December 3, 2015 was the day that the entire sports world learned the name, Prince Ali. On this day at the basketball mecca that is Pauley Pavilion, Prince Ali drove down the lane and dunked on the entire Kentucky basketball program.
OK...OK...from this point forward my hyperbole will end. Ali didn’t actually dunk on the entire Kentucky program, but it sure seemed like he did. What Ali did do on that day was help the UCLA Bruins shock the college basketball world and beat the then-No. 1 ranked Kentucky Wildcats. Ali also gave Bruins fans a lot to look forward to in regards to the freshman guard and the talent that he looked like he was going to bring for years to come at UCLA.
Knock knock?— Pac-12 Network (@Pac12Network) December 9, 2015
The punchline is a #12Best DUNK. https://t.co/k76AnXXOHHhttps://t.co/fcF2lP63jI
Unfortunately, that play has been the pinnacle of Ali’s career at UCLA so far. Ali suffered a knee injury the next summer after that play and he ended up redshirting that year. And, last year, Ali quite simply was not the same explosive player we saw his freshman year.
Prince Ali is a redshirt junior on this team. So, one of his major strengths is going to be his experience on a team that is sorely lacking in that area. Ali was a starter for 22 games last year and will probably start again this year in the backcourt with Jaylen Hands and his experience should help.
Thanks to Thuc Nhi Nguyen from the Los Angeles Daily News for the video below in which we hear firsthand from Prince Ali about the topic of leadership.
Ali is definitely an athletic guard. He can score the ball in a variety of ways and is not afraid to drive the ball inside and absorb contact. His athletic ability has always been his best attribute.
Ali can also hit from behind the arc, and can get to his spot off of screens and rise up and score.
He has the skill set and experience that can really be a stabling influence on this young Bruins team for the 18-19 season.
Areas to Improve
Now, what exactly will stop Ali from being that experienced stabilizing influence for the Bruins this year? CONSISTENCY! He just hasn’t been a consistent player for the Bruins and he really seemed to lose confidence and effectiveness as the conference schedule unfolded last year.
While Ali can score the ball in multiple ways, he hasn’t shown one specific strength in his game. Last year, he shot 44% from the field, 36% from behind the arc, and a very poor 64% from the FT line. He also hasn’t proven to be a highly effective defensive player, not that that is exactly a shocker on an Alford-coached team.
Another area that all of UCLA’s ball handlers can improve upon is their turnovers. Last year, UCLA turned the ball over too much and, while Ali is not a primary ball handler, he will need to join the rest of the Bruins in valuing each possession.
He just seems to be one of those players that Alford has been unable to tap his full potential as a player. Although the knee injury has looked to have impacted some of Ali’s athletic ability, he still should be more at this point for Alford and the Bruins than he has. Let’s hope Alford and Murry Bartow start to accelerate Ali’s growth this year.
Early on in Ali’s time at UCLA, there were comparisons between Ali and Norman Powell. If those comparisons are going to ring true, then this season is going to be a big one for him as he is going to be a true X-Factor for the Bruins. The Bruins are going to need guard production this year and, if Ali can be consistent on both sides of the ball, he will get big minutes for the Bruins, especially on an Alford-coached team. However, if he continues with his inconsistent play, then Ali will likely have a front-row seat watching the development of Jules Bernard and maybe even David Singleton as the season progresses.