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UCLA Basketball Turned to Unheralded Freshman GG, Good or Ghastly?

The sixth part of an eight part series reviewing the players

GG was the pass first player UCLA needed off the bench
GG was the pass first player UCLA needed off the bench
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Gyorgy "GG" Goloman was the most pleasant surprise of the 2014-15 UCLA basketball season.  Before the season the questions on GG were more like: Is GG for the men's or women's team? He's there to help with practice right?  Will he redshirt?, etc.  GG was the odd man out buried in the depth chart as the third string center and power forward.

However, GG turned out to be the smartest player on the team last season.  A highlight of Kevon Looney shows GG's smarts and why he earned his minutes.  On this clip go to the 2:50 mark.  As Looney dribbles up the court watch GG.  He literally acts like a pulling guard in football leading a sweep to clear the way for Looney to dunk!

Was it legal? No.  Was it smart? Probably.  More importantly it is yet another example that GG understood his role.  His job was not to score.  His primary job was to help the better players.

GG is a very unselfish player who passes well for a big.  Shoot he had more assists than baskets last season.  It is not to say he can't shoot.  He has a nice stroke for a big.  He made 50% of his threes, albeit in only 12 attempts.

However, this year was undoubtedly the worst bench in UCLA history.  I really mean that.  Since post-1964 I can't think of a year when a team without injuries had such a poor bench.  Jim Harrick's first season may have been close but Charles Rochelin was better than the entire UCLA bench this season.

Which sums up the UCLA bench.  For much of the season, GG was the best because he did not screw up.  After a DNP coach's decision against Oklahoma, GG looked okay in 10 minutes against North Carolina where everyone except Kevon Looney looked awful.  GG got his chance because Wanaah Bail, who did want to bail after this season, was just plain lost on the court.  Thomas Welsh improved a lot as the season went on and passed GG by the end but at other times, especially the start, he was a shot chucker who was pushed around easily on defense.  Noah Allen simply can't shoot and shot 28% including 16% from 3 where he banked in 2 of his 4 makes.  This was just a plain awful bench.  I like the kids but let's be honest.

So, yes GG did a good job and proved to be the best, or one of the best, by the end of the season in part because he knew his role.  GG always looked to pass first.

But here is the rub.  GG has the kind of mentality you want from a point guard.  However he does not have the abilities of a point guard.  The bigger problem is his abilities as a four are questionable.  GG only had more than 5 rebounds twice, against a team with one of the worst coaches in college basketball (just SC) and a team with a recruiter not a coach, UW.  GG only averaged a rebound every 7.1 minutes.  Put this in perspective, UCLA's other bigs rebounded on a much better pace.  Tony Parker 3.65, Thomas Welsh 4.12, Kevon Looney 3.3.

You need more from a power forward and this is a big worry.


Statistically GG was at his best against Just SC in the PAC 12 tournament when he stepped up for a hurt Kevon Looney and put up some nice numbers.  However, Just SC is arguably more of an exhibition game or at least a D 1 team without a coach.  However, really his best game may have come in the opposite type of game, the first bad bad loss against North Carolina.

The stats do not show how truly awful this UCLA 78-56 loss to North Carolina was.  UCLA was leading early.  Then when UCLA got into its bench, the game was over.

As I said before the Battle for Atlantis, I did not think we would do well because this team is not built to play games back to back let alone three in a row.  UCLA has no bench.  It is so bad that the positive off the bench was GG Goloman who did not embarrass himself and stopped a 3 on 1.  Goloman's performance may have moved himself to eighth in the rotation.

I know I said this section was for best game.  But that game summed up GG.  He never embarrassed himself which made him, most of the time, our best bench player.


This is tricky.  I think Steve Alford deserves credit for picking up the lightly recruited GG and offering him a scholarship.  GG was not a guy anyone figured to do much; yet he was a calming influence on the court.  He is a smart player in a way that is hard to teach.

On the flipside, I am not sure we should be in a spot where GG was arguably our sixth man.  Our backup power forward is a poor rebounder, arguably the most important part of the position.  Also, after thinking Isaac was a point guard, thinking Wannah Bail was ready to play was an obvious mistake.

Despite this, more than any other player GG understood his role and did what was asked of him; mainly not screw up.  I give Alford a B for GG and the only reason I do not go higher is GG should have been redshirting and gaining strength not forced to be an almost sixth man his freshman year.


It is not a great sign that people are begging Steve Alford to play two slow Centers at the same time in part to save UCLA from playing GG.  I hope GG gets stronger and is able to mix it up down low on the blocks.  It is nice he is a good passer, it would be better if he was a good rebounder.

I hate writing this negative of a review.  GG was a nice story last year.  I hope GG improves his power forward skills and rebounding in particular.  However, the reality is for UCLA I am a bit scared.  We lost Looney and replace him with a guy who has not played basketball in a year.  GG is the only backup.  As a result, will UCLA be turning to GG again?  Will it be because he has improved or in desperation?  I don't like where this line of thinking leads me.

Go Bruins!