Based on the UCLA Basketball Media Day, I may have a new man-crush on TJ Leaf and I am excited for the season. The new kids get it. But...sigh. Do the Alfords get it?
To clarify this season is all about one word, "Defense."
Let's start with the new leader, Lonzo Ball:
Q. Most important thing you guys have to do to have a good season?
I think its play defense....Scoring's not really problem for us. Defense is.
Yep. Lonzo gets it. Lonzo also said a couple of other things of interest:
Didn't think I played as well as I could in Australia.
It's an honor to play for UCLA.
Not a lot you can take from these interviews. But Lonzo was good for what it is worth.
Next was Thomas Welsh:
Have to get stops. One thing we did not do last season.
Nice to hear. Of all the upperclassman, I think he should be the captain. He does nothing besides put out a 100% effort.
Of course, only one of the players interviewed did not talk about defense. Sigh. In fairness, Bryce was not asked about defense. He made a curious point a couple times how this season is like his freshman season:
Kind of like my freshman year...perfect mix [of talent].
Steve Alford did mention defense but, ugh, it was not in a context to make longtime UCLA basketball fans happy.
When talking about leadership, he said:
Bryce and Isaac have done a really good job through the Australia trip and here. Not just two seniors, you want them to emulate the style. What a defensive stop means to the team. What getting a good shot means to the team....Those are the most natural leaders.
Again, I would love it if Bryce tried on defense. I have literally seen him move away from a dribbler. Shoot, I want Bryce to foul occasionally rather than be so far away from his man even the SPTRs can't even make up a foul on him. This year could be different but....
Which brings me to TJ Leaf:
We definitely want to play defense a lot better than the guys did last year. Lot of emphasis on defense....If we can just bond defensively I think we can have a heck of a year....I am going to try to get a lot of rebounds out there. I think that is something they needed last year....A rebounding presence.
Could not have said it better, TJ. TJ may be parroting what the coaches have been saying. Still he gets it and the team seems to get it. Do the Alfords?
It should be a good season. Why? Either the team lives up to its high but reasonable expectations for a great season or Steve Alford should be joining Bryce in leaving UCLA. Should be a win-win for fans.