pounds.
Q: How has Wes Long worked with you, and how much has it helped?
We usually do a lot of, a whole lot of bike riding. I ride the bike after every workout. We're starting to do a little more upper body, because we're bulking up in the summer. In the spring, I lost about 22 pounds. He's doing a lot, a whole lot. Me and Wes have a great relationship. It's just a hard-work relationship. He really wants me to get better. I just feel the energy with him.
Q: How does this compare to the strength and conditioning program you had last season?
You can kind of tell by looking at me that it's a big difference. It's just different. With strength and conditioning, either you got it or you don't. You can't - there's no halfway. You have to have it or people will get hurt. And I got hurt.
While Howland was key to decisions on Parker's playing time, Parker being hurt a lot also caused problems. A healthy Parker may also be a lot better.
A healthy Travis Wear is very important to UCLA's success this year. There are a number of reasons for this. Travis is a top three big on this team. Travis is also much better than his brother. But it goes deeper than that. If you look at UCLA worst PAC 12 losses last year, they all came with Travis out or hurting. The worst loss against ASU he did not play; the worst home loss against USC he was just back from injury and not himself; and again the same in the loss to WSU when he was limited in minutes. If Travis is healthy UCLA may win those three games. UCLA needs a healthy Travis Wear.
Tony Parker's point on the strength and conditioning coach is an interesting one. Good condition helps avoid injuries. If UCLA avoids injuries last year, they likely would have made the sweet 16 and won three more PAC 12 games. UCLA is not deep. UCLA needs to recover from past injuries and stay away from injuries next year.