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UCLA Basketball Player Previews: The Question Marks

We take a look at a few Bruins who will be coming off the bench again this season.

NCAA Basketball: PAC-12 Conference Tournament-UCLA vs Southern California
Gyorgy Goloman goes to the rim.
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Gyorgy Goloman impressed as a true freshman, clocking some good minutes for the Bruins, but sat out half of his sophomore year due to injury.

The Bruins' lack of depth forced him into game action, and he appeared in 35 games and averaged 10.8 minutes. His scoring and rebounding contributions were minimal, but the experience, and an off-season in the weight room, had Alford optimistic.

Then, after injuring his right leg in the preseason, Goloman was diagnosed this week with a stress fracture that will sideline him six to eight weeks.

Prince Ali stayed with the program despite rumors of transferring, but begins his sophomore season in street clothes after tearing his meniscus over the summer.

Ali, who averaged 3.9 points in 11.8 minutes per game last season, will be reevaluated in four months and could miss only a few games next season.

Ali got off to a promising start as a freshman, highlighted by a monster dunk in the Bruins’ upset of then-No. 1 Kentucky, before fading toward the end of the season.

Alex Olesinski saw action as a true freshman off the bench, before GG returned from injury in 2015-16.

The 6-foot-10 freshman forward has averaged 1.6 points and 2.4 rebounds in eight minutes per game off the bench.

His minutes, though, have been scaled back significantly since Gyorgy Goloman returned from a stress fracture in his leg last month. In the six games with Goloman in the lineup, Olesinski has appeared in only three of them for a combined two minutes

BEST GAMES

Goloman had a career game in the Bruins second loss to USC last season. GG’s return to the team after injury allowed Alford to experiment with bringing Tony Parker off the bench, and in his sixth game playing last season, he scored 7 points and grabbed 7 rebounds, both career highs, in 23 minutes, his greatest amount of playing time to date.

As for Prince Ali, well, I’ll just leave this here...

He scored more points in a few other games, but his 8 points on 3-4 shooting and 3 rebounds in 12 minutes against #1 Kentucky in a sold-out Pauley Pavilion will likely long remain the highlight of his college career.

Olesinski scored 7 points in last season’s season-opening loss against Monmouth in 16 minutes of playing time, and got 7 rebounds in a loss to Danny Manning’s Wake Forest team, career highs, respectively.

ALFORD’S USE OF THEM

GG was a bit of surprise as a freshman, seeming ahead of schedule as a project player and logging meaningful minutes in a backup role, even if he didn’t light up the box score. He averaged 10.8 minutes per game as a freshman, and 12.1 minutes per game as a sophomore.

After shining against Kentucky in front of a national audience, Ali seemed to disappear. He got injured against Gonzaga and sat out for three games, but was never able to crack into much playing time in the backcourt. Ali, the most athletic guard on the team last season, felt criminally underused at times, and was never able to build upon his star turn against the Wildcats in Pauley.

Like Noah Allen, when Olesinski played he didn’t look to have the talent and athleticism to be playing high major college basketball. When GG returned from injury during conference play, Olesinski lost his spot in the rotation, except for a minute here and there, and didn’t score a point since the Washington trip, UCLA’s first pair of conference games.

THE FUTURE

It would be difficult to argue for more minutes from GG when Ike Anigbogu is back healthy, as Ike will likely be the first big man off the bench. His primary role will be spelling Leaf and Welsh when they need rest, the question is, will GG have developed enough in the offseason to be more productive during his limited minutes? And in the first few or maybe several games of the non-conference slate, he’ll be the first big off the bench, and more will be asked of the 6’11" junior.

With the addition of Lonzo Ball to mostly the same backcourt that Ali couldn’t garner many minutes in last season, it’s hard to envision him on the court more when he gets back from injury for the 2016-17 Bruins. Ali, a 4-star recruit from Florida, feels like the type of player that could develop into a high-level college guard with proper coaching and the opportunity to blossom. How he looks, and how useful he can be in the time he gets allotted by Alford are a pretty big question for this season.

Olesinski may see some time before Ike is healthy, but with Leaf, Welsh, and GG ahead of him—and if Leaf is as good as I think he’s going to be—it’s againt difficult to see Olesinski breaking into the rotation this season.

GG and Ali will be the most important to the team of this group, and I’m hoping to see improvement from all three, if Alford can prove that he’s able to develop some his of "project" players that didn’t come into the program with ready for the NBA talent.

GO BRUINS.