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UCLA Basketball: Final Look Back at Azusa Pacific, Bruins in the NBA and Recruiting Update

Before previewing the Montana St. game, we take a last look back at the Azusa Pacific game, plus we catch up with the surprises by the new NBA Bruins.

Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sport

The beat reporters said the Bruins looked sloppy, uninspiring and uneven while the coach and players all observed a case of the nerves in the exhibition match with AzusaPacific. It's hard to disagree with the obvious.

Digging deeper, on my second look at the game, my positives and negatives are:


  • The starters played good defense. Of course it's easy to do against APU, but last year's squad, in the early going, didn't try at all. Even Bryce was mainly in the right place at the right time -- he just doesn't close out. APU came back once the substitutions started, and all the Bruins generally let up in the second half.
  • Norman Powell and Kevon Looney seem to be what we expected. Tony Parker also showed growth: nice stroke at the free throw line, passed well and went to the hoop with authority from post, however, he still doesn't box out.


  • The quality of play went down immediately when the substitutions started. An exhibition game is experimental by nature, and I don't expect there to be mass platooning going forward. Bench strength is an issue. Rotations I hoped for, that might alleviate the body-count problem, won't happen. For example, Tony Parker and Thomas Welsh will probably never play at the same time.
  • The Bruins did not control their backboard against an APU team that didn't put anyone over 6'5" on the floor -- APU had 20 offensive rebound. (SAlford and TParker both said something interesting and contrarian to me -- the bigs will have a harder time guarding what were really wings that pulled them to the perimeter. We'll see. Montana St. seems pretty big, but I'll get to that next time.)
  • At first glance, the point guard fears are completely justified. Bryce will be the primary play-maker. Isaac Hamilton has a long way to go -- he doesn't have a left hand, and a smart team will take advantage.

Areas of Growth

  • The Bruins need to get over the nerves, and adjust to each other on the floor.
  • Isaac Hamilton did a nice job on defense, but his scoring is desperately needed. In my season preview, given the question marks around scoring, I recommended that we look to Isaac to score 15-20, and let Bryce be the primary play-maker. Isaac scored 4, and was hesitant. Will he be the scorer we thought he'd be?

Jon Octeus suited up for Purdue in their exhibition game against California (PA). According to the box score, Octeus had 8 points on 2-2 FGM-FGA and 4-5 FTM-FTA in 18 minutes. He's not mentioned in any of the write-ups, and but he appears to be a starter in a three-guard lineup.  Sound familiar?

No box score on Allerik Freeman yet, but this blog projects him to be in Baylor's starting lineup (picked to finish 6th in Big 12).

Travis Wear came out of nowhere to make the New York Knicks roster, and then he played 13 minutes in the Knicks win at Cleveland including a few minutes on LeBron James -- he held him scoreless. Phil Jackson said he was "overshadowed" at UCLA.  Phil hasn't been reading the threads at BN.

Travis signed a $500K+ contract, but only $62,000 is guaranteed. He's vulnerable to being cut, traded or demoted to the D-league, but this appears to be a good outcome for the undrafted Wear. Phil Jackson is famous for his triangle offense, a version of the motion, and he likely sees Travis as a workable cog.  I've been trying to relate Travis to former Laker orBull pieces in the triangle, but I can't except to say that he's a smart guy who can create space by drawing his defender away from the basket and hit the mid-range pick-and-pop.

In a few surprises (as of Monday morning) relative to the Travis Wear news, Jordan Adams has not played yet for the 3-0 Memphis Grizzlies, Kyle Anderson has not played for the 1-1 San Antonio Spurs, Zach LaVine has no stat line in 5 mpg for the 1-2 Minnesota Timberwolves, but Shabazz Muhammad is averaging 13.3 mpg, 5.0 ppg and 2.7 rpg.

In recruiting news, the Jaylen Brown visit last weekend appeared to go well, and Brown was very candid with Zagsblog about what the coaches told him:

"They said I'm the No. 1 priority and I would be like the man," Brown said. "They don't have a guy like me. They would play me at multiple positions, the 1, 2 and 3 and make it hard for the other team to guard me. They're not looking to recruit a lot. They want two bigs for sure and they want me. If they don't get me, they said they want a replacement, so that's what they're looking for."

That was pretty clear, so let's keep our fingers crossed.

On the other hand, something went awry with the Carlton Bragg visit which was also supposed to happen last weekend.  There are no press reports -- only rumors behind firewalls.