The first media availability was more interesting than almost any of these I have watched. Generally this is a bunch of mindless coach speak and Bull Durham clichés. Occasionally there is a good quote or nugget to discuss. There was some of that by Coach Steve Alford and Jaylen Hands but there was some interesting details to nerd out on. Instead of pulling quotes, instead I will focus on the takeaways.
1. The big news is the big point guard. The backup point guard is indeed 6’8/9” Chris Smith. He has been running the second unit. Wow. I thought this was possible but it is reality, he is the backup point now. According to Alford, Chris “did in high school” and “knows the offense.” Chris acknowledged his shooting woes and has been working on that as well.
2. David Singleton is according to Alford a perfectionist. Singleton wins the heart string award as he is wearing #34 for his cousin who passed away on the basketball court. Singleton does seem like a poised and focused kid in his interview. I think he will turn into a fan favorite. Despite being a combo guard Singleton has only played two guard so far.
3. Starting Point Guard Jaylen Hands has been working on his offense, watching film, and not making turnovers. To get the next level he needs to “prove the physicality” on defense. This was said to be more important that his offense, interestingly.
4. Moses Brown has grown. Moses is now 7’2”. Brown was a bit of the awkward freshman in his interview. Not in a bad way but he is definitely adjusting to LA. According to Alford, Moses ”gives us a shot blocker, which to be honest with you, is something we haven’t had since we’ve been here, an elite shot blocker.” He is very athletic. He may be the under-the-radar star of the team.
5. On the other freshmen, guard Jules Bernard is a good driver and Singleton is a good shooter. Both need to work on the other skills. Backup Center Kenneth Nwuba works hard and is very physical.
6. Tyger Campbell loss is a “big blow” as he was “kind of a quarterback for us” according to Alford.
7. Alford said: “Might start looking at him [David Singleton] as a point guard but not so much so far.” (Actually not at all so far.) This is surprising given Hands’ history and Smith. Alford is apparently confident in those two and clearly likes experience at point.
8. Chris Smith has a legitimate shot at playing all 5 positions. Alford mentions he is going to “play four positions.”
9. “Eight guys have not played a second of college basketball.” For the first time the ever present through all his seasons compliant of a “young team” by Steve Alford is true. Hands and Kris Wilkes are going to be the veterans (Alford briefly mentions Prince Ali and Alex Olesinski as well but makes clear this is Hands and Wilkes team.)
10. “Feedback Wilkes got [from the NBA Combine] was get stronger and gain weight” and play defense . He did according to Alford.
The interview of Steve Alford is courtesy of the UCLA Athletics Youtube page:
Interview with Jaylen Hands, Moses Brown, Chris Smith and David Singleton, courtesy of the UCLA Athletics Youtube page:
Defense was mentioned often by Steve Alford but that has come up before in these preseason interviews. He has his best potential team on defense in his UCLA tenure. Whether he finally delivers on this, with the help of assistant coach Bartow, . . . let’s just say we’ll wait and see.
Another Alfordism that now is true is that his team is young. However, this team is talented and people focusing on the point guard sport and youth are missing out on the factors such as Moses Brown.