With football being so good right now, it is hard to even notice that basketball practice has officially started. Regardless of how one feels about the coaches, we have a group of very interesting players which is worth discussing as practice officially begins.
"Alford said center Tony Parker had a great summer, and also grouped Kyle Anderson with Jordan Adams and Norman Powell as "big, physical guards." The coach didn't go into the rotation in detail, but UCLA's lack of depth in the frontcourt likely necessitates Anderson playing more point forward than guard."
We could have a starting lineup where the Point is taller than the Center and the shortest guy is 6'4" Norman Powell. The lack of depth is unlikely to change but possibly could if Wanaah Bail and/or Isaac Hamilton become eligible.
The former Miners signee asked out of his commitment earlier this summer, citing a desire to be closer to his ailing grandmother in Los Angeles. UTEP coach Tim Floyd refused to release the guard from his letter of intent this summer, and accused USC coach Andy Enfield of tampering with his recruit. The National Letter of Intent committee denied Hamilton's first request for a release earlier this month.
. . . "It's hard to put into words how happy I am to be part of the UCLA basketball program," Hamilton said in a statement. "UCLA is one the elite schools in the country and it is an honor to be a Bruin. I am excited to start classes today and I can't wait to practice with my teammates and ultimately compete with them for Coach Alford."
His father, Greg, told the El Paso Times that the family has hired an attorney to help them explore appeal options.
The eligibility of another Alford recruit, Wanaah Bail, is also in question. Bail originally committed to Texas Tech in 2012, but left that summer and has yet to play college basketball elswhere. The athletic 6-foot-9 forward was ranked No. 115 nationally in 2012 by Rivals.com.
Briefly here is a key for each player for the upcoming season. Beginning with the likely starting lineup.
Point on Defense, SG on offense Norman Powell. Powell has taken over 50% of his shots for his career from three. He shot 29% from three last year. His percentage for two point field goals is double that at 58%. He needs to stop being tentative and attack the basket. Will he showcase his athletic ability this year?
Small Forward on Offense, #1 wing defender on Defense Jordan Adams. Jordan was fully cleared to practice. Jordan's issue obviously is going to be health. How will the time off impact him? He has had the same injury twice in his young career, can it happen again? Jordan was the true surprise and is one of the most well-liked UCLA players of recent years. We all hope he can make a full comeback.
Point on Offense, #2 wing defender on defense, Mr. N/A Kyle Anderson. Kyle is my favorite and someone I am really looking forward to watching this year. To my mind he does everything well except score. I said score not shoot because teams will challenge Kyle to put points on the board this season. Will Kyle be able to post up small guys, draw fouls, take it to the hole, and make the wide-open outside jumper? Smart coaches are going to put him to the test and it will be up to Kyle to make them pay.
Power Forward Travis Wear. Travis is a deadly mid-range shooter in an era when the two main shots are dunks/lay ups and threes. But the problem is Travis is not a post nor a passer. In three years of college basketball he has a total of 33 assists. To put this in perspective the non-passing Shabazz Muhammad had 27 last season. With Larry Drew II this can work as Drew II will get him the ball where he can shoot. How will Travis do without a traditional point guard ? Can Travis adapt?
Center Tony Parker. Okay, Tony you are going to get your chance, will you be able to stay on the court? Tony had an incredible 54 fouls in his 207 minutes last year which works out to a foul every 3.8 minutes. At the same pace Tony would foul out in just 19 minutes of game time.
Wing Sub, maybe point sub Zach Lavine. How many minutes will Zach play early? Zach should be our first sub at positions 1-3 but that is a lot to ask of a true freshman. Howland was notorious for not letting freshmen play through their errors. Will Alford let Zach do so? Will Alford not play Zach at point to make the learning process easier? The only thing for sure is Zach should be getting the most minutes of anyone off the bench.
David Wear, backup four and five. David is much maligned sometimes with reason. David had confidence issues last year and suffers from not being as good as his brother. The key question for David is will he play within self and not try to be what he is not?
Combo Guard, Bryce Alford. Steve Alford and Bryce have said he is a point guard. Others say combo and more recently Steve seemed to agree. Part of me hopes it was because of the emergence of Zach Lavine. Zach Lavine seems like he could be something special and someone you want on the floor be it playing point a couple minutes or wing. The question for Bryce is can he defend at this level? That may also force Lavine into being the other point. Unlike Lavine whose test will come if he improves during the non-conference season, Bryce's test may come during the PAC 12: can he play defense adequately against the elite athletes of the PAC 12?
Noah Allen. Will Noah Allen be this year's Jordan Adams or Kyle Anderson as a 4? The first is obvious, no one had any expectations for Adams last season and he became to many minds the MVP. The second may be less obvious. Anderson was listed as a guard but really was the power forward last season. Anderson stepped up for the team because it needed a power forward. While the wing spot has some options, really the bench at big may be just David Wear (unless Kyle plays point on offense and power forward on D). Although Allen is not a four, there are potential minutes for him at that spot, can he claim them?
There is a lot of talent on this team. I will really enjoy watching the players. Steve Alford was handed a very good if imperfect team. What is going to do with it? Former UCLA coach Jim Harrick gets the last word.
In attendance was former UCLA head coach Jim Harrick, whom Alford pointed out as one of the first who called after he landed the Bruins job. Harrick told him that to stay employed in Los Angeles, Alford needed only to "do what he did."