I am going to break this post into two parts, players and coach. Today it is the players. I am going to do this in roster number order.
# 1 Wannah Bail. A lot of people had high hopes for Wannah. He looks like the best big man athlete for UCLA since Alfred Aboya. The problem is he has hardly played basketball in the last two years. Missing most of practice and the first cupcake games, Wannah looks like an athlete but not a basketball player. He had some nice dunks but he seems too far behind the learning curve to contribute much this year. It will be interesting to see what he is like next year.
#3 Jordan Adams. There is one good thing about the losses to Missouri and Duke. It proved that Jordan is not ready for the pros. Against high major competition of Duke, Missouri and Alabama Jordan has shot just 36% going 15-41 and had 8 turnovers. If Jordan does not come back it is a major knock on Steve Alford. However, it also proved why Bruins fans should really like Adams. Against those three teams when he was shooting poorly, he contributed to the team in other ways with a much needed 25 rebounds. Adams has shown he is not ready for the pros but that he is a valuable part of this team. Adams is leading UCLA in scoring and the conference in steals.
#4 Norman Powell. This is a strange season for Norman. On the surface Norman is the happiest person to see Ben Howland gone. He is finally free to attack the basket and doing so in spectacular fashion statistically shooting a "you must be kidding" 57% for a guard. Take out his pathetic three shooting (which is what Howland wanted him to do) and he is shooting 69%. But his minutes have increased only by two and only once in the last 8 games has he played over his season average of 24.5. Powell must be wondering what he has to do play more. He also gives consistent effort (with mixed results) on D on a team where defensive effort is lacking.
#5 Kyle Anderson. This is Kyle's team. He is the leader on the court and the most unique player in college basketball right now. Before the first PAC 12 game he was leading the conference in assists, fifth in rebounding (second in defense rebounding), 15th in scoring, and third in steals. The most shocking stat is Kyle is shooting 52% or 10% better than last season and an amazing 55% from three. (If Kyle had one more three make he would rank third in the PAC 12 in three point percentage.) Unlike Adams, Kyle has mostly maintained these numbers in big games. With his gaudy offensive numbers, Kyle is a legitimate candidate for PAC 12 player of the year and hopefully the Morgan Center is promoting him for everything from that to the Cousy award for best point guard.
#12 David Wear-Stats don't tell all the story. I honestly think David Wear is the most unchanged of all the UCLA players, even if the numbers don't show it. Yes he is shooting a career best 58% and is 8-12 from three for the year but he also is next to last on the team in assists and has the third most turnovers despite not handling the ball, similar to the past. He is rebounding at a career worst rate as well of one rebound every 5.3 minutes and has not had more than 4 rebounds in the last 8 games. However, the Duke game without his 4 threes would have been a big blowout (remember he was key in the big non-conference win at Missouri last year as well). So the numbers have changed but David is still the same guy.
#14 Zach Lavine. His jab step pull up three is almost unstoppable. Zach's numbers are gaudy 55% and 44% from three. While it is too early to say too much, he seems a bit streaky from three. When he is on, look out. The big number that sticks out is that he is yet to play 30 minutes in a game. It seems like now would be the perfect time to start him as we go into PAC 12 play.
#20 Bryce Alford. One stat sums up the good Bryce, at the end of non-conference play Bryce was leading the PAC 12 in assist to turnover ratio. When Bryce plays smart, he is a PAC 12 level player despite being athletic challenged. On the other side, there is the first and last game of the non-conference schedule. Against Drexel he took a wild shot in a close game late that could have cost us the game and against Alabama he came into the game and with wild shots, a bad turnover, and horrendous defense keyed an Alabama run that made it a close game. Bryce is athletically limited but when he plays smart and looks to pass first he can help the team.
#22 Noah Allen. I don't understand why the UCLA SID can't give us a time frame for his return.
#23 Tony Parker. Tony is the one-of-a-kind player on this team. That is because he is the only true post. Tony has proven to be an okay offensive rebounder and is leading the team in that stat. Tony can play inside. Tony is shooting 62% good enough for fourth in the conference and in the Alabama game was clutch on offense and defense. Of course there is also the Tony who posted up against no one against PVAM, has been out rebounded on the defensive side by Jordan Adams, and occasionally does something just plain goofy. While he is not similar to either player, this kind of reminds me of the Michael Fey and Ryan Hollins days. I could see Tony developing into something good as Hollins did or also become another Fey.
#24 Travis Wear. For years I have been disappointed with people considering Travis and David the same person. This year has proved me right again for the wrong reason. While David is reasonably close to the same player he always has been, Travis has been the biggest disappointment this year so far. Travis is shooting an ugly 41%, rebounding at the worst rate of his career (he is so bad that Norman Powell, who covers the opposing team's point guard, is out rebounding him per minute), and has looked just plain bad. Last year, Travis carried UCLA to some key wins and was rock solid on offense. Is it because of the new offense, his early injury, or something else? Can he play out of it or is it time to roll the dice on Tony?
The moral of the story is there a lot of talent on this team. One look at the PAC 12 statistics and except for blocked shots and offensive rebounding, generally multiple UCLA players are in the top 10. Steve Alford has the tools to take this team far. Can he make it work?