Do people, or should they, treat Bryce Alford differently because of his name? Class of 66 has asked this question from day one.
Let me try to break it down.
Is Bryce good enough to Play at the UCLA level or is only here because of his last name?
This is not an abstract question. Put Bryce next to any other player on this team as an athlete and I do not think he would fare that well. One time in the Duke game he was in decent rebounding position and a Duke player simply leaped up and reached over the top of him.
But after a rough first few games, Bryce has been solid even good. Bryce has averaged an impressive 3.5 to 1 assist to turnover ratio, shooting 49% from the floor and 47% from three. Further while Bryce is definitely a liability on defense, he is not the worst on the team as at least he tries unlike some of the other players in the rotation.
Bryce's numbers are not that inflated by the crappy schedule; take in consideration the three toughest opponents this year UCSB, Missouri, and Duke. In those games he is shooting 6-12, (4-8 from three), 7 steals, 5 assist and two turnovers. Solid numbers for a backup point guard in tough games.
Bryce also seems to understand his role. While he still takes an occasional bad shot, one series against Duke summed up the best of Bryce. Bryce was part of a rally that gave UCLA the lead against Duke. He hit a big three and was fired up back on D slapping the floor and very animated. After a defensive stop, as he brought the ball down next time, I thought "oh no, here comes the dumb shot by a kid who thinks he is Kobe just because he made a three." As he drove to the hoop two Duke Defenders closed on him and I was confident he was about to be pwned in the worst way when he dropped off a nice pass to a wide open Tony Parker. Parker blew the layup but that was beside the point; Bryce made a smart play and more importantly did not act like he was something he was not because he made a big three.
Bryce seems to understand his role and to play within himself most of the time.
Bottom Line: if Bryce Alford's name was John Smith there would not be an issue of whether he could play at the UCLA level. Bryce has proven he can play and contribute at the UCLA level.
The Scholarship Issue
Bryce was given a scholarship. Given his Dad's outrageous guaranteed contract is that fair? I think that is question for Steve Alford not Bryce. And the answer is a bit tricky.
This year UCLA had extra scholarships. Giving a scholarship to Bryce should not be an issue IMO. Bryce is good enough to earn a scholarship on his own and deserves one as a high school kid.
However, in a sense Bryce was chosen of Allerik Freeman. Freeman was a combo guard who wanted to be point guard and de-committed after he was ignored by Steve Alford. Unfortunately Allerik has been hurt this year so we can't compare the players. However, if Allerik turns out to be something special, then Steve erred.
Further, if Steve, unlike Ben Howland, can stop from scaring off players and we need a scholarship for a recruit, Steve dam well better pull Bryce's scholarship.
Bottom Line: This is really an issue for Steve Alford. Bryce probably deserves a scholarship, but Steve should be ready to pull it at anytime for the good of the team.
The Nepotism Issue
Is Bryce treated differently because he is the coach's son? Let me say, Bryce has earned some minutes as backup point guard IMO. But Bryce is playing more than just a backup point guard minutes. He is taking some minutes from Norman Powell and maybe a few from Zach Lavine. Both Lavine and Powell are infinitely better athletes than Bryce.
Again, I feel this is Steve Alford's not Bryce Alford's fault and not just in the obvious ways. First, I don't think a credible argument can be made for Bryce taking minutes from Powell Powell is a top defender for this team and experienced. Powell should be on the floor over Bryce and I don't see any credible argument.
On LaVine to me it is a case study on why you should not coach your son for the opposite reason. LaVine is the best pro-prospect on this team but he may be the worst defender. He is bad in part because he does not know what he is doing and in part because he does not try. A good coach would use the cupcake schedule and games like Prairie View A & M and the Oakland Grizzlies to pull Zach for his horrendous defense and play a much lesser athlete such as Bryce. A good coach would say: "Zach if you want to play more minutes you have to play on both sides of the court." I think some of our walk-ons could play in these games and we would still win. The message could be delivered in games we are a lock to win to Zach to: play D or you're not going to play as much.
Of course, if Steve Alford did that people would be screaming how can he play a kid who can't even dunk versus a kid who is one of the highest flyers in the country? He's favoring his son over a guy going to the NBA someday.
Now if the kid's name was John Smith, the nepotism charge would not be there. We would be talking about the hard working kid with little athletic ability who tries versus the superstar who acts like defense is something the other team plays on you.
Bottom Line. What is Bryce supposed to do, say no when his Dad asks him to play? This is a reason why you don't take your son to play as anything other than a walk-on because of the issues it creates and the appearance of issues.
The Recruiting Issue
If Steve Alford faces a tough decision on playing Bryce because of his name, it is even a worse situation for recruiting. I am going to give Steve the benefit of the doubt because I honestly believe he wanted guys like Josh Perkins and Jordan McLaughlin. I don't think he is TRYING to have Bryce be the only point guard on the roster next year.
However, his stupidity is leading UCLA toward the conclusion that Bryce may be the only point guard on the roster next year. Steve Alford bragged about his son as a point guard before the season started. Why? There was NOTHING to be gained by that and a lot to be lost.
I guarantee you the tampering coach from the school-that-hates-basketball flat out told Jordan McLaughlin something like: "I don't care how good you are, your last name is not Alford so there is no way you're going to play point at UCLA. Look what his Dad said." Every point guard we go after is going to hear the same thing. Before the season started, Bryce was perceived as a shooting or at worse combo guard, not a threat to potential point guard recruits. Further, Kyle Anderson's dad publicly stated long before the season started that Kyle was leaving after the season, setting up the perfect recruiting line: "Do you want to start at point guard for the greatest school in the history of college basketball as a freshman. We have no one else."
Shame on Steve for talking his son up when it did no good and actually hurt UCLA.
Bottom line. It seems Bryce is being unfairly treated because of his name. If his name were John Smith he would be a solid but not great player who is an adequate backup point guard. On the other hand, it seems his Dad deserves a lot of blame for the handling of his son and as long as we don't have a point guard recruited for 2014-15, a very serious ongoing concern.