Head Coach Steve Alford held his weekly press conference today and, right away, the media started asking questions about Kris Wilkes. In case you missed it, Wilkes was instrumental in the comeback win against Washington over the weekend with 21 points scored in 32 minutes. Alford said he’s been working hard and growing, which can definitely be seen in this last stretch.
Free throw percentage is up over 70%, which is down from last year (I’m sure losing Bryce Alford has something to do with this), but, according to Alford, is now “respectable”. They are working on mechanics and the technical aspect to take advantage of those points. He repeatedly mentions that they are a young team, learning the offense, and many are traveling at the collegiate level for the first time.
It wasn’t until later in the press conference that there was any mention of losing three players, which has definitely impacted what this team looks like. They are still developing a team identity, which is happening slower than last year. Alford believes that they were just one basket or one free throw away from only having two losses at this point. That might be a stretch but I think we are looking at a team that is going to take more time to develop offensively after what they’ve been through so far this year.
The same growth on offense will also be seen on defense. It’s obvious that teams are scoring on us more than they should, but Alford says the defense is evolving in a positive direction. He even goes so far as to say this team is better defensively than last year, but other than that, refuses to compare last year to this year, especially on offense. Aaron Holiday is one of the best players in the country according to Alford, and his efficiency on offense is a big part of the team’s success.
Going on the road to the Bay Area is never easy. Stanford has had injuries and is coming off a loss, but senior guard Dorian Pickens is back after missing four games and this is the first league road trip for the freshmen. Alford gives us some coachspeak at the end of his press conference to pump some sunshine about this trip, so Thursday will tell if this team is going to be able to sustain any kind of success in league play.
Here is the full video of Alford’s interview, courtesy of UCLA Athletics:
And here is Gyorgy Goloman, Prince Ali, and Aaron Holiday, also from UCLA Athletics: