Kevon Looney's UCLA career is finished after a single season in Bruin blue and gold. Like Zach LaVine before him, Looney declared for the NBA Draft after a freshman season that ended with a loss in the Sweet Sixteen. Looney is widely projected as a potential NBA lottery pick.
In the press release accompanying Looney's announcement, Kevon emphasized the importance of his UCLA experience:
This was a really tough decision for me because there were so many positives both ways," Looney said. "My time at UCLA has been unbelievable, and I know I’ll be a Bruin forever. But playing in the NBA is a dream I’ve had for so long, and this feels like the right time to pursue that dream and make the transition to the next level...
Without a doubt, coming to UCLA is the best decision I ever made, and I want everyone to understand that. I hope our fans will continue to support me at the next level as I continue my journey.
Steve Alford's comments pretty accurately reflect my opinion of Kevon Looney too:
Kevon is exceptionally hard-working, extraordinarily humble and one of those guys who gives you everything he has on a nightly basis. And as good as Kevon was on the floor, he was an even better person off of it. He is exactly the type of player and person UCLA looks to recruit, and I know our fans really appreciated his effort and demeanor. We are all looking forward to seeing Kevon excel in the NBA, and we could not be prouder of him.
On the hardwood, Looney represented the four letters well, and displayed the traits that form the building blocks of Coach's Pyramid of Success.
Kevon came to UCLA as a highly-rated recruit out of Milwaukee's Hamilton High School. In his first game as a Bruin, he came up one rebound short of a double-double, scoring 20 points and collecting 9 boards. Looney tallied double-doubles in his next five games, and totaled 15 double-doubles for the season.
Looney's best game of the year came in a double overtime victory over Stanford at Pauley Pavilion. Kevon netted 27 points and 19 boards to lead the Bruins to a crucial win.
For the season, Looney averaged 11.6 points and 9.2 rebounds per game. He was selected to the All-Pac-12 Freshman team and the All-Pac-12 second team, and CBS Sports named him as a second-team Freshman All-American.
Although Looney had a superb freshman season, basketball analysts don't project him as an impact player as an NBA rookie. Looney's offensive game is frequently described as "raw," but in my opinion, he was under-utilized in Steve Alford's system. Nevertheless, it's clear that he has an intriguing offensive skill set. In addition to leading the Bruins in offensive rebounding, he was the best of the starters in three-point field goal percentage at 41.5%, and trailed only Tony Parker in overall field goal percentage at 47%. As Looney demonstrated throughout the season, his ball handling is excellent for a player of his size and experience, and he's a determined, effective defender. He may not be ready to contribute in a big way as an NBA rookie, but Looney has loads of potential and the kind of work ethic that scouts love.
Looney's departure leaves another hole in the Bruins' roster that Steve Alford will have to fill. At the moment, Jonah Bolden is the most likely replacement, though that could change if Alford brings in one of his remaining recruiting targets.
Although we're disappointed to see Kevon leave Westwood, we wish him the very best as he takes on new challenges in life.