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The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Kobe Paras' Withdrawal

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Did Alford's latest non-qualifier and admission mistake actually help him?

Kobe Paras's withdrawal is just the latest under Alford, Jon Octeus was arguably the worse.
Kobe Paras's withdrawal is just the latest under Alford, Jon Octeus was arguably the worse.
Sandra Dukes-USA TODAY Sports

Kobe Paras' withdrawal for failing to qualify is one of those cases where you can say Steve Alford and staff blew it again, was actually brilliant, or remains clueless on UCLA. How you approach this may betray your feelings on Steve Alford. I will do my best to break it down neutrally but it is hard for me to be neutral in light of the last three years.

The Ugly

UCLA has certain academic standards and as a coach coming into UCLA you have to know that. There are some recruits and players you are just not going to get. Players failing to qualify to UCLA was not a problem under previous basketball coaches and is not a problem for the football team, yet it keeps happening to the basketball team. This seems to fall not on the athletic department but rather on the coaching staff.

The best example of this and number one with a bullet was Jon Octeus in 2014-15:

"[Octeus] ultimately chose UCLA and expected to start at point guard for Steve Alford.  But unexpectedly, Octeus was not accepted into UCLA's graduate school, which limited his options.

Conspiracy types said this was intentional by Alford to clear the roster so Bryce would have to be point guard. I don't buy this but this was a major error forcing Bryce into being UCLA's only point guard. To not understand that Octeus would fail to qualify left UCLA with one combo guard on its roster and no credible backup as Isaac Hamilton struggled in limited minutes at point. If Bryce got hurt that season, UCLA likely would not have a winning record and would have struggled more.

Also the very experienced Octeus would have been an invaluable steadying hand in those early season disasters against Kentucky, Utah and more. Remember: UCLA could not even score in those games. Not saying he would have led UCLA to victory but he would have helped avoid the utter humiliation of those type of games.

The Bad

Jonah Bolden was another screw up of the staff on the academic qualification front. Fortunately, Bolden decided to stay but just think how different the team would have been in 2014-15. The 2014-15 Bruins had no bench. With Bolden and Octeus (or the equivalent players in the same scholarship) that would have given UCLA a real bench that season. With Octeus moving Bryce to two guard and letting Hamilton be the backup guard and wing off the bench (and Bryce playing point when Octeus sat) and Bolden backing up Looney (and maybe Parker as Welsh was very raw his freshman year) all the sudden UCLA is a damn good Pac-12 team that season. Octeus and Bolden both improve the defense. Noah Allen does not have to try to be a guard. UCLA has a legitimate and formidable 8-man rotation.

The bonuses do not end there though. Last season, Bolden (or the equivalent qualifying player) steps in for Kevon Looney with a year's experience. I have always been a big believer that it takes bigs longer to develop. Look at Thomas Welsh from his freshman to sophomore years as prime example. Bolden with a year under his belt gives us a legitimate four from day one last season. No need for all this big-big crap that worked some early but killed us come Pac-12. It must be remembered that Bolden not only did not play his first season, he did not even get a full year of practice as it took to the middle of the season for him to qualify to practice with the team.

Time will tell how much a leap Bolden makes in his second season but one has to believe that UCLA would be better last season with Bolden or a player of Bolden's considerable athletic talents that qualifies his freshman year. If nothing else, I firmly believe it would have avoided the big-big disaster.

The Good

Kobe Paras was a key recruit for Steve Alford to get the Compton Magic connection rolling. He was also the least of all the Compton Magic players and really it was hard to see Kobe playing any meaningful minutes the next few seasons. It is not just this year that he would be buried on the depth chart behind Bryce Alford, Lonzo Ball, Isaac Hamilton, Aaron Holiday and Prince Ali but next season as well. Next year, Jaylen Hands is coming in with Holiday and Ali likely still around and maybe even LiAngelo Ball playing in front of him. Really it was hard to see where Kobe gets on the court.

So in a strange way this works out for Steve Alford. Kobe helped open the Compton Magic pipeline but was arguably the least of the group that includes TJ Leaf, Jalen Hill, and Jaylen Hands. Alford and staff look good in that they fought all the way to the end for Kobe so the Compton Magic people should be happy. Kobe probably was not going to be a factor for the team.

However, I find it hard to believe this was intentional. Bottom-line is the Paras withdrawal can be viewed through whatever prisms you want to decide if it was ultimately good. I do think it safe to assume though that Alford and staff have still not figured out UCLA admission standards. IMHO, I find that troubling.

Go Bruins!