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Ali and Bolden OUT for UCLA Basketball?

Prince Ali is hurt again and Jonah Bolden may be ineligible.

Jonah Bolden was our best defender last year and Prince Ali was one of the best athletes
Jonah Bolden was our best defender last year and Prince Ali was one of the best athletes
James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

As I wrote a week ago, I suspected there may be something wrong with Jonah Bolden that was causing the staff to constantly push TJ Leaf.  Now we are hearing rumblings to that effect:

If Bolden is ineligible this year, that is a serious blow to the one player I thought was irreplaceable as he represented the only potential shut down defender, best rebounder, and best help defender. This means that freshmen TJ Leaf and Lonzo Ball may be starting from day one for UCLA, leaving us significantly weakened on defense. Leaf is also more of scorer than Bolden but this is tempered by the fact that Bolden was a passer and better fit for this roster.

Of course, UCLA also has an experienced four available in Gyorgy Goloman. GG, like Bolden, is a very good passing four. GG seems to do the intangible things as well.  However, there are real questions on whether GG is athletic enough to play the four in the PAC 12. This is important because while seven-foot Center Thomas Welsh has shown some ability to hold his own in the paint, Welsh is not quick and is prone to foul trouble. Welsh would benefit playing next to an athletic four.

Losing Bolden would be a serious hit to a team that even Steve Alford admitted was horrid on defense. Of course, Steve Alford could do other things such as bench the team's worst defender in Bryce Alford for its second best defender, Aaron Holiday, but we all know that is never going to happen.

As if the potential loss of Bolden is not enough, UCLA also has lost Prince Ali for at least four months. While UCLA does have some depth at wing, the loss of Bolden and Ali will hurt UCLA with its two best athletes from last year's squad missing practice time and/or the season. This makes the option of a pressing defense to take advantage of depth less likely as Bolden was a key to this option and Ali was likely a beneficiary of it.

Personally, I believe the rumor of Bolden being out because it fits the narrative that is being developed by the staff through leaks hyping TJ Leaf. Losing Ali, or Ali again falling behind because of injuries, means more minutes for Bryce and Isaac Hamilton early and another season lost developmentally for Ali. Remember: Ali was hurt in the middle of the season last year.

Depending on why Bolden is ineligible, that may also be on the coaches. Regardless, Steve Alford has to have a big year this season. It also may again prove the folly of Dan Guerrero giving a coach a second chance.

Go Bruins.