clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

What’s Bruin: UCLA Basketball’s Lonzo Ball Takes Top Spot in Freshman of the Year Race

New, 11 comments

While TJ Leaf earns Freshman of the Week honors from CBS Sports.

NCAA Basketball: UCLA at Washington Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

Men’s Basketball

Matt Norlander at CBSSports.com has been tracking the Freshman of the Year race with weekly updates. After UCLA throttled Washington in Seattle this weekend, Lonzo Ball has replaced Markelle Fultz as Norlander’s top frosh.

Ball went for 22 points, six rebounds, five assists, four steals and had three turnovers in 31 minutes of work against Washington. UCLA has the No. 1 offense in America, yet hardly uses its bench. What does that mean? Ball is being tasked with leading a team that has more 100-plus-point games than any team from a multi-bid conference. (Six.) The Bruins could be ruined with bad defense, but the offense will not let this team down. Ball is smart with his shots (he doesn't take any long 2s) and is so efficient because he's usually capable of hitting deeps 3s or beating teams on alley-oops. In terms of stats but also what he's asked to do, and how often he makes possession-defining plays for Steve Alford, Ball has earned No. 1 on the Watch. But that could easily change next week.

With one Bruin gaining the top overall spot, the "other" freshman Bruin earned Norlander’s Freshman of the Week.

Freshman of Week: T.J. Leaf, UCLA

A very close call this week, as Leaf beats out Kansas' Josh Jackson by a small margin. In two UCLA road wins last week, Leaf averaged a double-double (26.0 points, 12.0 rebounds), in addition to to 3.0 assists and 23-of-31 shooting (a terrific 74.2 percent).

The Bruins swept the Washington schools, getting to 21-3 in the process. Leaf, once again, showed flashes of being a top-five freshman in America. And it's not as if he's entirely a byproduct of Lonzo Ball's playmaking. While he certainly benefits from time to time, a lot of what this kid can do is self-made stuff.

Leaf also earned the honor in December after UCLA’s victory over Kentucky on the road.

Ball’s play over the weekend also go the attention of the Daily Bruin, where Hanson Wang argues that Ball should be leading the race for not just freshman of the year, but the Naismith Award for the College Player of the Year.

Sorry, Frank Mason III and Josh Hart, but UCLA’s freshman point guard has been the best player in the country this season.

Let’s start with the basics – while Ball’s 15.1 points, 7.8 assists and 5.8 rebounds per game are not the most outstanding stats out of all the top players, he is the engine behind the nation’s most efficient and by far most exciting offense. With highlight reel dunks, NBA-range 3-pointers and Golden State-esque ball movement, the Bruins have rarely been stopped by their opponents.

At Inside UCLA, Clay Fowler reveals his AP top 25 ballot, and why he has the Bruins ranked 7th in the country.

The Bruins looked so lost while being defeated at USC two weeks ago that simply earning two road wins last week went a long way toward restoring credibility. UCLA’s RPI is still lagging at No. 22 in the country, but a massive opportunity awaits the Bruins when Oregon comes to town Thursday.

Gymnastics

The UCLA gymnastics team beat Arizona State in Tempe on Saturday, with Madison Kocian winning her third all-around, as well as the floor competition.

Bruins won all five individual titles at the meet.

Men’s Tennis

The men’s tennis team split with two ranked SEC opponents this last weekend, defeating #5 Georgia before dropping their match against #11 Florida.

Men’s Volleyball

The Bruins dropped two matches in a row to BYU on Friday and Saturday night. Their 67 service aces on the season are good for third best nationally.

LaMelo Ball

You may have heard by now, but Lonzo's brother and UCLA commit LaMelo Ball dropped 92 in a high school game last night...

Tarek Fattal of the Inland Empire Daily Bulletin has an article about it.

Here's a video of all 92 of LaMelo's points, courtesy of Ballervision:

GO BRUINS.